Sawtooth Slam 3/28

Sawtooth Slam – Mount Bigelow (8,440ft), Martin Peak (8,375ft), Switchback Peak (8,321ft)

March 27-29

Eric GilbertsonOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I couldn’t find a mountaineering partner for the first half of spring break, so set off to climb some mountains solo. The weather was supposed to be dry and sunny east of the cascade crest, and it looked like I could hit three hundred-highest mountains in one trip.

Sunday morning I drove four hours to Methow, WA on the desert side of the mountains and turned up the Gold Creek road. The road soon ended in a pile of snow next to the last house, and from here on up into the mountains it was all snowmobile tracks. I had hoped the road was melted out farther, but had no such luck. It would now be a nine-mile hike just to get to the trailhead of what my guidebook called a three-day peakbagging itinerary.

Towing the sled to the trailhead

Towing the sled to the trailhead

I came with a secret weapon, though – a sled. The Lowe’s in Seattle had just packed up their sleds for the season, but I had convinced them on Saturday to let me buy one. I loaded up my pack onto the sled, strapped on the skis to the pack, and threw in the ski boots. Ideally someday I’ll get a backcountry ski setup, but for now I have to hike uphill in snowshoes and use the skis to come down.

I towed the sled up the forest service road for nine miles, finally reaching the trailhead by 6pm. I momentarily considered sleeping there, but decided to push on until dark. After stashing the skis and sled in the woods I hiked on another two hours until darkness caught me. Luckily the trail was flat and there was no risk of other hikers coming by for at least another two months, so I pitched the tent in the trail.

Camping in the trail

Camping in the trail

The next morning I started hiking shortly after sunrise, and a few hours later made it to upper Eagle Lake. Here I dropped my pack, and proceeded ultralight with just the lid. I packed crampons, food, a nalgene, and the ice axe strapped to the back.

I carefully picked my way up the slopes above the lake, traverse to the northeast ridge of Mt Bigelow, then scrambled the short 3rd class rock and snow gully to the summit. The views were amazing – the cascades to the west, Hoodoo and Raven Ridge to the north, the desert to the east, and my next objectives, Martin and Switchback, to the south.

The route up Bigelow in the background

The route up Bigelow in the background

I rummaged through the snow for a few minutes looking for a summit register, but couldn’t find one. So I descended back down to my camp. By now I’d already drank my two liters of water so whipped out my stove to melt some more snow.

With full nalgenes I packed up and traverse around the slopes south of the lake, then hiked up to Horse Head Pass. The ridge extending south to Cleops Peak was very heavily corniced. I dropped down to Boiling Lake on the other side and stopped for a break at the first level spot I found. By now it was 3pm, and I figured I might just have enough daylight left to hit both Martin and Swithback. I dropped my pack, loaded up the lid as before, and took off.

View from the summit of Bigelow

View from the summit of Bigelow

I cut through a small pass just south of the lake, then traversed the west side of Cleops. Here I ditched my snowshoes and climbed up in crampons to the saddle between Cleops and Martin. I was careful to stay

The steep rock/snow ridge up Martin Peak

The steep rock/snow ridge up Martin Peak

well to the west side of the ridge to avoid the cornices, and from the pass scrambled up the steep rock and snow ridgeline to the summit of Martin Peak.

It was now 5pm, and Switchback looked reasonably close. I took a 5-minute break on the summit, then descended down the south ridge of Martin and continued ridge-walking all the way to Switchback Peak at 6pm. It had taken me 3 hours to get here, and I had 2 hours left of daylight, but luckily I could reuse my footprints on the way back to not have to break trail, and could make better time.

I jogged down the summit of Switchback, back up Martin, and then back down the

On the summit of Switchback Peak

On the summit of Switchback Peak

north ridge to my snowshoes. I carried the snowshoes on the traverse and eventually made it to camp right at 8pm, just in time to catch the last rays of light.

That evening unfortunately I ran out of fuel, having packed just as much as I thought I’d need but actually using more to melt the extra water that morning. I ended up eating just a meager dinner and having 1.5 liters of water left to get me back to the trailhead. I had briefly considered hitting more mountains tuesday, but with this water situation I would have to get back to the trailhead as quickly as possible.

Back to the car

Back to the car

In the morning I got moving by 8am, hiked back over Horsehead Pass and down to the trailhead by noon. I took a long break there to dry out my wet and sore feet, then strapped on the skis and coasted down the road. What had taken me five hours to ascend I skied down in a little over an hour, reaching the car by mid afternoon. I had enough time to make it back to Seattle by dinner time that evening.

 

Quasi-Presi Traverse 3/27

March 25-27

Matthew Gilbertson, with John Romanishin, Ye Yao, Maike Sonnewald20160326_190252

I did a quasi-Presi Traverse this weekend with three other MITOCers: John Romanishin, Ye Yao, and Maike Sonnewald. Friday night, we drove up to NH, dropping off four bikes in the woods near Pinkham Notch along the way. Then we campedFriday night at Appalachia Trailhead. In the morning, we hiked up to treeline and continued along the Presidential Ridge to Mt Washington, which we reached at about 5pm.

