WTA Cispus Pass

Sep 08, 2001 by LVHDLM
Pacific Crest #2000,Lilly Basin #86,Goat Rocks,Old Snowy,By-pass #97,Mount Curtis Gilbert,Ives Peak,Snowgrass #96,Goat Ridge #95 – The South Cascades
7-9 September 2001. Backpacked from “Berry Patch” trailhead at end of F. S. 2150 to a campsite on the Lily Basin Trail in the area named “Alpine” on maps. The trail is in fine shape; signs are adequate; signs of horse travel are abundant.
In the afternoon of Day 1 we hiked via the Pacific Crest Trail to the top of Old Snowy; a good use trail leads the very few hundred yards from the PCT proper to the top. A weatherbeaten board sign with no discernible words marks the junction, but it is obvious. A couple of patches of snow still cover the PCT, but they present no problem at all to a hiker. Hikers ought to note that an older version of the PCT can still be followed across a steeper snowfield; this is the trail that is still shown on most published maps. It doesn’t climb as high, but it offers more treacherous footing, and should probably be avoided.
From Old Snowy we proceeded directly to Ives Peak. The route is fairly obvious; some tread or signs that people have passed that way are evident. At first, dropping off the summit of Old Snowy, we had to descend on loose, but not steep, talus around a cliff buttress, but we were then able to regain the crest of the connecting ridge where the going is quite good for a while. In general it is well to stay on the crest or on the west side of it, but one prominent gendarme about halfway along the ridge is best passed on the left (east) side. A south-side ledge, then an easy scramble up to the left leads to the top of Ives. No particular route-finding skills are required to descend; the west slope of Ives is open talus presenting no problems.
On Day 2 we hiked up Curtis Gilbert using the first route described in Beckey’s Cascade Alpine Guide. This route DOES require some route-finding skill or luck; in any case it is somewhat unpleasant (loose rock). The description refers to crossing the Cispus-Klickitat Divide and then taking a loose-rock gully up to the left; this is correct, although there are several gullies and it is not entirely clear whether only one, or perhaps all of them, work. Halfway up it is necessary to traverse to the right (ESE) between lower and higher bands of cliffs, at approximately 7400′ or a little above. Some useful cairns are in place along this traverse. The route eventually tops out onto a summit plateau at about 7600′, after which the way is clear. It would seem inadvisable for a party unfamiliar with the route to descend it, and in fact considerable caution would be necessary to descend it under the most favorable conditions. Owing to rockfall hazard, a party larger than four probably ought to elect a different route, and this route probably ought not to attempted if another party is ahead. Helmets recommended.
Beckey’s Guide describes a “variation” of this route,which is in fact a completely independent summit route. (The last fifty feet to the top are a short scramble, the same by all routes.) We returned via this route, and found it long but delightful. Descending, one simply follows the “Klickton Divide”, an airy crest separating the Klickitat from the Tieton drainings. The divide is sometimes broad, sometimes narrow, but always feasible; it is possible to make quite good time on it. The northeast slope holds a glacier (Meade), much reduced from the map’s showing and from most published photographs. The southwest slope is for about two miles an unbroken cliff crowned with innumerable spires.
Choosing a route with care, one can eventually drop down into the Klickitat basin, beyond this cliff. However, perhaps surprisingly, Beckey’s route description in correct in that there exists an unmapped trail extending from the Klickton Divide about three miles WNWward to the PCT near Cispus Pass. Although it fades at times in meadows, especially wet ones, the trail generally affords a good tread and easy, rapid travel. A significant section of it is marked with blazes of orange paint on rocks and trees. This trail can be found on the descent of the Klickton Divide in a meadow at about 6600′, not far from where the USGS map shows a monument labeled “121”. After a steep descent of a couple of hundred feet on short switchbacks, it follows a bench at about 6400′, then gradually descends to a level near or below 6000′, which it maintains most of the way, staying mostly in meadows, occasionally open woods, below cliffs and talus fans. At the head of the Klickitat basin it may seem to head away from Cispus Pass; here simply head uphill WNW through meadows to meet the PCT at or near the pass.
A party attempting to use this route for both the ascent and descent of Curtis Gilbert is advised to make camp in Cispus Basin or near Cispus Pass. It is not difficult, but it is long.
A further note: all described routes up Curtis Gilbert enter the Yakima Reservation. The aforementioned abandoned and unmapped trail probably lies within the reservation for about three miles. (The boundary seems to be unmarked and unsigned.) My guess is that very few hikers in this area obtain permission to be there, but entering the reservation without a permit is, of course, not a recommended practice. The upper Klickitat is wild and lovely, affording solitude not to be found during good weather on the west slope (Gifford Pinchot National Forest) of the Goat Rocks. A suggestion: if a hiker should decide to traverse this region without permission, he/she ought at least to follow leave-no-trace principles scrupulously, and above all to avoid camping in it.
A further note: in addition to the abandoned trail, the PCT itself traverses the uppermost slopes of the Klickitat Basin (Yakima land).
Day 3 was a hike out along the Lily Basin and Goat Ridge trails, with a side trip to the excellent viewpoint of Hawkeye Point. The trails were all in fine condition.

Although the official trails we used were all in good shape, we found that maps, especially the USGS maps do not depict them correctly. This is especially the case in the area between Snowgrass Flat and the Pacific Crest Trail. The U. S. F. S. map (Goat Rocks Wilderness Area) is perhaps the most accurate, but even it has one or two misplacements. Most likely the trails have been relocated since the mapping surveys were completed.

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