Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Squak Mt. The Long Way Route 1.18.12

  With the monumental dump of snow mixed with the generous lowland snow by options were very limited. I had expected more snow but there was still enough to provide challenging driving conditions around my house. I decided a nice walk from my house to Squak Mt South Access Road and on to the summit would be a fun trip.  The snow was waning as I started out. The roads were compact snow and ice. I made great time the 2.5 miles to the Access Road. There was very little traffic and the people I did see were driving at speeds suitable for the conditions. I was a bit unnerved around a steeper portion of my approach. Both coming and going I was very aware of what traffic was doing. I certainly didn't want to get in the way of car sliding out of control on the hill.

   Once I started on the road there were tracks from earlier in the day. I found it easier to find my own way in the shallow snow instead of trying to match stride lengths of the tracks. The weather changed to a light rain and I was wary of freezing rain. There were a few trees freshly down from the added weight of the snow. The snow progressively got deeper as I reached the end of the bootprints. I broke trail for the remainder of the way to the summit. There was about 16" of snow from the previous week's activity. I didn't linger long and I pushed the pace down the road. The snow was great for a speedy decent. The balance of the way home went very quickly. I did have to navigate more traffic on the way out then on the way in. I was pleased that my new La Sportiva Gore-Tex Boots kept my feet warm and more importantly dry. 10 miles in wet conditions was a good test.

Approx 10 miles 2100' of climb 3:45 car to  car

Monday, January 16, 2012

Snowy Cougar Mt. 1.16.12

   I was really looking forward to having the kids off today from school. I was hopeful another outing with them out in the hills. With the suddenly snowy weather only stoking my desire to get them out, my oldest decided that she wanted to climb Cougar Mt. I have very fond memories of a previous trip when she was able to summit on her own power. My fondest memory was when we came across a sign for Longview Peak and I wasn't able to dissuade her from bagging her second peak of the day. I was hopeful the roads were passable and thankfully they were easily navigated. After our customary stop for Gatorade and snacks we were  off for the short drive to the trailhead just off of SR 900. The weather was chilly and the snow had stopped. There was about an inch covering the trail making for some slick footing. I chuckled to myself as the 4 year old took the lead and set a stiff pace. It sure is a joy to watch those little legs "power up the steeps". As is customary the little one lost interest and I had to resort to my ruse of promising hot chocolate if the summit is realized. In this case I was sure that the summit would be too much so my hope was just some time well spent with my girls. After a mile the little one decided that she had enough and we had a family meeting to decide to what course of action to take. The oldest was dead set on continuing because she wanted to add another entry to her Peakbagger summit page. In the end I felt like it was probably best to head back. The kids each fell once and they were quick to recover. I was pure joy to be out with my girls and to see there smiling faces all bundled up to ward off the chill.

Approx 2 miles 400' of climb 60 minutes car to car

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Arrowhead Mt. 6030' 571'P 1.12.12

I don't know if I was more surprised to put a group of 5 together mid week to do a Winter Climb or that I could find 4 other people who haven't already done Arrowhead. I have saved this one for a day with clear conditions to make the most of the sweet views. While the weather wasn't as clear as I had hoped the cloud deck was high enough to allow views of area peaks mantled in snow. I had hoped to do Arrowhead by the non traditional West Ridge Route but the group was more interested in the favored East Ridge Route. We met at the Sultan P and R at the 7am. I had Fletcher and Rob sign on for another outing but we also were able to add Craig(Redwic) and Sergio. We had clear sailing on Hy 2 since the road were bare and dry. I was very thankful for the detailed route description on where to park, roughly 7.5 miles East of Stevens Pass on a fairly large turnout on the North side of the US2. The weather was very crisp but not overly cold as suited up. I was very careful to leash the dog for both the crossing of the road as well as the 1.5 mile walk East on the train tracks.

   The going was easy on the tracks and shortly a train went by as I held the leash with a death grip. We soon saw a snowshoe trench leaving the tracks and we investigated. I felt like we still should walk further East but having a solid trench to follow was too good of option to pass up.  The trench was very icy so a few of us went ahead and added traction devices, I was very envious of the micro spikes which were much better than the crampons I was forced to use. After a few hundred feet of climb the path started heading further East than I wanted to I took off more Westerly. The snow was fairly consolidated and the grade was much easier than what I was expecting. After leading for a short ways I let everyone pass me. Sergio hadn't done a snowshoe hike before and I was more concerned for his well being than the others. I was happy to see that we were making very good time and with getting an early start I was very hopeful for success. Around 4400' the going became much steeper and with this the snow was softer. The lighter guys leading didn't have much post holing problems but Sergio in front of me had much difficulty. We both are considerably heavier than the rest of the group. Thankfully I didn't have nearly as much issue as Sergio. I give him a ton of credit for maintaining a positive demeanor in a tough situation for someone new to snowshoeing.

Around 5100' we finally broke out onto the ridge and I was very happy to find a snowshoe trench as easy to walk on as a city sidewalk. Being only 900' below the summit with such perfect conditions we quickly made the summit. The wind was a bit nippy on top so I descended a few feet while everyone had summit beers and lunch.  I returned to take some group pictures and didn't waste much time to descend again. I am sure that my face with grape colored icicles hanging off my goatee was quite the site. I wasn't quite paying enough attention to the point where we had reached the ridge and we descended on the nice trench past it. I was fine with mixing up the descent so Craig and I descended the trench while the others backtracked to our ascent route. After a few more hundred feet of descent Craig and I feared the route would follow the complete East ridge back to the train tracks. Not wanting to go so far out of our way we did a descending traverse to the West to reach our ascent route. We were surprised not to see any sign of bootprints descending so we decided to wait hoping that the rest of the group would soon catch up. After some time we decided that they may have descended via another route. Since the going is relatively easy we decided to continue with our descent. The rest of the way to the train tracks went very quickly and was quite enjoyable. Once reaching the train tracks I put my head down and pounded out the rest of the mileage back to the car. Not too long after reaching the car everyone else made it out.

