FEB
15-16
2015

MORE RAIN Mountain Route: Torment Basin (winter overnight)

Category: Washington      Trip Report #: 179
Partners: Matt Burton, Carla Schauble
Rock Type: Gneiss
Summit Elev: 7,252 ft

Another spectacular winter high camp trip.

Matt on the summit of More Rain Mountain basking in the pink rays of the setting sun.

INTRO

Matt proposed this Presidents'-Day-long-weekend-overnight-adventure-in-the-snowy-North-Cascades with the intent of climbing the Northwest Glacier route on Mt. Torment. Carla and I were easily convinced to join. We knew that the success of a winter ascent of Mt. Torment would be very dependent on the conditions we saw once we got up there, but either way we would enjoy a day, evening, night, and morning high up in the North Cascades. It had been a very mild winter, so the snow line was high and the snowpack was springlike and consolidated, making for quicker approaches into and easier travel upon the snowy high country.

We decided to camp above the west side of Torment Col, just below the summit of More Rain Mountain (a high point on the ridge between Torment and Eldorado whose name is a play on Moraine Lake in the basin below to the north). From here, we had great views of Torment (and Eldorado, Tepah Towers, Klawatti, Johannesburg, and...). My impression on looking at the proposed NW Glacier route was that we would have 2 cruxes: (1) a steep section of snow between Torment Col and the NW Glacier we might need to rappel (and how - could we find a bare rock horn? or would the snow hold a picket well? could we get back up this section easily?) and (2) the final section of mixed rock and snow getting to the summit (would the snow be well bonded to the rock? how steep/exposed would it be?). I suspected the NW Glacier itself would be fairly easy going with good snow conditions for bootstepping up. However, my main concern was the involved/lengthy nature of the Torment climb likely leading to a descent out of Torment Basin in the dark, and getting home only a few hours before I needed to be teaching my 8am math class. So I decided not to join any attempt upon Torment. In the end, Carla and Matt decided to forego the climb as well. But I did hear Matt talking about coming back a couple of weekends later...

Despite the downgrading of the trip plans, we enjoyed a spectacular evening and morning at our high camp on the ridge between Torment and Eldorado, and we all tagged the summit of the nearby More Rain Mountain at least once (I climbed it twice: the first time at sunset to photograph the Cascades being put to sleep by a blanket of pink alpenglow, and the second time just after sunrise to photograph the Cascades awakening to another brilliant winter day).

The following page gives a map, lots of photos, and some trip stats.

Bonus Beta and some excellent photos: Matt's Trip Report on nwhikers.com.

MAP
Map by Matt


PHOTOS

The gate on the Cascade River Road was closed just past the Eldorado Creek Trailhead. So we parked there and hiked up the road for perhaps 0.5 miles until we crossed a pair of bridges over the Cascade River (around 2360 ft). The climbers' trail for Torment Basin heads up into the trees just past the pair of bridges. In the photo, Matt is standing at the cairn that marks the start of the trail.
We headed up the timbered slopes for a few thousand feet. Pretty easy travel as far as North Cascades approaches go.
We hit snow around 4600 ft (4600 foot snow line in February!?).
We popped out into Torment Basin a few hours after leaving the road. We had decided to bring snowshoes, so we put them on here. The snowshoes were helpful to prevent some postholing on the afternoon-sun-warmed slopes. However, the snowshoes were equally helpful as heavy brush-grabbers on the way up to Torment Basin, so overall the snowshoes were a rather neutral item to have on the trip.
Carla on the traverse across Torment Basin. Overall the snowpack was great for quick travel.
Looking up at the towering south side of Mt. Torment. I climbed the South Ridge of Torment when I did the Torment-Forbidden Traverse in August 2009.
Shadow fun in Torment Basin.
In the interest of good views, we decided to ascend the bump to the west of Torment Col and make a camp in the saddle between the bump and More Rain Mountain (whose summit is on the left in the photo). Torment Col is in the lower right of this photo.
Ascending the wind-cut slopes of the bump shown in the previous photo.
The view of Torment from above Torment Col. Forbidden Peak is poking into view just left of Torment.
By the time we located our camp spot, it was nearly 5pm, and sunset was only a half hour away. Matt and I furiously dug out our cameras and jogged up to the summit of More Rain Mountain just west of camp (leaving Carla to try to set up the tent herself in 20 mph winds - sorry Carla!). This is a photo of evening alpenglow on Forbidden and Torment as seen from the top of More Rain Mountain.
The setting sun from the top of More Rain Mountain.
Matt enjoying the alpenglow on the flat summit area of More Rain Mountain.
The colors kept getting pinker. Our camp is just at the edge of shade and sun in this photo.








Cold and windy night which didn't inspire me to exit the tent for any night photography.
We awoke to a beautiful clear morning. Let the morning light show begin!
Morning alpenglow on Eldorado and Tepah Towers.
Morning alpenglow on the rugged north side of Johannesburg.
Matt enjoying the morning light show, with Torment behind in the distance. The sun rose behind Torment.
Another photo of morning light inching down the snowy slopes of Eldorado.
Carla had not climbed More Rain Mountain with Matt and me the previous evening, so once the sun hit More Rain Mountain, Carla and I decided to quickly climb it before we all packed up and headed out.
Summit cornices and fluted north side of More Rain Mountain. 
Shadow fun on the summit of More Rain Mountain. We stayed off the highest point due to the sizable cornice on the summit.
Klawatti.
Our tracks on the summit area of More Rain Mountain.
Sun and shade. Just as we finished packing up, the sun finally reached our camp.
Carla beginning the descending traverse across Torment Basin, with the towering northern walls of Johannesburg making for a nice backdrop.
Our snowshoe tracks from the previous day had become raised by the winds.
Carla and Matt heading across Torment Basin, with Johannesburg dominating our view across the Cascade River Valley.
Taken about 10 seconds later. Couldn't decide which I liked better so I posted both.
Carla and her balaclava hair!

STATS

Eldorado Gate to Camp: 5.0 miles, 4890 ft net gain, 7 hours up, 4.5 hours down. 
Camp to More Rain Summit: 0.25 miles, 200 ft net gain, 15 min up, 10 min down. 
  • 9:50 AM : 2,160 FT : Leave Eldorado Creek Trailhead 
  • 10:08 AM : 2,360 FT : Leave Cascade River Road on Torment Basin climbers' trail
  • 2:23 PM : 6,670 FT : Arrive at Torment Col
  • 4:48 PM : 7,050 FT : Arrive at Camp
  • 5:14 PM : 7,250 FT : On Summit of More Rain Mountain
  • 5:26 PM : Sun sets
  • 7:10 AM : Sun rises
  • 8:10 AM : 7,250 FT : On Summit of More Rain Mountain
  • 10:05 AM : 7,050 FT : Leave Camp
  • 2:30 PM : 2,160 FT : Arrive back at Eldorado Creek Trailhead