Cowboy Mountain BC Skiing

Greg skinning along the ridge, descending from Cowboy Mountain

Cowboy Mountain (5,853 ft)

Eric and Greg

November 26, 2017

A string of warm, rainy days had caused most of the ski resorts in the cascades to temporarily close, and Sunday was supposed to be more of the same weather. But Greg and I wanted to get in our first ski of the season, so we drove up to Steven’s Pass to ski some of thinly-covered slopes. We skinned up to the top of the seventh heaven lift, then took off the skis to climb steeply up to a sharp ridge above. At the ridge we put the skis back on and carefully traversed to the summit of Cowboy Mountain.

From here we decided to be adventurous and ski down the backside, towards the Tunnel Creek drainage. It was fun to get in my first turns of the season! Before getting too low we traversed left through the trees, and climbed back up to the ridge that was the ski resort boundary.

By this time it started snowing really hard and got pretty windy. We eventually skied back down to a notch along the PCT. The visibility was pretty bad, and Greg’s skins quit sticking, so we abandoned our plan to hit another mountain and instead skied back to the car. It was a fun outing for our first ski of the season.

The Pinnacles

Looking out from Eagle’s Nest

The Pinnacles, Indian Fort Mountain, and Eagle’s Nest

Eric and Keith

November 23, 2017

We did a classic hike near Berea, Kentucky, one I’ve probably done at least 100 times, but it’s still always fun. We  hiked and scrambled up to the West Pinnacle for a great view of town, then traversed over to Indian Fort Lookout for more great views.  I did a quick side-trip from the lookout by scrambling down a 3rd-class ledge system to the base of a narrow slot canyon known as Fat Man’s Misery. After barely squeezing through, I then climbed up a 4th-class chimney system back to the lookout. After a short break we then hiked to Eagle’s Nest and scared away about 20 buzzards, and then looped back to the car.

Kentucky Peakbagging – Joe Lick Knob

Our route up Robe Mountain. Joe Lick Knob is a few miles north.

Kentucky Peakbagging – Robe Mountain (1,527ft) and Joe Lick Knob (1,483ft)

Eric and Keith

November 22, 2017

We hiked into the woods near Blue Lick Creek, and up to the side of Basin Mountain until it started getting really steep. Then we traversed on an old logging road grade, and hiked steeply up to the north summit of Robe Mountain, a peak I’d never been to before. There were excellent views of Berea back to the west. From there we followed the ridge south to Robe Mountain and briefly picked up a trail to a small saddle. We then left the saddle and descended steeply back to our ascent route, and made it back to the car.

On the way home we stopped to tag the summit of Joe Lick Knob, another prominent hill just to the north that I’d never visited before.

Snoqualmie Pass Overnight

Matthew next to the snow shelter

Snoqualmie Pass Overnight

Matthew and Eric

November 18-19, 2017

Matthew flew up for the weekend, and on Saturday morning we started hiking out of Snoqualmie Pass. There was a lot of snow, but luckily the trail was broken for the first few miles. Eventually, however, whoever had broken trail had turned around, and it was up

Hiking around snow lake to the campsite

to us to continue. We took turns slowly making progress, sinking in about a foot with each step. At least 10 other hikers caught up to us, but decided to stay far enough behind that they would never have to be responsible for breaking trail.

Eric chest-deep in powder trying to break trail

We eventually reached a pass and descended to Snow Lake. After traversing around the lake we found a nice spot to camp for the night, and started piling up snow for a snow shelter. A few hikers caught up to us, thinking we were on the trail since we had broken a path right to our snow shelter. We informed them that the trail was farther down the hill, and they were welcome to continue, but without a broken trail they didn’t want to go any farther, and turned around.

We completed the big snow shelter in a few hours, and it was almost tall enough to stand up inside! We also dug out a huge fire pit in the 5-ft-deep snow, and had a roaring fire while we ate dinner.

The next morning we pushed farther into the woods, climbing the southeast summit of Wright Peak by lunchtime. Afterwards we turned back to the snow shelter to pick up our gear, then made it to the trailhead shortly before heavy rain started.

