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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