Snowking Mountain via Snowking Glacier
September 11-12, 1999.
Clockwise from top: Phil, John, Matt, Jeff, Greg.
This Snowking climb was born driving home from a soggy failed attempt on Mt. Logan over Labor Day weekend. Phil was flipping through the Green Becky in a vain attempt to distract his memory from the previous three days of rain. A photograph of the north side of Snowking Mountain caught his eye. The peak is at the east end of the sharp ridge cradling the Snowking Glacier. The glacier ends above a cliff band several hundred feet high. A diagonal snow ramp pierced the cliff band to provide access to the glacier.
The ramp cried out to be climbed. By the next weekend we had assembled an elite team of climbers, perfectly matched to conquor the challenges of Snowking:
The drive to the trailhead was quiet. Our thoughts lay with the challenge ahead, except for John's, who was wondering if it was wise to drink as much as he had the night before.
Nervousness about the alleged fisherman's trail grew when a pair of aged fisherman going to Slide Lake had no knowledge of any sort of trail between Slide and Enjar lakes. If a pair of bona-fide fishermen (we saw their poles) didn't know of a fisherman's trail, could the trail still exist?
The approach from Slide Lake to Hamar Lake
The mile to Slide Lake went quickly. The trail petered out at the edge of a brushy avalanche cut. Several faint trails lead into the bramble. We picked one, and forced our way through. Faint paths continued through the forest and several more avalanche cuts. A routine of frequent and languid breaks was established; it was critical that we didn't arrive at camp too early. In spite of losing the trail several times and taking a long break just before the lake when John found a "really cool mushroom", we arrived at the lake in the early afternoon. Roughly four hours at our extrememly leisurely pace.
Tough Guys at Hamar Lake
There was a backpacker named Larry or something already at the lake, who seemed a little put-off at our spoiling his solitude. We continued to the far end of Enjar Lake, looking for a campsite. At the shore of neighboring Hamar Lake (it's really more of a pond), we met Larry again. He pointed out that there was a guy (I think his name was Bill) working his way down from the saddle above the lakes. Apparently Bill was reconoitering the approach to Snowking in order to climb it the next weekend. Talking with Bill confirmed our path to the shoulder left of peak 6743: up through trees left of a cliff band, then traverse over to the snowfield leading to the shoulder.
War games... Phil and his bow
The remainder of the day was spent posing for the camera and other base camp recreations. Ice axe golf shows signs of developing into a serious base camp activity. Phil and Jeff decided to get medieval on each other; the rest of us tried to get medieval on the swarms of mosquitos.
Jeff and his sardine-based catapult (a.k.a. "Piggy").
Waking up to our 5 o'clock alarm at 6:15, we ate breakfast and started up to the saddle. The thrash to the meadow below the saddle was straightforward. Over the low saddle Phil captured the first view of Snowking. The snowfield below the upper saddle was still in the shade and firm, making for easy walking.
First view of Snowking
Apprehension struck when the view over the saddle looked very steep. From there, it was unclear if the decending traverse to the target snow ramp would be possible. We decided to press on and try and find a route, agreeing that in the worst case we could scramble up to the ridge and approach the peak from above the glacier.
A view of the slope we traversed to gain the glacier (actually taken on the way back, Jeff can be seen in the lower right).
The nymphs of the mountain must have been smiling on us, as a second and third class ledge system lead through the cliffs to the gully above the snow ramp. A hundred feet of decending on neve took us to the entrance of the ramp.
Descent onto neve to reach ramp. We traversed across the cliffy slope on the right.
View of Snowking. We followed the diagonal ramp at center
The snow ramp was an easy walk up. We roped up at its top, and continued on the glacier, following the gentler slopes and traversing above most of the crevases on the glacier to the gap between the west and main peaks. The pitch was 35 degrees or less, mostly on neve with a little glacial ice immediately above the ramp. From the gap we scrambled to the main peak along the west ridge, after ooing and ahing at the steep side of the west peak facing us. The scramble was third or fourth class, depending on how close to the top of the ridge you stay. The last half of the ridge is not exposed, a second class talus scramble not quite long enough to be truely annoying.
Near the top of the glacier. West Peak (or middle peak?) of Snowking in the background
It was 4-5 hours camp to summit. Jeff took a disappointing shit near the summit. Perhaps he should have consulted Phil on food before the trip. John took a rare shot of Phil on the summit (usually Phil's the one behind the lens). The views of Glacier Peak, Mt. Baker, the Olympics, Stuart (poking its head up as usual), Bonanza, etc. etc. were fabulous.
Upper glacier from summit
Phil on the summit
After hanging out on top for nearly an hour, we packed up the filled summit register and headed down our ascent route. Roughly three and a half hours later we were back at our Enjar Lake camp, where we rested, desperately trying to finish off our remaining food. We were unsuccessful.
Jeff wets his pants!
Jeff whistling the theme of The Sound of Music through the parkland far above Enjar Lake
On the way down we found the real trail back to Slide Lake. It was quite beaten out, and we had much less bushwacking than the way over. To find this trail from Slide Lake, at the campsite at the end of the Ilabot Creek-Slide Lake trail, walk to the lake shore and cross underneath two large logs that stick out above the water.
The trip from Enjar Lake to the cars took about two hours. On the way down John found several more mushrooms. None had smurfs living in them, much to our surprise, as their shape and proportion were perfect. None of us discovered the reasons behind John's attraction to mushrooms.
The sun was just setting as we reached the cars. The clear sky above us was pearl fading to scarlet in the west. Phil put on a tape of The Cult's "Sonic Temple" and we all rocked hard.
-by Matt Cary
This is where it all ends The kinda dream that you've never seen Hot damn, mercy ma'am What the hell you doing to me? Strutting round with your head held high What you trying to prove girl? Black haired missy Big brown eyes On my knees mama please I'm a regal man I'll do what I can To take you off to the Promised Land I'm a Snowking baby Let me take you by the hand Snowking honey We can rule across the land I'm a Snowking baby With you I'll share my throne Snowking honey I can't make it on my own Hey look out little missy's about Ripping up the town Honey I can't tie you down Woman you make me frown Long legged lady with a black dress on On my knees mama please I'm a regal man I'll do what I can To take you to the Promised Land Now check this out one time Let me tell you people Listen good City crawling like a tired dog Cult children in the house of the dawn Time was wasted 'cause it's gone too fast Time was wasted 'cause it's gone too fast I see the sun begin to shine I see the sun begin to shine