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scrambles and gains | mesahchie via easy pass

15 mi . 7480 ft gain . 8795 ft high

Let me preface this trip report: It’s amazing what your body can do and sometimes you don’t know till you try.

My friend Tyler finally made his way back to Washington after traveling around for quite some time and we planned for some adventure during the weekend. I was hoping to do some sort of fun scramble or easy 5th class peak. But I was open to any options cause honestly I know little about the North Cascade mountains despite the many hikes I’ve already done. There’s just so much to explore! The weather window for our original plan went down the drain so we decided to go further east and do day trips with his friends Westy and Nastassia. On the west coast of the US, it’s fairly ubiquitous that the eastern side of any given mountain range is drier due to the rain shadow. So further east we went.

East Ridge route on Mesahchie

Somehow Mesahchie was suggested, it sounded good to me so we rolled with it! When we all met up at Easy Pass, we realized none of us downloaded the gpx tracks to our phones. At least we had some memory and some saved description to give us options of taking the east or west ridge to Mesahchie. And we could decide once we could more clearly see where we were headed in person. Thank goodness for good weather!

In general I like to know exactly where I am on a trail. I like to track how far we’ve gone and how much is left. This really helps me figure out how much more energy I need to conserve to make the final push to the end. But for one reason or another, I didn’t really want to know for this trip. I hardly knew the stats – mileage and gain and skimmed through some of the beta. I knew it would be a lot of gain, the most ever, for any route we’d take, so I tried to hide behind that fact, knowing that I could probably push my body to that limit and then immediately collapse and rest the next day. Basically, I was up for the challenge and if anything, I could always go back down instead of continuing further. Having bail options is a great comfort.

Trail at Easy Pass with Mt Logan behind

So we headed up the trail to Easy Pass. I was so clueless that I thought it was a 2000 ft gain, but actually more like 3000 ft from trailhead to pass. It was still a little snow covered near the top, but nothing that trail runners couldn’t handle. At the pass, we took a nice break to decide what route to take. The saddle already offered incredible views of the valley below and we could see Mesahchie, our objective. It looked a bit far away, but the elevation gain didn’t seem too terrible. But considering our options, it could be a lot of gain.

  • Option 1: Go down to the valley floor and walk along the Fisher Trail for an easy access to the west side of Mesahchie and gain the West Ridge for class 3 scrambling. The descent would also be through the West Ridge, and then down the valley and up to the pass again. This would mean a total of nearly 9000 ft gain for the day. I was really not about that and very doubtful of how I’d fair.
  • Option 2: Go up and down via the East Ridge through class 3/4 scrambling. This would be about 6500 ft gain, which was way more reasonable for me, but down climbing class 4 rock did not seem as fun.
  • Option 3: Maintain the elevation where we’re at, and side hill all the way to the West Ridge of Mesahchie. This would be an intermediate elevation gain of option 1 and 2. This sounded slow going and looking at the slabby slopes, I was not a fan.

Eventually, we decided that going up east ridge and down the west (part option 1 and 2) would be most efficient for about 7000 ft gain total, but split up between the rolling ridge and the final ascent to the pass. Maximum scramble fun with a hopefully straightforward way out. Tyler had the notes for the east ridge and Westy had memorized and studied the route for the west ridge, so we should be set!

Wildflower hillside

The first beta was going up the grass slopes north of the saddle. The wildflowers on the south side of this ridge was amazing. Northern slopes have less sunlight so the snow pack generally remains there longer and the wildflowers had yet to bloom. But my oh my the south facing slopes! I am here for summer! Up and up we quickly gained 700 ft to the ridge and then to our first named destination: Honeymoon Hump. A fun scramble already, but a descent laid before us. That means we’d have to regain that elevation loss. I’d rather keep my elevation, but usually staying on the ridge is the easiest option. And a bonus to see both sides of the ridge.

Fisher Valley

The higher up we went, the more views we’d get. Looking up Fisher Creek with views of Mt Fisher were amazing. In the distance we could even see Eldorado, one of the first mountaineering climbs I did in Washington. And the behemoth of Mt Logan and Thunder laid before us throughout the climb.

Honeymoon Hump looking at Mesahchie with Kitling to the right

On Honeymoon Hump, we could start seeing the entire route left to get to the summit. Cross Kitling, then over another bump and straight up to the top for some 4th class scrambling, I was unsure of. But at least we could finally see Mt Baker, Black Peak from last year, and more unidentified peaks I’ve yet to learn.

Crossing the snow beneath Kitling

Alas, we made our way to the base of Kitling. Time to put on crampons and cross a scary, steep snowfield. I’ve yet to feel more comfortable on snow. I have may rational, maybe irrational, fear of slipping whether on snow or shrubbery or rocks. I’m still learning to trust my feet, but following everyone’s footsteps made it all the easier and less scary. Soon I had finished crossing the whole snowfield beneath Kitling and back to the fun scrambling that I so much enjoy!

I continued to revel in the views of Logan and Boston behind it and the valley, and nearly everything. But little did I know I’d be back in the valley soon to tackle Logan. But that’s a story for another time.

Near the summit
 

We kept continuing upwards some class 3, some class 2, and even some class 4 scrambling. We didn’t know if we were truly following the beta we were reading about, but we did go up some gullies. How obvious? Unsure. And a 4th class chimney? Well that kind of just felt like more gully. There was always a way up that felt secure and a couple steep snow crossings. But finally, we made it to the top and found the summit registry. It’s kind of like a geocache, a sort of validation that you made it where everyone else made it too.

After we soaked up the views, we continued westward down the solidly 3rd class ridge, devoid of any “4th class chimney”. I was immensely slow down climbing some of the snow. It must have been a long wait for everyone else but I was going as fast as my brain and body would allow me. Thankfully it wasn’t the whole way down and eventually the snow mellowed out and we could run down to the knob at the end of the snowpack. A lower, yet expansive view of the valley was worth the short jaunt. It allowed us to plan the rest of the descent through the forest and down to the trail.

Scramble down to the saddle and then the snow

Fighting branches and fallen trees, we weaved our way down till we hit the trail. And from there it was easy going, sauntering through the thick grassy meadow and finally up the switchbacks to Easy Pass again. On the way up, we saw a bear standing on its hind legs! But then it retreated into the woods before I had a chance to snap a pic. This side of the pass was littered with all sorts of wildflowers, making the last uphill more manageable. And once we got to the pass, everything was literally downhill and easy going. Couldn’t have been happier for a gentle hike out. And of course always happy to scramble with great company!

Enjoying wildflower-filed valley before the climb back to the pass

notes

  • This has several sections of class 4 scrambling and even in July has steep snow crossing.
  • We did the loop counter clockwise, scrambling over several peaks and bumps to get to Mesahchie and took the easier class 3 path down to the Fisher Creek Trail before climbing up and over Easy Pass again.
  • If you have more steam, Katsuk is a short distance away.
  • Along Easy Pass, there’s many streams to refill on water, but none on the rock above to Mesahchie

Photos shot on Canon Rebel T6

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