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

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