PITCHER MOUNTAIN 5941' - Prominence 1021'
USGS Bearhead Mountain
October 23, 2005
Party: John Roper, Ian Mackay , Sofy roper-dog, Dougie-the-dog.
from SW, on flanks of Tolmie Peak
1.Old Baldy 2.'Wild Pitch' 3.'The Ump' 4.'The Catcher' 5.'The Slider' 6.Rooster Comb 7.Bearhead Mtn 8.Cayada Mtn
9.Howard Peak 9a.Howard, E Pk 10.Arthur Peak
Ian and I wanted a quick dog-walk day since the weather was supposed to be borderline. It was disappointingly drizzly as we met in the Renton P&R. Pitcher is one of eight peaks with >400-feet of prominence on the USGS Bearhead Mtn quad.
(USGS Bearhead Mtn aside)
These eight peaks, plus the named Cayada Mtn (with P263) are outlined on Jeff Howbert's Master List of Peaks in Washington. In 2005, the Master List showed seven >P400+ peaks on this quad, so in a rare "dagth" chance to add to Jeff's classic piece of research, may I make the “Declaration” that there is one more summit here (which from the penciled-in marks on my original quad was probably found in 2002 when I was up on Bearhead Mtn itself). It's a tricky one, on the SE corner of the map, part of Independence Ridge, between Chenius and Viola Creeks, a crag just east off that divide on the Viola side that sneaks up to 5560+ feet with Noah's Saddle being 5160- before rising to the high point on Independence Ridge (5722'), making it a precise P400 clean. I was hoping to talk Ian into doing these Independence Ridge peaks from the end of the Cayada Creek road over the trail to Hurricane Gap, but the 10 miles RT and gloomy weather made us chose the quicker option, a trip to Pitcher.
(Back to Pitcher)
So we parked at the 4100' hairpin on Cayada Creek road, just east of McGilvery Creek to do Pitcher. On an uncommon pre-read of the guide book, I noted that the author had talked to someone who said it would take 2 hours up from the car, eventually finishing via the NE ridge. We figured that 2 hours would be young-gazelle time when snow covered the bushes. Plus, there is no NE ridge at all on this peak (it's a face on this side), so we suspected that they really meant that the finish was via the NW (not NE) ridge.
Pitcher was not mentioned at all in the 1949 climber's guide, then it was lumped in with Bearhead and Old Baldy in the little maroon 1961 guide with this piece of cheery news: “Routes to all three necessitate fording the Carbon River!” (Exclamation added.) A few years ago, the Carbon River bridge washed out, making this area a very lonely place for several seasons. Pitcher was not yet named on the 1913 1:125K USGS Cedar Lake map, though Old Baldy, Carbon Ridge, Bearhead, and Cayada were.
The route starts up an old logging road at the 4100' hairpin car park , shortly passing a pile of logs where the bushes close in. Hints of an old road soon pass by another log pile and then the way becomes truly imaginary, eventually ending in a wet,meadow at 4280+ where across the creek McGilvery's Cabin can be spotted. Who was McGilvery and what was he doing here? Probably a miner, I'd guess. Who was Pitcher, for that matter?
Ian, Dougie, and Sofy check it out.
From here there are 3 choices to gain the 5360- SW saddle of Pitcher: Go up an open brush patch, or go right, or left of this poor choice. We chose left and it wasn't bad; but it wasn't particularly good, either. Mike Torok had promised Ian plenty of devils club and slippery, mossy talus, but somehow we generally avoided this.
Once at the 5360- saddle there are cliffs heading straight up the SW ridge, but a reasonable route heads NE (left) just under the cliffs which eventually brought us to a steep woodsy break in the cliffs (before the NW ridge) which we clambered right, back up to the SW ridge for a final stroll to the top. The whole up affair, including looking around at the cabin and a long lunch took us 4 hours.
Pitcher Mtn, SW cliffs
The peak is a lot more popular than the route deserves, averaging about 4-5 climbs a year, owing no doubt to its inclusion on the Mountaineer's Irish Cabin Pin list. Several parties had come in from the NW via the roads up Prairie Creek. The register went back to 1992, with the most-frequent climber being Troy Moss, with perhaps a half-dozen ascents. On a sad note, Troy said a final good-bye here in 2003 to his 18-year old daughter who had died that year. She had placed the current register on top when she was with him as a 6-year old in 1992. Troy's 10-year old daughter came with him on the memorial climb in 2003. The fastest time recorded was by Martin Shetter and Jeff Hancock who skimmed up here on spring snow in 1 hour 58 minutes (so 2 hours is not far-fetched). Other familiar names included the Fellstroms, Fred Beavon, Mike Torok, and the Matois. No Hatfields. Fay must have been here when the register was buried in snow before she dealt with the tree well.
Our views were disappointing from the top, though we were happy that the day turned out to be as half-decent as it was. Rainier was taking on a marine-push storm while the Carbon River valley was filling with fog, and the top layer of the cloud-deck sandwich was squeezing down on us. Views NW to Seattle and the Olympics were non-existent.
On the way down, we decided to stay east of the McGilvery brush patch leading to his cabin, but that was even worse than the way up. Two hours down, and rain at the car. That'll be my last at bat with this nasty, curve-ball Pitcher. We didn't strike out, but we felt like we were brushed back a time or two. No matter, since we finished with a walk-off homer and headed for the dugout to watch the real 2005 World Series (Chicago White Sox beat the Houston Astros in 4 games).