Last Updated: July 22, 2014
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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

June Gloom MTB (Part 2), June 2014

Three early summer rides in the E-WA county of Chelan, featuring a bit of everything including unseasonably dry trail conditions, blow-down, patchy snow, hike-a-bike, and thankfully also some great downhill with views galore. (Part 1 - here)

Leavenworth (Ski Hill Trail) - A consolation ride after abandoning a Horse Lake Mountain - Sage Hills loop thanks to pouring rain near the top of the No. 2 Canyon in Wenatchee. With the original Freund Canyon loop trail partially destroyed thanks to recent logging, the ~10 mile Ski Hill loop is probably the next best alternative in the immediate Leavenworth area?? Inquire with the folks at Das Rad Haus for trail beta, or check their trail map below. Expect some route finding difficulty, steep and floury singletrack, several dismounts, a boring stretch of logging road, but also some enjoyable machine-built switchbacks with fun berms to play with.

Horse Lake Mtn/Sage Hills Loop - The Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance has big plans for this vast area just outside of Wenatchee. The goal, as was relayed to be by a local chapter member is to develop the area into a mountain bike destination to rival more popular mountain biking destinations such as Bend, OR or Stanley, ID. There are hundreds of miles of trails and old roads here, and with the great weather (normally), excellent views and impressive vert potential, the opportunities are truly limitless. The ~20 mile loop starting from the bottom of No. 2 Canyon, up and over HLM and down into Sage Hills and ending finally near the bottom of No. 1 Canyon is a classic ride linking many of best trails the area has to offer. Visit the Wenatchee Outdoors website for more information on this and other rides in the area.

Klone Peak Loop - Was it not for the annoying blow-down along the North Tommy Trail (Tr 1425), the VERY annoying snow Ďpatchesí at Klone Meadows and along various stretches of Blue Creek Trail (Tr 1426), and yet more blow-down on the only sustained downhill on Middle Tommy Trail (Tr 1424), the ~20 mile Klone Peak loop would probably be a classic ride on par with Angelís Staircase in the Methow Valley. Certainly the two rides have some tedious ups-and-downs as well as long, gruelling sections of hike-a-bike in common. But assuming the connecting trails were cleared of all obstructions and free of snow, and with the turning larches and meadows exploding in a vibrant end-of-season flash of autumn colors, a late September or October ride here would make for a memorable day on the single-track. See the Cascades Singletrack site for more information and a detailed topo.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Unicorn Peak - Std (via Snow Lakes), June 2014

Of the peaks that comprise the Tatoosh Range on the south-side of Mount Rainier, Unicorn is the tallest and probably the most interesting of the bunch. Thanks to the Stevens Canyon Road, the peak also benefits from great spring and summer access, making for a very casual 6-mile day trip (car-to-car). The views of Mount Rainier from various points along the way, not to mention the summit itself are outstanding and is the obvious attraction for climbing Unicorn. Making the most of my soon-to-expire National Park entrance permit, the great weather and the fact that the approach was still mostly all snow, there was no time like the present to mount this horned equine!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Cowlitz Chimney (Main) - South Route, June 2014

(re-posted from Eric J's nwhikers report) Cowlitz Chimneys is a series of prominent crags visible from many areas on the northeast side of Rainier. The Chimneys are three distinct major pinnacles: North, Middle, and Main Cowlitz. Main (South) Cowlitz is the highest and largest of the three and would be our objective. Sergio had been Jonesing for this peak for a while now, since he sees it every time he's boarding at Crystal. And though I've been to Summerland several times, I've never been past Panhandle Gap, so this was new terrain for both of us. We decided to make this a one-and-a-half day trip to break up the 16 miles and to get some conditioning in for bigger trips this summer.

After a calm night in Summerland, we got going the next morning at 7:15 under bright and sunny skies. At Panhandle Gap we turned right directly up to the little rise, then over it to the other side. We went around this to the left coming back, but it's not really worth the bother unless it's melted out. The route continues up Banshee's gentle W slopes to the summit's fine viewpoint at 7400'. From here Beckey's description of the route is apparent. The "spiry solitary fir" is obvious, so we marched on over to it. Beckey says to then ascend 100'; actually the "horizontal fence of small evergreens" is directly above the solitary fir, so ascend about 50' and start traversing left just above the line of trees. The slope here is quite steep so we faced in and kicked steps sideways. **Note that if you know the approximate location of the cave and slot, at this time of year it's much better to just boot up the snow to directly below and scramble about 75' up to them on class 3 rock, dispensing with the solitary fir and fence of trees traverse.

Due to various delays Sergio and I got separated and so each climbed the rest of the way solo. Once past the trees there is a tiny alcove directly above. Note this but otherwise ignore it. Continue traversing on rock another 100'--I traversed just above the ledge, class 4, solid--till the route comes around a shallow corner to Beckey's "small hidden cave". This isn't a cave at all, merely a larger alcove. Just to the left of the alcove is the short rock slot. This was wet and mossy, and getting up it involved the most awkward moves on the route. Above the slot the route continues directly up for a hundred feet or so on mediocre rock. No need to worry yet; the rock gets much worse. Not necessary to go to the top of the ridge; the route starts traversing up and left not far above the slot as the large summit area becomes visible. Sergio had warned me off going too far left up a harder gully, so I went right. There are plenty of variations across the face to keep you occupied ranging from loose 3rd to low 5th with some exposure, and only those adept at routefinding will succeed in locating the easiest option. Once past the difficulties, easier scrambling led to the false summit, and another 200' horizontal to the true summit of Cowlitz Chimney, 7605'.

As Sergio was waiting below, I stopped only briefly before heading down. To return the route goes mostly up the way on Banshee to avoid steeper sidehilling below. The snow had now turned quite soft, though short of postholing with our snowshoes on. All-in-all, this is worthwhile outing in an interesting area. Most of the peaks on this side of Rainier have a gentle route, so it was more challenging to head up one that involves a bit of routefinding with short but exciting climbing.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Assorted Flavors, May/June 2014

A slow transition the usual confection of shoulder season activities thanks to nagging injuries left over from the winter, work and whatnot. Unfavorable Memorial weekend weather put a much anticipated North Cascade ski traverse on the backburner, and with it went any desire for other tours this spring. But all is not lost as we look forward to longer, warmer days and the exploits that await...

Friday, May 2, 2014

In Conclusion, Winter '13/14

And so concludes one of the lousiest Northwest snow seasons in recent memory. A winterís worth of pow riding mostly compressed into the month of March. Win some, lose some I guess. Thankfully there was North Cascade Heli to the rescue, salvaging the season with a couple glory days of Cascade nirvana. I canít praise and thank the NC crew enough for keeping the doors open and taking us on another grand tour of their proverbial backyard! Save our seats for next March please.
Miscellaneous photos below (NC Heli here):

*Master list of trip reports and photos here: climbing or snowboarding.

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