November 21-22, 2015
Skagit Valley / Manning Park Area, BC
Claimstake Mountain is the peak immediately south of Silverdaisy Mountain on the boundary between Manning Park and Skagit Valley Recreational Area. Although its name being unofficial, this is a far more interesting summit than its neighbour and a full summit ridge traverse over those jagged pinnacles in winter condition is certainly not for the faint-of-heart. Alex and I managed to do so after finishing a quick ascent of Silverdaisy Mountain, and the plan was to camp somewhere near the summit of Claimstake thus to make an ascend of the (farthest) Hatchethead on Day 2.
The NE Ridge from Silverdaisy/Claimstake col appeared to have at least one steep section based on our earlier observation. Indeed, after ascending a section of moderately steep forested terrain we came to the base of that steep slope with no obvious bypass. The two choices were attacking it directly up, or doing a long traverse across it. Either option would be exposed to the terrain so didn’t matter that much. We ended up doing a combination of the two – ascending up initially but traversing across near the top. After that we still had to ascend a long section of steep and sparsely treed terrain before topping out on the summit ridge. The first highpoint was easily obtained.
The connecting ridge to the true summit appeared to be narrow, jagged and heavily corniced (just as expected), but by breaking it down into smaller sections it wasn’t too bad. The crux came near the first major highpoint that we opted to traverse below the ridge crest (very steep slope on some thin and convex terrain). Later on the return we opted to stay on the ridge crest overcoming two pinnacles which involved some moderately exposed scrambling but no complex slope traverse. Further along the ridge there were a couple more pinnacles that we all bypassed on the left (south) side and the difficulty gradually eased as we approaching the true summit.
There was no ideal camping spot along the summit ridge traverse so that’s why we kept pushing further. Beyond the true summit we saw one flat section about 100 m down (towards Hatchethead), so with the time running out we settled on that. It was a great vantage point with the only downside being a bit windy. The camp set-up took a good hour or so (as usual for winter camping trip), and after that we got to see some exceptional sunset scenery.
We all got some 10+ hours sleep thank to the long night. The next morning we woke up at just before alpenglow time for some sunrise views. A thin layer of clouds had created some extra colours for us.
Back to the tent we spent some time cooking breakfast, and then it’s time to get going again. The sky was partially cloudy now but Hatchethead Mountain didn’t looks anything harder than a long plod, so off we went.