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Kilburn Gorge. Wow!

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  • Kilburn Gorge. Wow!

    The Kilburn Gash, as I refer to it in my head, has been there for thousands of years. However, until the advent of satellite imagery, freely available for one and all on the internet, there was no way for me to know about it. It turns out someone else had become aware of the same feature, someone who lives nestled right up against the Sentinel Wilderness. Mudrat had noticed the same dark line on the imagery as I had and for years wanted to go check it out. So, when I posted on his Slide Climbing FB page that I was going he was all over it, like a dog on a bone.

    The Kilburn gash may be viewed using Flashearth or Google Earth (see pics for screen shots) and lies a half-mile south of Kilburn just below the 2nd notch towards the west.

    Just to make things interesting I suggested we go over the top of Kilburn and continue on to Sentinel and be prepared to bushwhack out in the dark. At 8:15 (a rather late hour for December when it gets late early) Sylvie dropped us off at Monument Falls and we began to haul ass. I went up Kilburn from Mon. Falls twice this summer and a third time a couple years back so I think I have the route to the summit fairly dialled in. However, after the first hour we deviated southerly from the usual route and aimed for the drainage under the gorge and would simply head up from there.

    Moving well and quickly through great open woods with firm footing we followed along closely with the map and altimeter. But, unbeknownst to us we were flying so fast that somehow we crossed the key drainage and kept on going. (Kevin even filled up there with some water) The map and the altimeter suggested we would have to drop steeply into our drainage and the one where Kevin filled up was in a wide and gently sloping basin so we took a new bearing and expected to crest the ridge bordering our desired brook within 10 minutes.

    Well past the 10 minutes we were scratching our heads due to the lack of expected ridge and drainage so I dug the gps out of my pack and fired it up only to see we had indeed overshot it by 600 yards. Major wtf moment that fuelled discussion later on but in the meanwhile we did an about-face and booted it, even faster now, on contour on a steep and gnarly slope. We came out at the top and in the center of the gash and could see across it but not into the bottom. We headed down through thick and steep terrain along ledges until we were inside the most amazing feature imaginable.

    The floor was narrow and steep and each side was walled in by ice-encrusted cliffs. Huge rocks had cleaved off from above and had strewn the narrow creek-bed over the ages. Now they lay there, moss covered, in a ragged and random jumble. Alders and conifers choked the already difficult passageway. The west wind was strong and frigid. I had soaked through my softshell but the outside had frozen over and the crust offered wind protection but my pant-legs were wet. Stopping to take pictures and admire the awe-inspiring surroundings brought on the shivers so we did our best to find the sweet spot of sufficient heat output and a pace slow enough to allowed us to gawk, ooh, awe and take copious pics.

    When we were about 3/4 of the way through the gully I booted it up more quickly just to get warm while Kevin,who had changed into a dry base layer shirt, took more pictures with my camera. Once at the top I walked around in circles clambering over blowdown to keep warm until I saw his lime green fluo bushwhacking gloves coming up behind me. The chilly wind was blasting through the col and we estimated it was 10F without wind. It was 11:45 so including our embarrassing overshoot and the enjoyable time-sink in the gully we had made it to the ridge in 3 hours 30 minutes, which in retrospect was pretty good time. However, we realized that we would be summiting Sentinel at sundown if we carried on. The decision was quick and easy to go to the top of Kilburn, a summit Kevin has never been to anyway, and go back down to Monument Falls. Kilburn was about 300 vertical feet above us and another mini-col away, a half-mile to our north. About half-way up I was toasty warm again and suggested that going to Sentinel wasn't such a bad idea after all. But, the ensuing sanity check implied that Kilburn was a much smarter choice so we continued up.

    On top of Kilburn the wind was even colder than in the gully but now we had all the time in the world we so layered up for a leisurely visit, took pictures and ate lunch. From Kilburn toward Slide North you can see where the magic gash is but you can't actually see it or even imagine it's there. The topo map doesn't suggest anything like it either.
    Going up Kilburn along the trade route is a whole lot easier than going down and we kept drifting off the ridge to the right and we let ourselves get sucked in by the more open woods to the north. But the compass doesn't lie and west was the way back to Monument Falls. So, we sucked it up for a good half-hour of side-hilling through unfriendly woods in order to get back to our inbound route. It was with great pleasure that we finally dropped through open hardwoods to a beautiful, sparsely wooded plain at about 750 meters elevation that we recognized from our way in. We soon picked up our partly snowed-over tracks, ambled another 30 minutes out to the road through gorgeous woods that were lightly dusted over with fresh snow and bummed a lift to Kevin's house. As we were walking up his driveway Sylvie, who had watched the Spot track while working in the library, pulled in to pick me up.

    A couple hours later as I lay dozing on the couch in the Brookside Inn I checked the time and mused that we would be somewhere up on Sentinel's ridge bushwhacking under headlamp glow in the arctic wind. Then I rolled over, snuggled deeper under my sleeping bag and went back to my snoozing.

    Pictures by me and Mudrat.

    Last edited by Neil; 12-22-2015, 08:16 AM.

  • #2
    I've been wanting to explore that for about a decade, but other things kept coming up. Thus when Neil suggested the outing, I jumped at the opp. It was a nice taste of winter--cold winds whipping up the cut and talus stacked covered with moss. I felt like I was right at home, hmmm. I wanted some tools and crampons, but microspikes and leather gloves were no substitute! The area reminded me of a very small version of PG or Indian Pass and only 3 hours from Monument Falls.

    I have to say it was nice not having to worry about navigation. Neil was much like a SPOT unit throwing off a verbal waypoint including elevation and adjustments to bearing every 5 to 10 minutes . I was able to relax and just follow while only occasionally discussing our possible position on the contour map.

    Great day out and great idea. I'm also thrilled that we didn't head for Sentinel. Not every trip has to be an 18 hour trial by fire (or krummholz)!
    May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.


    • #3
      Nice! I know you wanted to see that feature. A little gift to yourself for Xmas?

      Some of those shots are worthy of the caption "When hell froze over!" Quite the forbidding place.

      I like the evil eyes. Worthy of a forum avatar!

      The expression "cooler minds prevailed" is usually figurative but given the conditions you described it was probably literal when you decided to skip Sentinel. Brr!

      Congrats for living the dream and sharing the memories!
      Looking for Views!


      • #4
        I only surf the pictures so I can see Kevin, my Hunk, shirtless.


        • #5
          Cool little feature there. I truly believe that the best spots bushwhacking aren't always going to be the summits, but some of the unnamed features you discover along the way. Like the big open ledge on Sawtooth 6 that faces 2S.

          Wait..... What? There is no Sawtooth 6?! Oh yes there is! You've just never heard it called that before.
          Adopt a natural resource. Give back.


          • #6
            Originally posted by NoTrace View Post
            I only surf the pictures so I can see Kevin, my Hunk, shirtless.
            That was for you Jim. Sending you an 8x10 glossy for Christmas.
            May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.



            • #7
              May be an eroded-out dike.


              • #8
                Love your trip reports, Neil!


                • #9
                  Amazing pics, Neil....good stuff , as always...."where no man has gone before"....damn....!!!!


                  • #10
                    Half the pics are Mudrat's.