Mt Goode - NE Buttress

North Cascades National Park

August 15 - 17, 2008

Dave Svilar, Matt A


The east - northeast side of Goode showing our route in red.  We bivied (planned) on the summit.  Not shown is the most difficult portion of the trip, which ascended ~3,000' over class 4 slabs, slide alder, and gravelly terrain.

Nobody has ever asked, but if they did, I may rank the summit of Goode as the most satisfying mountain I've climbed.  It's not as high as Rainier, or exotic as Vrunga, or as sexy as Kilimanjaro, or technically as difficult as Burgundy.  No, Goode is just a big mountain in the middle of nowhere.  It ranks in Washington's top 10 in elevation yet has been seen or heard of by only a few.  Luckily for those with minimal climbing skills and maximal North Cascades ambition there is an enjoyable route to the top.


The summer of 2007 passed without a trip to the mountains with the Redhead.  The North Cascades were displaced by obligations to attend our own (and each others) weddings.  Determined to not make this a trend we slotted August 15 - 19 for a trip.  As the weather report deteriorated our plan for a 9er traverse (Logan, Goode, Buckner) went by the wayside as did a second ascent of Goode's Megalodon Ridge (due to a lack of confidence in my rock climbing skills).  What to do?  I had been feeling sick all summer, and according to the doctor, was anemic with low red blood cell count.  As Friday was upon us Matt demanded we make a plan.  Just as I was to suggest a picnic at Cascade Pass he definitively settled on the Northeast Buttress of Goode.

We started from the road near Rainy Pass at 6:45 pm and arrived in our designated campsite along the trail in the forest.  A curious bear kept me awake part of the night, but we still found ourselves walking on the trail by 6:30 am.  We finished the 13 mile approach to the base of Goode's northeast side and found a log to cross the North Fork Creek.  Temperatures were crossing into the triple digits in eastern WA and had likely already crossed into the mid 80's at the base of Goode.  We tried to make sense of Beckey's approach map, but realized that going up was all that mattered.  And up we went.  Over slabs, through slide alder, across streambeds we marched.  Pig sweat coated every inch of my scrawny body.  Finally, after filling our water jugs for the last time until the next day we reached the Goode Glacier.  The ice was bullet proof and my boots were sloppy, but with a little piolet noir we were past the ablation zone onto the soft snow.  Matt stuck his foot into a small crevasse and gave orders for me to extract the rope from my pack.

A short section of crevasse navigation put us just past the toe of the great buttress.  Belaying each and every pitch of the 2800' buttress would have put us on the top just before Thanksgiving, so we simul-climbed the mostly easy terrain in 7 blocks to the summit.  Never one to make any form of climbing look easy, I will say that the difficulty was compounded by our heavy packs and mountain boots.  The buttress looked steep, but once the climbing began we realized that the Skagit gneiss provided a wealth of positive holds which made the climbing fun and fast.  Just before sunset Matt belayed me over the final moves to the summit. 

The summit of Goode is a craggy ridgeline running somewhat east-west.  Considering we had supposedly gone up the harder and steeper north side I had to wonder exactly how we were to get down in the morning.  Space was only sufficient for a couple of prone bodies and a pack.  Sleepwalking more than 20 feet in any direction would result in a long fall with only a few bounces.  Truly an incredible place to spend the night, but an equally dreadful place to encounter an electrical storm...

Matt takes pride in his backcountry cooking and luckily for me, he had saved some of his best work for our summit bivy.  The meal was an exquisite feast consisting of veggies, tuna, couscous, almonds, and a freshly cut avacado.  We leaned back against a rock and replenished our calorically depleted bodies while watching the full moon rise in the east.  The meal expanded in our stomachs choking out any space we had left for cookies.  Within minutes we rolled into our bags and fell asleep on the highest point in the North Cascades Nat'l Park.

Just as I had awoken the previous night with a strange feeling that something was amiss - the previous night featured a bear in camp - I awoke on Sunday morning with a sense of dread in my gut.  At 5:15 am I propped my head up and looked toward Dome Peak.  Instead of the dramatic sunrise I had been anticipating since the previous night I saw a line of ominous clouds and flashes of lightning.  It was coming our way.  Within 10 minutes we were packed and downclimbing toward the first rappel anchor by the light of our headlamps.  To my great relief the t-storm broke apart at the divide and never effected us on Goode.  We made 4 rappels and downclimbed the loose SW gully onto mellow ground still far above the Park Creek valley.

At this point Matt was in no mood to wait for me as I methodically poked my way down the steep hillside.  "When we get separated meet me at the bottom!" Matt yelled from 100 yards ahead.  Indeed the next time I saw the Redhead was at the bottom, although instead of taking the easy way down Matt had descended a gully of tumbling boulders and taken a fall injuring his knee and ankle.  Even after a rigorous five hour descent we had 18 miles of hiking yet before reaching the car.  Besides an unnecesary selection of food and drink Matt's pack also contained a selection of illicit drugs.  After years of surgeries and accidents Matt can whip up a pain (and mind) numbing cocktail to combat any scenario.  Matt did not feel pain again until getting out of bed the next morning.

We arrived back at the car before 7 pm, soaked our feet in the creek, drank a warm beer and headed to Good Food in Marblemount for the celebratory gut bomb.  It had been awhile, but driving back to Seattle along I-5 and thinking back on our trip I realized that there are few things in life as good as an adventure in the North Cascades with the Redhead.

Dave at the base of Goode trying to cool down in the shade and pysche up for the approach to the base of the climb.


Dave just after completing a few class 4 approach maneuvers.


A self-portrait showing my slide alder face.



Matt orders the use of the rope to negotiate a few crevasses on the Goode Glacier.


Dave climbing along the buttress.


Matt does the same, but with more determination in his eyes.


Matt looking haggard at the summit while trying to turn my pack into a tripod.  We bivied on the dirt where the helmet lies.


The warm colors of sunset make Dave appear more handsome than usual.  Behind him a dramatic scene unfolds as the sun disappears on the horizon near Mt Baker.  From our perch on the summit of Goode the peaks of the Ptarmigan Traverse were perfectly laid out.  Unfortunately we never saw the sun rise from the summit as we awoke the next morning to lightning which forced us off the top with the aid of our headlamps.


Don't let our grimy appearance and lack of amenities fool you - we ate and drank like kings.   Matt hauled fresh avacados and top shelf scotch to the summit, while my pack contained several pounds of my mom's cookies. 


Matt's lightning face at dawn on the way down.


Descending the loose SW couloir.


Pausing in the meadows after the technical portion of the descent, but a lot more unpleasant descending (especially for Matt) ahead.  Mt Booker and Buckner dominate the view.


The toll from another Cascades outing is shown on Matt's legs.

written August 2008

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