First Ascent athlete and splitboard hero Kyle Miller is no stranger to challenging objectives, but the completion of his current project clearly elevates his standing in the history of Northwest, self-ascent, big-mountain riding. Miller, in partnership with photographer Jason Hummel, became the first two ever to tick off the highest rideable lines on all of Washington’s 9,000-foot, non-volcanic peaks. The undertaking was a three-year, hushed project that pushed forward this spring with a productive return to Holden Village where he bagged Mt. Maude and Seven Fingered Jack then culminated in a 30-mile roundtrip to slay Mt. Logan, the final remaining peak on Miller and Hummel’s hit list of the Washington Nines.
The stats alone are impressive with 30 days, 80,000 vertical and 170 miles of arduous approach and descent devoted to the effort. But for out-of-state residents unfamiliar with slide alder, devil’s club, raging creek crossings and near-sea-level starts, the sheer scale of this accomplishment in such remote, technical, exposed and heavily glaciated mountains is hard to describe, even without referencing the notoriously coastal weather in the North Cascades. But the deeper story will be chronicled elsewhere in greater detail. This first-look photo gallery, with one image of each peak on the list and Kyle Miller’s captions explaining the significance of each towering peak, will provide a window into the high bar these two have set for a new life list classic in the Pacific Northwest. -EB Editor
Captions by Kyle Miller, Images by Jason Hummel
Over the past three years I have been pushing myself in an attempt to climb and ride all the 9000-foot non-volcanic peaks in Washington State. Compared to the volcanoes these mountains offer rugged terrain, long approaches and enough of a challenge to keep you awake for months in preparation of the climbs. With more glaciers in this stretch and rugged mountains than all the lower 48 states combined, this mission was the most challenging climb of my life. But it also would not have been possible without my touring partners Jason Hummel, Steph Abberg, Hannah Carrigian, Scott McAllister, Brennan Van Loo and Adam Roberts, who each joined me at a different stage of this long process of approaches and descents.
Bonanza, Elevation: 9,511Ft
Bonanza is the crown of the range and has some of the most aggressive remote lines out there. It was one of the more challenging lines with the upper headwall of the true summit so steep I had to dig a tunnel in the waist deep snow.
2. Stuart, Elevation: 9,415 Ft
Mt. Stuart, the second highest peak, sits alone on the central, eastern side of the Cascades. Illuminating the sky above the I-90 corridor its distinctive faces can be seen from almost any vantage point in the Cascades. For this descent we rode the Ulrich Couloir nearly 5,000 feet to the valley below.
3. Fernow, Elevation: 9,249 Ft
Literally hovering above Holden Village, Mt. Fernow shadows the remote Lake Chelan town in darkness three months out of the year. From big open faces to steep narrow couloirs, the options are limitless and similarly sized mountains surround this quiet refuge on almost every side. This trip was my first of the 2011 season and prepared me for Bonanza, which I summited two days later.
Goode, Elevation: 9,200 Ft
Goode is as steep as they come in the North Cascades and equally remote. With more then a vertical mile between the valley floor and the summit it was by far the most challenging climb in the 9000er project.
5. Shuksan, Elevation: 9,131 Ft
By far the most recognizable of the 9,000-foot peaks and the most accessible as it can be seen from the Mt. Baker ski resort parking lot. Each side of Shuksan holds a different personality and it has to be one of the best training grounds in the lower 48. It’s no wonder that we call Miss Shuksan a Temple.
6. Buckner, Elevation: 9,112 Ft
Buckner is regarded highly from both the climbing and skiing communities because of its aggressive north face. Entombed in the maze of the Boston Glacier, which is the biggest non-volcanic glacier in the lower 48, just getting to the base of the climb is a challenge. Standing as the western most of the 9,000-foot peaks this mountain literally blocks moisture from heading east.
7. Seven Fingered Jack, Elevation: 9,100 Ft
Relatively unheard of outside of the Cascades, this mountain is worn down by glacial erosion on two sides. Located at the headwall of the Entiat Valley, its north face is an impressive 3,000-foot cliff. Seven separate pinnacles line the summit, giving it the name and making it more then a worthy area for climbing and skiing.
8. Mount Logan, Elevation: 9,087 Ft
Logan is a mountain of legend in the North Cascades, not for it’s rather aggressive slopes or the glaciers that cling to every side but for the forests of untamed bushwhacking that protect it. One of if not the most Isolated of the list it’s a worthy goal for anyone who likes rugged adventure.
9. Jack Mountain, Elevation: 9,066 Ft
Looming above Ross lake and Highway 20—and hovering over 7,000 feet above the valleys below—Jack Mountain is truly the giant of the North Cascades. My first view of the north side of Jack was mid-traverse of the Pickett Range. I quickly fell in love with the line and knew that one day I would have to head back.
10. Maude, Elevation: 9,040 Ft
The North face of Maude legendary within the ski-mountaineering crowd. It offers more then 3,000 feet of sustained big mountain skiing, but it only gets skied a handful of times a year. During the summer it’s an easy stroll up the south side via trail but during the winter/spring an approach to this remote peak can take days.
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