Raven Ridge

via “Eacas Glacier”

USGS Martin Peak

Top 100 Peak /Farthest East Glacier in the Washington Cascades

8580 Feet/ Prominence 1100 Feet

September 25, 2005

Summit party: John Roper, Jim Nelson, Sofy roper-dog

Eacas Glacier party included: Austin Post, John Scurlock (winter aerial photographer), Jerry Huddle, Silas Wild, Jim Lane (EMT buddy of John S), Richard Post (Austin's son), Stuart Hubbard (Austin's nephew), Bob Krimmel (retired USGS glaciologist and aerial photographer who took the spectacular 1980 St.Helens eruption photos), and Shelley Douglas

Raven Ridge from SW on Mount Bigelow                                                                                                             John Scurlock photo

8580 summit on left,  8572 summit on right.  Eacas Glacier is hidden, but right over foreground brink.

"Littlelow" 8174' is the rock crag in front of 8572.


This trip was in planning for more than a year. Last summer, Austin Post proposed that we check out what he calls “Eacas Glacier,” the farthest (ea)st (Cas)cade glacier in Washington state, cradled in a cirque on the north slope of Mount Bigelow, along the Chelan-Sawtooth Crest. Austin wondered if this glacier was a barely-active glacier on its last legs, or a lifeless carcass of talus-moraine that had taken its last cold breath.


For those unfamiliar with Austin Post, he is the preeminent USGS glaciologist of Washington and Alaska, and author of Glacier Ice, a classic on the subject.  Here's a nice sample of his work (click on “View Table of Contents”). He also published an Inventory of Glaciers in the North Cascades, Washington, a USGS professional paper* in 1971. Climbers will recognize many of his photos in the Cascade Alpine Guides, and there's lots more interesting reading if you Google “Austin Post, glacier,” which would make a mighty fine name for the biggest chunk of unnamed ice in Washington or Alaska.


The 1969 USGS Martin Peak shows a good-sized area speckled with the symbol for glacial moraine and three very tiny patches of white, representing either glacier or permanent snowfields. For certain, an active glacier had once lived here, as this aerial photo , taken August 4, 1998 clearly shows the past beats of its heart, just as an archived electrocardiogram would show what yours once looked like, even after death.


But in the middle of September 2004, a wintery early-fall storm blew onshore and put that plan on hold. The fire was rekindled in August 2005, and roared into action on Saturday morning, September 24, 2005. Eleven of us coming from different directions in several vehicles gathered at the East Fort Buttermilk Creek, up the Twisp River, south to Twisp town. Austin and his son and nephew, as well as John S. and Jim L, and Bob and Shelley had come up the day before to get an early start, and Jim N was up working on his Winthrop cabin. I picked up Silas at Ash Way, and we loaded Jerry in Rockport, and enjoyed a perfect day over the pass and on into the Twisp bakery for a “Cinnamon Twisp” (we went for the day-old, two for the price of one, still great).


Our group met up with John S. and Jim L. at the usual trailhead, but we continued on in my Subaru up a deteriorating road for another 0.55 miles to the Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness boundary, meeting Austin and others hiking along the way, and picking up Austin for a short lift.


While we packed up, Austin and company kept hiking. Although 83-year old Austin worried about how he'd do, thinking it might take him two days to do the 6 miles, 2200-foot gain to the “glacier,” he surprised even himself. It wasn't until past the E Fk crossing that we caught up with him. Here he pointed out that the trail followed a clearing for a never-built road that extended all the way to due west of Hoodoo Peak .

                                                                                             Trail clearing


We stopped for lunch where the trail crosses back over Buttermilk Creek, and John S. pulled the “king's chair” (aka lawn chair) off the back of his pack for Austin who initially protested the thought of such pampering at the car, but was obviously pleased with the comfort.

                                                         Austin in the king's chair


Everyone gathered again at the next creek crossing at 6300 feet, at an old campsite. We continued on to the double switchback on the map where the bushwhack to the glacier would begin. Jerry offered to run ahead and check out the water and camping situation at the hoped-for “glacier” while several of us used this break to check out Hoodoo Pass which I've wanted to visit ever since spotting it from the top of Martin Peak, 20 years ago. It was plenty nice, but not quite as spectacular as I'd remembered, but it gave great vistas to “Cheops,” Martin, Old Maid, and back to Oval, “Beefhide Butte,” and “Séance,” at the end of Spirit Ridge.


When we returned to the glacier take-off spot, Jerry had returned and reported that there was no running water up there, but that some pools remained in the old stream course, and that the flat spots for 6 tents were borderline, so we returned to the nice 6300' campsite .


