Sunday, March 15, 2009

Unfinished Business on Anaconda 3/14/2009

Seems like there is some kind of drama going on during our trips to Mt. Loop hwy on yearly basis. It started in 2007 when during our Mt. Pilchuck snowshoe one of the drivers made unwise choice and got stacked in deep snow. In an attempt to get un-stacked his wheel sliced through the snow, dug into the wet gravel underneath and shot a geyser of rocks in the air, smashing a side windows of our second vehicle.

In 2008 we enjoyed interesting day snowshoeing directly on the snow bound portion of Mt. Loop hwy where we could hear several avalanches raging down from surrounding peaks which from a safe distance was pretty impressive experience. Once we returned to our cars we saw a couple of young guys who got their passenger car stacked and lacking proper equipment were trying to dig themselves out with tennis rockets. Being nice we offered them help and our shovels and got them out. Well, they didn’t get far.. and neither did we. Just few miles from Deer Creek a cabin was on fire. Fire truck and all their hoses blocked this already quite narrow part of the highway. We went to check things out just to find out they actually run out of water and were just standing there trying to figure out what to do. (Yes, there is a river few feet away). It took them quite a while to realize that if the hoses were cleared from the road, they could actually let cars through.

So we are back on Mt. Loop Hwy, heading to give Anaconda Peak a try. It’s actually my 4th time in this area in 2009 and so far nothing happened so it’s obvious something is about to surprise us soon. First the road is fine, wet but clear. We come across first slushy areas in Verlot Ranger Station area but still it’s not that bad. Couple miles further the snow coverage becomes more solid and just deep enough for my Focus to start loosing traction. Well, that’s what chains are for. So we put the chains on and easily handle the snowy part of the highway… until my car does not want to go any further. Oops the chain fell off. So we retrieve the chains and to our surprise find that they did not really fall off, they broke off. Both of them. Fortunatelly we are about 0.1 mile from the trailead and the Mallardy Ridge road nearly next to us has a pullout plowed where we can park. We know the plow will run through here later during the day and with the steady rain the road we’ll be clear before we return from our adventure so we are not really worried about the drive back. Actually it was a good place to figure out the chains were “made in China”. If we were in an area where we would need them to drive out of, we would be in a deep trouble.

Finally we are heading towards our destination, which is Anaconda Peak. The views from the top are spectacular but today we know there are no views awaiting us. Still with 3700 feet it is a decent workout and training for some of the bigger peaks we plan to bag in next few months, we need it. The road is nicely maintained for few minutes, making for a fast progress. Then we get to the first intersection. The maintained road continues straight. We need to take right. From there it’s an obstacle course. We climb under tree, over trees, around trees. Branches are poking us and grab our feet. It rains steadily so in no time we are drenched. Gore Tex or no Gore Tex, today is the kind of day you know you’ll get wet, there's nothing you can do about it. After all we are in the middle of the Seattle "monsoon" season and the weather was treating us fairly nicely so far.

Finally after a long time of fighting with the overgrown and barricaded abandoned road we are at 2,400 ft where we can turn off the road and start gaining elevation through the forest. It’s not much easier here. The windfall is just as bad and the snow conditions are awful. There is a layer of new snow but not much underneath so our snowshoes don’t really have anything to grab to and we slide badly. It would be so much easier if there was a consolidated layer underneath. It’s still raining, or more sleeting at this point.

Finally we get high enough where the weather improves and throws at us gentle snow shower and even gives us a little break. It’s very peaceful here. The true winter wonderland with beautifully snow covered trees. Unfortunately the time is pushing and after gaining about 3000 ft and reaching Gordon Ridge we make a decision to turn around. We will return to conquer Anaconda next time… hopefully in better weather.

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