Monday, February 21, 2011

Squak Mt 2.21.11

With the family away the dog has been cooped up entirely too much so I thought it was only fair to give an extra day this week to stretch his legs. I wanted to stay close since I have plans for the rest of the day, so Squak Mt. always fits a constircted time frame. Since it is President's Day there was many cars parked in the South Lot so I made sure to keep Tanner on the leash for the entire day. This is something we are both not used to but I felt it prudent. I started out a little too fast and when I stopped to take a phone call, I nearly puked. After calming my systm down I throttled back the pace. I was able to make the summit in 50 minutes and I didn't linger too long. I had hoped to run the descent but the combination of the wrong footwear and having Tanner on the leash nixed that idea. It was give the legs some extra stretching this week. Hopefully tomorrow I will have another chance.

Approx 3miles 1700' of climb 1:35 car to car

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fool's Day 5203' 428'P

Fool's Day is the unofficial name of the highpoint that can be accessed by French Cabin Creek Road. While it is high enough to be ranked on the Home Court 100 it lacks less than 75' feet of prominence to meet the 500' prominence rule. I had hoped to do something again this week off the Middle Fork  of the Snoqualmie but I was concerned with the snow conditions. While the amount of snow wasn't too concerning  I was more worried about some of the high ridge top winds that had been observed recently. I wasn't crazy on trying to surmount some wind laden slopes. I figured Fool's Day would be perfect because the actual climb was on  low angled ridge bolstered by the cover of trees. After many emails back in forth I was left with only one taker. Evidently I didn't scare away Nvoit on our foray up Lennox 2 weeks ago. I picked him up in Preston and with a very squeaky wheel we were off. The Middle Fork did a number last week on the trusty Subaru and I think I may have wedged a rock between the caliper and rotor causing every deceleration to have a very loud squeak. Thankfully it goes away when accelerating or at high speeds so it was soon forgotten. We parked at the end of the plowed French Cabin Creek Road and I took way too long suiting up with some new gear that needed adjustments. The road was well packed which letting us make quick work of the 3 miles to our jump off point. We took a right at the major intersection and went a couple hundred yards before leaving the road. I wasn't quite sure what to expect off the packed road but I was pleasantly surprised that the snow held my weight allowing me to leave the snowhoes initially stowed on my pack. The ridge itself is open and we were able weave our way through the second growth without much hindrance. The snow on the lower slopes was very icy and was hard to get much bite on the rock hard snow.                                                                                                                                                                  

 Since there wasn't much in the way and the snow conditions made for a quick ascent we were making very good time. Once around 4500' I took over trailbreaking and I added snowshoes to aid in the 12' of powder. As the ridge rises the grade lessens making the parts in the open more of a chore with the deeper settled snow. Once back in the trees the pace quickened and the last push to the summit was somewhat steeper but still nothing compared to some of the climbs that I have done recently. Soon the windswept ridge came into view which was the extent of the views for this day. I had guessed that it would take around 4 hours to make this summit but with the great conditions we were able to make it in less than 3. It did help that I had good legs today and all the hard work and weight loss is paying off.
We didn't linger too long on the summit because it was breezy and cold. I really enjoyed the descent because there was very little to think about the route was simple the conditions were great and gravity lent just enough help. I kept the snowshoes on for the entire descent making the icy portions much more manageable. We were able to drop the 2000' back to the road in 45 minutes which was about what I expected. The road walk seemed longer than the way in but it was sure nice to finish this week with an easy walk in the building snow showers. I had hoped for an easier day today but I almost feel guilty because it was too easy. Another great day out with some fun company.