                                         Who left this flag?

After the tents were set up, fire built, and dinner eaten, we all had a good time telling the stories that 11 mountain people can. One particularly insightful question to Austin from Jim N. was, “How do you tell the difference between a glacier and a snowfield?”


I thought Austin would come back with something like, “Well, a glacier has crevasses, but a permanent snowfield would not,” but he was much more tangential than that, and seemed amused that he wasn't giving a definitive answer.

Bob told me that as a 17- or 18-year old student, on a ski trip to Alta, Utah, he noticed a beautiful, crisp photo of a glacier on a wall in the snow ranger's cabin that made his jaw drop.  He was told that this was a glacier in Alaska, and that Austin Post was the photographer.  This was a powerful, life-altering moment for Bob, as he then decided to become a glaciologist and photographer, and possibly a pilot, on the spot.  John Scurlock states that he owes much of his inspiration to Austin, as well.


It was a cold night, and the gang was entertained with the blue and white “down” parka that Karen had bought for Sofy the day before our trip.

                                                                       Sofy in her "down" parka                               John Scurlock photo

Many of the group were kind enough to pick her up and snuggle her for warmth, with Shelley announcing that Sofy was keeping her as warm as she was keeping Sofy. That night Sofy started off in my sleeping bag, but about midnight she was gone. I looked outside and called for her when Jerry awoke and confessed from his warmer bag that Sofy had crawled into bed with him for the added heat. When I tried to call her out, she went to the bottom of his bag and stayed there.


September 25, 2005

We returned to the 6700' switchback on the trail and made our way x-c through fairly open forest with Austin looking pretty nimble for his 83 years. He enjoyed a few rests while some of the youngsters took off for the moraine.


Along the way he instructed us on samples to collect, so we filled plastic bags with pieces of burnt wood on downed, dead trees (which could be carbon dated to confirm that the glacial moraine, now covered with larches, was at least this old). We measured green lichen up to 10 cm in diameter on morainal rocks. These grow at a predictable rate which again would help tell the age of the glacier.

Bob Krimmel showed us how to use a tree-coring tool to obtain pencil-diameter cores of tree rings that would tell the age of the trees growing on the moraine. We fit the cores into straws and labeled them for ring counting later. The rings were extremely tight indicating the tough conditions here.

                                                         Obtaining tree-core sample


                                                         Richard and Silas examine a core sample

Then Austin directed me on a task that trumped all the other data-dating collections. I pulled out my garden shovel and dug into the earth at a little sink in the ground. Under the top layer of larch needles was a layer of darker organic humus, and next down was an approximately one-inch-thick layer of gray matter that Austin delightedly announced was probably Glacier Peak tephra (Greek for ash) from an eruption that occurred over 10,000 years ago. So this moraine we were standing on was at least that old, if this sample does indeed prove to be Glacier Peak ash.

(From: Mastin and Waitt, 2000, Glacier Peak -- History and Hazards of a Cascade Volcano: USGS Fact Sheet 058-00

Glacier Peak and Mount St. Helens are the only volcanoes in Washington State that have generated large, explosive eruptions in the past 15,000 years. Their violent behavior results from the type of molten rock (magma) they produce. Dacite, the typical magma type of Mount St. Helens and Glacier Peak, is too viscous to flow easily out of the eruptive vent; it must be pressed out under high pressure. As it approaches the surface, expanding gas bubbles within the magma burst and break it into countless fragments. These fragments are collectively known as tephra; the smallest are called ash. About 13,100 years ago, Glacier Peak generated a sequence of nine tephra eruptions within a period of less than a few hundred years. The largest ejected more than five times as much tephra as the May 18, 1980, eruption of Mount St. Helens and was one of the largest in the Cascade Range since the end of the last ice age.)

                                                         Glacier Peak tephra is grayish layer, half-way down


A little farther up we came to a rock bank maybe 30-feet high that was clearly the snout of a terminal moraine. It was too steep for Austin to climb safely, so we sat at its edge while Austin pointed out larches that were on top of the moraine, and ones that were about to get gobbled up at the base of the moraine, if the glacier were ever to move downhill.


While we were sitting here, enjoying the sun, every so often, rocks would bound down the bank. This didn't seem to be a big deal to me, but it brought a big smile to Austin 's face. This to him was proof that there was a sheet of ice under the rock that was creeping forward, dislodging the rocks of the terminal moraine, trundling them in our direction! “Who wants to get the garden trowel out and dig down until we hit ice?” he joked.

