Washington

Crater Mountain (July 3, 2016)

Crater (8,125ft)

July 3, 2016

 

Linsey Warren

Dave G.

Mike R.

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Brickyard P&R – 5.00am

Ashway P&R – 5.30am

Depart TH – 8.30am

Lake – 11.30am

Summit – 1.30pm

Lake – 4.15pm

Arrive TH – 6.10pm

Ashway – 9.20pm

 

My fate this year seems to be organizing last minute weekend trips. I feel like I need some go packets and ideas. So a week ago I picked up the Top 200 list and put them into Google Earth so I could have a good idea of where peaks were and they could provide some loose inspiration. I don’t think I want to get too attached to another list – as that has proven to drive me to distraction in the past. But having a list of ideas helps me find peaks for weekend trips. So as Lincoln yet eludes me due to weather and conditions I found myself searching for a last minute weekend trip. As a side note Kyle now refers to Lincoln peak as ‘The Unicorn’ as it’s been quite elusive this year. I think now that it may be a bit late to try it and the conditions would make it more difficult. And given the exposure and technical nature of the climb I’m not sure if I’m looking for anything to make it harder.

People were throwing out ideas. I kind of wanted to go for a two day trip before the fourth but am glad in the end Dave only had Sunday because that gave me Saturday to decompress and rest a little. Dave had suggested a couple things on the Eastside near Leavenworth but after having three ticks on me this year I opted for ‘not the Eastside’ and we headed up to Highway 20 to try Crater Mountain.

Years ago while pursuing the hundred highest I was right under Crater Mountain and sat with John while Anne and Eileen scrambled up it. I was kicking myself a little for not doing it then. But since it was supposed to be mostly a trail to the top it seemed like a good peak to try on an iffy weather weekend. Mike R. decided to join us last minute, after having done Forbidden not two days before. I sent out word that we should me at Dave-o-clock in the morning and we had a plan. I got up at 4am so that I could leave the house at 4.40am and be at the Brickyard at 5.00am. As Kyle was getting onto the freeway I got a message from Mike saying he’d overslept his alarm and was running late. Fine. I’d have time to stop at Starbucks for breakfast and some lunch goodies. Not five minutes after that Dave sent me a message saying he was running late as well. Lord. The one day I manage to get up and am running on time no one else is!

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So Dave and I met at the Brickyard and I loaded my gear into his car. It seemed like it’d be more efficient if we drove up to the Ashway Park and Ride to meet Mike because then we’d be able to grab my Starbucks and Mike hopefully wouldn’t have to drive as far. But before we got going Kyle and I gave Dave his stickers that we had made for him. There’s a caution symbol and it says ‘One Speed Dave’ on the sticker. A nod to how fast Dave is and how many times I have asked him over the years if he knows what the world mosey means. The gift given we quickly hopped in the car and headed up to meet Mike. It all seemed to work out fine. We then switched our gear into Mike’s car and headed off towards Crater Mountain. As we passed through Everett it started to rain. There was a part of my tired brain that registered that I hadn’t brought rain pants, and another part of my brain that just didn’t care enough to worry. I could wear a trash bag if I needed to. Sometime after Darrington I fell asleep draped across Mike’s pack which was in the back seat. I came to as we were nearing Newhalem and Mike said he needed a break from driving and Dave needed a break for the bathroom. Once we got going again Mike took the back seat and Dave drove (Dave had to drive because both of these gents drive manual cars) and I sat in the front to help navigate and make sure he was fine to drive. Mike managed to catch a few Z’s in the back but it didn’t take us much more than thirty or forty minutes to reach the trailhead from there. At least the weather was looking a little more promising on the crest.

Fortunately we had day packs so they weren’t too heavy. We debated on bringing a 30m cord just in case but the little information I skimmed over said it was mostly a trail to the top so we opted not to bring it. But on the way out I started to second guess that choice. It always seems to be that when you don’t bring it you need it. So when I was pondering out loud if we should carry our crampons Dave said that it’s whenever he doesn’t bring them that he needs them. So we opted to carry the crampons and ice axes with us. So naturally we didn’t need them in the least. We got moving by 8.30am. As we started off from the trailhead I took a picture for my time reference later and noticed that someone had left a book underneath the trailhead sign titled ‘The Hard Way’. Foreshadowing? I laughed a little and included the book in the photo.

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I remembered to turn on the GPS as we left the trailhead. I’m getting better about remembering that! And Mike helped give me some user tips before we started which was nice because I’m not very tech savvy. The trail is very clear and easy to follow as it works across a large bridge. After that we followed the trail to where there is a branch in the trail (to the right for Chancellor and to the left for Jackita). We prematurely took the left fork and as we gained a couple hundred feet I realized that we seemed to be on the wrong side of the river and we quickly checked the GPS and map and realized we had gotten off onto the wrong trail. So we backtracked back to the main trail. It is the Jackita trail (or just staying straight on the path) that leads up to Crater. You’ll know it’s the correct trail because shortly after the first bridge you’ll pass an old cabin and cross a second bridge. It is at the end of this second bridge that the trail T’s. We turned left which, looked unmaintained and not strictly obvious, and followed that to where there was a sign in box and a trail sign. Dave signed us in because he follows the rules! And I had a quick party separation. After that we didn’t take many stops unless it was to grab a quick sip or snack.

