Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hard Knox 7.28.10

Some years back I had made my way up the Kachess Dam Road towards the ridgeline before the road was washed out and I was forced to walk to the ridgeline. On that day the objective was Hard Knox. I ran over my allotted time and climbed the peak just to the West. At the time I was quite sure that this point was higher than Hard Knox because the topo maps show the elevation to be higher. The sight lines weren't great looking East but visually it seemed higher. For some time I thought the makers of the Home Court 100 had made an error. I read a report some time later suggesting that I was wrong. Since this is often the case I thought some day I would investigate. Since I had a long hard work week and was feeling the effects I thought an easy day would be best. What better than to knock off a couple peaks when I could drive most of the way there. Thankfully the washout that had stymied me years ago had been fixed and I was able to continue on until the road's end at 5200'. I really did feel like cheating but I wasn't going to let that slow me down. I followed the trail over Hard Cheese 5766' and then dropped steeply to the saddle and reclimbed easily to Hard Knox 5841'. Visually I still thought the peak to the West looked taller so I continued on and climbed that as well. I took a GPS reading and indeed it did read higher but than as if became locked in the reading dropped and settled on 5835' a mere 6 ft short. I then returned to Hard Knox and my GPS showed the same elevation as the topo map at 5841'. Looking back to the West I think the trees that are on the West Peak give it an illusion that it is much taller. I christened the West Peak as Not Knox which I felt a fitting name. As I lazed on the summit and taking the great vantage point I noticed a boggy area below that still held some snow and I could see a logging road a bit further. I had remembered that there was a creek below from my previous trip so i thought I would mix it up for the descent. I easily dropped to the basin below and followed the dry stream bed until it hit the logging road and then walked the road back to the car. I saved about 150' of climb via this route and it was nice to complete the loop.

Approx 4 miles 1500' of climb 3 hours car to car

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Harding 7.20.10

I was looking for something with some mileage and some elevation gain and Harding certainly fits the bill. ONELUV1 signed on again and we managed an early start. We made the Scatter Creek Trailhead a little before eight and the temps were perfect. What wasn't so good was the hordes of mosquitos that made us quicken our pace. The unrelenting onslaught forced us to slather on the Deet which did help. Soon the grade lessened and we reached the junction with the County Line Trail. Here we headed North and crossed a couple of creeks before reaching the boggy meadows beneath Fish Eagle Pass. I was careful to make a mental note of where we entered the meadows because on two previous trips I had overshot the creek crossing making for some interesting route finding. The meadows seemed easier to navigate than in past trips and soon we reached some heavy avalanche debris that also seemed easier than I remembered. Soon the climbing returned as we made our way to Fish Eagle Pass. Here we dropped pack and had a short break. The views are worth the effort.

From the pass we easily found a great boot path that does a descending traverse to the large rock slide beneath the pass between Harding and Fish Eagle Peak. We skirted the boulder field at the bottom of it which I believe is much easier than trying to traverse it. The route is obvious to the pass and is only mildly annoying with some small scrub trees and loose footing. We made the pass and again dropped pack. I scouted around to see if we could drop to the North and I did find a route down to some snow fields below. We decided not to use this viable route on our return. We followed the ridgeline mostly on the South Side and we easily reached the summit. We had a long lunch and enjoyed the summit which felt like the central seat in the area.

We signed the summit register which only had 13 entries since it was placed in 2002. It seems interesting that such a good boot path is in place despite the loneliness of Harding. We made good time back to the pass and did some boot skiing in the soft sand of the upper gulley. I was thankful that there wasn't enough snow to impede route finding but enough to provide more than adequate water for both of us and the dogs. The balance of the descent went well and I regained the bootpath at the bottom of the rockslide. ONELUV1 traversed the rockslide and we met up for the 700' of climb back to Fish Eagle Pass. I know we were both not looking forward to the climb but we managed to plug our way up to the pass. At the pass we had another short break and while we were lounging I noticed a good trail that I haven't seen on any maps. I don't know if it is an extension of the Van Epps Trail but it leads to the Solomon Creek drainage. If this trail could be accessed by the Jeep Road that leads to Gallagher Head Lake it may provide the shortest route to Harding. After our break all that was left was the descent to the car. We stayed on route and I thankfully found the creek crossing without overshooting it again. The bugs returned with a vengeance and the remainder of the trip was spent trying to descend as fast as I could while continually swatting at every open area of skin.