20160326_141424The weather was phenomenal. The wind was essentially imperceptable, and definitely the calmest I have ever experienced on Mt Washington. Meanwhile, temps were in the low 40Fs, and with the sun shining brightly, it felt like summertime. While John took a nap on the observation deck, me, Maike, and Ye posed for webcam photos. (John, asleep, was in all of the photos too.)

We left the summit by 5:30pm and continued towards Boott Spur.20160326_165009 We found a legal campsite just before Boott Spur – i.e., > 2ft of snow and away from any huts – situated on a small hill just before Boott Spur. As we cooked dinner, we enjoyed a spectacular sunset.

In the morning we were rewarded with a magnificent sunrise above an undercast sky. The cloudline was at about 2,800ft, meaning that everything was covered in clouds except for the higher peaks which looked like islands in a vast sea of clouds. It was only the second time that I have ever experienced such a dramatic undercast in the Whites.

20160326_190607We descended Boott Spur towards Pinkham, eventually plunging into the ocean of clouds, which had actually coated the trees in rime ice. By noon, we rendezvoused with the bikes and began the next leg of the journey.

With a stellar tailwind, we proceeded bicycling northward on Route 2 with minimal pedaling, and turned off on Dolly Copp road after about 5 miles. Dolly Copp road, which is normally closed in winter but we had heard was now clear and passable,20160326_190831 promised to act as a shortcut for us, shaving off about 5 miles. However, the road conditions ended up being a little spicier than planned due to some recent snow and rain that caused it to turn to soft mud in many places. Undaunted, we pushed through the mud and coasted back to Route 2, finally arriving back at the car by 1:30pm.

20160327_081303The last leg of the journey was visiting the Dynasty Chinese Buffet in Gorham. Earlier that morning, John and I challenged each other to a face-off to see who could eat the most plates of food. A couple of years earlier, John had narrowly beaten me to finish a Summit Sundae at the Appalachian Trail Cafe in Millinocket, Maine, with a time of 12:30 mins – just one minute faster than me. At the Dynasty Buffet, I sought to equal the score.

In preparation for the feast, John had fasted the entire day. Knowin20160327_081802g that I wouldn’t be able to hike without eating anything, I had eaten a couple of granola bars and some trail mix. We piled on the food and devoured plate after plate. In the end, it was 5 full plates for me and only a pathetic 4 plates for John. John conceded defeat and hung his head in shame. The king of consumption had been dethroned – for now. In terms of eating contests, John and I are now tied at 1 to 1. We’ll seek to break the tie after the next epic adventure.

observationdeck-med (3)

Strobach Mountain 3/24

Strobach Mountain (6,397 ft)

Snowy road

Snowy road

Eric and Katie

Our goal over Katie’s spring break was to find some late-season ice climbing to train for upcoming alpine climbs. Hyalite Canyon in Montana was our first choice, but with temperatures forecast to be in the 50s F that week it looked like there might not be any ice left to climb.

Campsite overlooking Rimrock Lake

Campsite overlooking Rimrock Lake

Stroback mountain is supposed to hold ice about the longest in WA outside of glaciers, and was only a 3-hr drive away instead of 9 hours, so we decided to check it out. We made it to the start of the forest service road approach, but the road was covered in deep snow so we would have to proceed on foot. We lugged our huge

packs with overnight gear and ice climbing gear up the road for a few miles, then along a 4wd jeep track, and finally bushwhacking through the woods for a few more miles following my friend’s GPS track and orange flagging.

Remnants of ice

Remnants of ice

By evening we reached the base of the climbs and set up camp. Thursday we hiked up to the climbs, but they had all melted away or were on the verge of collapsing. Unfortunately all the work to get in there would not be rewarded by any climbing. As a consolation prize we climbed up Separation Gully, a snow climb, all the way to the summit. Strobach Mountain would be a significant mountain on the East Coast, and was still a fun little climb.

We spent the night in the same camp, then hiked back to the car Friday and drove back to Seattle.

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Cashmere Mountain 3/19/16

Cashmere Mountain

20 miles, 15 hours
Eric Gilbertson and Aaron Yahr

Cashmere Mountain

Cashmere Mountain

March 19, 2016

A rare winter confluence of sunny weather and moderate avy danger was forecast for the cascades saturday. This was the last weekend of winter, so I was excited to hit a final winter 100 highest mountain of the season.

We drove to Leavenworth friday evening to spend the night, and started hiking just before dawn Saturday morning from Icicle Creek Road. Surprisingly the lot was full, though I’m not sure where all the people were. The road at bridge creek was still gated, and will be for some time given all the snow. We hiked up in snowshoes with skis on our backs, making for quite heavy packs, but it would be worth it on the descent. Neither of us have yet invested in a backcountry ski setup.

