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John Guilford's Hikes

White Chuck on 1994-09-17

Date: 1994-09-17

Location: White Chuck

People: (including myself): Gene Obie

			My Alt.	Real Alt. Miles
Leave Gene's	9:30
Start:		11:45	4280	 4280	  0
Meadow:		12:05	4540	~4600	 ~0.6
Tree line:	12:35	5080	~5200	 ~0.75
Bottom gully:	1:00	5580	~5600	 ~0.9
Summit:		2:25	6760	 6989	 ~1.35
Leave:		3:40	6800
Bottom gully:	4:40	5520
Tree line:	5:00	5060
Bottom of hill:	5:30	4540
Out:		6:10	4280		 ~2.7
Arlington:	8:15
Note on the approach: The FS22 road south from Darrington is still closed and looks like it will remain that way (i.e. it looks like there is no intention of fixing it).  Thus, the correct route it so head south from Darrington on the west side of the Sauk (FS20).  This road crosses the Sauk right before it turns to dirt.  Between the bridge over the Sauk and the change to dirt there are two lefts.  The first left (immediately after the bridge) is FS22 and is the correct turn.  If you get to dirt, you've gone too far.

Gene and I left his house (a couple miles outside Arlington) around 9:30.  After stopping the Darrington ranger station to register and buy a map, we continued trying the northerly approach down FS22 from Darrington (forgetting to ask at the ranger station if the road was open).  It wasn't.  We turned around and headed down FS20 and continued following the directions recorded at the end of the 91-10-19 hike.  The drive along the FS roads was uneventful and the directions worked perfectly.  We still didn't start hiking until 11:45 as there is quite a bit of time taken in the drive to Darrington and up the dirt roads. 

White Chuck is a unique climb in that it is short (and steep at times) and has a commanding view.  From the road, the stony cliffs of White Chuck are standing there close at hand and very impressive, giving one the feeling that there is absolutely no way that you'll be able to climb it.  Even knowing that the actual way is much easier than it looks fails to diminish the awesome splendor of the view of White Chuck

Instead of parking at the road end (which has a wonderful view of White Chuck) like we did last time, we parked next to another vehicle at a little turnout just before Black Oak Creek.  There was a piece of orange tape next to the road a little below the turn out.  Thinking that this might mark somewhat of a trail, we started down there and quickly decided that it was too brushy.  Instead we went up the road a little to Black Oak Creek and found the going to be quite a bit better.  We kept to a basically 80 degree bearing and ascended a gradually climbing hike through open forest with a little brush.  Part way up, we spied an orange flag (tape) that indicated somewhat of a climbers track which we started following.  We found what might be the meadow that Becky describes and found a track leading up from there.  It was brushy and overgrown, but it was certainly much better than bushwhacking.  It allowed us to climb the hillside without incident.  Towards the top, our boot track merged with others and we attached some red tape to mark the route we had just come up so that we could hopefully go down the same way.  We followed the trail upwards reaching the treeline and breaking into open meadow a little after 12:30. 

[ PIX1 ] Below the cliffs of White Chuck, there is a wide, steeply sloping meadow of low brush that extends for the whole length of the mountain.  It is a relatively unique in the Cascades - I can't think of anywhere else that I've seen its like - and I find it quite attractive.  This was the location that we ate lunch at on my last hike.

Gene and I, however, having started only an hour before, just kept going.  There wasn't a trail up to the gully like there was last time, so we just had to climb the scree pretty much straight up.  It was relatively steep but not bad (coming down was a lot more of a pain).  I saw numerous marmot holes, but no marmots.  It was a warm, sunny day with the temperature getting up to the low 80's.  Hence we did a fair amount of sweating.  Climbing the hillside below was hotter as there wasn't a breeze and the vegetation made it more humid.  While ascending the talus slope, we noticed a party ahead of us that had been resting below the gully and were starting up the gully.  That put them far enough above us when we got to the gully so there wasn't much rockfall danger. 