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There was quite a bit of blow down on the lower section and some brushy areas but the higher we climbed the conditions seemed to improve for the most part. There were still a few blow downs but mostly the trail was clear and it good shape. We reached the fork in the trail at about 5,200ft and took the left fork to head towards the lake. Someone noted that this was a ‘camp spot’. I tend to think it wouldn’t be a good camp spot. You could probably get a tent there but I don’t think it’d be on even ground and you’d be right in the middle of the trail. It was here at this fork that we encountered our first couple of mosquitos. I hadn’t brought any bug spray but luckily Dave was thinking and brought a small bottle. I didn’t put any on here but I did at the next stop a little closer to the lake after I got a few noticeable bites. We stopped just below the lake at an obvious camp spot. Made more obvious by the fact that someone was camping there. We reached this at about 11.30am and we were talking loudly about who was camped there and whether or not they went up Crater Mountain. I said something to the effect of ‘Why else would you camp here?’ and then we heard rustling in the tent! Opps! A guy poked his head out while we stopped and had a quick bite. We couldn’t have stayed for more than fifteen minutes before heading off. We accidentally took a trail that lead straight to the river (coming from the lake above) which we learned was most likely for accessing water. So we backtracked the 50 feet to the trail and continued heading uphill towards the lake proper. You cross the ‘river’ at the outlet proper. There were some small logs and branches laid down to walk across.

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We crossed over and followed the trail as it wound around the south side of the lake and then headed up towards the ridge. It was here at about 5,700ft or so that there were intermittent patches of snow. It stayed spotty up the ridge but the ridge is very moderate so it was easy to make a way up even when we strayed off the trail onto the snow. The wind picked up on the ridge and it started trying to mist on us. I was willing the weather to cooperate in my mind, but part way up we had to stop to put rain jackets to protect against the wind. And since we were stopped we put on our helmets. The clouds kept Crater mostly shrouded but it wasn’t too hard to follow the ‘trail’ around to the west side of the mountain. Just below the ridge I recognized a rocky spot where John and I had sat down one sunny day many years ago to wait for Anne and Eileen to summit Crater. I felt like I could see the ghosts of the past. I could see how sunny it was and where we were sitting and almost hear our conversation from all that time ago. Circumstances in stark contrast to the cloudy, very nearly sprinkling day we were experiencing.

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There were spots where it would be difficult for people not used to picking up scramble trails to follow but for the most part it was a ‘follow the path of least resistance’ type of deal. There were numerous cairns on the trail as well. At around 7,600ft it became more of a scramble in my mind. There were some loose sections so parties should be careful about rock fall. It certainly wasn’t the worst I’ve ever seen but it was loose enough caution should be used. So as you approach the first rocky outcropping along the ridge the trail tends left (west towards Ross Lake) and traverses under the outcropping until it intersects a rib. Here we turned right, uphill, and scrambled up a dirty gulley. At the top of this gulley there was a solid rock section that was somewhat slabby but was broken up enough that it was easy to scramble along that. Dave and Mike scrambled to the left of me in a dirty loose section. I recommend the rock. If it was wet, however, the dirt would likely be preferable. We topped out on an ‘arm’ of sorts looking into a large upper ‘amphitheater’ of sorts. We turned left (north) and walked/scrambled down a ramp and around to get into it. It was here we came across our first spray painted yellow signs on the rocks. This ‘amphitheater’ or sorts looks imposing at first but careful looking around can limit the route to 3/4th class scrambling. It looks like from the center of this theater some groups went right to the eastern side and attempted to cut up and back to the center via a ramp. We opted to go left to the western most side (saw a cairn this way) and then cut back right on a ledge to towards the center. From here we used a series of ramps and gullies staying mostly in the center or to the left (west side) of mountain. There are, I’d estimate, about 300ft of 3rd to 4th class. There was a little exposure. It wasn’t extreme but a fall would likely result in injury or worse. But again it is only for a short 300ft vertical of ‘trail’. After that, at about 7,900ft the grade begins to lessen and we ‘topped’ out in a cloud on what I thought was the summit but turned out to be a false summit with some old lookout looking debris as well.

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So in the cloud, which occasionally snowed lightly, we walked over to the summit. From the false summit the trail is once again obvious and we followed that over to the true summit which is clear due to the 7 foot pole sticking out of the ground. Hooray! We had started to get worried on the way up because of the light snow and moisture on the scramble portion. We didn’t stay too long on the summit. Dave briefly looked around for a summit register, which was never found, had a quick bite and snapped some photos before packing up to leave. But even in those fifteen minutes or so I started to get cold and had to pull out my primaloft jacket. It was actually good that I put it on because the wind was really blowing up high (and most of the way down the ridge) and it remained chilly. Scrambling down proved to be easier than I’d expected.  Fortunately it wasn’t really wet. There were a couple sections with a little bit of shist which would have been unpleasant when wet, but nothing too serious. We also encountered two serious eye bolts that had been cemented into the route. I suspect at one point there may have been a hand line or cable for the lookout workers.

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Once back on the ‘trail’ of the ridge we were able to cruise out pretty fast. Crater teased us occasionally by showing us blue sky and then being engulfed in clouds again. At one point Dave said somethingabout going back up to try and get the views to which Mike and I both said it was unlikely we were going to get up there and get better views. So Dave said he’d just come back some time to get the better views. Then he asked us if we wanted to scramble over to the second lookout which was another two thousand feet of gain from the lake. Mike and I again, were the naysayers and opted to get back home at a reasonable hour. We stopped at the lake and had a quick snack though and that’s when the controversial topics began. We started on gender in the mountains and worked our way to politics. Kept it interesting on the descent. But both Dave and Mike are too nice to allow it to get out of hand so I think we were safe from everyone but me!

