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

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