Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Middle Muffin 4015' Big Muffin 4600+ Little Muffin 4280'

Headed up the Meadow Creek Valley near Snoqualmie for an enjoyable day out. I managed to get out of the house at a decent hour and was greeted at Snoqualmie Pass with freezing rain. I had hoped that the road was open past the Crystal Springs Sno Park but I found the road bermed with snow. I drove through the Sno Park parking lot and found the connecting road driveable. The main line was heavily packed and made for easy driving. I was excited because I had done this same approach 2 weeks ago but on that trip I was forced to walk the 6 miles to my jump off point. I was able easily drive the entire way to the spur road that I needed. I parked off the side making sure I was going to be able to get out for the drive home.

Thankfully the rain had ended as I suited up. I walked the packed road for a while before I reached a junction heading my way. I saw some boot prints in the snow which surprised me..... well until I realized they were my prints from 2 weeks ago. It gave me a good chuckle anyway. Once I reached a junction where I had headed right on my last trip, I instead headed straight into the trees. The snow was pretty icy and firm. Initially I felt good without traction aid. As I climbed higher I switched to crampons. The last 100 feet before the ridge was steep and icy and debated getting out my ice axe. I instead made doubly sure of each step by kicking at least 3 times to break through the healthy crust. Once reaching the ridges I made a short ways to top out on 4015', while it only has around 150' of prominence I thought Middle Muffin would be a good name. I descended the ridge to intersect the road below me. This line was much more direct than taking the mainline road that heads to the summit of Big Muffin. I followed the road until it's end where a snowmobile had continued heading towards the summit. I stayed in the track and soon found myself on another road which I crossed and headed off trail for a short ways to reach Big Muffin 4600+. Views were non existent so I didn't linger long.

On the descent I stayed on the road the entire way avoiding the steeper off trail of my ascent. When I reached the spot the main intersection I was happy to see that it was still early. I decided to continue on another packed road heading to Little Muffin. In short order I was able to climb on the road until I was just below the summit and I wandered on some low angle terrain until I stumbled across the summit of Little Muffin 4280'. Again I didn't waste much time on the summit and quickly headed back to the car.

In the short time I was gone the weather warmed considerably making it difficult to get the Audi back onto the mainline.  I soon realized that I wasn't going to get the car out without breaking out the snow shovel. Thankfully I have packed the car to handle just about anything. After a few tries I thankfully was able to back the car back onto firmer snow and regain the route home.  The drive out was uneventful until I reached the freeway and my car was shaking like mad. I had feared I had bent my wheel while I was stuck so I pulled over to check out the problem. Thankfully the problem was just an immense amount of snow packed into my wheels on the passenger side making them roll completely odd. I did my best to get out the snow and gave it another go. Still shaking I pulled over again and found a stick to get the snow out I couldn't quite reach. Thankfully it was just the ticket to get the car back to normal. Another nice day to get out.

Approx 7.7 miles 2400' of climb 4 hours car to car

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Howson Creek 1.21.14

I had aspirations of climbing Howson Peak but I couldn't decide how I wanted to attack it. I had tried once before using the old Howson Creek Trail until just before the creek crossing. On that trip I left the trail and headed to the SE to 5159'. On that trip I found fairly easy travel but ran out of gas after making it to 5159'. I also had climbed Not So Sasse Peak via the Howson Creek trail. I decided on the drive over to Salmon La Sac that if the snow cover was low enough I would use the more direct route of going over 5159 and if there wasn't any snow down low I would stick to the trail.

I was surprised on cresting Snoqualmie the weather was in the mid 20's and there was much more cloud cover than the West side of the pass. I had hoped to spend the day in the sun.  I had some trouble finding my jump off point despite being there a few time. It seems between the growing number of trips I have done and my fading memory I will need to do more homework before heading out. The trail is no longer signed and is quite a bit before the crossing of Howson Creek. There is a allowed parking on the West side of the road directly across from the start of the trail. The trail starts as a old road bed until it reaches the crossing of Howson Creek. There was very little snow so I decided to stay on the trail. The creek crossing was a bit sketchy because all the rock above the water line were caked in ice. I chose to walk in the creek to cross which wasn't deep enough to cause any issues. The snow was just soft enough to get enough traction without any aid. The trail was easy to follow since it was for the most part the only snow. It was like following a ribbon of white. At around 3800' the sun started peaking through and I switched to crampons since the snow was becoming less friendly. There were still long patches of bare dirt which for Mid January at over 4000' was quite disturbing to me. I was able to follow the trail until 4200' where I lost it. I couldn't remember much of my previous trip, I did remember that the trail turns the corner and starts traversing towards Sasse Mountain but I couldn't remember at what elevation that occurred. I just kept heading up finding a manageable grade and good snow conditions. What wasn't in good condition however was my fitness level. Even with great conditions I was making very slow time and it was very apparent that there was no way I was going to get anywhere close to my goal for the day with the time I had available. I also realized that I wouldn't even have time to make it to Sasse Mountain as a back up. After some debate I decided to retreat in order to make in home in time for my evening plans.

This trip highlighted some areas I need to better focus on. More homework before leaving the house and while I have been doing quite a few miles per week it doesn't substitute as well as I had hoped for actual climbing. As I have noted before there is an appalling shortage of snow at the moment. Looking at the extended forecast I don't see that changing any time soon.

