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John Guilford's Hikes

White Chuck (alternate approach) on 1996-09-02

Date: 1996-09-02

Location: White Chuck (alternate approach)

People: (including myself): Pam

			My Alt.	Real Alt.
Leave home:	12:30
Darrington:	1:30
Start:		2:25	4840
Onto ridge:	2:35	5020
Out of trees:	3:20	~5200
Start gully:	4:00	5720
Rockfall:	4:30
Into trees:	4:50	5360
Off ridge:	5:25	5080	
Out:		5:30	4920	~4900
Off FS roads:	6:18		~920
Darrington:	6:30		~600
Arlington:	7:10
Home:		7:30
This trip used the new approach to White Chuck: Follow FS22 to FS24 (4 miles) to FS2430 (4.1 miles) {old 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 at a switchback).  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.  At ~5.3 miles from FS2435 take a right (unmarked) and continue to end of road in 0.6 miles at 4880' where the trail should start. 

While the actual hiking time on this hike is relatively short (five to six hours of hiking, plus breaks for lunch), all day is still needed for the hike due to the time it takes to drive there.  It takes about 2 hours each way from Arlington to drive to Darrington and up to the trail head.  Thus, including times for breaks and eating, one should probably allow (4 hours driving + 5.5 hours hiking + 1 hour breaks/eating) a minimum of at least 10 or 11 hours door-to-door for this hike.  We didn't have this much time for the hike, but we did have enough time to reconnoiter the new route. 

The new route isn't really any faster than the old route, though it is easier.  It is somewhat longer, but it has less elevation gain.  The big advantage is that it has a trail/boot track that is relatively easy to follow, thus avoiding all the route finding problems we've had on previous climbs. 

We didn't try the north end of FS22, instead we immediately drove south out of Darrington down FS20 (Mountain Loop Highway) and picked up FS22 at the White Chuck campground just after FS20 crossed the Sauk River (about 10-12 miles out of town) at about 920 ft.  The drive in on FS22 follows the Sauk river and is pretty flat.  After turning onto FS24 at 840 feet, you immediately start gaining elevation.  The junction to FS2430 (elev. 2100') was easy to spot.  The roads were in real good condition until close to the FS2436 branch off.  Near there and somewhat beyond, the road got somewhat pot-holey.  There was one stretch were the road had a steep sided 6-8" deep gully down the middle (between the tire tracks) from erosion.  That was somewhat nervous as you didn't want to have a tire fall into it.  The top portion of FS2435 is again in pretty good shape.  After the road passes over the knoll (not exactly over the top, but just to the north side of the top; there is an obvious descent down the far side of the knoll) you can see the northwest chuck of White Chuck visible over the trees.  The road takes a few switchbacks and then there is an unmarked road off to the right.  You can see the main road continuing (through clearcut) around a large curve to the left around to the other side of the valley.  Take the unmarked road which switchbacks up a bit more and ends in about a half mile (still in the middle of a clearcut).  There is a wide spot about 50 yards from the end of the road that provides a place to turn around and park (elev. ~4900'). 

From the car, hike to the end of the road and find a trail/boot track on the far edge of the road.  This climbs steeply up off of the road, climbing through low blue/huckle berries (from which we scared off a number of robins who were snacking out) and wild flowers, and soon enters into the forested ridge line (elev. 5000').  Shortly inside the trees, the trail enters a meadow area.  The original trail took a right at the far side of the meadow.  However, there have been a fair amount of dead fall (fallen trees) blocking the path.  These can be climbed over (we did), but it seems that about half way down the meadow there is another trail leaving the right (as you are going in) side that probably is a newer trail that bypasses the downed logs.  Just above the dead fall we found a box on a post with a sort of trail registry.  It looked pretty casual, and it wasn't clear who (if anyone) maintained it.  The trail then goes for about a mile along the ridge line, sometimes on one side, sometimes the other.  You have occasional views out.  The trail passes through several meadows, the last of which had foot long grass growing in it.  In a couple places we found scat from some large animal.  One of these showed plenty of small bones.  Obviously there is at least one large carnivore around.  We couldn't decide what might have left it.  It didn't look like cat scat, so we doubted a cougar.  Perhaps it was bear, though I don't know what bear scat looks like nor do I know if we have any in that part of the mountains.  We didn't think we really wanted to meet who ever the scat belonged to.  You leave the trees near the base of the NW chunk of White Chuck about 5300'. 

