Hood: Muddy Fork north to Sandy Glacier, descent via Glisan Glacier

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Chip Down
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Hood: Muddy Fork north to Sandy Glacier, descent via Glisan Glacier

Post by Chip Down » July 14th, 2019, 5:10 pm

[edit: I just noticed there's a single Muddy Fork. The creek that flows down the parallel canyon to the south is just an un-named tributary. So the route I describe below is simply an attempt up the Muddy Fork to the Sandy Glacier.]

105 weeks ago I followed the Timberline Trail north from Ramona until I reached the south branch of Muddy Fork Creek, then followed it up to Sandy Glacier. It was time to go do the north branch. Why? Well, partly because I was out of ideas. Partly because our member Webfoot once asked if I had done it. Partly because Goaltech Mike says the lower northern part of Sandy Glacier is interesting, which surprised me, because I thought it was boring, as judged from other vantage points. So here's my story.

The plan: From McGee Creek TH, follow trails to the north branch of Muddy Fork, up to the glacier, explore at will, cross over Cathedral Ridge at Co Pass, descend Glisan Gacier down to Timberline Trail.

The trail hike: something old, something new.
I started at McGee Creek TH, which I've been curious about for years. I trudged up the boring forested trail to the junction with Timberline, where I started the big loop around Bald Mountain. But really, I was hoping to avoid that. There's a spot where a quick jaunt over a pass would put me on TLT southbound, dropping to Muddy Fork. So I watched for that pass, looking for the best place to pop over the pass. But then it occurred to me that surely others have had the same idea. There must be a user trail over the pass. Well damn, sure enough, there's actually a signed shortcut. And it was just a few yards to connect with TLT again. Back on the TLT I saw a sign pointing to Top Spur TH, and I realized I'd been here before. In fact, that shortcut is probably the most common route to McNeil Point. Ha! Okay, so down towards Muddy Fork, on a part of the trail I've never seen. I was dreading the long drop, but it wasn't that bad, partly follows the contour and meets the creek half way. At the northern crossing of Muddy Fork I turned and followed the creek up.

Up the Muddy:
Following the north branch of Muddy Fork was initially very easy, much better than the miserably brush south branch. But soon I was forced to cross, and then the south/right side soon became tricky, and I was forced up away from creekbed, and then it got brushy, and I eventually gave up, retreated a bit, dropped and crossed the creek at 4600', continued slightly upstream until the Muddy was running through a slot, gave up. Okay. Well, I didn't think it would be easy. But I had a Plan B.

Climbing out of North Muddy Canyon, to the cliffs.
North of the north Muddy branch is a parallel creek. If I could climb out of the North Muddy Canyon and through/around a cliff band, I should be able to access that creek and continue up, or perhaps on the ridge between the creeks. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, there's a series of gullies running perpendicular to North Muddy Canyon, and the cliffs looked daunting, so nothing would be easy. But up I went, scratching and clawing my way, scrambling and bushwhacking, rolling in the dirt, not quite sure where I was going due to the clouds. By some miracle I made it to the top of the cliffs, where I expected horrific bushwhacking, but on the other side I found verdant open forest and the sound of the creek in the valley below. It was night and day. I sat on a big boulder, licked my wounds, had a snack, and continued up. Eventually it became brushy, but compared to what I encountered climbing out of the canyon, it wasn't anything to complain about.

Into the alpine zone:
As I ascended the intercreek ridge, it became even more defined, even more of a ridge vs a canyon lip. Vegetation became more sparse. Clouds thickened until I could see nothing. I hunkered down behind a rock and waited. The air was so moist, nothing could dry, even my glasses were perpetually foggy. My filthy sweaty shirt went in the pack, and the fleece went on. A copy of The New Yorker kept me company for maybe 60-90 minutes. At a brief clearing, I dropped along my ascent ridge to a viewpoint, surveyed my surroundings, picked a route across the top of Muddy (bottom of Sandy) and started across as the clouds enveloped me again.

Poking around Sandy Glacier (upper Muddy Fork):
I dropped off my ridge southbound, crossed Muddy Fork's north branch, continued to the upper reaches of the immense ridge that separates the Muddy branches. I arrived still shrouded in clouds, and waited for enough clearing to look into the top of Muddy's south branch. Clouds returned, and I ascended Muddy's south branch here and there, randomly exploring, until I could go no higher without getting on glacial ice. Everything had been spooky: the little snowfields were undercut on the edges, I encountered mantled ice, snowbridges were unstable, I saw a huge slump/collapse up the creek, everything said "don't even think about it". I listened to the mountain. I sat and waited for clearing so I could plan an escape route to Cathedral Ridge and McNeil Point (or hopefully Co Pass). I pondered what became of the Sandy Ice Caves, wondered where they were, and then it dawned on me, I was right there, the collapse I was looking must be the remnants of Pure Imagination, or one of her sisters. Wow. It was a sad moment, but we knew it was coming, and I was happy to have seen it before and after.

to Co Pass:
I hiked back over towards Cathedral Ridge, and regained my ascent route. What now? The miserable trudge through knee-high shrubs to McNeil Point? Try to scramble up to the crest of Cathedral Ridge? Continue up Sandy and try to cross over Co Pass in virtually zero visibility? After much deliberation, I went with option C, partly because failure would result in a fun glissade back back to where I started, so not a huge loss. I continued up my lovely scenic ridge [in a ten yard radius around me] until it started to fade into Co Rock, then dropped onto Sandy to bypass Co Rock, and continued up to Co Pass. I think I could have found it just by altimeter, but I didn't have to. There were enough clearings in the clouds that I could eyeball my way.