Approx 10 Miles 3100' of climb 4:45 car to car

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Quartz 4641' Bessequartz 4487' 2.7.11

With the better weather expected I was hoping to get some work done on the Homecourt 100. I had read a recent report of using Bessequartz's South Ridge to access Quartz Lake making it possible to Summit both Quartz and Bessequartz in the same outing. I had eyed this route for years but never got around to seeing if it would go. When I saw the report and read the lack of brush and easier than expected climb I knew I had to try myself. It was actually funny last week when at least 3 groups did the same climb and again this week with our group. I joked that I should put a Starbucks on the summit with as much traffic it has seem of late. I talked Fletcher and Like2Thruhike to indulge me on this pursuit. Late last night we had some more additions with Bryan, Gimpilator and BellowFellow signing on as well. We met at Preston and the second group followed me to the jump off point which is 5 miles from the Middle Fork Bridge and about .5 miles past the CCC trailhead. I did have a little issue finding the right spur road but if you are looking for it, it isn't too hard to see. We suited and up and were off.

   We walked the good spur road until meeting up with the CCC trail and we headed right. I wanted to walk across the trail and head up. But I found the going less than pleasant so we regrouped on the road. We had a brief discussion and decided to head further along the road before heading up. I went straight to the back of the line and I was struggling mightily to keep the group in sight. Thankfully Like2Thruhike stayed with me. I couldn't get my legs loose and my hamstrings were tighter than a bow. I hoped that I would loosen up before I decided to pull the plug. We kept churning up the hill and the grade finally lessened as we hit a small flat area and soon after we hit some new snow. Once the snow was deep enough to see tracks I finally was able to hit my stride. It was funny when I didn't have to do any route finding my legs returned. It was such a quick transition, it was like someone flipped a switch. The ridge finally has some definition around 3000' and at 3400' we went around to the Right of a outcropping. We had to drop some elevation and once back on the ridge I was surprised that I caught up with the group. We stuck with the ridge until 3700' we started to traverse to the Saddle between our objective peaks. We had again to drop some elevation before the last push to Quartz Lake. Once at the lake we had a quick snack before we easily made our way to Quartz. Although the forecast was for sun we couldn't see more than a few feet from the summit which was a big disappointment for me because I was hopeful for some great views. I decided for the descent to put on crampons for insurance on the icy layer beneath the new snow. We ended up back at Quartz Lake an hour after we left. Before we even decided whether or not to continue up Bessequartz I was off before I could get cold. I had dropped my pack so the pace was much faster without the extra weight of my pack.  By the time I reached the false summit I was certain that it was the true summit, but Bryan was insistent and quite right that the true summit was still further along the ridge.  In short order we were on the treeless summit and treated with a total lack of view.

   I had a fun descent back to my gear and had a short lunch. I was somewhat anxious for the descent so I left the crampons on until the worst of it was over. Last week I had ruined my snowpants so I had to use my rainpants which would have been fine except one of my gaitors failed and I had to take that off. This allowed my crampon to catch my new rain pants and shredding them just 20 feet short of where I had planned on taking my crampons off. At this rate I won't have any gear left by the end of the month. For the descent we split into 3 groups of two with myself being in the middle group. I was able to keep us directly on our ascent route all the way back to the CCC road. The last 800' of descent was steep and slippery but I managed to say upright until I had less than 20 yards until reaching the trail. In that 20 yards I was able to fall twice very awkwardly both times. Back on the trail we just had the short jaunt back to the cars. I was surprised to see no one waiting at the cars since their was one group ahead of us. I changed into dry clothes and we waited and waited and waited some more. Finally after 45 minutes the last group made it out which worried all of us very much. By now it was getting dark. The last group offered to head back up to make contact.  Finally the the first group straggled back to car after having some route issues. I can't say how thankful to have everyone make it out in one piece, it was a very unnerving hour waiting.  Overall it was a fantastic day spent with some great company.

Sorry no pictures today.
Approx 8 miles 4500' of climb 9 hours car to car

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Lennox Mt (attempt) 2.2.11

With the great snow conditions paired with the stellar weather I was looking for a little larger day. A group was heading up Lennox so I thought I would tag along. I very rarely have company and never with a group of this size. It seems comical to me but I really didn't know what role to play. I parked at the end of the plowed Money Creek Road and Bruce was already there. I have done more than a few hikes with Bruce so I was happy to see a familiar face. One by one the rest of the crew joined us and we started walking around 8am. I had hoped a little earlier start but I felt like we still had plenty of time. One in the group had made an attempt over the weekend so this saved a lot of time because we were able to find a suitable crossing quicker and I was able to follow their snowshoe tracks saving much route finding. The crossing of Money Creek wasn't without it's adventure. Bruce tried to just rock hop across and met with some very slippery rocks. Luckily he managed to stay upright and mostly dry. I was able to find a log to shimmy across that did a quite a number on my snowpants making them quite airy. Luckily I am through having kids as well since the log was intent on keeping me from having any more.

