North Cascades National Park Highpoint Trip Report

Goode Mountain (9,200+ ft) via SW Couloir and Storm King Mountain (8,520 ft)

Author: Fay Pullen
Date: July 27-30, 2004

Goode is another one of those mountains that I dreamed about for years but never thought myself capable of climbing alone. However, after recent successes on other peaks (notably Jack), I felt ready physically and mentally to give it a try. Now I am glad I waited so I could also add Storm King to the agenda. Storm King had not been on my radar screen until I became interested in the Bulger Peaks in the last year. But the question remained as to how to approach the mountain. The usual approach from Stehekin has been lengthened this year by the flood of October 2003 washing out the road. As a result the NPS shuttle is not running and the lower valley shuttle stops 1.5 miles below High Bridge. This all adds some 6.5 miles to the normal approach. Considering this and the hassle and expense of getting to Stehekin and being tied to the boat schedule, I decided to start from Bridge Cr on the North Cascades highway even though it is longer.

Day 1. I got out of the house reasonably early but had several delays. First it took 30 minutes to get my permit from the Marblemount RS. I was the only one there but the lone ranger on duty kept being interrupted answering the phone. Why is it that phone calls always seem to take precedence over people in person? Then I was stopped another 30 minutes where they are repairing the road at the rockslide between Newhalem and Diablo. So by the time I was able to start from the Bridge Cr TH it was already 11:00 AM.

I decided to experiment on this trip with hiking in most of the way in light trail shoes. I thought they would allow me to go faster and be easier on aching feet. The downside was I had to carry my climbing boots. I was also carrying 10 pounds of climbing gear, including ice axe, rock gear and a 50 meter skinny rope, and food for 5 days. I went as light as I dared on personal gear and clothing, but this all added up to over 40 pounds of pack weight, very heavy for me.

The Bridge Cr trail is mostly gently downhill, with a few ups here and there, all the way the 13 miles to the Stehekin road and my trail shoes seemed light as a feather to feet used to heavy climbing boots, so I made reasonable time to start despite the heavy load. I reached the road at 5:00 having taken a long rest at lovely Maple Cr (at 8 miles) to soak my feet. At 6:00 I was at the Park Cr trail, after walking the road 2 miles, and started uphill. Near the junction I heard a crashing in the woods and looked up in time to see a bear running away. My permit for the first night was Two Mile camp, which was, surprisingly enough, 2 miles up the trail. Here the heat, the heavy pack and the steep trail conspired to slow me down, and it wasn't until 7:30 that I reached camp (17 miles, 2000 ft and 8.5 hours). The camp was affected by flooding, but there was still a nice level sandy spot right by Park Cr to put my bivy tent and a usable toilet nearby. I washed my sweaty, dusty body and filthy feet and socks in the creek. Another downside to light shoes > -> they let in all manner of trail dirt.

Day 2 (Storm King). I was on my way the next morning by 7:00, having stashed my shoes and switched to boots. Right out of camp the trail crossed Park Cr on a good log. About 2 miles farther the trail was obliterated by a massive washout of huge boulders and debris coming down the creek that drains the SW side of Goode. On the other side the trail enters the woods and a cairn marks where to leave it and start uphill. I found no discernable path at the cairn and thought it too far into the woods. My recommendation is to leave the trail just inside the woods where travel looks reasonable and head uphill. Soon you will run into the good climbers trail that follows along the rib just to the left of the washout creek and ravine.

I left the Park Cr trail at 8:30 and began the slow hot plod 3000 ft uphill plagued by obnoxious flies most of the way. The climber's trail was quite good as climber's trails go. After following along the wooded rib for 1700 ft, at 5600 ft the trail traversed left into meadows and petered out. But the going was easy enough up the meadows to the crest of another ridge to the left. I found nice flat places to camp at about 6600 ft but there was no water. Soon the ridge steepened and became rocky and a climber's trail again appeared. I traversed right below cliffs toward a waterfall and at noon found a wonderful campsite at 7200 ft on a narrow heather bench at the base of talus directly below Goode's SW face (4 miles, 3850 ft, 5 hrs). I had a great view up to the SW couloir, the Black Tooth, two fascinating spires off to the left with a giant chockstone wedged between them and across to the north face of Booker and east face of Buckner.

I set up camp, ate lunch, replenished my water, rested a bit and then started for Storm King at 1:40. I climbed to a flat talus basin 200 ft above my camp and then began a mile long traverse, first up and over a minor rib, on a mostly level snow bench until I could round a corner into the basin below Storm King's twin towers. The eastern tower is the highest. I headed for the notch just right of the eastern (right most) tower on increasingly loose and unpleasant scree. At the base of the gully leading to the notch I roped up. The gully itself was very loose and looked awful, becoming steep to overhanging near the top. About half way up I climbed onto the right wall where the rock was not as steep and was a little more solid. From the notch (rappel slings here) a wide sandy ledge led across the NE face. I went the full length of my rope before stopping and returning to my starting point. Remember that solo roped climbing requires each pitch to be climbed twice in order to retrieve the rope.