As we passed the tent just below the lake I yelled ‘Housekeeping’ just for fun! We didn’t really stop for the rest of the descent. There were a lot of switchbacks going down and it seemed to take a while to lose all of that elevation we’d gained. I kept watching our progress in comparison to the ridge opposite us and then finally the trees near the river to see how close the tops were getting. We made it back to the cars around 6.10pm. Mike had chips in the car. Hooray! We didn’t really stop for food on the way back but in Oso I called for a mandatory car break. I felt like Mike was really getting tired. He said he wasn’t but no harm in a quick stop at the Oso gas station and general store. It was actually really nice! Mike got licorice ice cream which turned his lips black and Dave got an absolutely massive caramel ice cream cone! I nibbled on the salt and vinegar chips. So all in all a healthy stop. And then Dave switched to the driver’s seat and we rode home listening to some Louis CK skits. All in all a successful trip.

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Passes/Permits –

Requires a Forest Parking Pass.

Trail Conditions –

Quite a few downed trees and little brushy on the lower section but overall in good condition.

Objective Hazards –

Little 3rd possibly 4th class scrambling for about 300ft.

Gear –

Helmets, crampons, ice axe. Only used our helmets. Aka ‘brain buckets’ per Dave code.

Water –

A river in one spot on the way up and a lake at about 5,800ft. Above that it is snow melt or run off at the moment.

Animals –

Nothing! Excepting creatures of the humanoid persuasion.

Bugs –

A few mosquitos.

Flora and Fauna –

A few ground flowers but not much is blooming right now.

Lessons Learned   

  • Time to bring bug repellent once more.
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Mt. Baker (June 4-5, 2016)

Mt. Baker via Easton (10,781ft)

June 4-5, 2016

 

Linsey Warren

Kyle Finnegan

Andre G.

Laurel T.

 

-- Day 1 --

Meet Brickyard P&R – 6.15am

Arrive Trailhead – 9.00am

Depart Trailhead –9.30am

Railroad Grade – 12.00pm

Summit camp –8.15pm

 

-- Day 2 --

Rise and shine – 4.45am

Summit – 5.30am

Railroad Grade (top) – 10.00am

Arrive Trailhead – 1.00pm

Arrive Brickyard P&R – 4.00pm

**All times are estimates as camera time may have been incorrect.

One month after being on Baker with John and Duncan for Colfax and Sherman I found myself back on the mountain but this time with Kyle, Andre and Laurel. I went back and forth on which route to take. I’m quite familiar with the Coleman side now and I believe it is technically shorter but the difference between the routes didn’t seem too substantial and so I opted for the Easton glacier so that I could see another face of the mountain. Literally and figuratively.

The weather was shaping up to be perfect, albeit a little hot. I sent out a pre-climb email with basic gear distribution and links to two different weather forecasts and The Mountaineers basic route description. We met at the Brickyard, ‘aka Boneyard’ when Dave and I are meeting, at 6.40am. It was supposed to be 6.30am but we were running a little late because I couldn’t find the Northwest Forest Pass at the last minute. Fortunately for all Laurel had an America the Beautiful Pass which I just learned this weekend can be used in place of a Northwest Forest Pass. Although I asked everyone numerous times whether or not they thought it’d work. Andre told me he read it on two sites to which I asked “Reputable sites?” Everyone was ready to accept it worked, I was just nervous since the parking fine can be pretty hefty. But fortunately it did work, and now I’m seriously considering an American the Beautiful Pass!

Overall we made good time getting there, with one quick stop at the Starbucks in Sedro Wooley for a late breakfast. We followed Hwy 20 East until just after *Hamilton and then turned left onto Mt. Baker Road. We followed the road for a ways before turning left onto Forest Service Road 12. There was one sign that indicated Forest Service Road 12 and then after turning onto it there was minimal signage until the fork in the road for Road 12 and Road 13. We took the right fork and continued up FSR 13 to its terminus at the trailhead. The parking lot was full so we had to drive a little ways down the road (not too far) and park on the side of the road. There were lots of guiding vans among the numerous other cars. If there was any doubt that it was going to be busy that settled it for me.

As we were heading off out of the trailhead we ran into a group of individuals who looked like they were there to day hike and they asked if we were going up the mountain and if this was the start of the route to climb Mt. Baker. I always enjoy interacting with people who are curious about the mountains; who are exploring a new place and excited to hear more. It always seems so positive and encouraging. But perhaps that’s just my passion meeting their interest in a perfect combination. The trail is straight forward and looks like underneath the snow it would be very obvious but we started hitting patches of snow about 300/400ft above the car. They were patchy so it wasn’t too bad but they were melting fast and had lots of opportunities to punch through to a hollow space below. Once we arrived at the river crossing I remembered reading something about a ‘’dangerous river crossing’’. Oops. Spring melt off. A guided group had gone across not long before us so that was a good indicator of a place to cross because at first glance it looked like we may have to take our boots off and wade. I didn’t see any obvious rock hopping spots. We ended up going uphill from where the trail intersects the river about 60 lateral feet and hopping rocks to get to a middle rocky section in the center of the river. From there we walked across two tiny logs laid next to each other pinned against a tree. The logs looked like they were barely able to hold our weight and were partially underwater in a couple places. The lovely guide woman across the way gave us encouraging smiles and pointed the way which was very kind of her. I went across first and only got a little wet but nothing substantial that seemed to penetrate the boots. Success. Laurel followed using one of my poles and then the guys followed immediately after. We didn’t stop we just continued across the way and upwards. The trail wasn’t immediately obvious and given the way we came up I think I inadvertently followed a stream up a short ways before intersecting the trail. It was just making it through the washed out river section. After this we encountered several more sections of snow and trail before reaching all snow as the trees opened up. The railroad grade rib was melted out on top so you could follow the trail but it was snow to walk across to get to it. We stopped shortly before the railroad grade in the shade of a lovely group of trees on a melted out platform that looks like it was made for someone to pitch a tent. We all had a snack, water and took in the views. Another group of two stopped on the other side of the trees and we invited them over to join us on our really lovely flat platform. We briefly talked with them before setting out again. We followed the snow to the base of the railroad grade and then took the trail up to the top and followed the trail up. The sun was really hot at this point and just looking at the glacier filled me with a sense of foreboding. It was going to be cookin’ hot on the glacier. 

