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Trip Report    

Intermediate Alpine Climb - Mount Redoubt/South Face

Successful climb of Mt Redoubt.

  • Road recommended for high clearance only
  • Great conditions for the most part.  Just one tricky moat problem due to a snow finger melting out.  But still passable.  But will be changing substantially day by day.

Mt Redoubt – 8/3 – 8/6

The 4 of us were planning on Redoubt and Easy Mox initially. With the smoke from the forest fires and heat wave we shortened up the trip to just do Redoubt.

Being our 2nd trip into the area we knew the drill getting up there. All the trip beta regarding crossing the border talks about just “sneaking” in and not dealing with getting permits.  This time I decided to just check and see what was involved ahead of time instead of going by all the years of trip reports with varying degrees of “don’t ask/don’t tell”.

After calling the Seattle border patrol field office and leaving a message I never got a call back. Later I called the Peach Arch border patrol office and got a lady in the billing department who transferred me to some young sounding guy who was an agent. The agent had no clue how to deal with a trail border crossing and transferred me to a supervisor.  This older guy didn’t seem to care or really know.  I think he was just winging his answer. He said nobody would bother some hikers and when crossing the border at a trail all you have to do is check into the nearest official border crossing.  Since this was an out and back and we were already doing an official border crossing he said at most we could just declare that we had crossed on our way back home.   This doesn’t exactly match up with the sign on the trail register at the border that says you need to get permission first.  I’ll just leave it at that.

Instead of a 4-day trip hiking in the heat of the day we shortened up the trip to car camp on Day 1 at the trailhead and get an early start on Day 2.  This worked out great. No need to take an extra day off to drive up to Sedro Wooley to get the permit.  We got the camping permit on the drive up on Day 1 leaving Seattle around 1:30pm.  Got across the border at Sumas and had an early dinner at TractorGrease (highly recommended, live music and great food).

Knowing how bad the road all the way to the end of the “drivable” road was from last trip and having a Toyota FJ decided to drive all the way to the end of the road this time which was an adventure but it handled the rocky road all the way and saved us an extra mile.

Up at 4:30am on Day 2 and hiking by 5:30. It took us 7.5 hours to get to Lake Ouzel.  It was pretty straight forward other than running across a bear just over the border.  And members of the party getting stung by hornets on occasion. And losing the trail a couple times. And going a bit too high in the slide alder just before final push up to the lake.  Had plenty of time to relax for the rest of the day.  Saw a party of 2 from Canada come in at evening who were heading off to Spickard or Silver Lake and didn’t see them again.

Up at 4:30am on Day 3 and hiking by 5:30 again for our summit day. Walked over to the river crossing from camp and it was looking pretty high water and not easy to cross without wading. So we walked around the lake instead which added about a half hour to the day crossing a few smaller streams along the way.   Navigated up the slabs easily and to the base of the Redoubt glacier.  Roped up and pretty much when straight up.  I recall beta saying its just got lots of small cracks, not heavily crevassed.  Not sure if they all missed the gaping cavern of a crevasse we passed that looked to be about a hundred feet deep.  Straight across the glacier to the low notch.  This was a straight forward few moves up and over.  Back on snow again and we passed the first snow gulley and headed to the next one.  It had taken us maybe 4 hours to get this far.   From here things got steeper and slower.  1300ft up and all steep snow and loose rock.  After some easy rock scrambling and the first short gulley got on a snow finger that took us three quarters of the way up.  Here one of our party tapped out being uncomfortable with the steep snow and we were okay leaving them to enjoy the day on the rocks to the side of the snow finger till our return which was a good idea as it only got steeper and harder.

A few hundred more feet up we hit the crux of the day.  The gulley narrowed and the snow finger had melted out a moat on both sides with top being just a couple inches across of soft snow which couldn’t be crossed.  I dropped into the left side of the moat and went up a bit.  It was about 8ft high and overhung a bit with no good features on the rock and snow too soft to hold an ice pick. Wasn’t able easily even get off the ground.  Got out of the left moat and went over to the right moat which was about 8ft high as well but just couple feet wide with some nice features on the rock.  Was able to chimney against the rock kicking foot holds into the snow and pushing up to the lip.   The snow was soft enough on top to get the full shaft of the axe in for a self belay to haul up on and regain the snow finger where it got wider.

Got all 3 of up that with some coaching and encouragement.  We’d figure out how to get down it later.  From there another 100ft up to the last bit of snow patch and dropped our ice gear.

We figured out the gulleys and ramps from the beta pretty well and made our way up to the rap station with the cannon hole in sight.   One person led up just clipping the cannon hole slings and placing 2 cams and made short work of the rock pitch in about 5 minutes.   All 3 of us were on the summit within 7 hours of starting.

Spent about 20 minutes on the summit then started down doing 3 rappels which got us down all the hardest of the scrambly bits and made our way back to the last patch of snow.

From here we had to figure out how to best get down the moat.  We figured the distance was probably reachable from here with a twin 37m rappel.   Not wanting to leave gear the last snow patch made a perfect bollard using some rocks to pad the edges to not get the rope stuck.  And it worked perfectly, our first member down reached the bottom of the larger left side moat with about a foot of rope to spare.   Got everyone down and pulled the ropes. 

Here is where our big time suck happened that took us from a possible 13 hour climb day to a 16 hour climb day.  The steep snow was soft on the top to the point it wasn’t soft enough for plunge stepping but soft enough it would just clog up the crampons and you would slide out.  I slowly side stepped down but the others were too uncomfortable with that and decided to setup another rappel off another snow bollard.  This added a considerable amount of time and since they didn’t get the edges padded they got the rope stuck and probably spent an hour just getting down one short pitch that could have been slowly downclimbed face in faster.  Once we got everyone off the steep snow a couple were uncomfortable with the steep loose rock scrambling which took considerable amount of time.  We had left the summit around 1:30pm and didn’t get off the base of the steep section till around 6:30pm.   Once down we went as fast as possible and got off the slabs at the lake around 9pm just as it got dark and had to turn headlamps on.   Back to the tents by 9:30 making it a 16 hour round trip from camp.

Day 4 we slept in and left camp around 8:30am and took 6 hours to get back to the cars.  Met another party of 3 at the waterfall coming up to do all the peaks in a 5 day outing.

Back at the truck made the descent down the rocky road and passed a few cars a mile or so later.  And just some ways before the exit of that branch of road up comes a middle aged guy in a beater atv smoking a cigarette and wearing a white t-shirt and motorcycle helmet driving up toward the trailhead.  He looked annoyed he had to get off the road to let us by.  Not sure what he was going up there for.  Nothing that way except for other climbers cars and a long trail to the border.

In the end a successful trip with 3 of 4 of the party reaching the summit.  All 4 making it out safe and sound.  The smoke from the forest fires made for a surreal effect and helped keep the temperature down from the heat wave that was predicted.   Bugs were pretty annoying all along the hike but not bad at camp and only 4 or 5 hornet stings between us.