Trip Report    

Basic Alpine Climb - McMillan Spire/West Ridge

Strenuous. Sunshine. Spectacular.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Approach: The Goodell Creek Trail starts at the small parking lot just before the group campground. The trail was a bit overgrown and has some blowdowns but was otherwise gentle and in good shape. The two creek crossings were thought-provoking but passable. The trail to Terror Basin was as steep and rugged as advertised but it was reasonably easy to follow. The routing was slightly different this year, skipping the boulder field (but retaining the Class 3 root pulls). About half-way through the high traverse to the Terror Notch the trail crosses a creek and immediately turns upstream for about 500 feet (look for cairns) before resuming the traverse. The final steep slope to the notch and the descent into the basin was all snow.

    Route: A large, solid snow finger went all the way to the col between McMillan and Inspiration, and had an easy transition to rock. The West Ridge is wide and loose. Very, very loose. Fortunately the rock quality is a bit better near the summit where the ridge narrows and has some exposure.

Based on the weather forecast we rescheduled our climb as a two-day trip. Our party of six left the trailhead at 9:15 a.m. Throughout the morning it drizzled on and off, and between the damp sky and foliage we got pretty wet. It dried up in the afternoon, though it remained overcast and heavier clouds passed ominously overhead. We donned crampons for the short slope up to the notch leading to Terror Basin (6200') and then down the steep slope to camp (5800'), where we arrived at 5:30 p.m.

The camp site is terrific: dry ground, running water, no bugs, and a view of the objective -- when not covered with clouds. We were the only party at the camp.

The weather forecast proved to be accurate: we woke up to clear skies, light breezes, and moderate temperatures. We put on crampons and set out at 5:00 a.m., making our way over to the base of the climb, clambering over occasional rock islands along the way.

The early morning snow was nice and firm: ascending the gully between West McMillan and Inspiration was very secure using crampons and the ice axe pick. it seemed slightly less steep than the Old Chute on Mt Hood but it is quite a bit longer. It was a great experience for the Basic students.

At the top of the gully we transitioned to the rock and gingerly made our way up the ridge. We arrived at the summit at 9:00 a.m. and enjoyed the warm sun and fantastic views in every direction. Here Marcus Peinado opens a deteriorating summit register with a backdrop of Pyramid/Degenhardt-Baker-Terror-Shuksan.

After 45 minutes on top we headed down. By now, the snow had softened, allowing us to kick good steps as we backed down the gully. We were back at camp at 1:00 p.m., started the long hike out at 2:00 p.m., and were back at the cars at 8:45 p.m.

It was great trip into a remote and beautiful area with perfectly timed weather.