Olympic Coast Hiking

Katie on Cape Flattery at sunset

Olympic Coast and Cape Alava (Westernmost point in continental US)

Eric and Katie

Nov 10-12, 2017

We headed west out of Seattle on Friday morning and tried to stop off at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, but snow had already closed the road. We continued west and reached Cape Flattery in the evening. After a short 0.5-mile hike we got to the coast for an amazing view of sunset over Tatoosh Island. We stealth-camped nearby that evening in the woods.

The next morning we drove to Ozette in Olympic National Park, and hiked a few miles west to the coast. We timed it so we reached the coast at low tide, and hiked out to Cannonball Island on Cape Alava to reach the westernmost dryland point in the continental US.

We then hiked south down the coast, admiring lots of seastacks, then hiked back to the trailhead in the rain. That night we slept in the trailhead parking lot in pouring rain, and drove back to Seattle the next morning.

Pratt Lake

Pratt Lake

Group picture (taken by other Eric)

Eric, Ethan, Cleo, Annajoy, Eric

November 7, 2017

A group of 5 former MITOCers joined up Tuesday morning for a snowy hike up to Pratt Lake. Ethan and I broke trail in snowshoes through a surprising amount of snow, to the edge of Pratt Lake, about 5 miles in. We had lunch at the lake, then hiked back to the car that afternoon.


Thompson Point

The cabin near the summit

Thompson Point (5,124ft)

Eric Gilbertson

November 5, 2017

I drove out into the mountains on a rainy, snowy Sunday morning, aiming to get up a below-treeline mountain. Thompson point is very close to Seattle, only 45 minutes away, and I started up the trail at 9am. It was raining at the trailhead, but soon changed to snow, which got deeper and deeper. For some reason I left the snowshoes in the car, and regretted this as I postholed through thigh-deep drifts.

After a few hours I reached the summit of Thompson Point, at the end of an old abandoned logging road. I considered going farther, but the parking lot had a gate that supposedly closed at dusk, so I didn’t want to get stuck. I stopped by at an interesting cabin near the summit, then made it back down to the car a few hours later, cold and soaked.

Clark and Luahna Mountains

Clark Mountain (8,602ft) and Luahna Peak (8,400ft)

Clark Mountain from my campsite, at sunset

Eric Gilbertson

October 28-29, 2017

I had attempted these mountains on Tuesday with Duncan, but had to turn back at the edge of treeline because our progress was too slow in the deep crusty snow. Luckily there was another weather window during the weekend, and I hoped to return to take advantage of the broken trail.

I had no luck finding a partner, so just went solo. Because it would be slow-going doing all the trail breaking myself, I decided to break the trip into an overnight trip. I left town at 5am Saturday morning, and was at the trailhead by 8am. The first section of trail was flat, so I brought my mountain bike to save time. Unfortunately, despite the sunny days all week, there was still a decent amount of snow all the way down at the trailhead. However, since the snow was compacted from my earlier footprints from tuesday, it was actually just barely bikeable.

Tough biking in the snow, but it did save some time, and added some fun

I biked in to the vicinity of the wilderness boundary, and then proceeded on foot. Surprisingly, much of the higher levels of the trail toward boulder pass were actually melted out to the ground, probably because they were south facing. The snow eventually returned, though, and I reached our previous turnaround point around 11:30am. From here I donned my snowshoes and started the tough task of breaking trail through 3ft of slush.

I crossed through a big open meadow area, then started ascending toward the southeast spur from Clark Mountain. It was tough going, but eventually I reached an upper basin, whose steep heather walls were only lightly covered with snow. This was actually pretty sketchy, because steep grass with a light covering of snow is extremely slippery.

After traversing the slopes to a waterfall, I carefully climbed up to an upper bench just below the southeast ridge. I gained the ridge at the rightmost of a set of double notches, but got cliffed out on the other side. So I scrambled northwords along the ridge a few hundred yards, and here found the correct class 2/3 descent gully.

The gully was filled with snow, but luckily it was very slushy so I plunge-stepped my way down to the base. From there I traversed steep snow slopes to the broad

My ascent route, the southeast face of Clark Mountain, viewed from to top of the class 2/3 descent gully

southeast face of Clark Mountain. There were plenty of melting snow-water runnels, so I actually just carried 1L of water the whole day and refilled it frequently.

