Monday, January 3, 2011

South Cle Elum Ridge West 5040', 4665' 1.3.11

After a very hectic weekend I really needed to get out. I wasn't able to go out on Tuesday so today it was. I normally  don't like to go on Mondays because the thought of an early wake up time in never appealing after finishing my work week. I had expected my wife to get up early and when she didn't neither did I. I was hoping to do Arrowhead because I was waiting a stellar day like today to make sure I made the most of the views. With my much later than expected departure I didn't feel like I had the time for that so I looked for a back up plan. I have been spending a lot of time recently in Cle Elum so I thought I would give that another shot. I was hoping to do Hick's Butte and the West End of South Cle Elum Ridge both needed to be crossed of the quad.

    After bumping my way along South Cle Elum I finally found the right road and there was very little area to park. I shoehorned my car just enough out of the way to avoid blocking in anyone. I booted up a snowmobile track that leads to the Granite Creek Trailhead. I easily found the trail and I was happy to find someone had booted up it making it much less problematic route finding. I put on snowshoes but booting it would have worked just as well. The track went on until the second crossing of Granite Creek  and then abruptly stopped. I now was on my own. I was able to follow the trail without issue. Some ways up a single track joined the trail. It had the stride of a dog but the prints were so degraded that I couldn't determine what had made it. I was thinking it was probably a cougar?  At any rate the track diverged and I aimed for some sun hoping to warm the extremely cold temperatures. I started running short on legs plowing through the steep and deep powder. I pushed on finally reaching the ridgeline just South of 4665'. The animal track must have had the same goals as I had because the track came down from 4665' and went directly to my next goal of 5040+. I joined a road that was untracked for a short ways then left it for better snow in the tree line.  The ridge went directly to my goal so I weaved among the blow downs. I dropped pack and had a quick bite to eat before finishing off the last 200' of climb. I had read that views were non existent on the summit so I had left my camera behind. The route I chose afforded some great views to the North and I was sad because the camera was stowed in my pack. Once reaching the summit area it was very difficult to find a point that was the highest because it was very flat. Satisfied that I had reached the highest point I made my way back to my stowed belongings. Once back at the saddle I opted to tag 4665' just for good measure. I was mostly out of sun so I decided to head back before everything I had froze. It was so cold that my camera didn't work well and my watch hardly worked at all. I don't ever remember it so cold that my watch quit working. I descended in a more direct line to rejoin my track. I was able to slide some longer distances on my snowshoes because there was a very thick rain crust underneath the recent powder. I made a mental note to myself looking forward to the future. If we receive some heavy wet snow on Northern aspects in the near future I think this layer may be very dangerous. The way out went very quickly and I was able to take some better pictures of the alpenglow fading on the Stuart Range. Once back to the car the temps had plummeted further making for some uncomfortable changing of clothes.

Approx 6 miles 2700' of climb 4:15 car to car

A few pictures Here:

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