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Back on the trail again


As many of you know, Jasper had surgery to repair a torn cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) at the end of May. After several weeks of limited mobility he was finally allowed to roam the backyard without a leash and even go on short hikes. Dani and I had a rare day off together last Monday, so we headed to Wallace Falls. Jasper and I sometimes go here in the fall or winter to do a long loop up to Wallace and Jay Lakes, but this trip would be much shorter.

We started off from the already crowded parking lot and soon made it to the junction with the Woody Trail. After descending to the river, Jasper immediately tanked up on water. Then we continued all the way to the lower falls overlook and picnic shelter where we took a nice break. We returned via the Greg Ball Trail and the road to the trailhead for a total of 4.7 miles. It was a little more than we had intended, but Jasper did fine. Well earned milkshakes from the Alpen Inn were enjoyed on the way back.

Photos here: Wallace Falls; July 28, 2014

Short and Sauer

Josie, Dani and Jasper stop to smell the flowers

No, I didn’t misspell that. We made our annual trek to Leavenworth (well, Peshastin really) and hiked up Sauer’s Mountain. Josie joined Team Stout for this trip. The balsamroot were peaking all along the trail. We even saw a few lupine, paintbrush and glacier lilies. Dani and Jo spotted some turkey vultures flying overhead and we even saw some deer as we made our way back to the trailhead.

The weather was mostly warm with a few passing clouds. A few raindrops hit us on the descent, but nothing to worry about. After finding a shady spot to park, we left Jasper in the car while we ate and drank at South.

It was another fun day in the mountains.

Our photos: Sauer’s Mountain; April 25, 2014

I am too Hexy for my snowshoes

Hexy

With a marginal weather forecast and avalanche danger elsewhere, a large group of us (Janet, Matt, Carla, Barb, Elle, Barry, Suzanne and the other Suzanne along with the tail waggers Jasper, Gus and Izzy) converged on Hex Mountain. All of us had been up it at least once before, except for Matt. He’s been up basically every other peak around, so this was a surprise for us that we would be accompanying him up a new (to him) summit.

We initially started up the road without snowshoes, but as the postholing started we stopped to put them on. Something seemed wrong with mine, and I noticed that one of the pins was missing, a fairly common occurrence with MSR snowshoes. It must have happened near the end of the previous trip that I wore them and I didn’t notice. Unlike Yana, I didn’t have a stash of extra pins. Barry had some wire that he let me use for a temporary fix. It was a very temporary fix, as less than 10 minutes later the wire had been cut through. Luckily for me we were a large group and the snow wasn’t very deep, and fairly consolidated once we gained the ridge.

The summit was open and a little windy, so we made our stay brief and retreated to a less windy spot in the trees a couple hundred feet below. Lunch was eaten, sandwiches were envied by the boy dogs and a hole in the snow was dug by Izzy. Janet passed out some brownies that she made to celebrate the 4-year birthday of her new knees. It was exactly 4 years to the day since she had a double knee replacement. Yay for Janet’s new knees! And yay for the brownies! I won’t say how many I had, but it was 3.

The snow had softened up a bit during the day, and my descent was filled with more postholing, but I managed to stumble my way to the cars without getting too badly stuck. My snowshoes were safely tucked onto the back of my pack. As for the title of this report, sorry ladies, I kept my shirt on. I also stopped by Cascade Designs while nearby for work and picked up a few extra pins for my snowshoes. They work much better now.

My photos: Hex Mountain; March 30, 2014

Janet’s report: Hex Mtn (Mar-30-2014)

We came to climb the Rooster

My shadow on the summit

Sung to the tune of Rooster by Alice in Chains:

Ain’t found a way to climb it yet
Eyes burn with stinging sweat
Seems every path leads me through brush
Two good friends, my stout pet
South ridgeline was no safe bet
The snow bombs fall on me from somewhere

Here we come to climb the rooster
Yeah we climb the rooster, yeah
You know it’s a home court peak
Yeah, yeah, yeah, ya know it’s a home court peak