Approx 5 miles 2300' of climb 4 hours car to car

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Meadow Creek Wanderings 1.14.14

I had hoped to climb Big Muffin via Meadow Creek but the road has been closed past Crystal Springs Sno Park since last week when I was there. I had thought this might be an issue so I had been prepared to walk the 7+ miles of road to the summit. I gave some thought to another objective but in the end I really just wanted to get out and the result was much less important. Since I didn't have a Sno Park Pass I parked at the newly placed snow berm blocking access to the road to Stampede Pass. There isn't much snow on the road and I wouldn't be surprised if it is all gone by next week. I headed on the Lost Creek Road for about 2 miles until I reached the Meadow Creek Road. The snow became deeper but was well packed by the snowmobile traffic. At around the 5 mile mark I hit a junction heading my way and found slower going with the lessened traffic. I resisted putting on snowshoes even though I could have made a case to do so. Once reaching a painfully flat section of the road I left the road heading up. The snow was about 2 feet deep on a solid base. I again reached my road cutting the switchback and headed a short ways further until reaching an area with some nice territorial views. The weather was partly sunny and well above freezing so I enjoyed my lunch. I still had nearly 2 miles to go in deepening snow so I contemplated my options. I would surely be coming out in the dark if I were to continue and I would also miss dinner with the family. In the end the lure of spending time with my family won out and I headed back. The last 2 miles seemed endless and I was very happy to reach the car.

Approx 13 miles 1600' of climb 6 hours car to car.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Loser Ridge 4600' 1.7.14

I had hoped to do a longer day today but I was feeling under the weather and thought it best to keep it simple today. I was hopeful that I would be able to drive to Lost Lake near Snoqualmie Pass. Even with the recent snow it was actually much easier driving than last week. I parked at the major intersection before the lake. While it was well below freezing it was just drizzling. I had hoped to at least get some snow showers to add to the day. The road was initially packed down by snowmobile traffic but the road is a bit cumbersome in the beginning with quite a few trees laden with ice blocking the way. I was able to knock enough ice off to have the trees part the way for easier travel. After a short ways the road is clear sailing. The snow was perfect for booting, a nice soft layer on top of a solid base. I managed to leave the snowshoes and crampons stored for the entire day. After 2 miles I passed two small lakes that were beautiful with their winter coat of snow. After passing the lakes I finally reached the end of the road and was able to find easy cross country travel. I reached an upper road that had more snowmobile traffic heading my way. The last part was open but fairly steep and I was surprised when I looked up and I was on the summit. The views from the summit looked mostly like an inside of a cloud so I didn't linger long. I gave some thought of mixing up the descent but in the end I chose to take the path most travelled and headed down the way I had come. Nice easy day with good snow conditions.

Approx 6 miles 1500' of climb 3 hours car to car

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Radioactive Peak 4529' (Stampede Pass) 1.1.14


I climbed this previously unnamed high point near Stampede Pass today. While my goal was for it's little brother Crossover Butte just to the South. I made a navigation error and ended up on top which is adorned with many radio towers. I thought it was fitting name for the high point. I used the Crystal Springs exit and drove up to the junction before  Stampede Pass. I wasn't surprised by the lack of snow but the road gave me some concern because it was quite icy. I turned at the junction and headed South a short ways before deciding to park near the power lines. I could have driven further but I didn't want to risk it, plus I needed to stretch my legs anyway. I made sure to pack my crampons and left the snowshoes in the car. I made good time on the mindless road walk to my jump off point. I was able to find the road I thought I wanted but in the end I was confused and wasn't on the right road. I walked this road for a short ways until the grade above me slackened where I left the road climbing steeply. The snow was icy in spots making it necessary to kick steps a couple of times in places. I was able to find mostly open going. I started to wonder if I was in the wrong place because the grade grew even steeper which wasn't what I was expecting. Finally I could sense the top of the ridge was near. I found a steep gully going my way. The snow pack here was very icy so I broke out the ice axe for extra security. Near the top of the gully the snow was quite thin and it gave me some concern since I couldn't get any secure placement with my axe. I down climbed and did a descending traverse to reach easier terrain. While it was only a short portion it was nice to get some practice on steeper terrain.  Once past the difficulties the grade backed off and I was able to weave my way through the trees to the summit which had innumerable radio towers. There was very little snow on top and it was bullet proof ice. I walked in the cat tracks to have any chance of staying upright. I only stayed for a few moments enjoying the warm sun. In fact it had warmed up enough that chunks of ice were falling of the towers at an alarming rate.

I decided to follow the well packed road out instead of using my ascent route. Soon I had passed where I had left the road and I gave some thought to cutting some of the switchbacks  instead of following the much longer road out. I had plenty of time so I decided just to stay on the road. When I rejoined the mainline I was surprised to see fresh tracks going both in and out. I hadn't expected to see anyone. I finally caught up with the couple a couple of miles before the car. I exchanged pleasantries as I passed them. A very nice to day to be out despite climbing the wrong peak. There is certainly an alarming lack of snow. I don't see much to change that in the extended forecast either.

Approx 9.5 miles 1700' of climb 4 hours car to car

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