I snowshoes up to the south ridge of Clark Mountain, and then took off the snowshoes and scrambled up the fun

class 3 rock ridge to the summit, reaching the top by 4:30pm. I briefly considered camping right there on the top, but there was still daylight left and I wanted to make more progress towards my next goal, Luahna Peak.

I was a bit nervous about how to get to Luahna, because one route description I’d read recommended rappelling down the west face of Clark to get to Lulahna. However, when I inspected the west face it actually didn’t look too bad. I scrambled down the ridge about 100ft to a big notch, and then easily scrambled down the notch and traversed north onto easier terrain.

From there I continued descending and traversing, until I reached rocky, melted-out slopes on point 7970. I traversed around this small peak, until I reached a rocky ridge, with my first good view of Luahna Peak. There didn’t

My campsite on the tiny ledge, with Luahna in the background

appear to be any easy way up Luahna, but I’d read there was a 3rd class route on the west face.

I just happened to be on a small flat section of the ridge, and noticed that the sun would set in about 20 minutes. My spot was actually a perfect campsite, because it was out of any danger zone of falling rocks or ice, so I decided to camp right there. I leveled out a spot with snow just barely big enough for my tent, and set about preparing camp.

After a nice dinner of ramen noodles while enjoying the sunset over the snowcovered cascades, I crawled in my tent and went to sleep around 7:30pm.

The next morning I poked my head out of the tent at sunrise, and was met with brilliant morning colors behind Clark Mountain. It was pretty amazing to see sunrise and sunset from above treeline in these wintery conditions. I quickly packed up and started moving. Unfortunately the snow was still icy and firm, so I had to either stay on the rocks, or carefully kick good steps into the snow. I had a whippet as my ice axe, and an extra pole to plunge into the snow, so snow traverses were pretty safe.

Sunrise from my campsite, with Clark Mountain

I traversed over to the west face of Luahna, and eventually ditched my pack to go faster. With just my jacket and whippet, I scrambled up steep rocks, kicked steps in the icy snow, and eventually found a 3rd class gully leading the rest of the way to the summit.

Me on the summit of Luahna, with Glacier Peak in the background

The views were amazing of Glacier Peak to the west, and Baker and Shuksan to the north. I recognized a bunch of peaks to the east that I’d done back in September before the snows started. For reference, the summit of Luahna is not actually big enough to pitch a tent, though you could sleep in a bivy sack up there if you wanted (that had been my original hope if I’d been faster hiking on Saturday).

After a brief break I carefully downclimbed my route back to my pack. To get back to the trailhead I planned to descend directly down to Thunder Creek to make a big loop. This would have been an excellent time to have skis, because it was one giant snowfield basically all the way down. However, I just had my snowshoes, so had to make do.

I hiked down as far as possible on rocks to the edge of the last melted-

Nice fall colors on the hike out.

out area, then stopped to take a break.

Surprisingly, I found an ice axe laying in the scree right where I was resting! Someone must have dropped it long ago, but it had now found a good new home with me.

I donned my snowshoes, and carefully walked down the icy slope a few thousand feet to treeline. Once in the trees the snow got slushier and the going easier. There was supposedly a faint climbers trail in these trees somewhere, but the undergrowth was so open and there was so much snow I didn’t bother looking for it.

I soon made it down to Thunder Creek, and then picked up an old trail down to the White River. The trail was covered in snow down in the valley, and was actually very difficult to follow for a few miles where it had been wiped out by avalanches and now covered in alder bushes. Unfortunately for me, the recent big snow event had matted down most of the bushes, but was now melting enough that they would randomly pop out of the snow as I walked by. I actually got smacked in the face quite a few times, making this one of most annoying

Descent route from west face of Clark (class 3).

bushwhacks I’ve ever done.

Ascent/descent route on Luahna (class 3).

After a few hours of bushwhacking on what I expected to be the trail, I eventually reached my bike, and cruised back to the trailhead through the snow. I made it back to seattle late that afternoon after another exciting mountaineering trip.