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

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