Breakin’ trail in my snowshoes
I only went a hundred feet
The once soft snow turned a bit icy
Stopped to switch into crampons
My doggy’s barkin’ at someone else
Oh dog please won’t you help me climb this peak

Here we come to climb the rooster
Yeah we climb the rooster, yeah
You know it’s a home court peak
Yeah, yeah, yeah, ya know it’s a home court peak

Now that you’ve got that song stuck in your head, it’s time for the brief report on the actual trip. Carla and Yana somehow managed to convince me to join them on another trip into the mountains. Apparently the recent brush bashing up steep hillsides hasn’t convinced me to ignore their emails. This week’s destination: Rooster Peak (aka The Ark), the unofficial name for Pt. 5,339 north of the confluence of Quartz Creek and the Taylor River, way up the Middle Fork Road. Yeah, that road. Someday it will be paved, but until then it’s a bouncy ride around, over, into and through the approximately 17 million potholes.

We arrived at the locked gate at the Taylor River bridge sometime before 7:30, and began hiking up the road shortly after. We came to the first road/trail junction in a few minutes and turned left up the Quartz Creek trail/road. Eventually we hit snow, but it was easy enough travel that we left the snowshoes on our packs. Another road/trail junction was reached and we headed uphill towards our destination, ignoring the call to Lake Blethen. Along the way we experienced one of the joys of hiking a decommissioned road: berms and removed culverts. These areas were especially icy, and since the road/trail switchbacked a few times, we got to cross the same little icy creeks several times. At one point we ascended straight uphill through the trees, saving our souls from the seemingly endless roadwalk.

At ~3,300 feet we donned snowshoes, and shortly after the road became much more overgrown. If you haven’t experienced the joy of snowshoeing through slide alder I highly recommend it. We left the road at ~3,600 feet and made our way carefully into a basin, generally aiming for the south ridge of Rooster. Sometimes it was a little difficult to balance on the lightly snow covered alder branches hanging over the creek, but eventually we made it to a less brushy area with surprisingly deeper snow. Jasper didn’t seem to like that section, but with a couple boosts he made it through.

The snow became a bit icier along the ridge, and Yana and Carla switched to crampons. I forged ahead in snowshoes for a few hundred more feet before switching to crampons, just before we hit another area of deep, powdery snow. Luckily for me Carla and Yana had resumed leading the way and I only had to follow in their footsteps to the summit ridge. The top 20 feet looked interesting with the current snow cover. Yana went first and forged a route to the top while Carla and I followed. Jasper was secured in a nice spot near our packs as it didn’t look entirely safe for even the Cascade Snow Pig to venture to the tippy top.

We took a few photos before retreating to our packs and moving a few more feet down to a sunny, less windy spot for lunch. Jasper’s attempts to look cute were rewarded with a couple bites of my sandwich.

The descent went much faster than the ascent, and the only issues seemed to be Yana’s snowshoes constantly grabbing exposed branches. Apparently snowshoe manufacturers don’t take exposed sticks and stones into consideration when designing snowshoes. Surprisingly we made it back to the trailhead well before needing headlamps. None of the potholes had been filled in so the drive back was just as bumpy.

Rooster (aka The Ark): 5,339′, #74 on the Home Court list.
GPS stats: 10.8 miles with almost 4,200 feet of total gain.
My photos: Rooster (aka The Ark); February 7, 2014
Carla’s photos:
Yana’s photos:

An avalanche of views on Avalanche Mountain

Snow Lake topped with an icy coat

Jasper and I had been up Avalanche Mountain with Steve a few years ago, but we went on a cloudy day. The notes in my hiking spreadsheet said “Repeat on a clear day for good views”, so when Eric sent out an email a few days ago asking about a trip up Avalanche, I replied before he could rescind the invitation. We were joined by John with Treen and Matt with Bear. Jasper had gone hiking the day before, so I left him at home.

We congregated at the Alpental parking lot at 6:30 am, and headed up the trail shortly afterwards. Some of wore crampons from the start to avoid slipping on the slick trail. Our snowshoes were securely attached to our packs, where they would remain all day. The sun rose as we made our way to the saddle above Snow Lake. At the second switchback (first one turning back north) we left the trail, following some older tracks that headed towards Avalanche Mountain.