I was trying to follow the route directions in Washington's Highest Mountains but they were completely incomprehensible to me and made no sense, something about continuing the traverse all the way around to the notch between the twin towers and climbing from the other side. Forget all that. From the end of my first pitch it was an easy scramble directly up to the summit ridge at a minor notch. Here a 20 ft easy crack (which I did protect) led the final bit to the summit at 6:00. The register was a glass jar placed in 1988. There were only a dozen or so entries. I signed in after Don Beavon's entry of 8/12/03. I actually found Don's trip report of last year more helpful, even though he climbed from the west side. I have great respect for the fact that he climbed both east and west towers unroped.

There was a rappel sling almost at the summit that would have got me directly down to the sandy ledge very near my gully notch, but I had left my pack below the crack and so had to go back down that way. I couldn't find a good anchor to rappel the crack and so ended up down climbing it and the rest of the way to the notch, from which I then rappelled to the base of the gully. On down terrible scree where often it seemed the whole mountain was moving with me and back to camp at 8:30 (3 miles, 1200ft, 6:50 hr RT). I ate dinner watching a fiery sun set over Mt Buckner and a full moon rise in the opposite direction. Pure magic. Well, it would have been pure magic except for the voracious mosquitoes. Despite being covered head to toe in clothing and head net they still found places to drill me. I do believe bugs have been put on this earth to remind us when we are having way too much fun.

Day 3 (Goode Mountain). I was on my way again at 7:00 AM. Back to the flat basin then up a yucky scree slope to the "pocket glacier" (looked like just a regular snow slope to me) above and up the snow to the ridge to the SE and easy scrambling along this ridge heading for the deep slot of the SW couloir. At the base of the cliffs above, a ledge led into the couloir proper at 8500 ft. I found the couloir to be a fascinating place and much friendlier than I had expected. I stayed on the left side mostly following the stair steps of a black dike that, compared to earlier terrain (especially on Storm King), was reasonably solid and pleasant scrambling. The scrambling ended at the left edge of a black sloping ledge (with a rappel boulder) below a white slab at 8900 ft. Here I roped up.

I first traversed onto the black ledge and reset my anchor on the boulder. I then climbed a crack on the left side of the white slab and traversed to the right below a crack at the top. This slab gave me a great deal of trouble and was much harder than anticipated. I hate slabs. I am not very good at them and they are difficult to protect. That is why I followed the cracks to provide protection. The problem was, this forced me onto the steepest and smoothest part of the slab. I am now thinking perhaps there was an easier route to the right. At any event, it took me over an hour to climb the thing and it was at my technical limit.

Once across the slab, easy scramble terrain led past another rappel boulder up a shallow gully to the Black Tooth notch. From the notch, a sandy ledge led across the NE face to connect with the upper part of the NE buttress. This was the only other place to give me trouble. Although most of the ledge was easy, it was very exposed and there was an 8-foot awkward step down where if you lost it you would end up 2000 feet down on the Goode Glacier. I took time to protect this section going in both directions.

Once on the NE buttress there were two more pitches of enjoyable class 3-4 climbing on solid blocky rock, passing two rappel slings. I reached the spacious summit, where several bivy sites had been leveled, at 1:45. The view from the top was not that great as it was very hazy from all the fires in the area, but I could clearly see the near peaks of Booker, Buckner and Logan. The summit register was an official fat mountaineer roll that barely fit inside a narrow diameter metal tube. The last party to sign it had unthinkingly pushed it all the way to the bottom of the tube where it was impossible to get out with fingers. Now, there was no way I was going to climb this mountain and not sign the register, but it was a real challenge to get the thing out. I finally succeeded by bending a large safety pin from my first aid kit into a hook and snagging the paper to pull it out. It had been placed in 2002 and already had many entries. The most recent parties were the previous weekend, one via the SW couloir and other via the NE buttress. When replacing the register I was careful to leave it flush with the lip of the container so the next party could get it out.

Two rappels got me to the sandy ledge, where I again protected the step, and two more rappels from the Black Tooth notch got me to the base of the white slab, all of which took 2 hours. In another 1 hours I was back in camp, again plagued by mosquitoes but a very happy climber. (2 miles, 2250 ft, 11 hours RT)

Day 4. The less said about this day the better. It was a long, hot, dusty, foot-aching, mind-numbing hike out that seemed to go on forever. I wasn't even sure I would be able to get out in one day and was prepared to spend another night. I did make it. I retrieved my shoes at Two Mile camp but kept my boots on till past the Stehekin road. I stopped twice to soak my feet in cool streams and took a long rest for lunch. Much of the way back was gently but annoyingly uphill. I left camp at 7:00 AM and dragged into the Bridge Cr TH a little after 7 PM, more than ready for my adventure to end. (21 miles, 3400 ft, 12 hours).

Grand Total: 47 miles and 12,700 ft.