The actual ascent up the gully was uneventful.  Gene went first and loosed a few small rocks, but I was far enough below that they weren't any problem.  There are several places where one can leave the gully and start traversing and ascending the ledges.  We somewhat arbitrarily chose one about half way up.  We did some traversing and ascending until we reached the ridge line.  We stopped and peered over the ridge line into the basin and glacier on the northeast side of the mountain.  It is a rather neat looking basin, lined with smooth rock with the heavily crevassed glacier on it.  Looking at the rock lines, it was clear that the glacier wasn't very deep at all, with the crevasses that we could see reaching almost all the way to the rock below.  The glacier didn't look to be more than 20 or 40 feet thick.  While one could approach from that side (there is a road out there somewhere) and exploring the basin might be fun (though the glacier looked like it might be dangerous to go onto), it isn't clear how hard it would be to get from the basin up to the ridge line.  It might be doable or there might be cliffs.  We didn't investigate enough to determine which. 

We dropped down a tad from the ridge line and headed off for the summit, following what looked like the most promising route.  In the end, there are numerous variations in the routes that will get you there.  The boot tracks make it pretty apparent which ways work well, but one just has to use common sense.  During the traverse there are a couple minor gullys that the shelves climb up and almost before you know it, you are at the summit. 

I had myself a bit pysched out for the notch immediately before the summit (which wasn't as bad as I had imagined it to be).  Gene just went along without problem, while I just took my time down climbing and soon joined him on the summit.  We met another couple up there who came in on a different route that what we used.  Their route used the same gully to climb the mountain, but from the base of the gully, instead of going west to Black Oak Creek and the road where we started from, their route led north along the ridge to a different road (see section below on alternate route approach).  Their route is slightly longer but has less elevation gain (since that route starts at 5000' instead of 4280').  It is claimed that the trail is pretty good so it may avoid potential bushwhacking and the route finding problems one can get going up the hillside.  It is something to be tried the next time I do White Chuck

There were a fair number of bugs on the true summit, but they hung around the windward edge.  We moved a short way down the west ridge (still summit proper - we were only about 10' below the summit) and there the bugs were mostly non-existent.  We had good views in most directions, although directly to the west it was pretty hazy as we were looking into the sun.  There is quite a difference to the appearance of the western Cascade mountains when viewed from so far East.  We could make out peaks all the way out to Pilchuck and even got a faint view of Rainier.  To the north, we got a clear view of Baker and Shuksan (I was surprised how much farther east Shuksan was compared to Baker - I thought that they were closer together). 

After eating and some sightseeing we headed down.  We planned on pretty much retracing our earlier route, but that didn't work out.  Towards the end of the higher traversing, we went along a patch that was decidedly unfamiliar (though clearly going the right way).  I at first thought that we were too low, that we had traversed higher on the way in.  That wasn't the case when we ended up at the ridge line slightly above where we stopped on the way up to view the glacier.  We had crossed over above our old route.  Apparently we hadn't descended one of the minor gullies quite far enough.  It was no matter as most of the ways are equally easy.  We could have gone straight for the gully, but we decided to descend a bit along our old route and join the gully midway.  Again we lost our original path and ending up descending the shelves further, entering the gully lower down than we had planned.  Again, it isn't any big deal.  You can just about make your own route and have it come out fine. 

The descent of the gully was quick and pretty easy.  The descent down the talus field was more obnoxious.  I don't know if it was because I was more tired or just because it was harder going down then up, but I had a much harder time going down the loose rock.  Part of it may have been my route.  Gene elected to go pretty much straight down towards the beginning of the creek.  I saw a bit of a path leading more North that I decided on trying.  After a while the path ended and I ended up going straight down.  The going there wasn't fun.  The rocks were loose and a couple times my feet slipped out from under me.  I thought it would be easier on the left side (where we had come up and Gene had gone down).  The traversing was a bit of a pain as plants covered the rocks and made the footing a bit harder to see.  After some traversing and descending I got to somewhat easier stuff and finished going down over there.  Gene reached the bottom long before me (part of that was that I stopped half way down to take a photo and lost my lens cap, spending a while to empty my pack to try and find it). 

