Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Earl Peak 5.12.09

Well let's try this again,

I had hoped to do something on the Home Court 100 but with the terrible weather forecast I thought better of it. When the weather turns poor Teanaway is usually a safe bet. With the access opening up the problem was, what to do? I am running out of options so I thought I would clean up some of my remaining victims on a loop trip.

I had the whole day so I was confident of success. Sleep came very fitfully so I let myself sleep an extra 2 hours thinking I would still have plenty of time. I managed to get out the door quickly and was dumbstruck by the "chains required" sign on I-90. WTF isn't it the middle of May? As I made my way up the pass the chains required was relaxed and I started to again feel hopeful. That was short lived when all traffic was stopped to clear an accident. There went another 30 minutes. Undaunted I pushed on. The North Fork Teanaway road is mostly free of snow to the Beverly Creek Trailhead. I would be wary of the many sneaky washouts that are not seen until it is too late. At the trailhead I was greeted with this scene:

I layered up and was off. The first crossing of Bean Creek went well and the area that the trail goes along the creek was well travelled making it less troublesome. The last time I was on this trail I had to break out the ice axe for this portion to ensure not falling steeply into the creek. Soon I was on solid snow that for the most part held my weight. Always with a nice surprise posthole once in a while. Once I reached the basin I needed to again cross Bean Creek. I found a reasonable spot to drop to the creek and only had a small issue with making it up the other side. Tanner was able to make it up on his own but the Beagle wasn't so fortunate. This ended up being the crux of the day. I had to lay on my stomach with my toes kicked in the slope as far as I could so that I could hang upside down just enough to get his collar and hoist him up. It was more than a little unnerving to hang there knowing if my plan didn't work I was going to fall head first into the frigid water. Once on the other side I put on the snow shoes and aimed for the open areas above me. The views opened up and I thankfully snapped some pictures.

I was able to see a nice snow filled gully going my way so I aimed for it. The gully was a reasonable pitch and the snow was stable and I was able to lose the snowshoes and just kick step my way up. After about 600' of climb I left the gully for a more direct line to my summit. The snow was much harder here and I contemplated swithching to crampons which I thankfully had remebered to bring. I reached the ridge around 6400' and was greeted with some blustery winds and blowing snow. It was fierce enough to give some thought of turning back. I decided to push on. I crested a false summit at 6800' and so Earl easily attainable in front of me. I thankfully reached the summit and wasn't able to find a summit register. I was too cold to fumble through my pack so I snapped some pictures with my phone:

From the summit the basin looked very attainable below me. I was almost seduced by the endless untracked snow of the basin but relented and returned. I had been worried about the steepish descent so I angled to the saddle where the summer trail passes and descended from there. The angle was much less severe and the snow was receptive for descending. Once I reached the gully I glissaded to it's bottom.

The weather settled for the rest of the way and I thankfully was able to soak up some sun. Although Earl is a popular summit it was much more difficult with the day's conditions. It seemed much more of a Winter's climb than a Spring one.

Approx 8 miles 3500' of climb 5:45 car to car

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