Easy Mox (Mox Peaks NW Spire)

July 8, 2018


Depot Creek / Chilliwack Lake Road, WA

The dual summits of Mox Peaks aka. Twin Spires have fame in the Washington climbing community despite the fact these are not-so-prominent summits overshadowed by the nearby Mt. Redoubt and Mt. Spickard. The harder of the two, SE Spire aka. “Hard Mox” is the most difficult on the famous Bulger list and ranks #7 on the “Washington Difficult Ten” list. The easier of the two, NW Spire aka. “Easy Mox” is a lot less intimidating, but don’t get allured by the name. “Easy” is just a relative term because a long and contrived approach over rugged glaciated terrain and 5th class climbing is unavoidable. There are six Bulgers in this area. It seems logical to do them all but most parties except for the elitists ended up running out of time, gas or motivation. I don’t know anyone in person who managed to pull all six off in one grab but that’s what Eric G. and I were planning for. Our strategy was to squeeze as much in as possible each day, regardless the weather, and the hope was to bag them all in 4 days or less – just one standard trip in Eric’s resume but I knew I just signed up for the most physically demanding trip I’d ever been doing. Uhh…

The approach is actually from British Columbia side via Chilliwack Lake and the deteriorating Depot Creek FSR that requires 4×4 HC vehicle to access. And because of the camping and border swath intensive paper work is required. Upon seeing a sort-of decent weather window forming up towards the beginning of this past week Eric and I pulled the trigger. I drove down south in my Toyota Corolla, picked Eric up from Burlington’s bus station and then drove to Sedro-Woolley to obtain our permits. Dealing with logistics is Eric’s expertise. In less than an hour we were on our way north. The border crossing back into Canada on a Saturday afternoon was a total shit show. After having a well-cooked dinner in my home we drove east in my Toyota Tacoma. Two hours later I had negotiated the maze of Chilliwack Lake Road’s potholes and now up onto Depot Creek FSR. The last 2 km or so was in a rough shape with lots of crawling on huge rocks and “car bushwhacking” but the Tacoma absolutely crushed it. Sleep didn’t come easily though. There’s too many mosquitoes to fuck around with so we just slept on the front seat of my truck, as comfortable as it seems.

The route overview of the Chilliwack Slam.

The plan for Day 1 was to at least grab Easy Mox in the bag and camp at the col below Mt. Redoubt but the secret plan was to also put Mt. Redoubt in the bag. This meant a 3 am wake-up call right from the parking lot. In about half an hour’s morning routine thing we turned the headlamps on and started the long plod. We had done extensive research in the last couple days to the point that each of us had the route (for every single peak as well as the approach details) well memorized. To back up our memories we each brought a cellphone with about 30 route pictures and maps saved, with mine also having a Gaia GPS app with pre-loaded topographic maps. I turned the Gaia GPS on a couple times just to make sure we stayed on the correct logging road heading to U.S./Canada border. There’s a bit of confusion between the two levels of roads but we somewhat nailed it without too much of bushwhacking. Then it came the border with the climber’s sign-up box. Again Eric took over the paper work duty and soon enough we entered the state of Washington on the lightly overgrown Depot Creek Trail. This is a user-maintained climber’s trail that’s not practically designed for night travel. We got lost a couple times in some swampy zones with lots of devil’s clubs. Eventually daylight time kicked in and we had a cruise-sailing up the valley to the infamous batman ropes below Depot Falls.

Crossing the border in dark. Photo by Eric G.

The punishment for losing the trail. You don’t want to do this… Photo by Eric G.

