Thorp and Red Mountains

Thorp Mountain (5,854 ft) and Red Mountain (5,880ft)

Eric and Birkan

November 20, 2016

Birkan and I parked at the trailhead for Little Joe Lake Sunday morning and started our hike shortly after dawn. Surprisingly, there was another car at the trailhead. We encountered snow within the first mile, and were hiking on snow basically the rest of the day. At Little Joe Lake we turned right to climb up Red Mountain. The trail was tough to follow in the snow, but we eventually reached the pass just south of the peak. Here we left the trail, following the ridge north. We passed an old lookout tower, then scrambled up some slippery, snowy rocks to the summit.

The cold wind and lack of view encouraged us to turn back quickly. Back at the lake we headed west, and soon encountered the other hiker. He must have been doing our loop in reverse. Luckily we could follow his tracks now and now worry about finding the trail. We followed his tracks all the way to Thorpe Mountain, only occasionally losing the trail and having to bushwhack.

There was a nice view down to Kachess Lake from the small lookout tower on the summit. After eating a snack we hiked back down to the trailhead, reaching the car just as the sunset and just as a light rain started falling.

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Mount Thomas

Mount Thomas (5,269 ft)

Eric and Katie

November 19, 2016

We had a fun, short hike up one of the more accessible homecourt 100 mountains Saturday. We hit snow around 5,000ft at Para Peak, but it never got deep enough to need the snowshoes we carried up. After a quick stop on the summit, which was stuck in the clouds, we hiked back under occasional snow showers.

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Mount Price

Mount Price (5,587ft)

Eric Gilbertson

November 13, 2016

It was a rainy Sunday and I decided to hike a mountain that was below treeline, so doable in any conditions. I drove to the end of the road on the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River and started hiking up the Dingford creek trail at  9:30am. After two hours I reached the end of the trail at Hester Lake, and started the bushwhack. This was a pretty tough bushwhack by Washington standards, with dense heather and slippery wet talus.

I bushwhacked around the north side of the lake, then up to Little Hester Lake, and up to the ridge north of Mt Price. I then scrambled up the snowy northwest ridge of Mt Price, topping out at 1:30pm. The ridge was tricky, with slippery snow on top of grass, but I was careful not to slip.

The summit register showed only one climber per year since 2013, so definitely not a popular peak. I made it back to the car just by sunset, completely soaked and cold, and ready for the drive back to Seattle.

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Mount Daniel

Mount Daniel (7,960 ft) – Highest mountain in King county

Eric Gilbertson

November 11, 2016

There were no classes for Veteran’s Day so I decided to climb the highest mountain in the county. I left Seattle at 5am Friday morning and was soon driving up forest road 4430 to the trailhead. The road was extremely rough and potholed, and when I got 2 miles from the trailhead it was washed out. I stopped the car and scouted out the muddy washout, but the mud was so deep I was concerned I would get stuck. I followed the paddling rule of thumb “if you spend 15 minutes deciding whether to run a rapid or not, you’d better not run it” and decided after 15 minutes not to try to get through the washout.

I parked the car and started hiking by 8am. The 17.5 mile hike would now be 21.5 miles. I soon reached the trailhead, then started hiking up the Cathedral Pass trail. The trail went through old growth forest, then popped out below Cathedral Rock, a tough-looking mountain surrounded by cliffs on all sides. I hiked up farther, intersecting the PCT, then turning off to Peggy Pond.

At Peggy Pond, around 5,800ft, the snow started and was a few feet deep. It was well above freezing though (unseasonably warm) and the snow was slushy. At the pond I put on gaitors and started hiking up the southeast ridge of Mt Daniel. There was no official trail here, and it didn’t really matter because there were several feet of snow and it was above treeline anyways.

I postholed up to the ridge, scrambling on rocks occasionally, then followed the ridge. I tried to stay on rocks sticking above the snow as much as possible, and was careful to keep my distance from some large cornices on the northeast side of the ridge.