At the bottom I caught up with Gene and we started down the hillside.  We did the first part okay and picked out the first (last) of Gene's red tape that we had set on the way up.  Further down we came to a small meadow and took the wrong exit from it.  Shortly after that we decided that we'd run out of trail and were the wrong place and went back up to the meadow and found the correct exit.  We kept looking for the other red flags but missed them.  Thus we ended up going down a different route.  We lost the trail and tried to keep a general compass course going down hill.  Based on how close we had come out on the previous hike, I wasn't too worried.  Apparently we were somewhat lucky on that hike, however.  This time we went down most of the way and ran into brush - chest high (and higher) blueberries mostly.  We bushwhacked through that for a while and began to wonder if perhaps we'd missed the road.  Perhaps we were too far south and then we'd miss the road and keep going forever.  We could see the summit and took a compass reading on it and found out that we were in reality too far north (closer to Conn creek).  If we continued down, we'd miss the little loop that we were parked on, though we'd catch the road further down in a short ways.  More directly, we should head south and get the right part of the road.  We started south and immediately decided that it would take forever to get through the brush.  We headed back uphill a bit to get more into the trees where it was more open.  A brief struggle later, we succeeded and went a ways south before turning more westward towards the road.  This path again turned brushy, but then Gene spotted his truck and we finished bushwhacking out to the road a bit below the where we had first tried going up (before we moved back up to Black Oak Creek).  The putzing about going down made up in some measure to the ease we had going up. 

The weather remained nice the whole hike, with a few high scattered clouds.  After changing we started driving out just before sunset.  About a mile down the road, Gene pointed out his front windshield to where drops were hitting.  It was raining.  That was weird - it was clear outside.  Looking out the trucks windows you could see blue sky with high clouds.  Rolling the window down and looking straight up, one could see a small cloud directly overhead.  Weird.  I'm guessing that there may have been small occasional showers down below during the afternoon, since, as we were bushwhacking through the blueberries, I had noticed that the bushes were pretty wet, which I couldn't explain - it wasn't cool enough for dew, and I would have expected any dew from the previous day to have evaporated.  A small shower seems to be the best explanation. 

Alternate route approach: Follow FS22 to FS24 (4 miles) to FS2430 (4.1 miles) {normal approach}.  About 1/2 mile up FS2430, take a right onto FS2435.  Stay on FS2435 for about 5.3 miles (noting that at 1 mile FS2436 takes a right - do not take this - stay on FS2435 which is the left or straight, you should shortly pass the iron grate).  This will take you over the top of a rounded knoll.  Possible good views here.  At 5.3 miles from FS2435 take a right (possibly unmarked, possibly called D20) and continue to end of road in 0.6 miles at 4880' where the trail should start. 

Alternate route approach: (OLD INCORRECT WRITEUP - above is correct -jhg) Follow FS22 to FS24 (4 miles) to FS2430 (4.1 miles) {normal approach}.  About 1/2 mile up FS2430, take a left on FS2435 at a switchback in FS2430.  (The normal approach - FS2430 -continues on the right at the switchback.) Stay on FS2435 for about 5.3 miles (noting that at 1 mile FS2436 takes a right - do not take this - stay on FS2435 which is the left or straight).  This will take you over the top of a rounded knoll.  Possible good views here.  At 5.3 miles from FS2430 take a right (possibly unmarked, possibly called D20) and continue to end of road in 0.6 miles at 4880' where the trail should start. 


[ PIX1 ] Silhouette of White Chuck

[ PIX2 ] White Chuck with foreground image brought out.

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Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015