Chiwawa mountain - 8459' - SE ledges Class 3
Last week was my final week off before starting a new job in BC, and I took advantage of the upcoming excellent weather to finish up some of my last remaining Bulger Peaks. I solod Chiwawa Mountain in a total whiteout last Tuesday and made an attempt, but unfortunately failed on Fortress Mountain. While the weather was predicted to improve later in the day Tuesday, the whiteout conditions persisted until sunset.
I started from Trinity around 11am, hoping a later start would allow me some better weather, and hiked up the Chiwawa River Trail all the way to the junction with the Red Mountain Trail, which is really just the continuation of the old road to the long abandoned mine. The trail was slightly overgrown in spots, but easy to follow up to treeline where the mine used to be. I waited here for 30 minutes or so eating and hoping the clouds, whose ceiling was only 1000 feet above me at about 7200 feet would lift and allow Chiwawa/Fortress to become visible. That didn't happen, and after some pondering what I would do I decided to at least go up Chiwawa and hope weather would improve later in the evening for Fortress. It's important to note that these two Bulgers have been a thorn in my ass...my nemesis peaks if you like, as they are the only ones I have multiple failed attempts on (if you count driving to the trailhead an attempt). Everyone has those stubborn peaks that gives them trouble for whatever reasons and these two are them for myself. I have actually driven up the Chiwawa River Road 5 times with intentions to climb these two peaks, and for one reason or another, they were not climbed. Luckily other objectives were sometimes able to be done, however other times, I would barely get far from the car. Since the reasons vary greatly I won't bother describing them here to save whatever dignity I have left
Back to Chiwawa...I began traversing towards the southeast face and would ascend the "ledges" route as described on SP. This turned out to be a pretty easy route, I simply ascended to the large bench above the cliffs/waterfall slabs utilizing a weakness on the right edge, and continued on an ascending traverse until I entered the clouds. With the help of my phone GPS, I navigated up now continuous snow to the key ledge at 7600 feet that allowed me to round the rugged south rib of the mountain. Some easy Class 2+ ledge traversing brought me around to the southwest side and I continued up snow, and eventually dry talus until I reached the summit. No views, however I noticed the clouds were thinning and I could barely make out the sun above me.
I signed the register and ran down to the Chiwawa/Fortress saddle where I emerged below the clouds once again to see sun shining on nearby Maude and 7FJ! Unfortunately Fortress to my right was still socked in, however I figured I had to at least try it. I made an ascending traverse west staying close to, but just below the east ridge of the mountain. As I got close to 8200 feet, the whiteout was so thick I could barely see the rocks on the ridgecrest directly above me, the wind was whipping much faster and colder, and I was getting rime ice on my pack and hair. I decided that since I also did not have gloves, pants or a rain coat, and was only in tennis shoes, with the day getting late, in addition to not likely being able to find the class 4 chimney to access the summit, and even if I could it may be covered in new rime, to regrettably turn around and add yet another failed attempt on Fortress. This mountain is so easy but for some reason does not want me to climb it!
I descended back down to the saddle, retracing my steps in the snow and dropped below the clouds once again. I continued down snow to the flat bench at 5500 feet, with the final 200 feet or so through thick brush. Once at this basin I continued down the small treed ridge that dumps out into Chiwawa Basin at 4800 feet. Some minor bushwhacking was needed to descend to the river and relocate the trail just above the basin. Crossing the river on logs/snow-bridges was a non issue luckily. Once back on the trail it was an uneventful walk back to my van and just before dark I was back at the TH. The clouds FINALLY began to clear over Fortress as I was nearing the trailhead
I was very happy to finally get one of these two nemesis peaks for Bulger #92. Stay tuned for my next trip report for Mount Logan, Tupshin and Devore which I ascended via Stehekin in a 4 day stretch!