I scrambled through some steep class 3 sections, then traversed around the east summit. After climbing up a final steep snow slope, I scrambled the last 10ft of rock to the summit. The weather was still nice, with a warm breeze from the south. I could clearly see four volcanoes: Adams, Rainier, Glacier, and Baker. Surprisingly the summit register showed I was the first person up there in the past 6 weeks (since September!) I may also be the last person there until Spring, since it will probably start snowing a lot soon.

After 20 minutes I started descending, jogging when I could on the downhills to make up time. I eventually got back to the car at 5pm, at the last possible minute before I would have needed a headlamp. Interestingly, I saw another car parked behind mine, with mud all over it, and tire tracks going only halfway into the washout. It must have tried to get through, got stuck, and the drivers pushed it back out. Good thing I didn’t attempt to go through!

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Raven Ridge

Raven Ridge – 8,500+ft

Katie on the summit

Katie on the summit

Eric and Katie

November 6, 2016

We drove out east Saturday evening in the pouring rain and slept at the Libby Creek trailhead. Matthew and I had visited this area in February, but the road to the trailhead wasn’t plowed and we’d had to hike in 10 miles just to reach the trail. We’d continued on to climb Hoodoo Peak, but didn’t have time to tag Raven Ridge nearby. I hoped this time to return and hit Raven Ridge.

On Sunday morning the skies were clear and we started hiking up the trail. After a few miles we hit snowline around 6,000ft and changed into our hardcore mountaineering boots. We took a short break at the cabin, then switched to snowshoes to hike up to Libby Lake.

From the southwest corner of the lake we climbed up the steep snow gully to gain the ridge, then scrambled East along the ridge for a half mile on tricky partially-snow-covered talus. After crawling through a small boulder tunnel we reached the summit around 2pm, ahead of schedule. The summit was extremely exposed to the north, but a tame slope to the south.

The descent was much faster in the snowy gully, and we reached the car around 6:30pm.

Katie on the summit

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Lake Mountain

Lake Mountain – 8,371ft

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Eric on the summit

Eric and David

October 29-30, 2016

We discovered that it’s essentially winter above 5,000ft in the Cascades, with many feet of snow, cornice-topped ridges, and cold. We still somehow managed to get up one of the Washington Hundred Highest Mountains. On Friday night we drove up to Mazama and parked at the trailhead for the Monument Peak trail. Saturday just before sunrise we started hiking up the trail. After a few miles the trail hits Eureka creek, and stops being maintained at a washed-out bridge. The USFS website says it hasn’t been maintained for 30 years, and I believe it.

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David crossing Eureka Creek

We hiked up some overgrown and washed-out switchbacks steeply up a ridge, at times bushwhacking when the old trail was hard to find. At about 4,000ft snow started falling heavily from the sky. When we hit around 6,500ft on the ridge the snow was 3ft deep, and we regretted forgetting the snowshoes. But it was still October, so it had seemed too early to need them.

I led the way postholing and traversing towards Pistol Pass. After skirting above and below some cliffs we reached the pass at 4:30pm, and an hour later were at Lake of the Woods. We set up a nice campsite and had a roaring campfire that night.

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A big campfire at Lake of the Woods

Given the deep snow, we modified our plans of hitting both Monument and Lake Mountains and instead settled to just climb Lake Mountain. In the morning we left camp at 5:30pm heading for the east ridge of Lake Mountain. By sunrise we were just above treeline at the base of the impressively steep southeast face.

I had loaded a GPS track from another group, and we climbed up a steep and powdery snow gully near the east ridge, eventually popping out at the summit at 8:45 am. Amazingly, we were treated to sunny, undercast skies, with only the 8,000ft peaks poking out above the clouds all around us. Mt Baker and the Pickets were visible to the west, and the Gardners to the south.

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Summit panorama with undercast

The ridge to our south was heavily corniced, culminating in a steep technical gendarme. Luckily the gendarme was not the true summit, since we’d neglected to bring any ropes or rock gear.

As we descended the clouds rolled in and we were caught in a near white-out. Luckily we had the tracks to follow to navigate back to camp. In all, the only sun the whole weekend was that 1.5hr window when we summitted.

We soon reached camp, packed up, and headed back down the mountain. This time we had a boot track to follow, which greatly sped up the descent. We reached the car shortly after sunset and were soon back to Seattle.

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