Lichtenberg Mountain

The day after we had our pool session we drove to Stevens pass to climb Lichtenberg Mountain. I was sore. The pool session had made my lower back and abs achy and tired. I was glad for a leg day.

Lichtenberg is a rarely climbed mountain, especially in the summer, although it is more popular in the winter when people can ski it. It isn’t a particularly long approach, our biggest obstacle would be avalanche danger. There had been new snow just a few days before, on top of already massive snow pack, and Sunday was supposed to be the first sunny day we had seen in a long time.

We arrived at the trailhead around eight and everyone suited up quickly. The first part of the approach was just a walk up a road that you can drive in the summer time. Flat and mellow, some people post holed and others didn’t. At a switchback in the road we veered off to the left and headed towards a creek, which we crossed on a safe snow bridge. Then it was all uphill from there. Our goal was to hop onto a ridge line right above Lake Valhalla and continue up to the summit. With avalanche conditions listed at considerable ridges were the safest place to be, as long as you stayed away from edges were there might be cornices.

The snow was very deep and so going was a little slower than we had anticipated. Plus there is the fact that awe have a huge team. Finally we could see the tiny little pointy summit right above us. And we could see there was no way we were going to be able to simply continue up the ridge to the top. After a huddle our very determined students decided to try cutting across the North side of the peak and try to approach it from there. To traverse the south side would involve crossing under some heavily corniced sections. We couldn’t see the north side but we hoped it would be better. Plus it would be out of the sun.

The north side turned out to be cool, calm, and shady. No cornices loomed menacingly above us. We moved quickly across the steep slope to a grouping of trees. They weren’t flagged and there was no evidence of avalanches. The summit would not be big enough for all of us though, so one instructor ran a fixed line to the top, set anchors and then set up an arm rappel back to the safety of the trees. We were already over our turn around time, but the students had decided to push it back an extra three hours in order to reach the summit. We quickly and efficiently rotated everyone through the fixed line and rappel.

The view from the top was gorgeous. Glacier sat regally to the north, completely smothered in snow. No feature stood out, because every crag and cranny that we had walked by the summer before was smoothed with a blanket of white powder. Mountains change so much throughout the year. All around us peaks were white and shining. Finally, we had gotten to the top of something!

Hiking out took almost do time at all. The snow was pretty ideal for plunge stepping, although still a little deep. Despite pushing back our turn around time and using every extra second, we were back at the cars by five, as planned. We celebrated with a margarita and Mexican food.

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As Edward Abbey said, "An indoor life is the next best thing to a premature burial."