Monday, April 21, 2014

Hex Mt. Loop Foil, and 1300' Reclimb

I had hoped to do something off the Salmon La Sac Road but I was only able to drive a mile in before the snow became more than I was willing to tackle. I think seeing the cross alongside the road gave me all the reason to turn around I needed. Some years ago a car slid off the road falling steeply towards the creek. I wanted to avoid a repeat of that event so I backed up until I could find a suitable place to turn around. I had suspected that I wouldn't be able to drive to my initial target so I had a back up plan. Even though I had done Hex some years ago I thought it would be a low key objective for the day. I found a great place to park and was happy to see the rain I expected was not there, in fact it was downright pleasant. There was only patchy snow as I made my way up the road to access the Hex Mt Trail. I had taken a left turn on my previous attempt taking me in  the wrong direction. I was thankful to remember and not make the same mistake again.

As I reached the upper reaches of the logging road and switched to the trail and the views opened up. It was nice to see some of my old favorites mantled in snow. At around 4400' the trail enters the trees and the snow was rock hard. If the grade would have been steeper I think I would have wanted crampons or at least the added traction of snowshoes. I was able to make the summit without any issues. Thankfully the last steeper portion is out of the trees so the snow was much more receptive. I didn't linger long on the summit because it was a bit breezy. I felt compelled to keep following the ridge that was laid out beautifully in front of me. After consulting the map I had forgotten that the trail does continue down the ridge and spits me out within walking distance of my car. This was too much for me to resist. I had a big smile on my face as I plunged stepped down the easy grade. I couldn't see any sign of the trail buried beneath the snow. I had only done a cursory glance at my map but I wasn't concerned since If I just followed the easy path of least resistance I would reconnect with the car. Once reaching 4100' the trail jogs a bit so I followed suit which was great until I reached 3700' where I was stuck between two creeks with a steeper drop than what I wanted to attempt solo. I couldn't reconcile what I could see with my map so I decided to climb back up until I could get myself back on track. I chose a more direct line than I had used for my descent.

I have had a very taxing week at work along with a home project that has been taking up all my additional time. All this extra effort started taking it's toll as I struggled to get my self back up the slope. I gave up taking any chance of trying to close my loop because I couldn't make any sense of where I had gone wrong. Finally I was able to reclaim the 1300' of elevation to get back to Hex Mt's summit.  I was very thankful to be back on route and I struggled to keep a fast pace on the way down. Thankfully the car appeared. After downloading my route it was easy to see where I had gone wrong. I was glad I was able to make the right choice to return the way I had come. It was a hard choice because I wasn't too enthused with the idea of having to climb back to the summit, but looking on where I was heading it was the right choice. I learned a valuable lesson on making sure I spend the proper amount of time looking at my map before deciding that I can just wing it.

Approx 10 miles 4200' of climb 5:30 car to car

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

West Green Mountain 4656' 4.8.14

Last week I had an interesting outing on my way to Green Mountain's true summit. I found some rotten open snow on the East Ridge and it was enough of a concern that I backed down to the road below.  I had plenty of time so I headed on West Green Mountain Road until I stumbled onto a well flagged route heading up. The snow was decent in the trees and I made great time until I reached the open Talus field that can be seen from the many vantage points in the valley. I dropped my pack to lighten my weight for  the soft snow. I made it quite a ways before deciding that I had allotted my allowed time. I had hoped for a rematch this week provided the weather would cooperate.  Puzzlr had contacted me to see if I would have any interest in having some company for my return try. I was stoked because I don't get to have partners too often and I hadn't met Puzzlr before but I was well aware of some of the trips he had done. I knew I didn't need to worry about his fitness or abilities on this substantial climb. 

We decided to meet at the jump off point on the Middle Fork Road just after crossing the Middle Fork Bridge. The weather was quite a bit warmer when I arrived than I had expected. In fact I had to contend with a few mosquitoes in the short time I waited for Puzzlr to arrive. After exchanging pleasantries we were on our way.  Both the time and elevation flew by as we made our way towards our objective of the SW Ridge of Green Mt to access the Western most summit. I couldn't find a whole lot of beta regarding be able to run the ridge to the true summit. What I was able to find made it seem like it would be difficult.  I had pretty much resigned myself to settling for the Western point of the three distinct summits of Green. I was able to spot some tracks in addition to those that I had left last week. When we reached the open slopes below the ridge I was taken back with the fresh avalanche debris that more than likely had come down the day prior with the warm weather. I wasn't quite too happy to see my prints from the previous week covered with fresh debris. I had looked at the slope prior to walking underneath it last week and hadn't thought there was enough snow to actually slide.

Just prior to reaching my stopping point from last week we both switched to snowshoes. I had some equipment issues so I had Puzzlr continue on while I did my best to get it sorted out. We were able to zig zag our way up the slope quicker than I expected and soon we found ourselves on the SW ridge  The ridge proper was mostly melted out so we dropped pack and snowshoes and added rain gear because the impending rain finally reached us.  The prints I had seen below also converged here coming in a much more direct line from the basin below.  The scramble was fairly straightforward and we reached a small point to find that the Western summit was still a ways away along the ridge. The ridge went without much bother and we found ourselves on the summit with very limited views. I was happy to make it to this point so I headed back while Puzzlr continued a short ways along the ridge to get a better feel of what lay ahead. I was a little apprehensive about the descent so once reaching our packs I broke out my ice ax for some mostly unneeded conditions. It made me feel a little more secure however. Once regaining the trees we switched back to boots and had an enjoyable descent in the building rain. We made a short side track to the East Ridge climbers trail to see the cross left for an unfortunate climber killed in the area a couple of years ago. It always sobering to be faced with the things that can go drastically wrong during these pursuits. By the time we reached the lower portions of the trail it was raining quite hard making the trail much more challenging.  Many thanks to Puzzlr for making this day such a success. It was very good to meet you and I look forward to doing some trips in the future.

