Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Esmeralda Basin 6.24.14

  After last week's enjoyable outing James was eager to head out with me again. Sadly Steve had some obligations and couldn't attend. James had an appointment so we weren't able to meet up in Issaquah until 11, but with the long days I knew that would give us plenty of time. I had hoped that the clouds would thin a bit in Teanaway giving a better chance for sun. While Teanaway proper seemed to be in the sun for the balance of the day we found considerable more cloud cover the further North we went.  We made great time to the Ingall's trail head. The North Fork of the Teanaway was flowing pretty strong.

    I had been up the Esmeralda Trail once before when I climbed Fortune Mountain. I remember taking many more pictures than usual. It was easy to see why as we made our way up the good trail. The views are constantly getting better the higher you go. Soon we game to a junction with the County Line Trail. I didn't look to closely to the sign and instead of heading on the County Line Trail to our first goal of Lake Ann I led us on the Esmeralda Trail. I realized my error in short order when I realized we were heading to far West. I decided to continue despite the fact that it was taking us away from our goal. We topped out on 6010' and were treated to some up front and personal views of Hawkins impressive Northern slopes. I was able to see the Fortune Creek Road far below us. We retraced our steps to regain the County Line Trail and headed up. Once reaching the upper basin the snow became mostly continuous. Instead of trying to follow the trail I instead headed us towards a low spot in the ridge. The going was quite fun weaving in and out of the trees. Once reaching the steeper portions the snow became more patchy. Without any issue we were able to reach the ridge. Looking to the North I didn't see any reasonable way down so I headed West to a lower portion of the ridge. I found some snow slopes that would get us to the basin below but the wind was howling on that side of the ridge. I could see our goal of Van Epps Peak in the distance, looking like a million miles away. We dropped our packs and added some layers to ward of the biting wind. 6578' lies just to the West so we decided to see if we could at least climb something. I was unsure about James scrambling abilities so I wasn't quite sure how he would do. Any fears I might have had were unfounded when I watched him scramble above me. James was halted by some blank slabs. I had him wait while I caught up to him and I teased a route to the top of the point. I was a bit downtrodden when I realized that there was another point just a bit further along the ridge. I really didn't give the traverse a look and I instead quickly made my way back down to our packs.

    After regrouping at our gear we headed down the basin to regain the trail and hopefully some more sun and less wind. Once regaining the trail we found a nice sunny spot to have lunch. I didn't think we could make it back to Snoqualmie Pass before the blasting closure so the plan was just to hang out. Neither of us seem to be good at relaxing so we instead headed out. We passed a couple of skiiers on the lower reaches. Evidently there still is enough snow to ski between the Middle Esmeralda Peak and the Main Peak. I was curious on this being a viable approach for High Esmeralda. I am still a bit unclear on where exactly they had skiied but it does warrant some further inspection. Soon we found ourselves back at the car. I was able to get us to the road closure a few minutes before I thought it was to close. Thankfully they had pushed the closure back to 8 with the longer days so we had plenty of time. Another really enjoyable day to be out.

Approx 9 miles 2400' of climb 4:41 car to car

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

5520' via Johnson/Medra, Teanaway Doughnut Hole 6.17.14

I had an interesting time trying to choose a trip for this week. I had invited a group of my co-workers many of which had to work the day of the hike making coordinating a trip that would work for everyone challenging. When I saw the less than stellar weather forecast I decided to stick with those who did not have to work and head East in an attempt to find better weather. I again banked on the "Teanaway Effect" to provide some much needed sunshine. I decided to make another try for 5520' which is a few miles South of Koppen Mt off of the North Fork Teanaway Road. I thought the mileage and elevation would be well suited to my companions. I had tried earlier in the Spring but didn't like the creek crossing so I instead headed up a neighboring ridge that didn't make me have to cross any swift water. I met James and Steve at the Issaquah Park and Ride. I got there a bit early and they had some traffic troubles so I sat and waited listening to some music. I thought to myself after some time, that I hoped I wouldn't run my battery down. Well of course when we were all ready to go the car didn't have enough juice to start. Since we were on a bit of an incline I compression started the car and we were on our way.   True to form as we crested Snoqualmie Pass the weather lightened. By the time we reached the North Fork Road it was sunny and warm with just enough breeze to keep the temps comfortable.

