Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mount Phelps 5535' ( most of the way anyway)




I had a small window of time for today's foray into the mountains so I needed something shorter and efficient. I had tried to Phelps last year via a route that I isn't done very often. That attempt ended when a partner lost his ice axe and once dropping to find it we couldn't find the motivation to continue. I suspect it had alot to do with the driving slush that was falling from the sky. I had tried to pass the usual Blackhawk Mine approach and approach by older growth found on the West side of the creek. For this attempt I wanted to try the standard approach. I had done so much research for my prior attempt I didn't feel the need to revisit any old reports. While I am not sure what effect not doing my homework had on the eventual outcome I do know it didn't help.

   I was able to make good time to the turn off for the 4x4 road that leads to the mine despite the fact that there seems to be a lot of work currently being done on the North Fork Road. For my last trip we were thwarted on the drive in by a washout so I parked in the same spot as I did last time. The washout has been fixed which means I needlessly walked an extra mile. It seems strange to me that the road was fixed since I would suspect it sees very little traffic. The road is again washed up further but that only leaves a short ways to the road that I wanted. Once leaving the main road the 4x4 road heads up steeply and just at where the road again splits is the start of the climber's trail. The trail is flagged every so often and I found it most helpful to use the stumps with rocks on the top of them as my guide. The trail is steep in spots but not too hard to follow. I was very careful to pay particular attention to where I exited the clearcut so that I would be able to pick up the route on the way down. I would recommend on trying to stay on this trail as much as possible because the descent could be problematic without the trail. Once out of the clearcut the initial portion is scrubby trees that give way to more mature trees speeding the ascent. I was still able to follow the trail as it starts a rising traverse. Soon I reached a small flat area that grew into a subtle ridge. I was surprised because I expected to hit the saddle between Phelps and McClain to the South. I was obviously further East than what I thought.

  Since the Ridge was heading in the direction I wanted I decided to forgo the traverse to the saddle and instead keep climbing. The subtle ridge starts forested but then breaks out into some talus and heather fields. The wet foliage had now dried and the pace kept the elevation ticking away. The grade is not overly steep so I was feeling better about my chance for success. I reached an immense slab that I forced to go around. I went climbers left and came out an snow filled gully. I dropped 50' of elevation to go around the snow. The snow looked of sketchy quality so I didn't want to chance climbing the gully. I instead crossed it and headed up the steep duff slopes. I came out onto another gully filled with very small, loose talus and climbed until I was stymied. The cloud cover was very low keeping me from seeing too much of what lie above me. What I could see wasn't something I wanted to attempt solo. I could see a small gap above to my left above me that may have afforded me the summit ridge but I had a feeling I was off route. After some thought I felt I needed to traverse further left but I was now growing concerned for time. I didn't want to force myself to have to do a speed descent of my ascent route. I had to be back at a specific time and I couldn't afford to be late. I decided to not take any chances and descend.

   I dropped 400' following my ascent route without issue. I then lost the trail and had a small quandary about which way I needed to go. I ended up back tracking and rejoining the trail and was able to follow the balance without issue. I can't recommend enough to use the stumps as your guide on the way down.

Approx 4 miles 2800' of climb 4:30 car to car

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

West Peak of Cabin Mt....... I think 8.23.11

I only had a short day and with the rainy weather yesterday I nixed doing Phelps due to not wanting to get overly soggy. I thought some more exploring on the South Side of  I-90. I was hoping to do Snowshoe and Bearpaw Buttes. I tried to access via the Easton Side but was stopped by the bridge being out. So I backtracked by using the Stampede Pass route. I didn't have a map coming from this side so I was never quite sure where I was exactly at. I finally gave up trying to find my intended targets and parked with the intention of giving the dog a walk. I walked the driveable road climbing the whole way until I decided that the point above me had enough prominence to at least give it a shot. I left the road and made my way up the dense huckleberry brush. After a couple hundred feet I reached the ridgeline to find an imposing rock summit. I scouted around before settling on a 3rd class crack that led to the top. It appeared that it was nearly equal to the summit to my East and a bit short of another point even further East. While I can't be sure it does look like it was the Western Peak of Cabin Mountain. I retraced my steps and soon found myself back at the car.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Back on the Attack Mac Peak 8.16.11

This year has been rough for me making any headway on my goal of doing both the Home Court and Back Court 100 list. With things settling back into normalcy I was eager to get out on the predicted perfect weather. Bruce signed on and I had a plan. I wanted to head back for attempt of Mac Peak since last week's trip was aborted due to a very flat tire. I had been worried that doing Mac Peak last week was pushing the pup to hard since he just started his climbing career. I instead did Mt Sawyer and he did very well. I had some concern for the next day because of his problematic hip. My fears were unfounded when I awoke to find him in a completely hyper puppy state. I decided that hiking was actually helping his issue and more importantly the wife agreed. I decided that I was going to stop worrying about it.

    I picked up Bruce in Issaquah and we were on our way. The Tonga Ridge Road is in good shape and there are a few areas that you have to slow to go around but nothing a normal car couldn't handle. The road is endless to be prepared to add some extra time for the approach drive. We finally reached the end of the road and parked. Last week I had noticed a large avalanche had come down from the open slopes of Tonga Ridge and crossing the trail. This slide extended all the way to the road and there is still 15' of snow and rubble covering the road just past the trailhead. I am doubtful that this will melt this year. The connector to the Deception Creek trail drops 500' to the valley floor. There are quite a few nice campsites just past the junction which would provide a nice trip for a newbie backpacking trip. We crossed the creek draining Tonga Ridge on a footlog and shortly thereafter crossed Deception Creek on another great footbridge. The trail meanders up valley on a nice cushioned tread passing many old growth trees. It is wonderful walk, made better with some good conversation. We soon reached the junction with the PCT connector and quickly switchbacked up to the PCT. We passed a couple of young girls who were doing some trailwork( thanks!) Upon reaching the PCT we merely stepped straight over it.


