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Trip Report    

Whitehorse Mountain/Northwest Shoulder

Our team of 8 began hiking up the (correct) road at about 4:50am. With warm temps and hiking up through a cloud, "wet" was the word of the morning. The Neiderprum "trail" starts out innocently enough, gaining elevation quickly on decent trail for about 1,000 ft. Then it deteriorates into overgrown, dew-covered brush, further soaking us. There are several blow-downs, but all pretty manageable. We lost the trail a few times, but managed to find it again after searching for a few minutes. Occasional flagging and cairns help mark the way. Though the trail is rough, if you're on track you should never get into serious bush-whack territory. Some snow on the ascent to Lone Tree Pass, which we reached around 9am. The descent from the pass is snow-free. Take the high trail, the low trail deteriorates quickly.
With no snow, and low visibility, trying to follow the intermittent trail from Lone Tree to High Pass was difficult. We relied on GPS quite a bit. Eventually the trail is just plain non-existent from what we could tell, and we traversed over heather and grass slopes for the last half mile or so to the gully to High Pass. The final gully still has snow, and was nice and soft for kicking steps. We all had a hallelujah moment as we reached High Pass - we finally got above the cloud layer and amazing views of the Whitehorse summit, Baker, and the North Cascades opened up before us. We reached high pass around 12:40. We donned harnesses and roped up to cross the glacier. No crevasse crossings for us, but a few large ones were open on the slopes below us. Below the summit block, I took one of my assistant leads and went to investigate the route up to the summit. The bergschrund is starting to open up, but there is still a snow bridge through the middle of it, which is crossable. My guess is it will hold for another week or so. However, once I crossed the bergschrund, the slope became very steep, maybe 60 degrees? The snow was soft enough for kicking steps, but another 20 feet up it looks like it becomes icy. It is climbable, but you would want two tools, I felt that we were getting into intermediate ice climb territory, no longer the stuff of a first basic climb. I down climbed back over the bergschrund and we headed back down. Route finding was much easier on the way back, with a GPS track and the clouds lifting off. We reached the good portion of the trail just in time for the sun to go down, and reached the cars at 10pm.
(As a sidenote, the Mountaineers route description that says 3hrs descent from summit to trailhead definitely needs to be amended. Maybe if you had skis?)
This climb certainly isn't for the faint of heart. I was very impressed by the positive attitude and teamwork of our group. Everyone pitched in with route finding and carrying gear, and spirits were high throughout.
Don't take the road past the closed gate, take the road over the bridge. :)

 

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