As we got closer the peak we cut straight up a steeper section. Just before it got impossibly steep, we crested the ridge and continued along it through occasional trees towards the highest point. Just below the top was a spot that looked a bit tricky for the tail waggers. John and Matt tied the dogs up to a hopefully sturdy tree, and soon all of the 2-leggers were standing on the summit, savoring the 359 degree views. Eric blocked the last degree for me. I’ve seen Mt. Rainier before, so it wasn’t that big of a deal.

Eventually it was agreed that we should descend, but not before Matt broke out his Frank Gore 49′ers jersey. At least it wasn’t a Colin Kaepernick jersey. That would have been unacceptable. As usual, the descent went quicker than the ascent. Mostly. A steep bit below the ridge wasn’t conducive to plunge-stepping, and we proceeded with caution. Unscathed, we made it to the flatter section and stashed the ice axes. Hopefully we wouldn’t encounter the Snow Lake Sasquatch on our way out.

As we descended from the saddle above Snow Lake, Eric commented on how weird it was not to have seen anyone. It is a very popular trail after all. Not a minute later we ran into another hiker. Then a few more. Then several more appeared. You get the picture. It was getting crowded. Luckily, we were on our way out. Those pre-dawn starts have their advantages sometimes. The trail had obviously been lengthened since earlier that morning, but we finally made it back to the parking lot. We hugged, we cried, we exchanged phone numbers. Wait, none of that happened. Just a few grunts and waves as we got into our vehicles and tore off back down I-90. I made a stop at Rhodies for a Trailboss sandwich and a Cherry Coke. Then it was back home to play frisbee with Jasper, rake up the last of the leaves and watch Matt’s 49′ers beat another friend Matt’s Packers.

This was one repeak (repeat of a peak) I am glad I did.

My photos: Avalanche Mountain; January 5, 2014
John’s report: AVALANCHE!

Tye-ing one on for my (belated) birthday

Tye Peak, our destination

In the past I have had friends (or at least people who didn’t totally ignore my emails) join me for a birthday snowshoe or ski.

2009
2010
2011
2012 and 2013 I was in the office. Boo.

This year I once again went to work to make sure a coworker was indeed leaving the company. Good luck in your new position Ian!

However, I did manage to hit the trails with a friend only one day after my birthday. Scott L. joined us, along with a couple more of Jasper’s friends, Zeus and Athena. Hoping to snag a parking spot, we arrived at the Stevens Pass north lot a little after 8:00, and booted (and pawed) our way up the road to Skyline Lake. Scott and the yellows had been here once before with me as a group of us assaulted Sky Mountain on a very foggy winter’s day. This day was much nicer with blue skies and several inches of fresh snow the day before.

We put snowshoes on above the lake and continued to the saddle, where we could see our goal for the day, Tye Peak. We descended the backside through older downhill ski tracks, then forged our own path through the basin and to the saddle separating Sky from Tye. After a quick break we continued on the south ridge of Tye Peak a few hundred more feet to the summit. A group of skiers was up there, having come from the southeast. We chatted briefly before they went off the northwest side. Filled with snacks and water, we retraced our steps back down the peak and back to the ridge above the lake.

I forced Scott into a quick detour to the rock garden, which he didn’t recognize at first in the bright sun. Then it was a quick descent back to the lake and a couple small bottles of champagne again to celebrate my being 44 and a day. The descent to the parking lot was amazingly crowded with people of all sorts heading up. The parking lot was overflowing, with vehicles parked in the drive lanes and along both sides of Highway 2. Stevens Pass might have been the temporary beneficiary of the Snoqualmie Pass ski areas not being open yet. We escaped the hordes and made our way to Zeke’s for burgers, fries and milkshakes. Yum.

Another birthday (plus a day) hike in the books. Hopefully I get a few more of these.

My photos: Tye Peak; January 4, 2014
Scott’s photos: 2014-01-04 Skyline Lake, Tye Peak

Merry New Year from Granite Mountain

Merry New Year!