   Once across I was able to pick up the previous snowshoe track. It is very important to stay on the WEST side of Goat Creek until about 2/3 of the way to the waterfalls. I have heard horror stories of this route regarding the man eating brush. I will say the route we took was virtually brush free. In a heavy snow year I doubt you would have to even dodge any brush at all. Once we neared the headwall I headed towards the rockslide while the rest of the group held a more Easterly track. I dropped some gear which at the time didn't seem would pose any issues later. I did think later that I would probably been better leaving it an area that would be easier to spot on the descent. This became much more of an issue later. I quickly ascended 400' before I hit the snow finger I was aiming for. I stopped to add crampons which were absolutely needed. I was able to zig zag my way up missing most of the brush. We regrouped at 3200' and I headed West on a rising traverse and I couldn't believe how quickly I reached the impressive Goat Basin. In fact I was nearly 100' above the lake. The sun peaked over the ridge and I enjoyed a sun filled snack. After about 20 minutes I called and I didn't get a response. I feared that the group either decided to descend or somehow traversed below me without my noticing. I backtracked quite a ways yelling and received no replies. I decided to drop to the lake and at least get a bearing on the next step of the climb. I walked across the frozen lake and then walked across the Western Lake and kicked steps up to small flat area. I noticed that there were no tracks below me so I no knew that the group was indeed behind me. Thinking that they must have turned back I retraced my lake hopping and just as I was nearing the larger lake I spotted the group coming towards me.  Evidently they had climbed too high and then had to backtrack to reach the lakes.

    Once we regrouped I led the way kicking steps straight up the steepish slope. The snow in the trees was perfect and while it was steep the elevation kept ticking away. Once we reached more open slopes the snow had a 6" of powder on a firm base. Neil took over trailbreaking. I couldn't help but notice our distinctly different methods of climbing. I tend to head straight up a slope keeping the switchback to a minimum while Neil likes his switchbacks. I tried to give him some breaks but I didn't manage to help out for more than a few short portions. The terrain is interesting it is comprised of enumerable swales that have be circumvented. The grade isn't overly steep but it seems to go on for ever. Once the small saddle appeared in the ridge just West of Lennox I was happy to see the sun peeking through the gap like a shiny beacon to aim for. I started to grow very concerned about our timeframe. I had already passed my turn around time but the group was intent on continuing so I didn't say anything.  I soon realized that there was no way that I was going to summit much before 4pm making it certain that we would be heading out in the dark. This realization took the wind out of my sails. I had been very concerned for the descent from Goat Basin to the valley floor because the conditions were very icy. Plus I didn't want to try and find my stashed gear in the dark. I bid everyone adieu and was quite surprised that no one else wanted to turn back.  The descent back to the lake went very quickly and I took a short break just above the North side of the lake. I followed my prints back to the icy finger that I used for my ascent. Truthfully I haven't used my crampons too many times and this was the first time I really needed them. I took this portion very slowly and was able to make it down without any issues. Once back on the rockslide I put the crampons away and turned my attention to finding my stowed gear. As it turns out it took my nearly 45 minutes to find it, sometimes I amaze myself with my lack of common sense. In my searching I added at least 400' of additional climbing.

   Once I repacked I just had to follow the snowshoe track in the fading light. I was able to stay mostly on route and really didn't have any issues. When I reached Money Creek I just walked straight across. I found some fun postholes as I made my way back to the road but I thankfully regained the road for the short mile back to the car. A couple guys in a Jeep passed me on my way out much to my surprise. Evidently they had become stuck and spent most of the day getting out. While no summit was reached the route went much better than I could have hoped for. I wouldn't even mind a repeat on this one.

Approx 8miles 4000' of climb 10 hours car to car.

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