Mike Adamson and I hiked to Gothic Basin and scrambled up Del Campo Peak. The way was gloomy and foggy for miles, but we had plenty to talk about, both being very enthusiastic about the cascades and future climbing ideas. The rough trail crossed waterfalls that I had last visited two years ago with my nephews Steven and Sam. We passed an abandoned mining structure on the mountainside, then continued up to the basin, and Foggy Lake. We couldn’t see any mountains in the murk and I was getting a little discouraged. If something didn’t appear, we’d have to try and wring some pleasure out of the foggy forests. This is hard, because it usually depends on being able to name various plants, and I suck at this.

I drew my exciting scramble route on this fair-weather picture

What a pretty lake!

Rough topo of the route (3 pitches, 5.0)

Mysterious Gothic Basin

So we climbed slopes above Foggy Lake on a nice way trail, finally coming to a snowfield and hearing voices echoing eerily somewhere above. Without ice axes, we didn’t like the long icy traverse delineated by their tracks, so we headed up and left, where other voices in the murk shouted. We came to a high saddle with scrub trees, and saw a great cliff, here on the north west side of Del Campo. Three dejected fellows sat on a rock outcropping. {\em “Yeah, we thought this was the way, but I’m not going up that!”} said one. We could see that the cloud cover ended just some hundred feet above our heads - a mixture of blue and steaming white. We saw that the pinnacle was drawn against a sharp blue sky up there. My desire for sun led me on a hunt for the summit. I found a lower angle area of the great cliff on the opposite side. The rock was still steep, but with great in-cut holds. One of the three decided to try a loose lower-angle gully just to my right. As he slipped and slid among tiny pebbles, he wisely backed off.

After about 100 feet, I came to a rappel/belay sling. This told me I was perhaps in over my head. But I was near the ridge crest, and thought I could follow it to the summit. I kept going, protected only by the clouds that prevented me from seeing the full exposure. But really, the rock was delightful! I promised to come back with a rope sometime and do it right. The crux was edging up the side of a chock-stone to gain the ridge crest.

Once there, I was above the clouds! {\em “Oh my god.”} All the principal summits of the region were up there too. Sloan crumbled in the sun, Glacier Peak, Columbia, Keyes. Interestingly, Gothic Peak was hidden, as it was just a little smaller than Del Campo. Even better, I had this marvelous, sinewy ridge crest, and at it’s end were a startled bunch of five looking at me wide-mouthed. “How did he get there?” I heard. Concentrating on my task, I savored the last moves, and arrived at the summit. This delightful party of five were impressed by my route, and they laughed when I said I’d bring a rope to “do it right.” They were a fun bunch, I got some sunscreen from them, ended up in their group photo shots, and exchanged witty banter. Some of them were in the fabric business, and I learned something about the production of nylon and taffeta. This was the best chance meeting with like-minded strangers I’d ever had on a summit.

The two men and three women nimbly scrambled down, being very, very good at leaving loose rocks in place. I had a little trouble keeping up, but learned much from their “quiet” loose-mountain technique. For this side of the peak was piled with stones on ledges and frost-fractured licheny blocks. A few scrub trees, then slabs and snow, and we said goodbye. They seemed like some kind of private “mountain goat” club.

Somewhat tired, we found a lot to laugh about as we invented the concept of graded scrambling - ie a 4.11c or a hard 3.6 red-point. Much riffing on the concept, and sketches for films or magazines ensued. This was a great way to pass the time, because soon we were walking the mile of road back to the truck, and our day of mountain fun came to an end. At the trail-head, we met a weary duo who had tried to climb East Wilman’s Spire from the bushwhacking, west approach. Been there, done that…

Thanks to Mike Adamson for a fun day in the mountains!