Sunrise as we hiked up the gated road

Sunrise as we hiked up the gated road

After about an hour two skiers passed us moving quickly with very minimal gear. Surprisingly they said they were also climbing Cashmere, and scoffed at our huge packs. We actually caught back up to them at the turnoff to eight mile lake, but then took a break. We followed the trail all the way to little eight mile lake, then turned right up the valley to Lake Caroline. It was extremely sunny, giving me a bad sunburn since I’d forgotten sunscreen, but the views of Mt Stuart, Colchuck, Dragontail, and the Enchantments area were great.

We caught back up to the skiers again on the other side of Lake Caroline. They must have slowed down a lot after passing us, despite carrying

In the snow bowls above Lake Caroline

In the snow bowls above Lake Caroline

half the gear we were. Or they had just sped up to pass us. We traversed under some snow bowls aiming for the col on the ridge west of Cashmere, and the skiers instead went straight up to the ridge. It appeared they were not actually climbing Cashmere, just skiing down from one of its side ridges.

At about 7,000ft we decided Aaron had reached his highpoint, while I would push on to the summit. I moved quickly up to the col below the summit, then switched to crampons and ice ax. The standard route ascends the west ridge directly, but in these snowy

Starting the climb up the west ridge

Starting the climb up the west ridge

conditions it actually looked easier to traverse across the snowslopes of the north face. I traversed about halfway across the steep face, then climbed up a snow

gully to reach the ridge. I was unfortunately still short of the summit, though. I scrambled over some third/fourth class rocks on the narrow knife-edge ridge and soon reached the summit at 5pm.

The only other tracks there were from a mountain goat, and I actually saw the goat just 50ft away on the east ridge. He didn’t notice my presence as I peeked over the narrow summit block. It appeared the skiers had chickened out and not summitted after all.

For the return I hoped to avoid downclimbing the fourth-class

Mountain Goat at the summit

Mountain Goat at the summit

section, and it looked like a much easier route traversing the north face. I downclimbed the snowy north ridge, then traversed the steep, snowy north face snow slopes back to my stash of snowshoes and poles. From here I jogged back down to Lake Caroline, and met up with Aaron at 6:45. We reached our skis just after dark, and had a fun ski back to the car. Surprisingly we got back early enough to drive back to Seattle that night, arriving by 12:30am.

 

 

 

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San Juan Island Biking -3/12/16

March 12, 2016

Eric Gilbertson

This was a good training trip for bike touring between country highpoints. I took the ferry out to San Juan Island in Puget Sound with Katie and did a big bike loop around the island, covering around 60 miles and hiking up Mt Young and Mt Finlayson along the way. I was lucky enough to even see some killer whales off the west coast.

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Bandera and Defiance Peaks 3/5/16

Bandera Mountain (5,241 ft) and Mount Defiance (5,584 ft)

Eric Gilbertson

March 5, 2016

Mason Lake

Mason Lake

I originally planned to work today grading papers given that the forecast was for rain, but when I sat down to start grading at 9:45am I looked outside my window and it was somehow sunny with blue skies. I knew I wouldn’t be productive inside with this weather, so I quickly threw some gear together and started driving to the mountains at 10am. It’s a pretty late start, but there are good mountains to climb just 45 minutes outside of town.

I pulled off at exit 42 and started hiking up to Bandera at 11am. The official trailhead is still closed for the winter, but it’s possible to bushwhack through the woods for a half-hour and still reach the logging road that leads to the trailhead. Surprisingly I met two other people descending as I hiked up. I bet they turned around at snowline. The snow started pretty high, at around 3,000ft. I had tried this mountain back in January and snowline was all the way at the cars. So I made a lot faster time today.

Good views of Rainier

Good views of Rainier

I reached Mason Lake after two hours, then followed the ridge up to Bandera Mountain. A set of boot tracks led to the western summit, but I continued on to the true summit (about 50ft taller). There were excellent views of Rainier to the south. I’d made good time so decided to hit Defiance as well. Back at Mason Lake I ate a quick snack, then hiked up the ridge to Defiance, summitting at 4pm. By now Rainier was in the clouds, and it looked like rain was soon approaching.

I descended to the car, getting almost to the trailhead at sunset when I heard gunshots very close by. I yelled out that I was hiking in the woods, and they momentarily stopped. As I got closer to the trailhead they started again in rapid succession and I dove behind a tree. I yelled again as loud as I could to stop shooting, that there was a person back here. It stopped again and I hiked a little farther, but then another ten shots rang out in rapid succession, extremely close to me now. I again hunkered down behind a tree until they stopped and yelled even louder. This time I made it all

Mount Defiance

Mount Defiance

the way to the trailhead, and saw a person in dark clothing in the woods picking up a gun to fire again. I didn’t take any chances and bolted to my car. As I reached the car more shots rang out. I jumped inside and sped away.

Obviously the person had heard me, but continued to fire. He was probably doing target practice, but that was probably the worst place and time I could think of to be shooting. He was shooting uphill into the woods right next to an obvious trailhead at sunset when he couldn’t see very well. Luckily I made it safely back to Seattle.