Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Iron Mountain (Blewett)

With inventory bogging my day off on Tuesday I sweet talked my boss into giving me Wednesday off instead. I knew the weather was going to be stellar and I sure didn't want to miss that glowing orbs fleeting visit. I was excited because I had a crew of 4 going and I laughed to myself thinking about not exceeding the party limit for the ALWA. As things go for me one dropped out in the morning because his car wouldn't start and since it was his friend meeting us from Ellensburg that made two down. I hadn't received confirmation on the 4th member so I went to the Preston park and ride just to be safe. I waited for ten minutes and when no one showed I went to the gas station and then came back just in case. Oh well it was sunny what did I care if I had to be the only one to enjoy it. Just before Snoqualmie Pass my phone rang and it was my wife, evidently in my haste to leave the house I hadn't noticed the slight nudge I gave the driveway gate was enough to knock it off the track and making it impossible for her to leave. Wow this isn't the start I was hoping for. I turned around and headed home when cresting Tiger Summit I looked on my phone to see what time it was and was shocked I had 13 missed calls. Of course my wife was able to fix the gate soon after hanging up and I didn't need to turn around. We both had a good laugh as I turned around and retraced my route. I knew my route wouldn't take a huge amount of time and since it was a road deproach I felt that I could still make it work even though I was way behind on time. Lucky for me I was able to drive to the gated road that I intended using for my approach. This saved about 3 miles of road walking effectively making up much of my lost time. It was very cold but I expected a pretty strong inversion so as I climbed I shed layers. The sun was glorious and unbroken, I had forgotten how much better things look when there is some sun on them. The road was mostly snow free and I probably could have driven around the gate but I wasn't sure that was prudent. Where there was snow it was packed down by what looked like 4-wheelers making the going slippery but easier than having to break trail. The road system didn't exactly jive with my map so I was never sure I was on the right track. Each switchback seemed to get me going further in the wrong direction. Thinking I was on a road not on my map I decided to leave the road and just head up. The going was mostly snow free and open making for a quick ascent. I thankfully regained the road cutting off a huge chunk of mileage. I continued on the road which mostly traverses until I reached another junction where instead of continuing on the main line I made the mistake of heading straight. I could see what I thought was my summit and the road was leading directly in that line. The road degraded into some brush and the way was no longer packed by machine. There was some sort of trench but I couldn't really determine what had made it. Adding to this unpleasantess the road was level or slightly declining. Growing weary of making no progress I really had to talk myself to once again leave the road and start climbing. Here the snow was deeper and not very well consolidated. Thankfully I again reached an upper road which I had to crawl through some annoying brush to attain. I was once again on a packed road and making good time. I was able to see the road switchbacking up to a small saddle and for the first time I knew exactly where I was. I left the road shortly before the saddle and was happy to find a brush free line with perfect snow for kicking steps. I reached a small saddle and dropped pack bathed in the warming sun that was shortly going to hide behind Miller Peak. I was able to tease a route through the rock outcroppings and soon I was on the summit. I snapped some quick pictures and gingerly made my way back to my belongings. I had a quick lunch and then plunge stepped back to the road. I cut some corners where I could and left the road again for a steep snowless descent back to the road system below. I was happy to make it out before needing the headlamp. Just an amazing day to be out.






Approx 10 miles 3000'of climb 5.5 hours car to car.

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