The ropes were indeed required to scramble up the wet and polished slabs. Above the slabs the trail’s grade steepens up sharply and in another half an hour we were scrambling straight up 45-degree terrain on some huge chucks of talus. The wetness combined with the lichen had made some fun footwork especially with the heavy packs but we crushed it in a single push. The terrain mellows out upon entering the upper hanging valley but then we had to deal with some swampy areas and indistinct trails. Once making sense to cross Depot Creek we ditched the trail-runners, donned mountaineering boots and headed for the lesser-known climber’s right short-cut to access Redoubt Glacier. Rock-hopping across Depot Creek wasn’t trivial but wasn’t unmanageable neither and shortly after that we were baked in sun beams for the first time in this trip. Ascending loose moraine was a tedious and tiring process but merging onto snow was a welcomed change of pace, and the next stop – a seep of running water just before getting onto Redoubt Glacier.

Me pulling myself up the first batman rope. Photo by Eric G.

This is the second batman rope. Not as steep but more slippery. Photo by Eric G.

Above the waterfall slabs the terrain gets increasingly steep

Wet and lichen covered talus makes for fun travel

The NE Face of Mt. Redoubt comes in view as soon as we entered the upper valley

Ascending above the timberline now but still on unpleasant terrain

Merging onto the short-cut snow finger to access Redoubt Glacier

Me taking a break at the series of slab ledges before the glacier. Photo by Eric G.

We loaded 2 L of water because we weren’t sure whether or not there’d have other water sources higher up. The glacier is tame enough that rope work isn’t really required, nor did we bring any gear for glacier travel purposes. We headed straight for a rocky outcrop/ridge feature underneath Easy Mox and the plan was to ditch unnecessary gears on the rocks. This section was foreshortened but our stoke level was high. A long break was then taken while repacking and meanwhile we had to look for a spot to drop onto the lower glacier. The solution was a 4th class down-climb followed by crossing a moat. The eastern side of Redoubt Glacier was more broken and we got to see some crevasses up-close. Meanwhile the snow was just soft enough that we didn’t need to use ice axe nor crampons. The lack of gear transition surely helped to speed our game up. There’s a party-of-two ahead that caused a bit of concern.

Eric traversing moderately steep snow to get onto that rocky rib

Looking back at the blocky Mt. Redoubt. This is a sexy peak from any angle

Eric down-climbing a short, but fun 4th class step to get off the rocky rib

After a step-across moat crossing we merged onto the other piece of glacier

Me checking out a crevasse. Photo by Eric G.

The view’s really cool. This was my first time seeing these views.

We cruised up the rest of the glacier travel with a bit of steeps and found the moat crossing was as trivial as it could ever get. The lip of the moat provided a perfect stand for gear transition and Eric took advantage of it swapping to rock shoes. I had left mine at home but regretted upon seeing the slabby nature of the route. This meant I would likely needed a belay on terrain that I would have soloed on rock shoes. The party-of-two was one pitch ahead. Our strategy was for Eric leading in front and once the rope ran out we would start simul-climbing. Eric would place two micro-traxion pulleys at various stages to protect my fall. The crux move came near the top of the first pitch that I actually ended up hauling on gears to mantle up a slab that felt mid-5th class. No way could I solo that on the stiff mountaineering boots… The second pitch was a diagonal traverse up towards climber’s left without much of technical difficulty.

Me following the other party’s track to the moat crossing. Photo by Eric G.

Eric leading the pitch of 4th-low 5th class wet slabs.

Me starting the slab climbing. Photo by Eric G.

Gaining the ridge now. “Hardest Mox”/ East Peak of Hard Mox behind

Upon hitting the NE Ridge the terrain eases off providing another welcomed change of pace. It looked like “class 2” to me so we packed the rope and started the scrambling. The party-of-two was about 100 m ahead of us but ten minutes later they were caught up and passed. The two guys actually recognized us out from our recent Big Snagtooth’s ascent on peakbagger.com. Interestingly how small the climbing community is at times. Upwards and onward the ridge narrows down and the exposure gets real but nothing’s exceeding “class 3” and nothing could have slowed us down at this point. About 30 vertical meters below the true summit we came to a cairn and then a diagonal path leading down on the south side into the small basin. Eric spent a couple minutes changing footwear back to rock shoes while I scrambled down to set up the belay station. Eric led the 5th class pitch and once the rope ran out we simul-climbed the rest to the summit. The climbing was pretty straightforward to me because it’s face-climbing without any slab to work with.