    I had been on route last year so it was fairly fresh in my mind. The area is mostly open and seems to be a series of steps. We soon reached a boulder field which we crossed and climbed steeply in forest for a short ways before hitting more mellow slopes. We then did another short steep stretch where we reached a small tarn. The last trip I tried going up climber's left and had to back off and traversed under the cliff band to the right until I found a short steep gully giving me access to the easier upper slopes. This time I went directly to the gully and I had to lift Bosco over the impass and then I was able to make it over without too much issue. I think if I had gone further left there is a much easier way. At any rate it is only a 10' portion that gave us issues. Once above the cliffs we made it the wonderful basin with another tarn and a beautiful stream running from it. The views of Mt Daniel are amazing.




From the Basin the route is very apparent. We entered the shallow gully that meets up with the SW ridge. The going was pleasant and easy. At the top of the gully we did a rising traverse to the ridge line finally gaining the ridge around 6200'. The views really opened up on the ridge, we stayed mostly on the easy East  side of the ridge. The going was again very pleasant and soon we found ourselves on the summit. We eagerly signed the Fay Pullen register that was placed in 2005. I was surprised for such an easy summit with such commanding views there were very few entries. Mac Peak is the highest summit in the immediate area giving it a wonderful perspective on the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. I laughed when I saw my new pup laying in the snow in a effort to keep cool. It always amazes me with dog's innate ability to just know what to do. We lounged for 45 minutes trying to defend ourselves against the marauding mosquitoes.








I had hoped to try for Jungeselle just to South but I didn't feel like we were going to have time. I debated for some time about whether to exit to Talus Lake below us just to mix it up. It looked like we could make it there without much issue and since I had been there previously I wasn't concerned about making it back to the PCT from there. In the end we decided to retrace our ascent route. Once we reached the gully I found a fairly distinct trail on the South side of the gully which made the descent faster. For the most part I was able to follow this trail most of the way down. Just a couple hundred feet above the PCT we entered a gully that I mistakenly thought was the gully we had crossed at the start of the route. We ended getting sucked too far North and ended up on the isthmus between two of the Deception Lakes. We regained the PCT for the long slog out. We passed a young couple on the connector trail heading for a camp at Deception Lakes. It sure made me wish we were staying the night. We instead turned our attention on making our way down to Deception Creek. I think it took us longer going back than it did on our way in. Finally we reached the dreaded 500' climb back to the car. Without too much pain we finally reached the car. Just a wonderful day out, perfect weather, great summit, great company and a new trail dog that has passed his final exam!

Approx 12 miles 4500' of climb 8:15 car to car ( with 45 minutes on the summit)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Mt Sawyer 5501' 8.9.11

This has been a sporadic season for climbing for me and that's probably generous. Finally life has settled back into normal routines and I had time to get out. I wanted a moderate day so not to overtax the new pup. He seems to be growing stronger every day and seems to be limping much less frequently. I felt that a summit of Mac Peak via the end of the Tonga Ridge Road would be just the right fit for this day. I had been nearly to the SW ridge by this route before so I knew the route and with a full day I expected some success. I was able to get an early start and finally reached the endless Tonga Ridge Road to find that I had a very flat tire. After changing the tire a change in plans was also in order. I don't have a full sized spare so driving the lengthy logging road back to Hy 2 and then the 20+ miles to Monroe to be fixed would take some extra time. I wanted to make sure that I was able to make it back into Monroe at a reasonable hour so that I could get the tire fixed and avoid having to drive all the way home on a gimpy tire.

    I decided to head up trail instead of dropping to the creek. I had been up this trail once before so I thought I would make my way to the climbing trail that summits Mt. Sawyer. The trail is in good shape with only a few blowdown from some decent sized avalanches. Once the grade backs off I was surprised with how much snow that was still in the trees. There were long portions of deep ,consistent,  and continuous snow. While traffic on the trail coming from this direction is light I was able to follow the trail easily and soon started the long traverse to my intended target. I almost thought I had past it when I heard voices above me. A short ways further I found the junction that is very distinct and would be hard to miss. I quickly caught up to the voices who belonged to a party of 3 with 2 dogs. They graciously let me pass. The trail is snow free until it wraps to the North side where there is quite a bit of lingering snow. The summit was just a short ways off and I was dismayed that the heavy cloud cover hadn't lifted. It is hard to believe that it is Summer with the cool cloudy weather of late. Looking at what I could see it seemed more like late May.

    I relaxed a bit on the summit checking to make sure that my retirement plan hadn't dissipated since I had left home. I was very pleased with the Bosco who is a pleasure to travel with. He doesn't whine in the car and isn't a bother to people or dogs on the trail. He seems to be a natural on the trail and I was happy to have him knock off his first Home Court 100 Peak. I had hoped that the clouds would lift on the way out but that wasn't the case. I did get a good view of Mac Peak on the way out, except for the top 500' anyway. I was able to limp into Monroe without issue. I was surprised that the tire didn't actually have a leak???? I am guessing when I checked the pressure before leaving I must have pinched open the valve stem somehow.

Appox 8 miles 2100' of climb 4 hours car to car
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