Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Johnny Peak 6294' 5.1.12

 As has been the pattern lately the weekend weather was pleasant and my day to hike was not. I tried to mitigate the poor weather by heading East. Fletcher was up to join me and had suggested the Icicle Ridge Highpoint that a group had done over the weekend. I was interested because it was about the amount of climb I was looking for and route finding would be very easy. The downside was that I had already done the climb. When I was looking at the map it made me remember a route that I had wanted to try many years ago and never got around to it. I still needed to climb Big Lou and I wanted to try a route that is very seldom travelled. In fact in my research I could only find one report where a couple of guys had skied the route and then descended the Cabin Creek drainage. I wasn't about to try that descent route.

    The ridge is on the map is  pleasing  the grade seems doable and since the group did ski it I thought it would be fun to give it a go. I wasn't overly optimistic of success because it is a very long climb but I knew I would never know unless we tried. Coming over Snoqulamie Pass it was snowing which gave me some thought to trying something near the pass since we could avoid the rain and spend the day in the snow. Fletcher was napping since it was still very early and so I pushed on. We made good time and the rest of the way was thankfully dry. The Weather in Leavenworth was much better than what I feared. We soon found a good place to park across from the locked upper gate to Johnny Creek Campground. I was concerned with the forcasted snow and high winds so me both carried much unneeded gear. I guess for me I would rather carry extras and not need them instead of vice versa. Other than crampons and about 16 layers of clo'thes for me we managed to use most of the gear we carried. 

  We pushed off around 8:30 and Headed North and I found a worn path that we followed to some sort of weird box, no idea what exactly it was for. The path pushed further East than what I wanted but I game me an opportunity to pinpoint our exact location on the map when we reached Johnny Creek. It looked like there was a worn tread on the East bank so we easily stepped over the creek and continued on until we reached the road. Here we headed back west and recrossed the creek. The initial portion of the climb was brushy and unpleasant and we had a discussion of retreating back to the Fourth of July Creek Trail. I decided to push on for a short ways and was able to hit the steeper slopes which were thankfully brushless. Now I knew there was no turning back. The weather oscillated from warm and sunny to windy and cold but it except for some light graupel showers it stayed dry. There wasn't any snow and we were cranking out the elevation. It was fun to look back across the valley to the South and gauge our gain on the opposite slope. The view of Cashmere are outstanding along with Jay Peak which is at the head of Jay Creek. Jay Peak has a quite imposing face that we were able to get a good look at throughout the ascent.  Looking at the contour lines it looks much less imposing than in appears in the field. We finally hit snow and once we hit consistent snow it was great for kicking steps which helped us keep up the pace. Around 5400' I had hoped to drop off the ridge and traverse to the small saddle to the NW making for shorter walking and less gain. I now knew I wasn't going to have the legs to get to Big Lou so staying on the ridge and making it to Johnny Peak seemed like a better goal. Around 5500' we put on snowshoes because the snow abruptly turned to a post hole fest. The snowshoes cured that ailment and were able to make it to the ridge line. Once on the ridgeline it was apparent that the point to the East was higher so we made our way there. The distance looked like a long ways but it seemed like we made the highpoint in minutes.

   The wind started to increase so we didn't linger long. The vantage was worth every ounce of effort to reach it. We started our descent by first following our ascent route until it started to climb to the point we initially reached the ridge. I tried a descending traverse to regain out ascent route lower cutting down the amount of walking .  We were able to reach a wind lip that took some effort to surmount to reach our ascent route. I laughed when I suggested the dog may have an issue making it over the lip. We were ready to snap some pictures of the attempt. Evidently my new climbing dog is smarter than I thought. He bounded up the slope a 100' feet and found an easier way and came back down towards us. It was apparent by his gait that he was very proud of himself by finding an easier way and he showed no signs of being distressed. It was apparent to me that he knew exactly what he was doing. Since the descent is a bit long I wanted to try to stay on our boot track as much as possible. Even though the map doesn't show any issues I know that it is easy to get off line and derail and otherwise good day. We were able to make good time on the way down and even managed to miss virtually all the brush on the lower slopes.  Another great day out with great company on a route that I wouldn't mind a repeat of.

Approx 4000' of climb and 5 miles

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