    Soon after parking across from the traIhead we were off. The initial portions meanders along the creek without gaining too much elevation. We passed a work crew just before the first creek crossing. They are rerouting the trail to alleviate the need to cross the creek so many times.  As we headed up valley the pitched increased and the flowers started to show. It seems like there was only about 200' of elevation with flowers in bloom. We spotted a Western Tanager which is one of the most striking birds I have seen. Bright yellow plumage with contrasting black and a very bright red head. It was the second sighting for me over the years so it was nice for my companions to catch a glimpse. Soon we crested the ridge and finally had some views of the Peak to the North of us. The clouds were doing their best to knock Mt Stuart off it's lofty perch. To our North we couldn't see Ingalls which was completely engulfed in cloud cover. In fact we were in the middle of a doughnut hole in the clouds. Never once did the sun go behind a cloud on this trip despite we were completely encircled in clouds for the entire day. The wind was a bit brisk so we didn't linger. We headed up the ridge to the junction with the Koppen Mt. Trail. Once reaching the junction we headed South to our day's objective. Their is  a nice camp site along the ridge with the distinct disadvantage of not having any running water. Soon our objective came into view. The footing was a bit loose in spots but without any trouble we found ourselves on the summit in short order.

    We all relaxed and refueled. I had hoped that some of the cloud cover would lift to provide some more views but the clouds had reached a status quo. We gave some debate to heading North on the ridge and summitting  Koppen and dropping to the end of the road leaving us a 4 mile walk back to the car. After some discussion we decided to head back the way we had come. We leapfrogged the work crew a couple of time. I was thankful that they had cut out the two major blowdowns that we had found on our ascent. We all were quite on the way out making it seem like it was taking much longer to return. Truthfully I was thankful I was happy that it seemed longer because it was just so nice to be out on this perfect weather day. It was very nice to have some good company to show off some of what our beautiful state has to offer. No matter how many times I have had the "Teanaway Effect " provide dramaticly improved weather over the surrounding areas, it never ceases to amaze me. I wonder if anyone out there can provide some insight on what allows this phenomenon to continue.

Approx 9 miles 2500' of climb 4;37 car to car

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Meadow Mt NE Peak, Meadow Mt., Meadow Mt South Improv Loop 6.3.140.

For the first time in some time I wasn't on kid patrol and had a half day to devote to climbing. I had a really hard time trying to find a suitable goal for the day. In the end my choice couldn't have been more ideal despite the fact that I hadn't planned most of it. Sometime ago I had done Meadow Mt but hadn't run the ridge to do the NE peak. I wasn't quite sure how far I would be able to drive the Meadow Creek Road. Upon reaching the junction I headed right away from Meadow Pass. I followed this road for a short ways until I hit a spur road on the left. I drove up this road for a short ways until I found a nice place to park. I could have driven further but I figured I would hit snow in short order anyway so I chose to use the nice parking spot. The weather was partly sunny and not exactly warm as I suited up.

I headed up the road hitting consistent snow in short order. I spied a nice snow finger leading to the small pass between 5125' and 5095', I was intrigued but chose to stick to the game plan of using the North Ridge. Upon reaching were the road turns North I could see a different set of logging roads above me so I chose to leave the road in the mostly widely spaced new timber. The snow was receptive and I made good time to reach the North Ridge at around 4400'. As soon as I reached the base of the ridge the weather abruptly changed. The clouds rolled in with some gusty winds. I was forced to add some layers. The climb above looked a bit daunting but I figured I would give it a shot. The snow was much firmer making me wish for crampons. Some stretches required me to double kick each step. I could see the Western side of the ridge was snow free so I headed to that side. The area had been thinned recently making the going quite tedious so in short order I crossed back to the East side. Soon I reached more mature trees making for more pleasing travel. I hadn't reached my parking spot to nearly 4 pm so I wondered if I could make it back to the car before the closing of I-90 for blasting. This gave me an idea of instead of returning via my ascent route to instead continue heading South along the ridge to go over Meadow Mt's main summit and the site of the old lookout and drop to the road below and walk the road back to the car. Once reaching the summit of the NE Peak I was able to text my wife with my change in plans. The NE Peak didn't afford any views so I merely continued on my way.

The ridge stayed pretty benign and I didn't have any issues negotiating the short ways to the main summit. Once reaching the site of the old lookout I couldn't see anything below me. I didn't remember too much of my last visit so I decided to take the path of least resistance to the logging roads below. Thankfully after a few hundred feet of descent I was able to see below to confirm I was on the right track. I reached to old road I had used for my previous descent but chose to head in a more direct line to the mainline below.  The descent was straightforward until I reached the lower portions where there was very little snow coverage. The talus fields were a bit tedious but soon I popped out on my road much closer to Meadow Pass than expected. I walked to good road to Meadow Pass and then closed the loop my making my way back to the car.

Overall a very enjoyable day. I was sad not to have any views since I do remember that Meadow Mt provides some excellent views.  I was quite happy to reach I-90 just as traffic started moving. I couldn't have timed it any better had I tried.

Approx 8 miles 2400' of climb 4:15 car to car

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