Spickard, Rahm, and Custer

Six of the 100 highest lie in a large basin south of Chilliwack, BC accessible from Depot Creek trail. Of the six, two are big, beautiful, and classic: Redoubt (8956) and Spickard (8979); two are unremarkable but for their choss: Custer (8630) and Rahm (8478); and two are feared by most working the list: North Spire (8404), and South Spire (8509), aka the Mox peaks. Fred Becky and his brother Helmy first climbed the Mox as young men and nearly got knocked on the head. Pat tells me that although they've scared many, as far as he knows the Moxes have never actually killed anyone.

The approach is hard. Depot Creek trail pierces the US boarder unmanned by Tom Ridge's minions, offering a secret entrance for infiltrators. But like the tunnel into Mordor, it is well guarded by other means. No one maintains the trail, and devil's club and great fallen trees tangle and confuse it. Someone should stash a machete at the trail head so that we climbers can perform our own maintenance in these tight-belted times. A big cross-cut saw would help too. If you don't loose the trail Becky's time estimate of 4-7 hrs depending on zeal and pack weight is about right.

We had 5 days and big plans. Day 1, approach to Ouzel lake. Day 2, Rahm, Custer, and Spickard. Day 3 South Mox. Day 4 North Mox and Redoubt. Day 5 out. Ha ha ha. Stupid, stupid boys.

Day 2 it rained and snowed and we went for Rahm first, traversing from our pretty, well-moused camp above Ouzul lake through the Spickard-Custer pass. We ascended Rahm's band of guard rock too early up a class 4-ish gully. Better to continue the traverse to the third or fourth possible gully for an easier ascent. Other than the view Rahm is a totally uninteresting rubble pile, and all we could see was blowing snow. Our plan was then to traverse the ridge to Custer, but I got sketched scrambling the teeth of the ridge on wet rock and pulled the plug. We slinked down a mankey gully and retreated back toward the pass.

We should have kept going and gone back to camp, but no, passing just under Custer was too tempting, so we decided to try the South Ridge variation. Reading Becky one would not suspect this is hard. Wrong. There's a very dicey section at the low point in ridge, with crappy, crappy rock cusping to a knife-edge slicing big air on either side. It was still blowing wet snow, we couldn't see boo, the rock seemed connected to the mountain by snot alone, and I balked again. Back to camp we dogged, wet, scared, tired, and with only 1 of our 3 coveted mountains climbed.

Day 3 dawned blowing rain and we wisely rolled over and went back to sleep. So much for 6 mountains.

The sun clocked in for the first time on day 4 and brightened everything. Rested and dry for the first time we retraced the Southeast Ridge variation on Custer, negotiated the crappy crux, and summited. While Rahm is a boring unaesthetic choss pile, Custer is a dangerous unaesthetic choss pile. If you're working the list I'd recommend leaving it toward the end. You may never get there, and there are lots nicer mountains to climb in the mean time. Like Boston, it's a oncer: once you've climbed it you'll never go back.

Our manhood somewhat restored, we turned to Spickard. Thank God, because I'd almost forgotten why I like doing this so much. The North Face has all you can hope for in a Cascade classic: a big beautiful glacier approach with lots of crevasses to thread, some hidden, followed by an interesting schrund / mote to get past, topped off with 300 or 400 feet of excellent, vertical scrambling on solid, blocky rock. The summit even sports lovely lounge spots. Pat tells me that Redoubt is just as nice. With good weather you could climb both of these on a fabulous four-day trip.

Day 5 we hiked out, which is a full day's work. Don't plan to climb anything on the exit day unless your knees are threaded with steel cables. On the drive out where the Depot Creek logging road rejoins Chilliwack Lake road, if you turn left instead of right and drive 1/2 a mile to the barricaded end you'll find a sweet pool off the right side to rinse off the sweat.

We searched in vain for good food in Chilliwack and found nothing but a soulless fern bar with lots of televisions. Anybody with good beta please pipe up. We gotta go back...