   Some times group dynamics can be a problem on these types of trips but I was very thankful that everyone related well with each other and were able to make decisions as a group. It was very fulfilling to be able to cross another on off the Back Court 100 especially in the dead of Winter

Approx 6 miles 3400' of climb 6:00 Car to car

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

More Cabin Creek Wanderings 1/4/12

A couple of Week's ago I had an interesting trip in the Cabin Creek area. Although it didn't result in any summits it did provide and enjoyable outing. Recently the weather has disrupted my trip plans and today was no exception. When I got up it was dry but imposing and by the time I got out the door the heavy rain had already arrived. As I made my way up I-90 the rain stopped but I was sure it was right behind me. When I saw blue sky East of the pass I shifted gears and decided to head East. I was running low on ideas so I thought it best to try a rematch with Cabin Mt. Looking at my maps it appeared that one could access my previous route from an exit earlier but that proved less than fruitful when the road ended in a snow berm preventing any further travel. I still am suspect about this route working since I don't remember encountering a bridge to cross over the Yakima River. At any rate I backtracked to I-90 and made my way to my previous parking spot on Cabin Creek Road going through Easton.      

The weather was dry and foggy but seemed likely to improve as the sun made it's way higher into the sky.I traced my steps of my previous trip but further up I headed further West finding smooth sailing in the clearcut. The snow was fairly consolidated and I was only sinking in 6" with my snowshoes on. I saw some flagging on a tree and I entered the trees following the line of flagging. The going got steep but the snow in the trees was very grippy giving the pace a distinct lift. Soon I popped out on a road and I had a tough time remembering if it was the same road as my previous trip. I followed for a short ways and the road dead ended and I angled to rejoin the trees because the snow was much quicker. I quickly ran into another road and I stepped over this road climbing steeply in less consolidated snow. Soon I found myself in some sort of rock garden with immense rocks to circumvent. I was I was worried about voids in the snow. I had visions of a recent trip report where the skier fell into a hole and had a very tough time extricating himself. That report had the luxury of having some onlookers who could have helped. Not having that luxury I tredded gingerly. Not finding any easy way I decided to bag the rest of the climb. I headed back down, when I hit the road I had crossed over I decided to continue heading West. Soon I found a nice stand of more mature trees with a nice angled slope. Even though my legs were crying to stop the easy going in the trees was more than I could resist. I plodded on switchbacking in the nice snow with a manageable grade. Soon I found myself in a small basin with some views. I could see 250' of climb above me with open deep snow and then a small short portion to reach the summit ridge. I had already passed by turn around time and the tank was very much on empty. I decided to head back and hopefully to miss the impending rain. I was very surprised to make it as far as I had since the going was much tougher than expected. I followed my tracks most of the way back to the car. The rain hit on the lower slopes but I was close enough to the car for it to be of little bother.                                                                                                                                                  

Approx 6 miles 2200' of climb 4:30 car to car.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Mudbog Hill 1250' 500P' 1/2/12

After last week's enjoyable outing I thought a similar type of day was in order. With the weather dry and the kid's still out of school I thought I shouldn't let this opportunity pass by. The girls are starting to get into the peakbagging thing especially as I have started each of them a page on I guess the compulsion doesn't fall too far from the tree. We made our customary stop at Tiger Mt. Store and I was dismayed that all the drinks were not cold. After chatting up the cashier, I found that the store had all the copper wire stolen over the long weekend, making their compressor non functional. Hard to believe that all that effort was worth the risk for the perpetrators. After the girls finally each made their decision on what snack to take we were off. I decided on Mudbog Hill because it was on List of John and looked to have logging road access tot the summit. I am not sure that the girls would enjoy a low elevation bramble bash of some obscure low lying hill.

   Just before the train track crossing we parked at a wide spot in front of the locked gate. There was plenty of signage to discourage further exploration so what follows may or may not be a collective figment of my family's imagination. After getting situated we may or may not have started up the nicely paved road. The road climbed steeply and then switched to gravel.  After a short descent we found ourselves at a small lake or what may be considered the "Mudbog" this hill is named after. Soon the pitch increased and the girls were losing their enthusiasm. Thankfully only one at a time would do this making motivation somewhat easier. Once we reached the saddle the winds really increased and it was a bit nippy. We followed the road until it crested and left the road cross country for a short ways to make the summit. After a brief round of high fives we retraced our steps back to the road.

   Finding a dry sheltered spot we all enjoyed a family moment enjoying our summit success. Much to my surprise a group of 3 motorcycle riders came up the road and as soon as they saw us they turned around. Thankfully relieving me of the burden of explaining what we were doing.  After finishing our snacks we headed down hoping to outrun the inpending rain. Soon after we again saw the riders and as soon as they saw me they quickly turned around. Evidently we must look pretty imposing. A bit further down the road we ran across a nice couple out for an afternoon hike. Soon we were back at the car thankfully before the rain arrived. I am very thankful my girls were both willing and enjoyed themselves. Nothing beat their excitement to update their climbing page.... a proud papa I am.

Approx 3 miles 700' of climb 2:30 Car to Car

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