Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mount Phelps 5535' (Attempt)

With the recent balmy wet weather turning more winter like, I wanted to try to squeeze one more worthwhile summit in. I felt like the new system moving in is going to dump a lot of snow making any peak with prominence a real chore. It looked all week like Tuesday was going to be the best chance at a reprieve from the wet windy weather. I was hopeful that we could make it to the snow line before being caught in any major downpour. While most people opt for the Blackhawk Mine approach I figured that would be a soaker going through the clear cut so I opted for a more obscure route. I had read a previous report of walking to the end of the spur road instead of  heading towards the mine. The route winds through old growth and sparse brush and rejoins the standard route near the saddle between Phelps and McClain Peaks. It is good to know that most maps have these two peaks swapped on maps. While Phelps is the bigger brother to McClain it a far more easy ascent.

 I was able to talk ONELUV1 into going by telling him the weather was much better than what he had heard, truthfully I think it was in the middle of what we each had expected. I was expecting issues on the North Fork Road from the recent winds but most of the way was free and clear. I went straight over one log over the road and then was stopped by a more substantial log further along. I had to break out the trusty snow shovel to dig out around the root ball and I was able to push it onto the road where we pivoted it along side of the road. There was a lot of running water everywhere a testament of the heavy rains of late. I managed to drive a short ways up the spur road before having to back down and park on a nice wide area. True to form the dry weather morphed into a deluge just as we started out. The road is a mess of running water and washouts but we were able to make the end of the road in around 30 minutes. The creek goes over the road and we had to ford it luckily it wasn't much deeper than boot level. At the end of the road I found a boot path that we followed a short ways. I found easy going in the old growth, the grade was pleasant and the duff was soft making for a quick 800ft of climb. Soon we reached rock outcroppings and brush with slushy snow. The heavy rain now started to sleet giving me hope that we would soon be in snow which would be preferable. Since we were both very wet and losing enthusiasm I suggested retreating. ONELUV1 was thankfully more dead set on making the summit. We pushed on, I was looking for a good way to traverse to the creek around 3700' to join the standard route. The sidehilling didn't look appealing so we continued climbing. Finding more rock bands and slippery brush our pace slowed but we were able to make decent progress. At 4100' we stopped and ONELUV1 noticed that he had lost his ice axe on the way up. I had remembered seeing it a short time before so he suggested that I wait until he could retrieve it. I didn't want to be separated so instead we both headed down and thankfully after 300' of descent I was able to find it. While the descent was easier than I feared I was unable to motivate myself to start climbing again so we decided to continue down.

   The down climb predictably went very quickly and soon we found ourselves back on the road. Once we reached the spur to the Blackhawk mine I decided that we should explore. The spur is steep and the legs reacted sluggishly but thankfully it isn't far. I found the flagged standard route and we poked around the former mine site which has now collapsed. Since we were both so wet we decided not to linger and instead head back. Once back at the car the rain stopped and the weather continued to improve. By the time I made it home the sun was shining. Taking my gear out of the car I couldn't get over how much heavier everything was saturated with water. Many years ago I read a report telling people not to buy super expensive "water proof" gear since no matter how hard you try to stay dry, you will fail in these type of conditions. I found this very true today.  I suspect that I will now have to shift gears and look for trips more suited for snowshoe travel. It sure would have been nice to squeeze one more in. As is usually the case and day out is a good day. Thanks to ONELUV1 for putting up with my route choice and pushing me past my soggy limits. For the next try I will wait for a sunny day and use the standard route that looks to be well flagged.

Approx 4 miles 2100' of climb 3:30 car to car

1 comment:

  1. always wanted to do phelps, its so prominent from the city


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