As we made our way up the railroad grade we saw two marmots just below the trail having a marmot fight. It was kind of sad because they were making sad squeaking noises but at the same time a little funny because they were holding out their little paws and batting at each other. The marmots looked more ragged than other marmots I’d seen. It was kind of sad. Hope it’s just them coming out into spring and their coats and health improve. We briefly stopped for a little bit of water for Andre along the railroad section (last bit of running water I saw until below the headwall). Just as we made our way off the railroad section to the first set of tents and the lower campsite Kyle’s leg started hurting him. He thought it was a mix of a cramp and a charley-horse. I admit to being frustrated at this point. We hadn’t gained that much elevation in relation to how much we still had to go and it made me nervous. He was able to pull it together though after we had a short stop. Since we stopped we also roped up. In hindsight that was premature. We could have gone another several hundred feet without roping up and not been on the glacier.

 From the lower camp there is a rib that heads upwards the glacier. On the left side is the Easton Glacier and on the right side it’s a snowfield (though I suspect later in the year it may melt out). We followed the rib closely but stayed predominately on the left hand side until just before the last rock outcropping visible and then transitioned onto the glacier. It looked like a more moderate grade with footprints. Though I did note that another team was heading straight down on the left hand side of the rib and that looked like an easier path than the winding one we had taken crossing to and fro on the rib. The glacier is in good condition over all. There were some sections where crevasses where visible but nothing that wasn’t easily stepped over. In a couple spots the snow was melting out and crevasses were starting to become exposed underneath the path but again nothing that isn’t avoidable at the moment.

We did not need crampons this late in the day, it was quite soft. We also just clipped in with butterfly knots and eights on a bight on the ends so that we could unclip and switch positions as necessary which was nice when it came to switching it up for step kicking. There were no clear ‘uphill’ steps because it was getting on in the afternoon and lots of people had already descended obscuring and obliterating most uphill steps by all appearances. So for the most part it was almost easier to step to the side of the very large path and kick our own steps. After a while I got tired and passed off the mantle to Andre to kick steps and after Andre got tired Laurel kicked steps for a bit.

We passed another team on the descent and then saw a paraglider coming off the top of Baker! The team said that he was hoping to get as close to Bellingham as possible. How cool! And I tried to wait out having to go to the bathroom. I really didn’t want to stop until I was sure I could fully go. When that moment did come I took a party separation and thankfully it was a warm day because it took some time. We had a nice break complete with food and water. We also took in the rest of the route. Another party that had been descending mentioned something about an avalanche above us but I’d filed that away as unlikely to be a real concern. But when we got higher I could see what he was talking about. There was a slab avalanche not far from the boot path (the boot path was nearly 50 wide as everyone plunged stepped down and made their own tracks). The crown looked like it ranged from half a foot to a foot in height (estimate) and was fairly large. It didn’t look like it would have been deadly but it did end near a crevasse and that could be deadly! And as I looked around I noticed that it wasn’t an isolated incident. There were lots of slab avalanches all at the same elevation and there was one right below the headwall that was very large. The avalanches all took place at about the same elevation. I estimated that to be a bout 8,800ft.

After this break I had to remind myself that even though it didn’t feel like we were going fast we were in fact making fairly good time and we still had the rest of daylight hours to reach the summit which seemed reasonable. I took off leading and in an effort to avoid the other steps veered slightly left following an old set of footprints straight uphill. As I got higher I noticed there was a fairly big hole on the path. I suspected a crevasse where someone had punched through, walking a little closer, that suspicion was confirmed and I could see the indent in the snow moving laterally across the mountain and slightly downward. I moved downward along it and was nervous about crossing over it since someone else had punched through. I went quite a distance to the left and tried to sink my pole in several times before crossing. But it’s hard to tell exactly how wide that crossing is. At any rate it stayed intact and everyone made it across without incident. We then continued uphill to the crumbling gates near the crater rim before the headwall. I had told everyone we’d take another break at the rim. As we neared the rock outcroppings I could hear the sound of running water. I thought perhaps it was the crumbling pieces of the outcroppings but as we got closer realized it was in fact water running over the outcroppings and it was causing rocks to crumble off with it. There was a bit of a debris field around the base, most of it was baseball size or smaller. There rim ice was melting fast.

We stopped just below the headwall to the north side of one of the outcroppings near the moat around it to try and enjoy a little bit of shade. I had a hat on and over that I had my buff pulled up so it used the brim to pull out the buff fabric in an attempt to shield the sides of my face but I still felt like I was getting sun. It wasn’t much but it was a little cooler. The boot path up was a lot more consolidated here as people stayed mostly within the path to go up and down the headwall and the path cut nearly right up the center. As we moved along towards the center in a slowly rising traverse my gut was a little nervous. This slope was of a similar angle to the ones that had avalanched and it was still hot out. And according to other parties on the mountain they had avalanched this day. I didn’t like the idea of going up the exposed center, especially as the run out was directly towards crevasses so I posed the question to Andre, Kyle and Laurel. “Do you want to follow the steps up the potentially riskier but certainly easier center or would you like to take what I believe is a safer route up the side which will involve us kicking our own steps?” The consensus was to take the side up. I think in my heart and mind I knew it was wiser but I wasn’t sure I wanted to kick steps all the way up. I believe that these slab avalanches were a direct result of the snow that had fallen a week before (nearly a foot was expected when I’d totaled up the days leading up to and on the weekend previously) combined with the extreme heat of this next weekend.

