Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Swauk Ridge 4205' 12.7.10

   After a stressful week that included my car developing some expensive problems I was looking forward to getting out. The West side forecast didn't seem very good and since the snow conditions still are  very suspect  I opted to head East. I was also without a partner so I settled for something more benign and not overly taxing. I had one more peak on the Liberty Quad to do to close it out, so I thought it would be a good day to tackle the high point of Swauk Ridge. I would guess there are many ways to tackle this short one and I could only find one report that involved a very long ridge walk. I didn't have that kind of time and I wasn't sure about a direct route from Mineral Springs. I decided to head a little further along 97 and turned onto the Durst Creek Road. I had some trouble making it past the first portion where the snow was sloppy. I could have parked there but I am never too thrilled to suit up anywhere near where the dog could run into traffic. I pushed through the slop and found better going after crossing the bridge. I turned around a short time later and tried to park along the side of the road. I wasn't able to get far enough off the road to allow easy passage from any cars that may have come by in my absence.  I instead broke out the snow shovel and cleared a spot nearby and parked.

     After suiting up I walked the packed road for a 100 yards and headed right I dropped down to cross a frozen creek and started the climb. The grade wasn't overly steep and there was alot of blow downs to negotiate. The snow cover was on a little over a foot which wasn't enough to cover the slippery fallen timber. I kept the legs churning resisting the use of snowshoes. I could have made a case to put them on but I ended up carrying them the entire day. I was able to reach a more distinct ridge that flattened out. I stayed on the ridge passing the end of the road shown on my map. I was pleased that I followed the route I had printed on my map exactly the whole day. After the flat area where the road ended the climbing resumed. Again the grade wasn't steep and thankfully the blow downs were far fewer. In short order I crested 4115'. I then headed South I descended to a small saddle and then climbed to another small point. This point had a steep drop off to the South but I was able to tease an easy route the slopes below. I humped and bumped my way along reaching the high point of Swauk Ridge in 2 hours. I had nailed the time as well. The weather was moving in quickly and I took some time to shoot some pictures. I am sure on a sunny day the views are probably worthwhile.

   After a quick snack I added gloves and warmer head gear and I was off for the descent. I followed my footprints for the most part and where I could I traversed instead of climbing over every bump as I had done on the ascent. Before reaching 4115' I traversed for about a half mile to rejoin my ascent route. Once reaching the end of the old road, I decided to mix up the descent by taking this road which meets up with the mainline. I really should have put on snowshoes for this portion because the open area of the road had much deeper snow coverage. Thankfully I reached the mainline that had been packed by snowmobiles. The packed road made for very quick walking. I was surprised to see some fresh bootprints coming from the North and joining the road. I don't see any worthwhile points to climb to the North so I was puzzled. A little lower I notice many more prints and some drag marks. I am guessing they are from people looking or xmas trees. Once reaching the car the snow started. I had been concerned with freezing rain on my way home but other than some steady snow showers near the pass the trip home was uneventful.

Approx 5 miles 1700' of climb 3:30 car to car

Pictures can be viewed here:


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