With a good weather forecast for New Year’s Day, I decided to switch the first hike of the year from Mailbox Peak to the more scenic Granite Mountain. The low snowpack this winter made for a relatively safe trip up (and down) the normal trail. Jasper and I were joined by Matt M. and Bear. Jasper and Bear are old friends. Well, maybe friends is a bit strong. They’ve snarled and growled at each other on several hikes. Luckily Matt and I get along much better, even if he’s a 49′er fan.

Back to the hike. We were the first ones up the trail, departing by headlamp a bit before sunrise. As we made our way through the trees we could see the first light of 2014 appearing in the east. Soon it was bright enough for us to turn off our headlamps. After a little while we started hitting continuous snow/ice, but didn’t feel the need for any additional traction. Eventually we gave in and added microspikes (me) and crampons (Matt). The dogs dug their claws in just a little bit more. We broke out of the trees and to my surprise did not get knocked over by the wind. Dani and I had been up here the weekend after Thanksgiving and stopped a few hundred feet below the top due to very high winds.

There was a good track all the way along the ridge to the summit. Even one step off the track in places was hazardous with a slick icy crust that wouldn’t break even with the fat man (me) stepping on it. Bear and Jasper set first paw to the summit in 2014 and waited patiently for the slower hoomanz to arrive. After a brief disagreement over a treat, we kept the boys separated and resumed enjoying the views. And the champagne. Wait, did I say champagne? Well, yes. Two small bottles, one for me and one for Matt. Sorry Jasper and Bear, you boys aren’t 21 yet.

After a good summit stay we decided to pack up and return to civilization. Along the way we passed a multitude of people and a few doggies, including a few that I knew: coworker Randy and then it was K9 Cedar and his people Mark and Nancy. We returned to the trailhead to find the cars intact, and Matt didn’t even get a ticket for leaving his parking pass in the glove box.

Same stats as usual (something like 8 and a half miles round trip with 3,800 feet of gain, give or take).

My photos: Granite Mountain; January 1, 2014

I Hike Alone (Reynolds Peak)

Below the summit block
Sung to the tune of Green Day’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams

I hike this lonely trail
The only one that goes near Reynolds Peak
Map shows where it goes
But it’s overgrown and I hike alone

I hike this empty trail
Through the open slope of blown down trees
Where the wildlife sleeps
And I’m the only one and I hike alone

I hike alone (x4)

My shadow’s the only one that hikes beside me
My shallow heart’s somehow keeps beating
Sometimes I wish someone strong would carry me
’til then I hike alone

With the ongoing run of good weather, I decided to head to the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness and make an attempt on Reynolds Peak (8,512′). Originally I was going to wait until spring to try this peak so that the brushy areas would be covered in snow, but as I read more about the route I didn’t think the brush would be too bad.

The alarm went off entirely too early, but since I had already packed the truck, I only had to wait for the coffee to brew. The drive over Highway 20 was a little adventurous as there were a few patches of really slick roadway. As I drove through Winthrop and the sun came up, I realized that I had left my sunglasses at home. Luckily the Ace Hardware was open, and they even sold sunglasses. I picked a cheap pair and continued my drive to Twisp and the Twisp River Road.

Mine was the first (and as it turns out, only) vehicle at the trailhead. I maderelatively quick work of the almost 3 miles of trail to the point where I needed to leave the trail, cross Reynolds Creek and head up the South Fork of Reynolds Creek. The creek crossing was entertaining: standing on slick slide alder to avoid the even slicker rock hopping across the not quite frozen creek. I managed to make it across without completely submerging one of my feet. Then the fun began. I was expecting this next part of the day to be a bushwhack fest, but I was sorely disappointed. Oh sure, it was brushy in places and there were many downed logs and some sidehilling on slick duff. But it wasn’t as dire as I had expected.

Eventually I reached the flattish area at ~5,400. Well, I was actually a bit above it. I managed to find a couple game paths through some sections of slide alder, then headed generally straight uphill towards the now visible summit block of Reynolds Peak, still 3,000 feet above me. The walking was mostly pleasant, with a few larches (past their prime of course) to welcome me as I climbed past them. I crested a ridge-like feature at ~7,500 and experienced the joy of walking a talus field lightly covered in snow. If you haven’t experienced this I highly recommend it. Avoiding serious injury, I made my way to the southern, and more melted out, side of the summit block. A slog up a gully and a final scramble brought me to the summit.