                                   Austin Post at the Eacas Glacier terminal moraine


We collected a few more tree-core samples, then headed up and left around towards the eastern lobe of the glacier (“Fareacas Lobe”) which from above exhibits waves of past glacial surges (I count at least a dozen of them). Austin said this reminded him of an ogive (hard g, long i, light and dark bands on the surface of a glacier), but he didn't think this term quite fit here.

                                                         Dry pond and Sawteeth on Sawtooth Ridge


Jim and Sofy and I left the group at about 1PM, and headed off for Raven Ridge, passing this dried-up pond which we'd originally thought could be a water source for a camp here. Shortly after the pond was running water, and we soon heard the hoot of John S. and Jim L. and could see them on the top of Mount Bigelow. They had been sent there by Austin on a mission to collect samples of trees that Austin found here in 1947 which were higher than all the other trees, and bigger. John found a tree that met this description and counted about 270-years worth of rings.  Incidentally, it was Austin who named Mount Bigelow, after his likable Forest Service trail boss, Frank Bigelow, as he, his son Bill, and Austin built the trail along the Chelan Crest in the 1947 with a small bulldozer with a 27-inch blade that they called the "Trail Beetle."


Our Raven party crossed over the ridge at about 7800 feet and looked down into Crater Lake, then dropped a couple hundred feet and angled up to the 8572-foot top, over some huge talus blocks that often shifted in a tippy surprise. We passed a sizable rock-overhang bivy site with a smooth floor before gaining the last gap, then just before the top we passed through an interesting rock archway.


Thoughts from the top of Raven Ridge 8572 :

1. We did this summit because of a controversy that this 8572-foot point on Raven Ridge may be higher than the 8580-foot summit 0.6 miles west of here on the map. The 8580 top (“Libby Peak”) is on the Bulger List of Top 100 peaks in Washington and is the summit all the Bulgers have climbed on their way to claiming this prize. Silas and I went over it twice (on our way to and from Hoodoo) in 1985 and 20 years ago thought that the 8572' east point of Raven Ridge may have been higher as we looked back at this ridge from Hoodoo. Certainly 8572 is a better looking point than 8580. Don Duncan and Roy McMurtrey did a survey with a 6-inch long transit on 8/19/2000 and concluded that 8572 was 17 feet higher than 8580 (which seems a little excessive to the eyeball, as this photo from the south suggests).

2.  Standing on 8572 looking over 8580, the top of 8580 touches the high north 8080+ swale of Flora Mountain, so if the earth were flat, that would cinch that 8572 is higher.   Either one would get you credit in my mind.

3. There was a 5-rock cairn here, but no register, despite the fact that Stefan and Greg had been here the week before.  Take a pencil.

                                                           Peak 8240+  "Nevermore"

3. The most impressive summit from 8572 is Peak 8240+ just east.  This raven-haired beauty on Raven Ridge demonstrates again the attractiveness and worthiness of a peak based on a personal look, rather than a map-derived prominence value. This eye-catching summit has but 280 feet of prominence, but you've got to admit that the several never-done NW arêtes of nearly 1000-vertical feet on clean granite deserve some recognition and attention.


                                                         Peak 7890

4. Another good-looking chunk of stone with a 1000-foot north wall is Peak 7890, south across the valley, above Crater Lake . Don't let its measly 120 feet of prominence turn you off.

5. Silas and I did “Littlelow” 8174' on our way to Bigelow on a traverse from Raven 8580 in 1985. It looks pretty nice from this side.

6. We could look out east across the Okanogan River to Moses and Bonaparte, and straight down into the town of Winthrop .

                         Mount Bigelow and the two lobes of the rock-covered Eacas Glacier from Raven Ridge

                         Jim Nelson ponders the drop to camp in shadow on E Fk Buttermilk Creek with an hour of light remaining.

The ¾-mile walk back over the big tippy talus to the ridge south below 8580 and above camp took us nearly an hour. We then dropped down more talus, junky gullies, and through timber and brush to hit the trail about a mile downstream from camp. It was nearly dark when we got back.


                                           Mission accomplished

September 26, 2005

The next morning we walked out, feeling very successful with a “mission accomplished,” then drove to the top of Buttermilk Butte for a gander back at our grand weekend and great views to Raven, Hoodoo, Séance, Spirit, and Oval.

                   Raven Ridge (left), Hoodoo (center), E Fk Buttermilk Creek, Beefhide Butte, Seance Peak (right)

                    above aspen grove, from Buttermilk Butte



* Post, A., D. Richardson , W.V. Tangborn, and F.L. Rosselot. 1971. Inventory of glaciers in the North Cascades, Washington . USGS Prof. Paper , 705-A

Copyright 2005, John Roper. All Rights Reserved.