Approx 13 miles 5500' of climb 9:10 car to car

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cedar Butte 7.19.10

With a day to watch the kids I thought it would be a good chance to stretch their legs. A couple at work wanted to tag along with their 4 year old so we again had a plan. We met at the Iron Horse Park trailhead under cool and cloudy skies. I hadn't done much research on the route but I felt like even just walking the Iron Horse would make for a good day. From the outset the two year old made it apparent she wasn't going to walk anywhere. If I had been alone with the kids I may have pushed the issue but I certainly didn't want to expose the rest of the gang with a hysterical child. So on my shoulders she went and remained that way for the entirety of the trip. We were able to find the trail to Cedar Butte without issue. The trail is in good shape and reaches a junction in short order. The arrow points the way and we followed. The grade eases and meanders for way too long. The trail has ups and downs and one doesn't net much of the needed gain. Finally we reached a saddle and another junction. The signage is most confusing and we ended up heading down the wrong branch. After the trail starts a steep descent I had us turn around and take the trail that even the 4 year old was sure was the right one. The trail starts switchbacking and finally gaining some elevation. Finally we reached the summit bench and famous "Cedar Butt" benchmark. We had a hasty lunch due to the hordes of mosquitoes. I had made the mistake of telling the group that this has been the best bug year ever. I hadn't even seen a mosquito before today. For the descent we used the trail that we had mistakenly taken earlier which thankfully was much shorter way back to the first junction. Soon we were back to the Iron Horse and the short ways back to the car. I again am most proud of my 4 year old who led the way the entire way. It was fun for me to see her passing on her knowledge to the other 4 year old in the group. Note to self carrying a 2 year old on your shoulders for 3:30 doesn't do much for ones neck.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Davis Peak 7.13.10

I had climbed to the Davis Peak Lookout many years ago but I didn't make my way to the true summit further West. I had read some reports about traversing to Goat Mt which is included in the HC/100 and thus needed to be climbed. I felt like it would make a good combo. I had some plans in the evening and my cousin inlaw Scott was in town so I had a plan and some company. In order to make it fit into the time frame I had him spend the night avoiding my having to pick him up in Downtown Seattle. We were out the door shortly after 5am and after a few stops we were heading over Snoqualmie Pass to some blue skies. I had some concern that Scott didn't have any gear and bought trail running shoes the night before. I was concerned that there would probably be some lingering snow patches that wouldn't be passable with trail running shoes. I was able to drive the Subaru all the way to the trailhead only after we moved a large log blocking the road. I was very surprised that we were able to move it at all, I guess it was the big breakfast I had. We travelled light and made good time up the many switchbacks. I remebered that there wasn't any water so I had brought plenty extra for myself and the pups. A small squall blew in and we layered up only to take the layers off a short time later. Soon enough the enormous windbreak came into view. We had a short rest and soon thereafter we headed on the easy to follow boot tread heading West. The route cleverly avoids many of the obstacles on the ridge and we had no problem topping out on 6490'. There was a point to the North that was a little higher but I believe the point we were on is considered the true summit. I scouted for a short time to find a way to make my way below us in order to traverse to the notch in the North ridge. I found a safe way down but the notch was guarded by some low angle snow slopes. I felt like this wasn't a prudent move to continue so I climbed back up to the ridge. There was an inviting unmapped pond just West and below the summit. We retraced our route and dropped very quickly to the valley below. We passed a group of five who were waiting for their sixth member to catch up and later we passed a solo climber that had made it to the lookout while we on the true summit. It was nice to get out with Scott again and I very much look forward to doing it again next time he is visiting from Indiana.

