AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

North America, United States, Washington, Cascade Mountains, The Changing Cascades

The Changing Cascades. In August, Mike Mooney and I packed into the Mount Challenger area. We hoped to carry over Whatcom Pass and then traverse by glacier to Perfect Pass, leaving Whatcom Peak to the west. Next we would cross the Challenger Glacier to Challenger Arm, skirt the Luna Cirque on snow to the hanging ice cliff under Mount Fury and, after two days of travel, gain the north buttress of Mount Fury. None of this is original, but what is remarkable is that our plan did not work. I had been in the area in 1974. In these 13 years the glaciers have receded and mountain travel is now substantially more difficult. The glacier traverse between Whatcom and Perfect Passes, a route clearly marked on a 1968 chart, no longer exists. The glacier that remains is several hundred feet higher, and the traverse would be foolish on a scree precipice and hanging ice. The way now is to climb over Whatcom Peak. Similarly, we were thwarted at the Challenger Arm. There is no snow below the west and south rims of the Luna Cirque. The glacier below the southern rim is an impossible remnant. The way to Mount Fury is to descend into the cirque, climb the opposite headwall and then work through broken ice at the toe of the glacier under the north buttress. This unappealing but necessary exercise took an extra day. Our planned approach was unfeasible in anything less than twice the time described by its pioneers in the sixties.

Richard Loren Doege