It had taken me a little longer than expected to reach the summit, but I was hungry and wanted to enjoy the views for a little while. There was even cell service with 3G coverage (yeah, I’m not into the whole 4G thing yet), so I sent Dani a text message and posted a photo of my frog friends to Facebook. Then I ate my sandwich and played a game of ‘Name that peak’. As is usually the case on my solo trips, I won.

On the descent I chose a more direct path, which thankfully took me through a thicker grove of slide alder. Then I got to experience sidehilling frozen duff along the South Fork of Reynolds Creek. Unfortunately I found a much easier creek crossing this time and didn’t get to experience the hanging slide alder crossing. I found the trail where I had left it in the morning, and just in time to need my headlamp. The last almost 3 miles to the truck were uneventful, and I found the truck still intact with a change of clothes inside.

Food, an IPA then a Pepsi (no Coke!) at the Twisp River Pub brought me back to normal. I decided to drive back via Wenatchee and over Stevens Pass, with a couple hour stop to catch a few Z’s.

I don’t take nearly as many photos on these solo trips, but here are a few:
Reynolds Peak; October 26, 2013

And for those keeping track of such things, this was #60 of the 100 highest peaks in Washington (Bulger List) for me.

Wallowing on Wallaby

A few inches of snow over a talus field

The original plan was to follow Yana up Big Snagtooth on Friday then maybe try Blue Lake Peak on Saturday. Then some PCT thru-hikers were overdue and being the awesome S&R person that she is, Yana bailed on me and joined the mission to find them (they were found ok). Maybe I’ll talk her into a Big Snagtooth trip next spring…

Without a partner I decided on a less technical objective: Wallaby Peak. How hard could it be? There was supposedly a climbers path/trail to Kangaroo Pass then it was an easy ridge run to the summit gully. Except, Mama Nature had dumped some early snow in the mountains. I knew this, but thought that since this area was fairly far east that the snow wouldn’t pose much difficulty. Ha! Good thing I brought my snowshoes. October 4th seemed a bit early to be using them, but they came in handy to support my stoutness.

The route was easy enough to follow, but while I had expected to take 2 to 3 hours to summit took a little over 5. There was a little shutter delay. Blue skies, fresh snow and larches will do that to you. The larches were still mostly green, but some were turning a nice shade of yellow/gold. Maybe next weekend they will be even better.

I made the summit, signed the register, took a few photos and began my descent. Luckily that went much quicker than the ascent, and I didn’t even get to use my headlamp. Rather than cook a freeze dried meal I drove the half hour to Winthrop and found food and beer before spending a surprisingly comfortable night in the back of the Westy.

Sadly, this trip only logged 4.4 miles and 2,900 feet of gain on my GPS. I guess summer really is over.

All photos here: Wallaby Peak; October 4, 2013

The Clark & Luahna Expedition

View northwest from Clark

Everyone knows about Lewis & Clark, the 19th Century explorers who drove west in a Buick Skylark and opened the first espresso stand in Astoria. Apparently they were a little ahead of their time and were forced to go back east the next spring. This story isn’t about them.

Somewhere deep in the heart of the Glacier Peak Wilderness lies a lonely mountain named Clark. Why is it named Clark? Well, that’s what his parents named him. Parents are just weird that way. Clark stands 8,602 feet above sea level. Maybe a little more or a little less, depending on the tides. There is a somewhat popular glacier route on the east side that I did not take as I was going solo and wanted to minimize the risk. Why do I go solo on these trips so often? If you know me at all you already have your answer. Oh yeah, the other peak is named Luahna. Not sure what his (her?) parents were thinking.