Descending:
At Co Pass I put my crampons on for the first time and started down Glisan. It was faster/easier than expected. I flew down the mountain so fast you'd need skis to keep up with me! (Slight exaggeration.) Then came the crowded hike on the trail: "How far to..." and "where did you go"? I haven't been on this trail in ages. I had forgotten how scenic it is, especially when in bloom. It occurred to me that I didn't notice when I passed the junction of the McNeil unofficial/steep route. I've done that before. Doesn't really matter, but it annoys me that I was so inattentive. Random observation: the lower McNeil pond was nearly dry, but there was a little snow left around its fringe. Odd combination.

Bugs: Not a single mozzy spotted. I have one itchy swollen spot on an arm, but that's negligible. I've seen a lot more on St Helens this year.
Attachments
0.jpg
Climbing out of Muddy canyon (north branch)
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A little later. See that blue patch of sky? Just a teaser, didn't last.
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headed up the intercreek ridge north of Muddy.
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The top of the ridge that separates Muddy's branches. Surprised to see trees and flowers. Behind me (upslope) is pure alpine zone.
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This peak, with its twin slides, was a notable landmark. I had wanted to loop behind and to top. Maybe next time. Muddy south flows along the bottom of those slides.
5.jpg
Those cascades were important landmarks. I was going to visit, but then noticed that rubble heap is mantled ice.
6.jpg
South Muddy, right up center, was enticing.
7.jpg
A little closer.
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looking over at Yocum from (almost) Co Pass.
Last edited by Chip Down on July 14th, 2019, 6:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Chip Down
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Re: Hood: Muddy Fork north to Sandy Glacier, descent via Glisan Glacier

Post by Chip Down » July 14th, 2019, 5:11 pm

Oops, I forgot the most important thing!
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Webfoot
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Re: Hood: Muddy Fork north to Sandy Glacier, descent via Glisan Glacier

Post by Webfoot » July 15th, 2019, 3:40 am

That's wild! You still amaze me. I'll enjoy placing each of your photos as best I can. I particularly enjoy the second one. The ruddy dike looks solid enough to climb were it accessible; what a perch that would be. Regarding the former ice caves, there appear to be two openings in the Google 9/3/2018 aerial photos; is this where you were? Also, I am ignorant; what is mantled ice and why is it a hazard?

sandy glacier 2018.png

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dmthomas49
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Re: Hood: Muddy Fork north to Sandy Glacier, descent via Glisan Glacier

Post by dmthomas49 » July 15th, 2019, 12:15 pm

I was wondering where you were also. I think I have a Google Earth picture of the upper part of your venture... does this look about right? I am impressed!
240021A2-74D9-44E5-8DA4-29AD2005A7B2.png

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Chip Down
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Re: Hood: Muddy Fork north to Sandy Glacier, descent via Glisan Glacier

Post by Chip Down » July 15th, 2019, 7:37 pm

Yeah, that dike was pretty cool. I first saw it from the end, so it looked like a slender spire, but as I curved around it I came to realize it's a dike. It was visible from much of my hike.

Those openings in the GE image are probably related, probably not random moulins. Hard to say how close I was; no landmarks or reference points in pic.

Mantled ice is a glacier covered in rubble, deep debris, more than just a coating of dust. Could be sheddings from a headwall or from moraines. Like new snow, it can hide hazards, but can also protect from hazards. I hate it because it tends to be very loose and unstable, not to mention it can be a disgusting sloppy slippery muddy mess if it's wet.

In my overview pic below, I didn't try to draw my route, but marked a few points of interest which I passed. A is where the trail crosses Muddy. J is Co Pass, where I passed from Clackamas County to Hood River County. It's also where I left clouds behind, which is ironic, because I know that Glisan Valley so well, I'd feel comfortable descending it in a whiteout.
Attachments
20190713_080037.jpg
First dike sighting.
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Dike in the fog.
20190713_115538.jpg
Dike at lower left, as seen from my ascent ridge.
20190713_184347.jpg
From the return trail, the dike almost blends in, but its shadow betrays it.
Capture.JPG

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dmthomas49
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Re: Hood: Muddy Fork north to Sandy Glacier, descent via Glisan Glacier

Post by dmthomas49 » July 16th, 2019, 6:14 am

Thanks Chip. That makes it clear.

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CyrusK.
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Re: Hood: Muddy Fork north to Sandy Glacier, descent via Glisan Glacier

Post by CyrusK. » July 22nd, 2019, 12:22 pm

That prominent dike in the headwall of Muddy Fork Canyon is called Razorblade Pinnacle. I've been curious about what it looks like up close for a while. Apparently there's a few climbing routes on it.
Cyrus "Ice" K.

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