From here you can see cliffs to your left.  A bit to the right and down is a field of loose rock (marmot terrain).  Further to the right are trees.  Immediately in front, in the distance is a sloping plain of low brush leading up to the summit cliffs.  What we did was to get down onto the rocks, beat ourselves up crossing among them before descending to a trail that ran along the bottom side, and eventually ending up at the base of the long slope up to the gully (which is where you arrive when climbing the older route).  As we crossed over, I debated whether the first gully I saw in the cliff face was the correct one to go up, or whether it was the next.  It was only after passing the first (and correct) gully and arriving at the head of Oak and Conn creeks that I decided which was the correct gully. We then proceeded to climb up the steep slope to the base of the gully (which is the most miserable part of the hike).  The terrain here changes year to year (or at least it seems to) due to the weathering of the winter.  We climbed up a little erosion gully in the slope, and it was slow going.  There were quite a few big, fat bees checking out all the wild flowers (which were plentiful though not at all colorful).  In places you were just surrounded by this generic hum.  However, the bees were not at all aggressive, but seemed rather friendly or at least happy.  Part way up this gully a large flock of birds (Pam said they looked like pigeons, maybe some kind of rock pigeon) took off from the cliff face.  The sound of their take off at first sounded like a rockfall starting, but then it became distinguishable as bird wings.  The flock flew around the area (as a flock) landing in various places for who knows what reason.  Once or twice they flew overhead making quite a noise (and causing one to involuntarily duck).  I got up to the base of the rock gully by which time it was time to turn around.  Getting to the summit would take another hour and a half, time we didn't have.  I had gone a bit up the rock gully and had just started down.  The footing was pretty loose and I used the rock wall on the side for support.  I place my hand down prior to one step and felt a funny tickling in my palm.  I also heard a buzzy kind of noise.  It probably took my brain about half a second (I had been concentrating on the footing and the route) to realize that I had trapped a bee between my palm and the rock.  Yikes! I quickly jerked me hand away (I didn't get stung - the bees were pretty mellow as I've said) and quickly descended the next 30' of slope rather more quickly and in somewhat less control than I had planned.  Nothing like a little adrenaline to get the heart pumping :-).  From the vantage point of the bottom of the rock gully, I could see a (at time faint and subtle) trail leading down to the north, which is the route we should have taken.  Pam, who hadn't climbed all the way up, but instead who had stopped for a snack) climbed out of the erosion gully and traversed the slope to join me coming down the trail. 

The correct way to go is as follows.  When you leave the trees (5300'), traverse the slope *above* the rock field.  In general you want to stay as high as you can (more or less) skirting just below the clump of trees you see directly in front of you.  Past them you angle leftward and do a climbing traverse up to the first gully that you see.  There was a trail, though it was faint and subtle at times, that makes the going easier than going cross country. 

Once you get to the base of the rock gully you are through the yucky part.  The rock gully is relatively short and one can exit out onto the benches before reaching the top of the gully. 

After we came does the slope from the gully, we paused awhile on the rock field for some snacks.  While there we heard a rock fall happening somewhere on the mountain.  Initially, I thought it might be the birds taking flight, but then it unmistakenly was rock fall.  Looking around (initially straight up to make sure it wasn't coming down on us) we couldn't see it nor any signs of it.  Pam thought it might be down the rock gully.  As we were descending that slope, we saw a person starting down from the top of the gully.  We were a little concerned that perhaps that guy had loosed the rocks or perhaps had fallen in the slide.  From where we were you couldn't see that part of the slope.  I went back a hundred yards or so till you could see it.  There wasn't any dust hanging in the air to indicate the slide was there and then I saw the climber at the base of the rock gully/top of the slope.  He looked just fine so I went back to Pam and finished eating.  While we were there, a couple of marmots came out to say hello, as well as a pika or two.  Unfortunately while stopped bugs began to show up also, including some mosquitoes.  We were finished eating anyways, so we pushed on. 

On the northwest side of the clearing it took us a minute to find where the trail enters the trees.  We had dropped a bit too far down onto the rocks.  The trail passed a bit above the rocks.  To find the trail into the trees, located a dead half-tree.  This is a dead tree about half a tree high (the rest was broken off, apparently).  It is easy to spot (at least this year :-).  About 30' up (to the right) of this tree are two dead trees (full sized) about 20' apart.  The trail is mid-way between them. 

The trail back along the ridge line was pretty uneventful.  The weather was cooling a bit.  Pam (who was wearing shorts) put on a fleece jacket, though I (who wore long pants) kept to my t-shirt.  There was only our car at the road end, so the other climber must have come up the older (traditional) route.  I would say that the new route is my preferred route now.  It doesn't take any longer, is easier, and avoids the hassles of finding the route that sometimes happens on the other route. 

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