Should have heeded the weatherman’s prediction of a “Super El Nino” or the “Blob” parked offshore or whatever it was that ruined winter this year. A couple good weeks of pow north of the 49th Parallel in December and maybe only a handful of decent days since then. And this despite the wintry mayhem that has crippled the Eastern US for much of 2015 so far. On the other hand, it has been ideal conditions for winter climbing lately, which obvioulsy doesn't help the ski crowd very much. Looking out my window the sun is shining still, the trees are budding, birds are chirping and spring has clearly arrived. But anyway, the itch must still be scratched so here’s to another season of lowered expectations and relief by unexpected means.
Friday, February 6, 2015
Mission Ridge mtb, October 2014
Had an amazing day riding Mission Ridge with Tom back in October. Gorgeous views with the turning larches, sunshine and being above the cloud deck for much of the ride! Best of all, we skipped the long grueling ascent by car shuttling directly to the upper trailhead. Unfortunately the floury trail conditions we were expecting had turned to mud with a consistency of wet cement, adding considerable challenge to the steep downhill sections of trail. Knee pads are advised!
This and nearby Devils Gulch are both part of the Mission/Tronsen Ridge trail system. Having ridden Devils Gulch twice now, it was great to experience its evil twin. Long sweeping turns, wide open pine-needle singletrack through old growth and sharp switch backs make the upper portion, which is shared by both, an exhilarating ride. The trail then climbs just past the junction and is tedious at times before reaching an aesthetic stretch along the crest of a sharp ridge. A final downhill section merges again with the Devils Gulch trail towards the end. Then up to the top of #2 Canyon and down to my car in Wenatchee, which we drove back up to retrieve Tom’s car. The verdict is still out as to which of the two is best, so try both and decide for yourself…
Friday, January 30, 2015
Burroughs Mountain - Burroughs Mtn Trail, October 2014
Of the developed visitor areas in Mount Rainier National Park, Sunrise is the highest that can be reached by vehicle and is perhaps also the most scenic. Unlike Paradise for instance, Sunrise is more set back from Mount Rainier and being that it’s situated on the northeast side of the mountain means that on a clear day the enormous Emmons and Winthrop Glaciers are on full display. This and nearby features such as the Willis Wall Ice Cliff, Liberty Cap Glacier, and Liberty Ridge, which bisects the two encompasses the most dramatic and heavily glaciated faces of the mountain, or anywhere else in the lower 48 states for that matter.
Sunrise is not commonly used as a starting point for those seeking Rainier’s summit, which explains why I’ve not come this way up until now. But having sighted a mostly snowbound Sunrise from nearby Cowlitz Chimney back in June, I felt that it was about time I had a look-see. Months went by and finally with nothing else to do on a sunny Friday in October, I made a beeline for Sunrise. With no more than a week or two before the Park Service would be shuttering the facilities in preparation for winter; I set out on the trail headed for Burroughs Mountain. Burroughs is the dominant, sprawling massif west of Sunrise, and at 7828-ft it’s also the highest. An easy hike over a lunar-like tundra landscape leads to the summit of “3rd Burroughs” and from where a sensational view of the mighty Tahoma and her glaciers can be had.
Friday, January 16, 2015
Sawtooth Ridge - Star & Courtney (std), September 2014
Taking advantage of the great autumn weather, Dan and I ventured into the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness for some mindless peakbagging and to enjoy the Fall colors. As an area we hadn’t explored yet, I present to you the culmination of Sawtooth Ridge! While nearby Oval Peak is higher, Star Peak is the highest point on the 20+ mile long Sawtooth Ridge proper and according to Paul’s SummitPost page, “…aesthetically, [Oval] is nothing compared to its neighbor two miles to the southwest: 8,690-ft Star Peak.” Well then, ‘nuff said!
The 9.5 miles along West Fork Buttermilk Creek Trail to Fish Creek Pass went by much faster than anticipated, allowing us to nab both Courtney Peak and Star Peak on the first day. After a night spent at Star Lake, we set out on a half-hearted attempt on Oval via Buttermilk Ridge. Up and over Pk 8267 then on to the summit of Pt. 7978, at which point we aborted the climb. We’d grown weary of the endless talus and boulder hopping and motivation for the ascent of Oval’s long South Ridge, which features more of the same talus tedium, was sorely lacking. After a long break we descended the slope south of Pt. 7978 only to stumble upon an obscure and unmaintained trail that parallels the W. Fork Buttermilk Trail. We were able to follow this to the junction with the main trail closely east of Fish Creek Pass, and then returned to the trailhead for the long drive back to Seattle. With reasonably good access and short, casual climbing routes on a cluster of lonely peaks near the eastern edge of the range, Star, Courtney (even Oval) make for ideal late-season objectives with stunning 360-degree summit panoramas.
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
McGregor BM - Rainbow Lake Trail, September 2014
Foiled by poor weather the day I was to climb Mount McGregor, all I have are these shots captured the previous afternoon after having established camp. The Sandalee Glacier cradled on the peak’s north-facing flank was not meant to be, so the pass at the head of South Fork Bridge Creek Valley (Rainbow Lake Trail) and nearby McGregor BM (a.k.a. East Summit of McGregor) will have to suffice for now. More often climbed via the Mt. McGregor trail on the less appealing south side, McGregor is an attractive and remote-feeling peak with outstanding views overlooking Lake Chelan and the Stehekin Valley. A non-technical ridge traverse from the East Summit, gaining the upper glacier for the finish to the true summit seems possible and would probably be preferable to the brush bash on approach to the base of the Sandalee Glacier.