It was soft at this point and going up my feet were sinking quite far and it was a significant amount of effort in the steep hill to pull my feet out far enough to be able to kick another step at a reasonable height. I had to stop to breathe a few times on the way up. I tried to stay as close to the right side ‘ridge’ as possible where the snow was intermixed with rocky sections. I was hoping to get to the snowy rocky section and walk along that but as I got close to it I discovered there were a series of large and fairly deep moats around the rocks. So I marked the area with a big X and yelled back to Kyle to be careful as he was next up on the line. He did get a little close though and had a hard time moving through that section and got tired out punching through some of my steps. So we briefly stopped and Andre traded places with Kyle so the rope went me, Andre, Kyle and then Laurel. So Kyle could have the chance of someone else reinforcing the steps. I started tiring out a little bit towards the top. Not that I couldn’t keep walking uphill but kicking the steps and having them break out was getting exhausting.  But once we started to crest out on the top the snow firmed up a little bit and the grade relented so it was much easier travelling. That and we could walk in other people’s footprints once again. I think that everyone thought it was going to be a very obvious ‘summit’ after the headwall but there is a low grade uphill walk to get to the flat spot right before the true summit and at that point I think everyone was spent. I briefly unclipped from the rope and had Andre coil it to himself so that the other three could keep walking slowly and I could go scout out where we could put our tents. I didn’t want to drag them around looking for the flattest spot. We got up as the sun was low on the horizon and it was absolutely gorgeous. Even at the base of the headwall you could see the sound reflecting golden and the islands standing stark against that golden color as dark dots. It was quite beautiful.

I dropped my pack and briefly waited but didn’t see anyone and then thought I better walk back to make sure everyone and everything was okay. As I got about twenty or so yards from where I dropped my pack I saw them cresting over the top and yelled that camp was literally right there and pointed. I walked back with them and immediately dropped my pack and started using my feet to pound out a platform for us to sleep. As I pounded out a platform for Kyle and me, I also encouraged everyone to have a donut. I had carried them up as a breakfast surprise but I thought that everyone looked a little bedraggled and could use a pick me up. I tried just using a shovel to flatten it but the snow underneath was too soft and shoveling it off and then stepping there made me sink in almost further. So I stomped out a platform and then used the shovel to level it. I encouraged everyone to change into dry clothes as we got the tents up and asked Andre if he could get their stove going so we could start melting water. Melting water for four thirsty people and their dinners was going to be time consuming. It was partway through setting our tent up and our gear thrown in the lovely massive vestibule (our first time using the Hilleberg Nallo GTS) when I heard Andre say something to the effect of the stove wouldn’t stay lit. Bugger! I was glad that Kyle and I got the MSR XGK the night before and briefly gave it a try before bringing it. Kyle was able to get it going and we were able to make dinners for everyone but not fast enough! Laurel had eaten her food before we could even heat the water and went to bed shortly after. I only briefly heated our Tasty Bites Indian packet and didn’t bother heating or opening the rice. Andre was the only one who needed the hot water to cook his Kathmandu Curry Backpackers Pantry meal. And once we got the water in it he used it to heat his toes and then went back to his tent. The next morning he said he fell asleep before he could really eat anything that night. So needless to say the night of star gazing and chatting I envisioned did not happen. I manned the stove for a bit and tried to melt a couple liters of water that night so we wouldn’t have a ton to melt the next morning. Kyle’s feet were freezing so I tried to warm a little water in a bottle to give to him for his feet and we crawled into our sleeping bags. I watched the sun set low and blood red over the horizon as I finished up in the vestibule. The huge ‘garage’ vestibule was awesome to just throw gear under. It may not have been strictly necessary on the calm, relatively warm night we spent on the summit but it was still nice. I was fairly cold for part of the night so Kyle gave me his primaloft jacket to lay under my waist. It was the waist area where the cold seemed to be seeping in the most. Otherwise wearing my primaloft jacket and placing my down jacket around my toes kept me very comfortable.

Overall it was a calm night outside and the tent didn’t make much noise but it didn’t seem overly calm on the inside! Kyle got up to go to the bathroom, then I got up to rummage around the vestibule for a snack and a drink, then I got up to go to the bathroom and then at sunrise the sounds of people’s feet crunching along near our tent woke us up. I poked my head out and realized that there were quite a few people on the summit already. I yelled over to Andre and Laurel to see if they were up and if they were if they wanted to get moving. We had set our alarms for 6.00/6.30am or so but decided since everyone was up anyways and there were people summiting we might as well get up as well. Plus, in the back of my mind I wanted to get down as soon as possible because it was going to be even hotter today and I really didn’t want to be baking on the glacier in the noon day sun. I started melting the water and pushing donuts again. I would have happily eaten the whole container of mini Mighty-O donuts but had allocated 2 for each person that morning and a hot chocolate if anyone wanted it.

