Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Chatter Creek 6.9.09

After missing last week I wanted to get out and do a little extra elevation. I had tried last year to do Grindstone but a late May snowstorm forced us to lay low in the basin below the frequent avalanches. I was hoping for a mostly snow free ascent to the basin and my guess was right. As is common knowledge at this point the Icicle Creek Road is closed just passed The Ida Campground. I was able to arrive just after 0800 giving me adequate time I hoped. The weather was partly sunny and very comfortable temperature wise. I was nearly eaten alive by mosquitoes along rushing Icicle Creek. I was hoping this wouldn't be a problem for the entire day which it was thankfully not. I wasn't sure how far it was to the Chatter Creek trail and I was dismayed it took my 30 minutes burning valuable time. The trail was in fine shape from the onset unlike myself who was struggling with motivational issues. My new position at work has added some extra hours and with my wife in the midst of her busy season, I didn't realize how much it has been taking out of me. Of course my aspirations haven't quite adjusted to this new regime. I was feeling quite overwhelmed with the enormity of the day I had planned. I forced myself to plod on resisting the urge to just lay in a nice sunny spot. I reached the Chatter Creek crossing at 4400' and happily made my way over the first portion over a well placed log. The second crossing was another story. I spent 20 minutes trying to find a suitable crossing. Finally I rearranged a few logs across a narrow portion to an island in the creek. This wasn't a suitable crossing for the Beagle so I brought back the Beagle toss. I don't make a habit of this but he seems to enjoy his short flights. I managed the crossing and jumped the other channel and thankfully rejoined the trail. The trail degrades pretty quickly after the crossing becoming very brushy saturated with running water. It is however pretty easy to follow even under patchy snow in the basin. Once in the basin the views open up.

After crossing an avalanche debris field I lost the trail. I just climbed above and traversed until I ran across the trail. The trail again gets serious about climbing but thankfully snow free. There are long stretches where the trail is overrun by running water. Once cresting I was able to see my first objective the small pass just West of 7112'. I wasn't crazy about the long traverse of the cirque to get to that point so I dropped pack. I clearly wasn't comfortable continuing with my plan, but my legs were feeling pretty good. I decided that the slopes East of me looked benign enough for me to reach the ridgeline 1200' above me. I kicked steps up the stable snow with a little more verve in my step without my bloated pack. I reached a small saddle between 6801' and a higher eastern point. I climbed both just for fun. The Eastern point came in at 6893' and had a unusual monolith near the crest which I didn't bother to climb. The view are wonderful of the Chiwaukums area but the lighting was less than desirable for the stunning view to the South.

The descent to my stowed belongings went very well and I wolfed down a quick lunch. The trail back to the creek crossing was tedious but went well. Instead of trying my method of crossing from the ascent I merely waded across without issue. Since the trail below the crossing is in such good shape I jogged portions which my legs seemed to love. Once I reached the road the mosquitoes doubled their effort to drain me dry. I pushed the pace and upon reaching the car I speed changed. Lucky for me the mosquitoes weren't fond of a moving car with the windows down.

Although today was another struggle for me mentally I was quite pleased with the end results. A day of varied conditions was punctuated by a massive thundershower just before Snoqualmie Pass. It was raining so hard that I was sure that my car wouldn't have any paint left.

Approx 12 miles 4400' of climb 8 hours car to car

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