Approx 11 miles 4300' of climb 5:45 car to car

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Grindstone 7.7.10

Well this one didn't go as planned but I made the best of it. I managed to get out of bed at 4am hoping to beat the expected high heat. It took me a bit longer than expected to reach the washout on the Icicle Creek Road due to many of my stops involving stores that were yet to open. Thankfully it was cool as I geared up. I made it about a .25 mile before realizing that I had left my trekking pole in the car. I felt it would be useful higher up so I turned around to get it. As I made it back to the car a truck with two dogs in it was just pulling in. In an effort to unlock the car I dropped the leash. The shepard decided to say high by jumping up on the side of the bed of the truck making some deep scratches. I wasted some time giving the unhappy driver my personal information so that I can fix it. Now after getting up early with not nearly enough sleep was a bit more than I could handle. Thankfully I was able to channel my immense displeasure for my dog into pounding out the mileage to the Chattter Creek Trailhead somewhat faster. I reached the trail and began my way up. The first portion meanders a little before crossing Chatter Creek and then the work begins. This steepness arrived with full sunlight and much warmer temperatures. As is the case the first warm hike of the year takes it's toll on me. I pushed on thankfully reaching the cool shady area of the recrossing of Chatter Creek. I was pleased that the water was lower than other trips making it much easier to get all three of us across. After the creek crossing there is some more climbing before the grade eases off when reaching the wonderful basin at around 5100'. This is where my fix job on the dogs pack came apart making it useless to me. Since I had no room to stow anything else in my pack and the idea of throwing it over my pack didn't appeal to me I wasn't certain what my next move would be. I found a nice sheltered spot to drop pack and weigh my options. I decided it would be best to stash most of my gear and go light with just what I needed to bivy. It amazed me after off loading a few pounds how much better my legs felt. In short order I was at the basin before the trail makes it's final push to the pass. Here the snow started and was mostly continuous to the summit. I had reports of staying on the ridge until 7400' but that didn't look appealing because of the massive cornice that overhung that route. I could see someone had kicked steps directly underneath it and skirted it's side. I am sure the condition might have been better when this was done but I don't think I would try that no matter what the circumstances were. I put on crampons and kicked steps the short steep portion to reach the ridge at 7000'. Here I had to try to find a way down the other side. I removed my crampons and was able to find some dirt and trees that gave my some security to reach the more mellow slopes below. Once again on snow I had to traverse some ways before I could make the last push to the summit. I was thankful that this portion was under the cover of snow because I am sure that this traverse is mostly loose rock and would be very tedious. With the worst past I now had to try to determine which of the many summits was the true summit. I remembered some pictures from a previous trip that looked like the way so I followed. I was able to see some footprints coming down of the ridge from the 7400' level and I made my way towards them hoping they might have an idea of the best route. When I intersected the track I surprised to find that it was laid my mountain goat. I followed until I broke out on the summit ridge where I traversed to the small saddle and then switchbacked to the summit. The views were tremedous as I sat among the hordes of ladybugs. I thumbed through the register which was placed in 1994 and saw many familiar names. I was shocked to see so many entries, I wouldn't have thought it would see so many visitors. I had the honor of being the first entry for this year, although I thought there were signs of skiers up on the higher slopes.

Some of the many pictures I took. It seems that none really came out well

I debated on what to do next. I saw a gap on the North tending ridge that leads to Cape Horn which was the next stop on my itinerary. There was small pass with easy slopes on the West and it appeared mellow on the East as well. I gave much thought of going through the gap and traversing to Lake Edna. In the end I decided that it would be best to head back to my stowed belongings. I chose a more direct descent of a nice snow filled gully. The beagle found something to investigate and lingered and I was able to shoot some interesting pictures of his descent.

Once back on my uptrack I followed in footprints until just before I reached the way I had come down. Here I angled a little further East and reached bare dirt that lead me easily to the ridge. I made quick work back to my makeshift camp. Once back I realized I still had plenty of time to make it out since I had only 2 hours to get back to the car. I debated while making dinner and sometime after until finally deciding to stay the night. I had a great night sleep and finally got out of the sack around 8:30 and made some coffee and hit the road. When I reached the car there were plenty of official vehicles so I inquired on what the issue was. I had a tough time to get anyone to acknowledge me. Finally one man told me that someone possibly needed help on Jack Ridge. I know that they were trying to formulate a plan but since it was apparent that I had been on more than a day hike I would have thought they might be at least interested on where I had come from. Granted I don't know all the particulars but if I had seen something it could have proved valuable to their efforts. All in all it was another satisfying trip.

Approx 14 miles 5500' of climb 27 hours car to car

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