It was difficult to get everything packed up because the tent was so big it took up nearly one third to half of my pack and I couldn’t put anything else in it until I packed up the tent so I had to leave my stuff in a pile while we unpacked the tent. That did seem to be the one downside – besides the weight, it’s packability is more challenging. Once we got everything mostly packed up I grabbed the camera off my bag and we started walking over. Kyle was trailing a little behind so from the summit I yelled at him to go back and get the GPS! I’d forgotten it when we made for the summit. Oops. It was crowded on the summit, and the true summit isn’t that big overall, and today it was snow covered so no register to sign. We didn’t stay long really. Just snapped a few shots of the group and individuals and then turned to head down. We grabbed our packs and roped up from where we had camped. I wasn’t strictly planning on roping up so soon but Andre had flaked the rope and it wasn’t going to add too much on to walk roped up. There’s something cool about walking along the top where the sides start to drop off. It’s a slow curve so you can’t tell immediately if it’s a real steep drop off or a mellow slope. The snow was fairly crunching so we were wearing our crampons down (we didn’t wear them over to the summit – except for Andre) as they weren’t necessary. Since we were just a four man rope team we were generally able to move past a couple of the larger teams. I would move fast and then stop to take a picture. I was trying to get different angles of Sherman and the nearby routes for future reference. Move fast, picture! Move fast, picture! I’d brought a couple ice screws and we had three pickets just in case the headwall was icy at any point and we needed to set an anchor to belay or rappel someone, but it was in primo conditions that morning. It was firm but with all the steps it was a veritable staircase down and with the bite of the crampons it felt pretty solid. We certainly all moved at different speeds and rope management was a little bit of an issue because the person in front was almost always directly below of the person above and if we kept moving the rope would coil near the lower person’s feet. I did see the rope get stepped on a few times and it broke my heart when I found a snag in the outer sheath. Overall I felt really solid on it, but Andre and Laurel didn’t seem as sure footed. We briefly stopped near the bottom of the headwall where the path traversed back over to the rim between the two rock outcroppings to take off a layer. We were still in the shade and there was no need for a jacket. It was a very quick stop as people were coming down the headwall above us and I didn’t want to let them pass us. We then took off and didn’t really stop until we were on the moderate glacier slopes lower (aside form one chapstick and sunscreen pit stop for me but I tried to do that as we walked). Funny enough, as I stopped to grab the chapstick from Kyle I found a chapstick in the snow! Ask and ye shall receive. I took off at a good clip on the way down but we were definitely working at different speeds on the rope. Eventually after seeing a couple trips and noting how the snow was really softening I called for a quick break, a snack and crampon removal. And after that I switched places with Kyle so he was at the front of the line in the hope that he’d set a more reasonable team pace than I was setting. But apparently without the crampons everyone was ready to run. We went a lot faster for the last bit. In fact I was forced to run several times to keep up. Kyle led us all the way back to the rib above the camp (aka the sea of tents) where we unroped so we could get a few glissades in. While we did that, Andre ran into a few of his Everett Mountaineer friends, which was good since he was hoping he’d get to say hi to a few. When we’d talked earlier he’d made it sound like he might want to stay and visit, but once we were there and the heat of the day was picking up it seemed like everyone just wanted to go down!

We’d talked about stopping under our shady tree spot again but ended up stopping partway down the railroad grade trail where there was a little stream exposed (where Andre had gotten water on the way up) and he obligingly filled a liter for everyone. Sweet cold nectar of the gods. I threw in a Blueberry Burst electrolyte packet in for fun. I’d been testing different electrolyte packets yesterday and today and overall I think this one was the best.

The sun was fully up at this point and I was desperate to get to the trees. It was getting hot. We took several breaks in the trees to sit down and cool off. No real rush as we were going to get out at a reasonable time. However, the river was running higher because it was later in the afternoon (second hot day in a row). So I initially thought that the thin logs we’d walked across previously had washed away, but after some looking I noticed that they were mostly underwater. Unh. We were almost back to the trailhead, so if our boots got a little wet so be it. Fortunately mine didn’t get too wet. Two other gents followed us across. And after that it was smooth sailing and quick work to get back to the cars. When we got there the car was in the sun so Kyle moved it to a shady spot so we could let it air out and cool off in the shade while we packed up our gear and changed our clothes. We made it back to the car at 12.30pm (ish) which was between the noon and one o’ clock time frame I thought we’d make it! Glad to know my mountain math is still fairly good. We opted not to stop for food on the way home, aside from one pit stop at the ‘Mercantile’ off of Hwy 20 to get some drinks, chips, and a scary sandwich for Andre. We made it home in good time. Hallelujah!

Passes/Permits

Requires a Forest Parking Pass. Alternatively we used an America the Beautiful Pass.

Trail Conditions

Still snow on the trail going up to the ‘railroad’ grade section of the trail but it was melting fast in this extreme heat.

Objective Hazards

Some crevasses (mostly snow covered) and one river crossing.

Gear

Helmets, crampons, ice axe, 60m 8.5mm rope, 3 pickets and 2 ice screws (never used), basic glacier gear.

Water

We came across a section of water along the ‘railroad’ grade section and also at the base of the Roman Headwall the snow on the rock pinnacle was melting and cascading water down. It’d be difficult to get but is a possibility.

Animals

Several marmots, a handful of chipmunks, and one graceful crow.

Bugs

Standard handful of spiders on the snow!

Flora and Fauna

Not much blooming yet with the snow.

Lessons Learned

  • More sunscreen!
  • Random note – I found an old silver ‘toilet kit’ on the glacier. Gross. It was essentially a silver Ziploc bag with lord knows what in it. It didn’t feel too heavy so I opted to carry it out but still. Nasty. Andre wanted me to look inside before throwing it away. Negative. I did not.

The red indicates our route up the Easton glacier and the orange indicates our way down. We took the red to stay close to the ridge to try and mitigate avalanche danger.

The red indicates our route up the Easton glacier and the orange indicates our way down. We took the red to stay close to the ridge to try and mitigate avalanche danger.