Approx 9 miles 4000' of climb 6:30 car to car

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Green Mt. North Bend 4.1.14

With the nicer than expected weather I chose to stay close to home. I grew up on the Middle Fork and I feel a bit negligent that I haven't climbed Green Mt.  A few years back I tried the East Ridge from the CCC road and was fine until I reached 3000' and was nearly swallowed by some serious voids in the snow. As was today I was solo and it was more than unnerving. I had read some recent reports from Green last week so it was again on my radar. I hadn't been on the connector trail that starts just after the Middle Fork Road crosses the Snoqualmie. I didn't see the trail initially so I had to turn around. The trail starts a mere few feet from the bridge so it couldn't be easier to find once you know. I started off with too many layers as it seemed to warm quickly as I headed up. The trail is in good shape and passes some huge trees and some even bigger stumps. This alone was worth the drive. After crossing a creek the pitch increases which I was pleased because I knew I had to climb 4000' to meet my objective. In short order I reached the CCC road where I went right for 20' to reconnect with the trail.

This portion of the trail was also in good shape and it spit me out onto the road I wanted. I headed right on the old road that has degraded into an easy trail. The elevation adds up quickly on this portion. There are some wonderful views to East. Russian Butte and Garfield are the stars here. The added bonus is none of the logging roads that scar Zorro ridge can be seen making the views much more pristine. There was only a few patches of snow along the way. I reached a junction and I headed right and reached a nice overlook. I could see a crude path heading to the talus field so I followed. The rock here is loose so those who have partners be forewarned. I had seen some fresh prints in the snow at the base of the climb but as I headed up I didn't see them anymore. Since I had read a report from last week that I had assumed used this route, not seeing any boot prints made me suspect that I had left too the road too soon. I turned around and headed back to the road below. Once reaching the road I continued on to the left. After a short ways the road degrades considerably. The snow also deepened and it was obvious no one had been here recently since there were no prints in the soft snow. I decided that I had indeed been on route so I returned to the faint climber's path.

The going was straight forward and I did my best to avoid any snow that I could since I had first hand knowledge of some of the man eating voids. As I climbed higher it became impossible to avoid the snow and I had to slow down to make sure each step was secure. Once I reached the trees there wasn't much snow so the pace quickened. The ridge became very defined as I made my way higher. I reached another open area with soft snow. I decided that it would be best to attack this route with either more or less snow. I quickly descended the 600' back to the road.

Since I had plenty of time and my legs were feeling good I headed up at the previous junction. I could see Whitebark's boot prints. I was sure they were his since there were only prints going down and none going up. I decided to at least make it to the convenient sitting log and views he referenced in his report. Once reaching the area where he had rejoined the road I was surprised looking down his route. It looked like it wouldn't be fun to descend so I am guessing that is why he chose to head back on the road. I was curious what lay ahead so I continued on to a switchback and I some flagging caught my eye. I also noticed some fresh looking blaze marks in the trees that were impossibly high up. It amazed me how much higher the snow must have been when they were made. The snow and the grade were pleasing so I continued on. I was able to follow the blazes and the flagging without too much issue. Soon I broke out of the trees to some open snow slopes baking in the warm sun. I wasn't too optimistic regarding continuing since I hadn't thought snowshoes would be needed. I gave myself some better odds by dropping my pack. I just wanted to see what lay ahead so I could determine if this route would work for a successful summit. The snow varied from shin to knee deep but for most part I was able to find a base. The going was slow but it was unbelievable to push through all the untracked snow in the warm sunshine. I could see the SW ridge come into view and there weren't any obstacles so I decided to continue. Once reaching an old avalanche path I decided that I better head back if I wanted to make my evening plans. I was less than an hour from the summit so I was somewhat disappointed. That evaporated quickly as I made my way back to my pack. The descent was much more difficult than the ascent. It seemed the added force of gravity was more than the base could handle and I found myself sinking well past my knees on nearly every step. Thankfully I reached my pack and better snow in the shade of the trees.

As I started down I noticed that my steps had prints in them pointing downhill. At first I thought that I had made them but after they continued I realized that someone had followed my prints stopping at my pack. Initially it gave me some cause for concern.  A lot of crazy thoughts were rolling through my head. As I descended further I thought maybe this was an opportunity to find someone to climb with. Someone with Tuesdays off and willing to do obscure routes in early Spring. I decided to hit the gas on the way down with the intent on catching up to my mysterious boot prints. Once on the lower portions I had to give up with the idea of catching up, so I throttled back to a more normal pace. Just as I reached the Middle Fork I was able to catch up. As we walked back to the cars we had a nice chat. I will indeed be back next week to finish this off provided the weather is agreeable.

Approx 10 miles 3700' of climb 6 hours car to car

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