Benson and I had some unfinished climbing business in the French Cabin Creek area from our October 2020 trip up Kachess Ridge. We had attempted French Tongue, but the area was wet from recent rain. We climbed up to the base of the Tongue, up a steep, grassy slope, super slippery from the rain and lose scree. We tested the friction of the rock and determined that an attempt would surely be fatal, so passed and continued our climb and successful summit of Kachess Ridge that day.
This was my fourth trip up to the Kachess Ridge and French Cabin Creek area. We were intent on climbing French Tongue, French Chin and its multiple high points, and French Cabin Mountain West – a Home Court 100.
Our approach to this hike takes us on FS 4824-115, a rough windy road that gains 2500 feet above Lake Kachess. This approach cuts off over 2500 feet of gain from the southern trailheads and lets us have more time for scrambling up high and exploring the Silver Creek, Kachess Ridge, and French Cabin Creek areas. We quickly approach the gateway to Silver Creek, guarded by two towering stone sentinels, French Chin and French Tongue. These towers dominate the skyline and frame a most amazing setting.
We knew the route well and quickly made our way to the base of French Tongue. This is one imposing rock, and we had one good trip report, that also outlined the scramble route thanks to NWHIKERS.NET contributor gimpilator, aka Adam Walker. This peak is not frequently climbed, and per peakbagger.com, there are less than 20 documented ascents since 1972. I am sure there are many more, but this gives one an idea of how infrequently this area and specifically this peak is visited.
Benson climbing and on the summit. Super views.
After a couple of minutes at the summit, we contemplated our descent. The way up was exposed and had that 10-foot section of steep moss-covered rock that was somewhat wet, and could be the challenging and dangerous section to descend.
We made it off French Tongue without incident and I let out a loud victory cry. It felt great to complete this seldom climbed hard scramble, especially as we had a non-start attempt last year and some trepidation at what we would encounter as we started our day. With our most difficult climbing of the day complete, we set our sights on our next objective.
French Chin like its neighbors appears unclimbable from the approach trail but reveals a more gentle summit scramble from the Southern flanks. Benson and I dropped off the base of French Tongue, to the saddle and made a direct beeline for French Chin.
We made quick time up to the summit of French Chin, which had a lone, large bushy tree near the summit. From the summit, we could see additional points of prominence to the east to climb. We quickly dropped to a gully and ascended a very brushy gully to the summit of the 2nd Chin. The true summit of the 2nd point was about 10 feet away on a 12-inch rib of rock with a large hold midway. There was a sheer drop off several hundred feet to each side. The rib was clearly attainable, but I knocked on the rock to see if it was stable and hold my weight – it responded with a rather hollow ring and looking at the drop, assessing the risk without even a handline, let alone protection or a proper belay, we decided that seeing our families later in the day was more important than touching that slightly higher point just feet away.
French Cabin Mountain West
With two Chins in the bag, we set our sights for French Cabin Mountain West, a Home Court 100 peak. We set a path straight ahead up the west ridge, keeping to the right of the rocky ridge visible in the photo above, planning to ascent the grassy slopes and navigating around the cliffs. As we traversed cross country, we opted to drop to the trail as the progress would be faster and we believed that we could ascend the South Ridge faster than a less known route.
We made quick time up the trail, skirting the rocky South Ridge, and gained the upper grassy slopes to the summit.
We had great 360 degree views of the area – to the East, we could see the windmill farms near the Columbia River. Mount Rainier, Goat Rocks, and Mount Adams to the South, The expanse of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness to the West, and Mount Stuart and the Enchantments Range to the North.
We had a stretch goal of climbing French Kiss today, however, the route to the ridge and summit would take some time, and we would need to retrace all the distance. With early evening obligations, we decided that we had a great outing and made our way back to the car.