The red indicates the way up and the orange indicates the way down. A closer view of the headwall.

The red indicates the way up and the orange indicates the way down. A closer view of the headwall.

A look at the route up Sherman from the headwall. This is a more complete view of the route. Climbed a month prior.

A look at the route up Sherman from the headwall. This is a more complete view of the route. Climbed a month prior.


Robinson Mountain (June 11-12, 2011)

Robinson Mountain via SE Ridge (8,726ft)

June 11-12, 2011

 

Robinson1.jpg

Linsey Warren (leader)

Kyle Finnegan

 

-- Day 1 --

Car Camp

5.15 am – Rise and Shine

6.00 am – Hit the trail

10.30am – Camp (approximately 6,400ft)

11.00am – Begin heading up basin

3.00pm – Gain the ridge (8,000ft)

4.00pm – Summit

6.00pm – Camp

 

---Day 2---

7.30am – Rise and Shine

8.00am – Head down

11.30am – Arrive back at the trailhead!

 

 

Kyle and I ran a ton of errands the night before we headed out to the North Cascades – but we finally got on the road a little after 8.30pm from Bellevue. We made it to Mazama around midnight and pitched a tent at the Robinson Creek Trailhead (9 miles west of downtown Mazama). Trying to be a little more on the realistic side of things we set the alarm for 5.00am but when it went off it took an additional fifteen minutes to get moving! We hit the trail at approximately 6.00am and headed up the Robinson Creek trail. About a mile or so along the trail we came to a ‘log crossing’ that looks to be the beginning of a really solid bridge that hasn’t been finished. There are three logs placed parallel that run across the river – and as they are fairly close together they form a good solid and wide base. Immediately after this there is a good camp spot! Really flat, shady area! But alas, we kept going! We hiked for about another mile until we crossed over Beauty Creek on a lovely bridge. Just after the bridge on your right (approximately 60-75ft) there is a decently obvious climber’s trail that begins to switchback uphill.

The hill up from Beauty Creek was covered in glacier lilies and was quite beautiful! The going was pretty straight forward but there was no obvious trail. Occasionally, we would stumble across what looked like small game trails but generally we just headed straight up running parallel to the creek coming down from the tarn. Just above snow level, at about 6,400ft we decided to ditch the heavy gear and set up camp. I found a decently level spot between some trees and we pitched the tent. I didn’t level the ground because it seemed okay – and of course that would come back to bite us later!! We grabbed some water and some food and headed uphill. It was slow going and quite hot! There was no shade in the basin and we kicked steps the whole way up! Although the ground was relatively firm it didn’t stop up for doing the occasional posthole up to our hips! We eventually made the ridge and the going was a lot easier up on the ridge. There was not as much snow and the scree was relatively stable and made for quicker going.

The east side of the ridge had some bigger cornices so we stayed well away from that! But the ridge seemed to be easier going because it was rockier and when we got off onto the snow patches they were unpredictably deep in some spots. We made it to the base of the ‘false summit’ in good time and saw the class 4 scramble route. It is a little exposed as a fall could result in a decent size tumble on either side (approximately 400ft to the east). I went ahead and traversed the little snowy col/ridge over to the scramble. The rock was fairly straight forward but there were one or two sections of rock that were covered in snow that were slightly trickier. The snow covering a couple section was very powdery and hard to make good purchase in – but that was only in one or two spots. I also walked carefully along the top of the scramble since there was snow covering the rocks there and I wanted to be careful that I didn’t puncture through a cornice or thin snow. The last bit of scramble to the summit was straightforward! I tagged the summit and down climbed the false summit and headed back down the ridge with Kyle. We were both ready to be at camp. When we got to the top of the basin we traversed over to a clean line and plunged down,  glissading closer to the bottom.

After that we followed our footsteps back into camp. We melted some water and heated it up for our sleeping bags as our boots and socks were soaking wet!! Luckily for us we had brought a new Mountain House meal along, the ‘Chicken Salad’ one that only requires 10oz of cold water mixed in. So we ate that and some of our leftover snacks and called it good. We probably should have heated up the other Mountain House but crawling into a sleeping bag was just too tempting! During the night we slide a little downwards as it wasn’t quite level and condensation built up in the single wall tent because I forgot to open up the air flow zips! Opps! But fortunately we were able to get up and going and the weather held Sunday morning. The way down was relatively straight forward and we just followed our original tracks. All the streams and creeks seemed to be running quite high – but they didn’t pose any real objective hurdles. When we got back to within a mile of camp we ran into a group of day hikers who told us they’d seen a rattlesnake a little ways down the trail and that they’d marked the spot with three X’s so we’d know to look out. Very kind – but we didn’t see anything! The cars were lovely – but even better was the tasty sandwich and fresh bread from the Mazama store! Estimated 6,400ft gain and 13 miles.

 

Conditions/ Objective Hazards –

Snow conditions seemed fairly solid although there was evidence of pas sluffs and slides. Some big cornices on the ridge should be avoided. The class 4 scramble up the false summit was a little trickier with very powdery snow concealing a few harder sections – but passable.

Trail Conditions –

Clear up to about 5,000ft and then there are sections of snow but they are passable and the trail is still fairly straight forward. Just after crossing the creek (which intersects Beauty Creek) we headed uphill towards the tarn. This clear terrain was fairly easy going and there were several game trails on it that made for good going too. At about 6,200ft we hit snow again and from then on up to 8,000ft (start of the ridge after the basin) and intermittently after that we were kicking steps.

Bugs –  

A few – saw a couple mosquitoes but nothing biting.

