Ever since I'd learned about it, the Chehalis had a reputation in my mind of being remote, bushy, rugged and wild. Since first seeing the photos of the peaks in this area, I knew I had to check it out. It was only a matter of time….
After learning that an extended trip into Garibaldi wasn't in the cards for my week off, Lauren and I exchanged a series of text messages:
M: "Adventure time this weekend?"
L: "Sure. What do you have in mind?"
M: "It's the Viennese-Clarke Traverse, in the Chehalis"
L: "Sounds adventurous, I'm keen!"
Not verbatim, but that's more or less how it went down.
So we set off Friday night, our first Chehalis trip. We camped at the truck, not really sleeping much due to the bugs and not having a tent….The night was long. At the first hint of sunrise, I stirred Lauren and we took off for the alpine bowl above Statlu Lake.
We meandered our way up to Statlu Lake and then to Upper Statlu. Many switchbacks made me happy, since our packs were feeling a little heavy.... It’s probably just the rope….
We got to Upper Statlu at around 10am, where we had a snooze on the beach to avoid midday heat. Which was a poor idea, since it was even hotter when we left Upper Statlu at 3pm.
From the lake, we bashed our way to debris flows which would lead us into the alpine. In the cold stream that ran through the debris, the coolest wildlife I saw all weekend were coastal tailed frogs and their tadpoles.
Some scrambling next to a waterfall got us above the impressive headwall above Upper Statlu, and from there some more rambling up slabs led us to a flat spot among boulders, trees, and creeks.
We soon realized that the VC Traverse would likely not be the best idea, given the amount of terrain to cover, the amount of snow on the ridges, and the low likelihood of an overnight refreeze. We decided to climb the E Ridge of Viennese, and traverse across to the Redoubt/Viennese col, and descend from there. We would leave our gear at our bivy, and pick it up on the way down.
Settling in for sleep at 7pm, we quickly realized that sleep would not come to us this night. Too hot to cover up from the bugs, and no breeze to blow them away, the bugs were destroying us. We opted to hike up to the ridge leading to Viennese, bivy there, carrying all our gear up and over.
We clambered up, settling in for one of the best bivies I've had in a long time. Bug free, cool breezes, and impressive views of the ranges around us, Mt Baker, Slesse, and the Cheam Range to the south, along with bits of the Fraser Valley. Nursery Peak and Grainger to the north, and views of the Old Settler, Breakenridge, and a few other spires to the east. The sun quickly set, and we both had a good night of sleep.
We had a leisurely morning at sunup, talking about the pub, and how quickly we'd climb the ridge, descend the far side, and have some delicious burgers at the Sasquatch Inn. 'Twas not to be.
The epic begins.
Our packs were now starting to feel very heavy. We geared up, and packed our belongings and started scrambling up the E Ridge. The exposure increases dramatically the higher you get. It was mostly 3rd/4th class, until the last pitch below the summit. While the climbing was never hard, we were wearing heavy packs, and the climbing was airy enough to give you pause. Exposed climbing brought us to the summit, where we quickly descended to the other side.
We found rap tat, and made a 40m rappel down to a ledge system, and pulled the rope. The knot passed easily enough cracks, but on the pull, got our ropes stuck in a crack. As I pulled, a block the size of a person moved. Spooked, and realizing we didn’t have any alternatives but to pull, we untied one of the ropes, sheltered behind a boulder and yanked the rope hard. Down came the block, and my hopes for an intact rope were low. As we fished in the rope, amazingly enough not only was it not cut, but there wasn’t any substantial damage to it. A bit razzled, we started some exposed 4th class scrambling, our packs starting to slow our progress. More exposed traversing along the ridge brought us to the Viennese/Recourse col. We found more rap tat, and made another 40m rappel down to the snow. We made a few more raps over short cliff bands separated by snow, as the alternatives would be downclimbing snow with moats below. Once clear of all major difficulties, we made it down quickly on low angle, but sloppy snow.
The next part of the descent was getting down from the upper bowl. According to McLane’s guidebook, a flagged, bushy descent close to the waterfall was our best way down. Following cairns, we found our way into the trees near the waterfall. Bushy, yes, but the last part was full on B5 bushwhacking with some 5th class downclimbing! I’m assuming we were offroute here as we didn’t see any flagging. The guidebook is getting a bit dated though, so I’m not too sure. We made it down nevertheless. We made quick work of the descent to Statlu Lake, where the bush seemed thicker than on the way up. Our bare legs were getting slapped and scraped, our bags heavy, and legs tired. The warm air offered no chance of reprieve. Soaked to the bone in sweat and exhausted, we finally made it back to the truck at midnight, where a fresh change of clothes, water, and food were waiting. We were at home by 3.30 after a late night/early morning visit to Timmy’s.
What an epic.
Thick bush, bad bugs, big rugged terrain: Welcome to the Chehalis.
a few more photos:https://flic.kr/s/aHskaaNg1b