Custer ridge - 8630' - south ridge class 3 / Easy Mox - 8407' - SE face class 5.6
Who: Josh Lewis and I
What: Easy Mox via the SE face from Col of the Wild (Two technical pitches; Class 5.5)
When: August 27-28th for myself; August 26-29th for Josh
Easy Mox turned out to be a bit more difficult to get than anticipated. Rewind back to August 2015, Josh and I climbed Spickard, Rahm, Redoubt and Hard Mox in one trip, leaving Custer and Easy Mox.
Now back to this summer. I started a new job in mid-July, leaving 5 Bulgers left to do for myself when I started. Being a 2 week on, one week off rotational job, I would have a few weeks to finish up the last 5 Bulgers, two of them being Custer and Easy Mox. I figured we could get them both in one trip when I was off work August 1-8. The plan was for me to pick Josh up in Bellingham and drive him to the Hannegan Pass Trailhead, then I would drive around to the Depot Creek Trailhead outside the Chilliwack Provincial Park in Canada, crash in my van then approach to Lake Ouzel the next day and solo Custer and meet Josh at the lake in the evening. We would then climb Easy Mox the next morning, and I would hike out while Josh solod Custer and started his hike back to the Hannegan Pass TH.
Well, on August 6th, after I solod Custer via its south ridge (which btw, is by far the best route on this peak...mostly solid the entire way except the last 350 feet), I laid out my sleeping bag at the nice sandy spot by Lake Ouzel and enjoyed the pleasant afternoon in a wonderful place, and drifted in and out of napping. Darkness came and Josh never showed up. Then sunrise came and he still wasn't around. I was all alone in this alpine wonderland. I decided to hike up to the Redoubt Glacier and hoped he just was slightly delayed on his long approach, which took him over Hannegan and Whatcom Passes, then over Tapto Peak and past Bear Lake. I waited on the rocky rib that bisects the Redoubt Glacier at about 7400 feet hoping to see him pop over and running down the glacier so that we could tag Easy Mox together. I didn't feel up for soloing it via its north ridge route as I only had a 30 meter rope (Josh had the other 30m), and I wasn't sure I would be comfortable possibly downclimbing some of the route. When 11am rolled around, I began hiking back down, as I had to catch an early flight back to work the next morning. Unfortunately for us both, Josh crossed over Redoubt Col just 20 minutes later! He ended up getting Custer as well, but didn't attempt Easy Mox either. Evidentely his route was filled with very tedious terrain and took much longer than anticipated.
Fast forward to the last few days, I was again off work from August 22-28, and Josh and I agreed to try it again. Josh believed he found a much better route to get to Redoubt Col, so I picked him up in Lynnwood this time on the 26th (since I had returned to Renton for a while), and dropped him off at the Hannegan Pass TH around 3:30pm (4 hours earlier than last time). He began hiking the trail in a light rain. I then drove back around to the Depot Creek Trailhead and crashed in the van for the night. Knowing I only had to hike to Redoubt Col the next day, I slept in, and got a leisurely 10am start. From the rain the previous day, all the brush in Depot Creek was soaking wet, which slowed me down a bit. I passed the waterfall and made my way up the climbers shortcut to the Redoubt Glacier, bypassing Lake Ouzel. Josh also had a shorter way to go, only having to get to the col, rather than the lake. At 3:30, I arrived and took a nap at the nice bivy spot, awaking later in the evening to watch the sunset. I was getting more and more worried whether Josh would make it, because if he didn't, this was my last chance to climb this peak, as my next time off wasn't until mid September, possibly too late for Mox. Just moments after the last glow of sunset faded though, I hear a loud distinct "Matt" yell from Josh, who had just arrived at the col! I was honestly suprised and immediately sprung up from my slumber (it was quite cold at this point) and yelled back to let him know where I was. We met up and chatted about how we both got soaked in the bushes on our approaches, and how it had rained on Josh that whole afternoon after I dropped him off. We ate dinner and set up our bivy. Just after it got completely dark we were huddled in our ultralight sleeping bags trying to stay warm during the coldest night I have had since I was in Bolivia in April.
I did not sleep at all that night, as the moon was incredibly bright, and I wasn't very comfortable since I didn't have my leg pillow (usually is my down coat but it was cold enough I was wearing it in my sleeping bag). We finally emerged from our sleeping bags around 8am, and ate a quick breakfast. Excited to finally start moving, we started making the traverse east towards Col of the Wild at 9. It was entirely on boulders, however they were surprisingly solid and made for quick boulder hopping to the final slope below Col of the Wild. We ascended the final 800 feet or so trying to find the more solid talus. The final 200 feet or so was the worst but still very manageable, and we made it to the col around 10:15. Using my 3 sentence Beckey route description, I quickly spotted the initial pitch, located in the steep gully immediately left of a prominent gendarme. We scrambled up the initial Class 3-4 gully for 40 feet or so and traversed right on a nice ledge as it brought us over much more exposed terrain; with a steep drop to the gaping pocket glacier on the north side of the col. The only roped climbing we did was ascending the 5.4-5.5 near vertical gully from the end of this first ledge. After about 50 feet of climbing on very blocky rock, the gully eased to class 3 and I belayed Josh up.
Here we put the rope away, and continued to the top of the gully, then following Beckeys description, traversed right on a nice ledge for 40 feet, then back left on a higher ledge for 80 feet, rounding a small rocky rib. We then saw the large white Class 3 slab that would take us up the next 250 feet or so. This scrambling was fun and very solid. We met up with the north ridge and finished via the last pitch of the normal route. It was solid and easy enough we both solod it and found ourselves on the summit at 11:45, just under 3 hours from Redoubt col! I really enjoyed that climb, and actually think it's just as good as the normal route, and in late season definitely better as you don't have to deal with the glacier or any moat issues. See the photo further down for a good route topo, using a photo I took of Easy Mox, from Hard Mox back in 2015.
We were elated to have finally climbed this peak. In hindsight, I probably could have solod the standard route 3 weeks prior, but that would have left Josh in a tough place to climb this peak. It was worth the wait. We both were confident in that we could now definitely finish the Bulgers this year. Since there was no register, I brought one up, and while Josh ate his two day old ragged looking pizza, I ate my signature bag of Gardettos. The new register has pink flowers, Hello Kitty, and cute little kittens and puppies on it to remind you that this is one easy mountain Josh failed to being the Easy Button for added theatrics but in his defense his approach was much longer.
After a 20 minute summit stay, we began scrambling down 30 feet to an established anchor. We made one rappel with the 60m rope we brought, and continued scrambling down the white slab, then down the two ledges to the top of the initial gully. Just as I started down the upper gully, I noticed some very old rappel slings around a large block just above the first pitch we climbed. It was so old and faded I missed it on the ascent! I backed it up with a new sling and we rapped down, and finished the scramble back to the col of the wild. We were successfully off the technical portion, and we made quick time getting back to Redoubt Col, which we arrived at 1:45. I was hoping to make it back to Abbotsford at a reasonable time for really no reason at all, so I quickly packed up, and thanked Josh for making the long painful approach, twice to come out to these peaks. I quickly made my way back to Depot Creek Road by 6pm and out. Josh started his hike back over Bear Mountain, and made it back to the Baker Highway this afternoon.
Here's a good route topo of the SE face. Honestly, this is a good route, with only a couple spots to really watch your footing for loose rocks.