Me on the NE Ridge of Easy Mox with Mt. Spickard behind. Photo by Eric G.

Me going for the ridge. Easy peasy to start with. Photo by Eric G.

Eric started the scrambling. Class 2

A bit of exposed at places. This is the start of more hands-on stuffs

At this point we had passed the other group.

Me having lots of fun. Photo by Eric G.

Me posing for a rest break along the ridge. Photo by Eric G.

Looking back at Eric working his way up. The ridge has shear cliffs on both sides

Finally staring at the summit block now…

This is looking down into Col of the Wild. There’s a route up this way too…

Hard Mox and “Hardest Mox”

Traversing to find the start of pitched climbing

It’s obvious where we came down from the ridge top

Eric scrambling up choss to gain the belay station

Then, Eric leading the 5th class pitch.

Partway up the pitch. It was very fun

Me toppin’ out on Easy Mox. Photo by Eric G.

Summit Panorama from Easy Mox. Click to view large size.

Mt. Baker rises behind the NE Face of Bear Mountain

A close-up view of Hard Mox. Even the standard route looks vertical

Looking into B.C. over MacDonald Peak towards Mt. Robie Reid

This is the full show of Cheam Range with Welch Peak being the highest

B.C. Cascades are all small. Isolillock and Silver Peaks aren’t that impressive uhh.

Mt. Custer the king of choss.

Mt. Rahm is better than Mt. Custer but still choss fest at its finest

This little peak to the east of Mt. Spickard probably only has one or two ascents

Jack Mountain with its Nohokomeen Glacier. Both Eric and I climbed it this year

Luna Peak is such an icon of North Cascades

Mt. Challenger has the most massive glacier of the Picket Range

The grand wall of East – West Peaks of Mt. Fury

A wider view looking down into Lake Ouzel basin with Mt. Custer behind

The double summits of Hozomeen Mountain look small from here.

Me on the summit of Easy Mox with Mt. Spickard behind

We waited on the summit for the other party to show up just to minimize rockfall danger and then down-scrambled 3rd, but exposed upper pitch to the rappel station. We backed it up with a cam and easily rapped down onto the loose ledge and then scrambled that diagonal ramp back to the ridge. The descent off NE Ridge went by fast and then we did two consecutive rappels to get off the slabs onto the glacier. The first of the two was an awkward, low-angled diagonal rappel but the second one was very easy. Wasting no time we immediately followed our tracks back across the eastern Redoubt Glacier to where we ditched gears. Again no ice axe nor crampons were needed. We spent about 20 minutes packing and then off traversing towards the distant “high camp” underneath Mt. Redoubt.

Me down-climbing exposed 3rd class off the summit. Photo by Eric G.

Another look at Hard Mox the most difficult Bulger

Me sorting the rope for the rappel

Eric rappelling off the 5th class pitch on summit block

Eric almost finishing his rappel

Me traversing the exposed and loose ledge. Photo by Eric G.

Back onto the NE Ridge now. Time to down-climb. Photo by Eric G.

Eric down-climbing exposed ridge

The exposure is real. One fall is game over.

Concentration needed…

Me gingerly making my way down. Perry Creek valley behind. Photo by Eric G.

The terrain eases off.

Mt. Spickard is such a beautiful peak. We’d climb it on this trip too

Eric leading down the first diagonal rappel off the ridge.

Me leading down the 2nd rappel off the ridge

Onto the glacier now. Note the moat

Eric rappelling slabs

It’s Eric’s turn to check out this crevasse. It’s very deep.

A review shot of where to gain the NE Ridge of Easy Mox

Me climbing up the vertical step to get back to rocky ridge

Eric down-climbing and across the moat

After repacking our gears we headed for the “high camp” beneath Mt. Redoubt

The day was still young and we felt strong. The plan now is to pull off Mt. Redoubt for simple reason of why-not..