Back to the trip. As the week progressed the weather forecast deteriorated enough that I considered not going. But true to my stubborn nature I packed uop and drove over Stevens Pass. 40% chance of showers and thunderstorms be damned! That didn’t stop Lewis and Clark (I have it on good authority that the high gas tax in Washington kept them from further exploration north of the Columbia). The skies were overcast but it was warm and muggy as I set off along the White River Trail. It had rained earlier in the morning and within a quarter mile (0.4 km for my Canuck friends) my legs were soaked from wet overhanging brush.

Shortly I arrived at the junction with the Boulder Pass Trail and took it east, further into the Wilderness (Ooohh…Wilderness!). This trail actually gained a little elevation, and I passed from thick forest to thinner forest and eventually to subalpine meadows below Boulder Pass. The rumored sheepherder’s trail was there, although I didn’t see any sheep. There were lots of huckelberries along this path, delaying my progress as I felt compelled to sample as many as I could stomach.

Eventually I reached the lower basin, then headed uphill, off trail, into the alpine. I heard many marmots whistling as I ascended the slopes, but luckily I was not attacked by any of these creatures. Maybe being friends with Ingunn and Lindsay helped me avoid a nasty marmot bite. By early afternoon I reached the upper basin below the ridge running south from Pt. 8,373 and after a few minutes of searching found a suitable place to set up my tent and enjoy the rest of the evening. The sun had burned through the clouds and my feet were drying out just fine. This expedition did not receive any federal grant money so I was unable to afford a camp cook. Somehow I managed to prepare a meal for myself and finished with a little wine. Sleep came quickly.

Morning came almost as quickly, and I was out the tent door before 6:00, headed for Clark Mountain. The first bit was steep to the notch. No, not that notch, the other one. From there I could see the summit of Clark, but first I had to descend a couple hundred feet down a gully. Then it was a fairly easy walk up the slopes. I came to a lingering snow patch, and while I could have avoided it by scrambling around to the right, I decided to actually use my crampons and ice axe for a few minutes. Only a couple hours after leaving the tent I was scrambling up the final rocks to Clark’s summit with Glacier Peak in full view to the northwest. I was on top of the world! Or at least this one little mountain. I took a rest break on top and admired the views.

After 20 or so minutes I started down the west ridge, looking for a good spot to descend to the slopes below to make the travers to Luahna Peak. Nature called first though, and just as I was finishing up I saw a helmet with a person attached walking on the rocks above me. Had my grant application finally been approved and my camp cook arrived in time for lunch? No, it was just another silly peakbagger like so many of my friends. Not me, I am an Explorer. His name was John and he too was headed for Luahna. We decided to make the ascent together. Ha! Little did he know what he was getting into.

The traverse to Luahna went fairly quickly, and soon we found ourselves looking up the final couple hundred feet of the peak. John chose a viable route, but kicked a few loose rocks down. I decided to make my ascent a little to the left of his. It was slightly steeper, but more solid. Both routes worked fine and we met again at the summit. Apparently others had been there before us though as there was some sort of plastic tube with a book inside with the names and dates of previous explorers. Hmm. Many of these names looked familiar to me. Silly peakbaggers.

After another nice break and some food, we decided to head back to our camp(s). Rather than make another ascent of Clark we contoured around western and southern ridges until we could see the final gully that would allow us to escape Clark’s clutches. Somehow the gully was steeper than it was in the morning (I must write my Congressman about this), but I managed to drag my carcass back up it and could see my tent in the distance. No, that was a rock. There’s my tent, to the right. I bid John farewell as he continued down to his lower camp.

It was still early in the day and I knew that even a fat, slow old guy like me could make it to the trailhead fairly quickly from here, so I packed up and began my descent. I caught John just as he was shouldering his pack, and we continued the descent together. Well, mostly together. He did pull ahead of me, but not far enough that we weren’t able to enjoy beers together at the trailhead.

The drive back over Stevens Pass went well, without any delays as it was a Saturday and I avoided the dreaded Highway 2 Sunday Slowdown. Dani had made pizza and kindly left some for me. Yum. Two more of the big boys (girls?) in the books (56 and 57 for me if you’re keeping track, but who keeps track of these things?). Of course, it wasn’t official until I posted about it on Facebook, so I made sure to do that.

Photos: Clark Mountain & Luahna Peak; August 23-24, 2013

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