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)

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