6.1 mi to summit

21.7 mi total


3,506 ft start

9,087 ft max


7,790 ft gain


5 hr 33 min to summit

14 hr 59 min total

An all-out grepic (ahem, that's grim epic for those unfamiliar) to climb these 2 remote WA 9000 footers. We drastically underestimated the distance and vert and fell into a huge bushwhacking terrain trap.

Left house at 5am, and after a hypnotically long and bumpy road to the Phelps Creek Trailhead, Josh and I were off at 7:30ish for a socially-distanced climb.

Well, things really started out on the wrong foot. Kind of literally. About a mile in, we hit a gushing stream crossing and had no choice but to wade across. I took off my muddy trail runners and decided to just toss them across the stream. But I stuffed a sock in the first shoe and of course it fell out midway into the raging torrent. Gone. I crammed a buff in my shoe as a kind of make-shift sock that didn't work at all. Idiot.

But this would be an epic day after all. The weather was perfect, minimal clouds and moderate temps. We made great time up to Leroy Basin and then after a bit of bushwhacking picked a direct route up a snow finger to Seven Fingered Jack. After a final stretch of tedious, loose talus fields we somewhat painlessly found ourselved on the summit of SFJ drinking crumbs of demolished cornbread muffins (they were still good, thanks Sylvia!).

After some spurts of glissading in the super soft snow, we made our way over to an ascent of Mt. Maude. I started to bonk near the start of the climb, and my time between breaks shortened to 20 strides. When I crested the saddle above Ice Lakes and caught a first glimpse of the still-huge-looking final ascent, it crushed me. I crossed the basin and informed Josh I was cooked, that he should go ahead. Without any sign of fatigue, he frontpointed up a steep headwall and out of sight.

I ate my last crumbly bar and suddenly felt a tiny bit better, so just kept plodding along, head down, deep in the hurt locker. Eventually I was up the headwall and postholing along the final ridge. When Josh came down from the summit and told me I was only about 10 minutes away from the top but that it looked like a storm was coming in, I had to make a quick decision. Uggh, I guess I had to go for it. I willed myself up, it wasn't pretty.

It was a long, mostly uneventful downclimb, with the notable exception of an hour of horrible bushwhacking below Leroy Basin because we got suckered into descending a gentle snow ramp that took in the wrong direction. Def a bit of grepicness, seems like we always make that mistake. As it turned out we needed every minute of the 2nd longest day of the year to find the trail again.

After time slowed down, where even .1 mile seemed to take 30 min (you know what I mean?), and several night stream crossings, we finally got off the trail at 11pm a few seconds before it started to rain (perfect timing, I guess?).

Will never forget the euphoria of discovering that the last mini-mart in Leavenworth was open, seconds away from closing at 12:45am. I grabbed a Coke, Doritos, and Twix 4-pack and downed it all at the same time. This was the final bit of epicness in this memorable grepic. Home by 2:30am. Zzzzzzzz.

Feet | Meters
Natural Atlas (US)

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Key gear

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Other peaks climbed on this trip