Trip Report    

Tamanos - Cowlitz Chimney - Little Tahoma Alpine Traverse

A beautiful and very strenuous four day alpine traverse (scramble, alpine climb, glacier climb) of ~14000' elevation gain and ~28 miles (~18 miles off trail) spanning July 29th through August 1st, 2016. Visited Tamanos, Main Cowlitz Chimney, and Little Tahoma carrying overnight packs most of the time.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Very hard snow conditions on Little Tahoma with 30-40 strikes to place each picket.

The trip began at the Owyhigh Lakes trailhead and finished at the Fryingpan Creek trailhead. We ascended Tamanos via the basin/lake north of its summit, then traversed and descended into the Wright Creek basin to ascend the Sarvent Glacier into our 1st night's camp in the basin SW of the Cowlitz Chimneys. We ascended Main Cowlitz Chimney the following morning, then reclaimed our overnight packs to pass over Banshee Peak, reaching the Wonderland Trail at ~6600' just south of Panhandle Gap. After taking a well deserved break at Indian Bar, we slowly ascended (leaving the Wonderland Trail at ~5700') to reach our 2nd night's camp near sunset in Cowlitz Park at ~6200'. The 3rd day we ascended a route that loosely followed the ridge crest with views down into the Indian Bar valley, reaching the Whitman Glacier at ~7800'. Roping up, we ascended the Whitman Glacier to reach our 3rd night's camp at ~9000'. Our final day we attempted Little Tahoma with day packs via the standard route. The snow conditions were very hard and we started at a relatively late 8am to allow some hoped for softening. Almost all our picket placements took 30-40 strikes to fully set them. Because of low snow conditions the transition to the rock scramble part of the route involved steep and very rotten rock such that we felt it would require a belay. Due to the extra descent time due to hard snow conditions (picket placements), we turned around from this spot (~10000') at 1pm, reached camp at ~5pm, Meany Crest at ~7:30pm, and Summerland just before sunset at ~9pm. We hiked out via headlamps to reach the cars just before 11pm. For future trips an early-mid June timeframe is suggested for softer snow and an easier transition to the scramble portion of the Little Tahoma route. Photos of the trip can be seen here.