Partners: Chicago Transplant/Cheeseburglar
Malemute Pk 13,348 Rk 354
Leahy Pk 13,322 NR
"Electric Pass Pk" 13,635 Rk 177
~13 miles / 5,800 ft.
Mike and I left the American Lakes TH at 5:00 am and drove my car over to the Cathedral Lakes TH to meet Craig. Not sure if we would need the 2nd car, but we’d wait and see how the day panned out. We were off around 5:30 and made our way to Cathedral Lake. There was maybe 2 or 3 small patches of snow along the switchbacks to the headwall. After making our way through the willows to the south side of the lake, Mike and I put our crampons on, Craig was sans-crampons for the day. I was having problems with the ones I got this Spring staying on my boots and I was hoping that my adjustments before we left would solve them. They didn’t. My spikes fell off maybe 10 feet after putting them on. I tried to make them work, but it seems that my LaSportiva boots don't have a toe-ridge needed for BD Cyborgs. I’ll be returning my spikes for some new ones to get ready for next weekend. Anyways, Craig/I now had to rely on Mike for all of our kicks steps. This worked well for Craig, but my size 14s required a little more for purchase so I was kicking 4 or 5 times to get anything. My toes still hurt.
Malemute - Initial Ascent Route is seen above Mike
Craig heading up Malemute (photo by Mike)
Looking down route (photo by Mike)
Anyways, we went up a fairly steep snow field from Cathedral Lake to gain our chosen route for the day - Lordhelmut’s ski route from 05/09 (TR on this site). Mike/Craig were patient to wait for me while I continuously kicked into the snow. We regrouped at the point where the route takes a swing to the right before continuing to the left. Mike followed the snow, Craig crossed another snow field to join the W. Ridge. I had enough of the snow so I went straight up the rock. Aside from a Class 3 crux, I would say that it worked well if you like a Class 2 mess of shifting scree/talus/boulders ready to fall down the mountain at the slightest touch. I hit the summit a few minutes after the 2 of them and we discussed our descent options.
Castle/Conundrum from Malemute
A couple of Pearls
Cathedral from Malemute
Electric Pass Peak from Malemute
We chose to descend the West Ridge (easy class 2) to the saddle and then glissade back to Cathedral Lake. I grazed a small refrigerator-sized rock with my hand and sent it flying down the north face - Made some noise that echoed through the valley. Once to the saddle, we enjoyed a great glissade down to the upper basin. The snow held up well as we walked to the top of the steep slope that descended to Cathedral Lake. We descended a shorter gully to the north of our ascent; during the descent I realized that there was moving water under us. I shouted to the others just as Mike was completing his glissade. He arrested just shy of some rocks, but as he stood his feet punched through and he was now standing in a waterfall – funny stuff. I chose to descend standing to avoid any unnecessary swimming. We made it back to the lake at noon and began discussing our options for Electric Pass Peak (EPP).
Starting our descent from Malemute
Me about to enter the snowfield (Photo by Craig)
Me entering the snowfield (Photo by Craig)
Mike about to glissade off Malemute (Photo by Craig)
Me glissading off of Malemute (Photo by Craig)
Leahy from Cathedral Lake
A look back on Malemute (descent was right gully)
After negotiating the willows, we tried to follow the trail as best we could but soon lost it in the snow. From there it was a matter of choosing a path of least resistance through soft snow/willows until we could get to the grassy south slopes of Leahy Peak. We made the summit around 2:00. We didn’t spend much time there before hiking over to EPP. Word of advice, don’t follow the trail. It takes you south of the summit and peters out somewhere toward the ridge w/ Cathedral. From the trial, we had about 200 feet of miserably loose scree directly to the summit.
Willow bashing up Leahy
Castle/Cathedral from Leahy
Cathedral Lake and Malemute (left) from Leahy
Craig gets a head start to EPP
Now, 2 options, we knew the trip back to Cathedral Lake would be a nightmare but the hike out from there would be pretty easy. We took a peek down the northeast side of EPP and saw continuous snow all the way to American Lake and most of it glissade-able. We’d have to figure out the trail once down there. Once again, we were treated to some great runs down to about 12,500 feet.
Brian, took this one for you. New Line off Cathedral, careful of the cornice at the top.
Cathedral Lake Cirque from EPP
Conundrum Creek Basin
Cathedral Lake from EPP
American Lake Basin and Pt. 12,060
A look over to Hayden (Thankfully not ranked)
Glissade Paths off EPP (1st is line from saddle on ridge, 2nd is off rightmost continuous line from upper basin)
Problem was we really didn’t get our bearings down in the valley and just started descending – so the bushwhack was on. Unfortunately, after meandering through snowy deadfall for about 45 minutes we found that a very steep gorge separated us from the trail. We went back up 100 vertical feet to a point where we could safely descend to the creek bed and then made our way back up the trail. It was about 4:30 at this point. It turns out that we were only about 5 minutes below the lake so we still had pretty much all of the 3.5 miles to Mike’s car at the TH. The American Lakes trail is still very snowy and is going to require a ton of grooming with all of the deadfall blocking quick passage. It also seems to have just as much uphill as down on the way out until you finally start to switchback down to the TH – which means you are in snow for probably 2 of the 3.5 miles from the lake. On the upside, it is a very nice trail as that is an extremely lush basin. Kind of reminds me of the Gores. We were all back at the TH around 5:30. Good day out with great company. I learned after the fact that Mike had a run in with a tree almost falling on his car during the drive out of the Castle Creek Rd. So he had a little more excitement after he got off the mountains.
Mike and Craig on hike out