Dome Peak

August 27-29, 2002

Dave Svilar, Erik Larson

 

Erik in the foreground, Dome Peak in the background.  Taken from camp.

I can still remember conversations Erik and I had growing up concerning things such as, what we'd be like when we're 25, who will get married first, etc.  Now that we'd "grown up" our situations couldn't be more different.  Erik was married, had a cat, house, job and spent his spare time gardening.  On the other hand I was still looking for my first girlfriend, unemployed and living in my parent's basement.  Despite these seemingly insurmountable differences we still shared the love of the mountains.  To prove it we were about to make one of the worst approaches in the Cascades to spend time on one of the Cascade's best peaks.

To our advantage the first six miles of trail was being maintained by a group of disgruntled-looking kids (probably shoplifters) which made the going fast and pleasant.  Unfortunately the group of junior shoplifters hadn't quite reached the trail that follows Bachelor Creek.  The overgrown trail was littered with downed trees and swarming with flies.  Just when we thought the trail was improving we reached the largest pile of avalanche debris I'd ever seen.  It looked like Mt. St. Helens had erupted on the hillside that the trail used to cross.  Trees were scattered like toothpicks and the trail all but obliterated.  All we knew was that we had to go up.  We side-hilled up the slope free of any brush (thanks to the avalanche), but scorching from the sun until we met the original trail.  The remaining portion of trail to camp at Itswoot Ridge was above the tree-line and relatively pleasant.  We arrived the ridge some 8 hours after leaving the trailhead and watched the light fade on our intended target - Dome Peak.

Erik takes in the view of Glacier Peak from our camp at Itswoot Ridge.

We hadn't been on an outing in the mountains for almost two years, so it was good to get out with an old friend.  The approach hike was long (16 miles) and hard (overgrown trail over hill and dale), but Erik's enthusiasm hadn't ebbed which proved he hadn't been softened by the effects of marriage.  The plan was to wake in the morning and climb Sinister Peak and Dome.

We crawled out of our bivy sacks and were greeted by a clear morning.  Just after the first rays of sun hit Glacier Peak we were on our way towards Dome.  We traversed across snow and rock slabs and then up a steep snow incline that put us on the glacier.  The glacier wasn't heavily crevassed, but we roped up for good measure.  Although Erik was in great shape he hadn't climbed anything in quite some time, so we spent some time re-learning some old techniques.  The decision was made to not do Sinister since that would require walking onto the heavily crevassed (by pictures I'd seen) Chickamin Glacier.  Our day took on a whole new feeling knowing that all we had to climb was Dome.

We wound through a few crevasses and gained the col that divides Dome's two main glaciers.  From this point it was a short snow slope followed by a short scramble to Dome's highest point.

Me on the final summit scramble.  The final 30 feet is a narrow ridge with good exposure on either side.

 

Erik above the col on the final summit push.

There was no hurry since we weren't going to climb Sinister, so we lounged on the summit in the morning sun.  I pulled out my map and tried to identify the peaks between where we were sitting and Cascade Pass, and fantasized about the Ptarmigan Traverse.  Just when I thought we may sit on top forever Erik informed me that he had a little treat waiting back at camp.  The prospect of a treat at camp was enough to motivate us to leave the summit and descend back to camp.

Erik on the glacier with the "hole" in the background.

With time on our hands we dinked around on the glacier including a short side trip to the "hole" in the rock below the SW summit.  I took numerous pictures of Erik using a new gadget on my lens known as a polarizer.  We were back at camp by 2:00 pm, so we sat in the sun to let our clothes dry.  It was the perfect opportunity to perform an experiment I'd always wanted to try, but never been bored enough to do.  I was going to perform genocide on the horse flies to see if I could kill them all.  After years of suffering at the hands of insects in the mountains it felt extremely satisfying to perform the experiment.  It was personal and important to inflict as slow a death as possible.  I would stun the large flies with a quick swat and before they could fly away I would remove a wing.  Pretty soon I had a cluster of flies with only one wing writhing on my bivy sack.  As entertaining as this was I began to realize my efforts were futile - there were no less flies than when I began.

Before opening Erik's treat I killed the last couple hours of daylight by hiking up and over the ridge near Spire Point.  After my excursion I returned to camp where Erik had dinner waiting.  As the sun set Erik unveiled his treat - a bottle of Smirnoff - which led us to recount the good old days when Erik was single and I had hair. 

-written September 2002

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