Water –

Was available up until about 6,000ft when the river became mostly covered with snow. The tarn marked on the map is completely covered. There were a few sections of melt off flowing over rocks up high and sections where we could hear the water running under us – but not a lot of readily accessible water after 6,000ft.

Animals –

Lots of deer!! We saw some larger mammal tracks but couldn’t tell what they belonged to.

Gear –

Helmet, poles and snowshoes – although we did not use the snowshoes.


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Looking up the basin at approximately 6,600ft

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	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}   After reaching the top of the basin a look at the route along the SE ridge

After reaching the top of the basin a look at the route along the SE ridge

Big & West Craggy (August 5-6, 2010)

Big Craggy (8,470ft) and West Craggy (8,366ft)

August 5-6, 2010

Linsey Warren

Kyle Finnegan

 

-- Day 1 --

Craggies1.png

1.15pm – Leave Copper Glance Lake TH

7pm – Summit of Big Craggy

8.15pm – Camp on the Craggy Col

 

-- Day 2 --

6.30am – Rise and shine!

7.00am – Leave Col Camp

7.54am – Summit West Craggy

10.40am -  Base of Craggy Col

1.15pm – Arrive Copper Glance Lake TH

 

We left the trailhead around 1.15pm after we finally found it! It took us a while since we thought we were on the Eightmile Road and were following it for a ways when it turned out we’d missed the turn off and were on Thirty-Mile Road. A good way to know if you’re on the right road is to take the left hand turn marked only as road 1530. It almost immediately turns to a gravel road – and that’s the one you want! We accidently stayed on Thirty-Mile which is paved the whole way. We actually ran into a County work force. Kyle and I laughed and felt like we’d stumbled across a scene from ‘O Brother Where Art Thou?’ when we saw the stripped uniforms laboring on the side of the road.

We got going and the trail was solid. Easy going. The book says to veer right after the trail crosses Copper Creek and so we literally did and bushed whacked to the base of Big Craggy. The bush whack wouldn’t have been so bad had it not been for the mosquitoes. We passed a small pond (not marked on the map) before going up and to the scree. We hit scree around 4pm and realized we’d need more water soon and the only visible water was a small lake below us (immediately SE of Big Craggy – but not marked on the map). Although it appeared most mountains in the area still had snow on the N sides and so we hoped we’d find some run off and if not carry over to the ridge between Craggies and make camp and decide what to do. Luckily we came across a patch of snow – not so fortunately there was no stream to pump and Kyle was really needing water – so I pulled the stove out and we melted enough to drink and mixed it with 50% snow. I had forgot a bottle so I was trying to be extra cautious and conserve. When we reached the “summit ridge” on the E side there were more patches of snow but still no real run off that could be filtered. Quick summit shots and a pika later we went to descend the WSW tending ridge. But in spots it was difficult to follow and wasn’t really helpful on the descent – just on the traverses. So it was a good marker, but it didn’t make the descent a ton easier and the route was quite clear. There wasn’t any snow in the middle of the ridge (approximately 7550ft) – a few spots on the N side a little lower. But we decided to make camp since we’d felt a few sprinkles and there was thunder and occasional lightening to the S. Made camp in a really nice spot between a tree and a rock (so pretty sheltered) and pretty flat. Kyle has no idea how lucky we got!! Could hear things moving all night. Finally I woke Kyle up and he said he hadn’t heard anything – he looked outside the tent and said he didn’t see anything but later checked again and saw a goat wandering around. Lots of tracks in the area lead me to believe they’d been poking around. The lightning flashes lasted all night.

Looking down from the West Craggy’s high ridge –the ridge between Craggies.

Looking down from the West Craggy’s high ridge –the ridge between Craggies.

We got up around 6.30am and had a snack before we left around 7am. I had our food and water to consolidate gear – and I had the smaller pack. We traversed the ridge on the S side below the ‘top’. At one point we climbed to the top of the ridge for a better vantage point and realized we’d made more work for ourselves because there is a ‘cleft’ in the ridge – which drops about 30/40 feet and must be descended to go around. After that it is relatively straight forward – traversing W and up aiming for a notch in the high ridge. After having gained that notch it is a really quick jaunt to the summit traversing the W side of West Craggy which is a relative gentle, albeit expansive, scree slope. We reached the summit around 7.54am. I was a little concerned about how hazy the air had been all day. It looked like smoke to the S and NW. The descent went well – although Kyle knocked a big rock down! We packed up camp quick and descended immediately off the ridge.

Lower down the SE route.

Lower down the SE route.

Saw goat tracks, but not human, so I’m guessing we took a little less of a standard route. We came down between the two small lakes (again not on the map but located at the top of Copper Creek and about 200/400 vertical feet down). We pumped water and tried to take a quick break (mercifully free of mosquitoes but the ants, ticks and bees were enough motivation to move. And in order to avoid all the bushwhacking we stayed closer to the base of a ridge. Eventually, I knew we’d have to do a little and we delved in. Kyle first because I scream when I get the big full body webs on me. And of course the mosquitoes came back full force once we entered the moister tree region. So Kyle got to hear my constant – move faster!! I don’t want to get bit! We came out right by the lower ‘pond’ marked on the Copper Lake Trail. Flushed with success and over the mosquitoes we made good time on the trail. Back to the cars around 1.30pm.

 

Conditions/ Objective hazards –

Rock fall and loose rocks. Overall minimal exposure though.

Trail Conditions –

When used, good and clear. Off trail, cross country was primarily scree.

Bugs -

Yes. Mosquitoes around the creek and bushwhack,  but other than that not too bad.

Water –

Above the lakes it is only available in small patches of snow (didn’t see anything ‘pumpable’.)

Animals -

Not many! A goat, a pika and a few chipmunks.