Posted by GeoTom on August 28th, 2013 | 1 comment
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