Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Not Quite Scout Patrol 4693'

A couple of weeks ago I headed up the Hansen Creek Drainage just West of Snoqualmie Pass on skis. With all the recent warm rain I had hoped the lower reaches of the road had melted out making driving further up the road possible. I also hoped the warm rains had consolidated the snowpack making it possible to take a more direct line to the summit. As it often happens things weren't exactly what I was hoping for. I reached the junction for the Annette Lake trailhead and it appeared there was the same amount of snow on the road as two weeks ago. Doing the math I knew that if I could take my direct line I would be able to squeak the trip under 12 miles.  I was thankful for the glorious sunny weather and I even lathered up the sunscreen, which in the end wasn't quite as effective as I had hoped. The road was still rutted but I walked in the middle section which was pretty solid going. The actual ruts were iced over making for slippery walking. In fact that was the story for the first 3 miles until I was able to reach enough elevation where the precip from the previous night had fallen as snow. Having new snow in the tire ruts made for much quicker walking and I soon found myself directly North of my day's goal. I intended on heading on the nose of the ridge taking me in an efficient straight line to the summit. When I stepped off the road I was surprised to find myself sinking past my knees in the soft snow. I was quite surprised to find so little consolidation in the snowpack. I doubted even with my snowshoes I would find easy going.

A little downtrodden, I decided to stay on the road since the going was so easy, the downside was that I was adding quite a bit of mileage. At around 3400' the last rig had stopped leaving me on my own to break trail. I started to question whether I had enough time and energy to make it all the way to the summit. I was able to find reasonable travel in the middle of the road trying, but if I strayed even a little I was rewarded with some interesting postholes. Once reaching the South bend in the road I decided to make an attempt at reaching the ridgeline in a more direct line. The going was mostly open but dotted with some small trees to go around. About every 50 steps I would find man eating voids in the snow that took great effort to get myself out of. After around 300' of climb I began to become too annoyed with these struggle fests. I didn't want to give back the precious elevation but I also didn't want to get stuck in a hole that I couldn't get out of. I descended back to the road and continued onward and upward. Around 3800' I decided to give it another go, to make things easier I dropped pack hoping the reduced weight would be helpful. After punching through for the 3rd time and taking a few minutes to get out I decided that I had enough. I took some time on the wonderful views of the huge avalanche chutes on Granite Mt across the valley and marveled at the huge basin below Bandera, that I have yet to explore. I was thankful to have such a beautiful day to brighten my demeanor. Heading back was annoying with the easiest going in the ruts. However the ruts were a bit narrow making me have to alter my stride and they were a bit slushy making it quite easy to twist an ankle. Finally I reached the bottom and was left with uphill walk to the car. Feeling a bit spent physically , and refreshed mentally I thankfully made it back to the car.

Approx 14 miles 2600' of climb 6:45 car to car

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