Monday, February 15, 2010

Mount Kent 2.15.10

I wasn't sure that I was going to be able to make it out this week, but as it worked out I had a half day. I had seen a post from Flow looking for a partner and we exchanged information and we had a plan. I had been doing some research about some South side of I-90 peaks and saw a great report from Justus on the Duke of Kent. While I wasn't planning on doing that climb I thought a bird's eye view of the gully would be interesting. Since Mount Kent was so close it seemed like a worthy alternative. I think the standard route uses the McClellan Butte trail and meets up with some logging roads and makes it way to Alice Lakes and summits from there. In Justus report I saw the open slopes of Kent's NE side and looked like an easy ascent. I picked up Flow at the Issaquah Park and Ride and we were off.

I thought since the snow level is quite hight right now I could bypass the McClellan Butte trail altogether by using the road past the Ollalie Campground. The road was in good shape and made the mistake of not going far enough before I turned around. Had I driven another 50' I would have seen Kent's impressive North face. After turning around again I finally reached the abrupt end of the road near the washout by Alice Creek. We packed up and headed up. I was happy to miss out on 800' of gain by starting here. I was surprised that there was some patchy glare ice from the onset and we reached snow at around 2300'. There was a well worn skin/snowshoe track so the going was easy. I noticed some fresh bootprints in the snow which again was unexpected. Soon we reached the end of the road and I marvelled at the steep gully to the North of The Duke of Kent. There was a solo climber just beginning his ascent of the gulley. We instead did a descending traverse to cross Alice Creek at around 3100'.

While the snow was not deep here is was pretty crusty and held Flow's weight but not mine. After we reached a small flat area I switched to snowshoes which I kept on for the entire ascent. Flow followed behind and just stayed in boots. As I led us up I angled to the West where I was able to connect with some mostly open slopes. While the sun was out the snow was mostly stable. It was however very wet and heavy making for slow going for me. There was enough tree cover to make me disregard some of the avalanche warning signs. As we climbed the views opened up to the East. Josh started to grow weary of my less than sonic pace and started to make his own way up. His steps weren't helpful for me so I made my own way up. The going was sapping but I managed to keep the elevation ticking and soon I popped out on the summit just minutes behind Josh. The weather was as nice as one could expect for mid Feb. The wind picked up so as my usual case I snapped some quick pics and beat a hasty retreat.

I managed some low speed glissades on the way down. I really had to laugh watching Josh bound down the slopes like a kangaroo. Oh to have 17 year old legs. With my 41st just around the corner it really highlighted the difference in our ages. We made good time back to the road and I saw signs of a couple more travellers. It is good to see the area being used for something more than target practice. Thanks to Justus for the picture that inspired this trip. It really is a wonderful way to do this peak. Thanks to Josh for spending the day with myself and my ever annoying dogs. It is good to see Josh taking that boundless enthusiasm for climbing and perfecting his craft.

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

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