Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mt. Persis 5/25/2009

With few of our regular hiking friends being gone backpacking for the weekend Andrew and I decided for a hike close by. We chose Mt. Persis just few miles East of Sultan.

It proved to be a great choice. Great workout on a steep scramble path and amazing views from the top with Mt. Index being so close it seemed we could nearly touch it.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Chad's First Scramble 5/23/2009

A while ago Chad mentioned he would like to summit Mt. Ellinor. Not that he would suddenly develop desire to climb steep slopes but the photos of mountain goats from my first trip up there a year ago were lingering on his mind and he obviously liked the idea of having similar experience. The thought of being able to glissade down the chute was also tempting.

With the 3 day weekend approaching and most of our group heading to the Enchantments I figured it would be a great opportunity for me to take him out for some glissade and self arrest practise. The bottom part of Ellinor's chute is a great place to do so and that's where we headed.

It was a gorgeous sunny day. We parked at the lower trailhead. We saw some vehices heading further and with the truck we likely could have made it all the way to the upper trailhead but to me it would kind of feel like cheating. The walk through the forest was very pleasurable today. Rays of the bright sun shined through the trees, casting shades on the forest floor, making the forest look nearly magical.

I was surprised how much snow melted in the three weeks since my last visit to the area. The trail was snow free nearly all the way through the forest which made for a reasonably fast progress.

We did not spend as much time practising as I originally planned. The snow was softened by the streak of warm days and the conditions provided for a slow and very controllable glissage so instead of few hours of practise we soon started to head up the chute.

Our pace slowed down considerably. Last time Chad was on a slope of this steepness was likely during his ski years and then it was a lift taking him to the top. Now that he had to do all the hard work himself, he found out what breaking sweat is really about. He huffed and puffed his way up the chute and surely did not like all the false summits along the way.

For a little while I was really concerned that we might not be able to reach the top. During one of our breaks I found a GU gel in my pack - leftover from previous week. It did its work well and shortly after eating on it, Chad regained energy for the summit push.

Once atop the mountain we soaked up the views. We had the summit to ourselves for about 15 minutes before more hikers emerged from the slopes below. There was no goat show off here this time. We only saw one goat along the way but still it was so worthwhile to make our way up here... and the funnest part was still ahead of us.

After about 30 minutes on the summit we decided it was time to head back. On our butts we went and off we were down the hill. It took us 3 hours to climb the chute, it took us about 10 minutes to glissage it down. It was a very fun 10 minutes though.

We'll be back next year.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Yellow Hill & Elbow Peak 5/16/2009

This trip originally started as a plan to traverse from Teanaway to Salmon la Sac area via Yellow Hill, Elbow Peak, Humerus and Jolly Mountain; however with 6 of us going the shuttle needed for such traverse would not be too efficient and we decided to head towards Jolly Mountain from Teanaway as in/out trip instead.

Rather ambitious I have to say with about 21 miles RT and well over 6000 ft cumulative elevation gain but under good conditions doable.

As expected we started on dirt. It was a hot day and even though the first part of the trail led us up gently, we broke some sweat. Fortunately the trail took us through some forested areas where we found little bit of shadow and cooler breeze. It felt really good. We crossed several areas sprinkled with beautiful yellow avalanche lilies and other spring flowers at the bottom part of the trail. It was like the spring is totally here.

The winter had not given up yet though. We encountered snow patches in shady forest areas first and then solid snow coverage at 4700 ft. On a warm day like today, the mushy snow had no way to hold our weight and our snowshoes went on to prevent postholing a speed up our pace.

The ascend got steeper and we started to gain elevation fast. The higher we went, the more views we were rewarded with. First it was Mt. Rainier surprisingly appearing behind us, watching us huff and puff on this little hill, then views deep into the desert opened, and as soon as we reached top of Yellow Hill, Mt. Stuart with all his companions stood in front of us in their full beauty.

After enjoying some snacks at this first checkpoint, we continued towards the second one – Elbow Peak. The ridge had some ups and downs ready for us here, making sure we’ll get enough exercise for the day. Some parts of the ridge were forested; however there was plenty of open areas and views from them were plentiful.

Elbow Peak was successfully reached and after a short break we were ready to continue towards Humerus and then Jolly Mountain which was still several miles away.

We did not make it far though. A steep narrow corniced part of the ridge that would be quite unsafe to cross under these conditions and especially without ice axes shattered our hopes to reach our goal destination. Even if we made it through this section, the terrain didn’t look any friendlier further on. It would make for a very slow progress and considering the time of the day, we were unlikely to get all the way to Jolly not being able to move full speed. We decided to call it a turning point and sat down for an hour long lunch break. It felt wonderful to be able to take a long lunch without freezing, enjoying our beautiful surroundings, soaking up the sunshine.

So instead of 21 miles we only hiked 12, instead of conquering 4 mountains, we only reached 2, and instead of gaining nearly 7000 ft elevation, we only climbed 4500 ft., yet it was still an awesome trip and a great day in the mountains.

Full set of pics can be seen here:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sauer's Mountain 5/11/2009

After a brief rain hit Lake Chelan on Sunday evening, the weather looked pretty good again on Monday and with the blue sky above us, I knew we have to stop for a hike on the way home and get some exercise after the food fest over Mother's Day weekend.

We only had half day for the outing so it had to be somewhat shorter and easier, and preferably somewhere close by the highway. Sauer's mountain near Leavenworth fit the bill.

We arrived at the trailhead at 3:30 p.m and started hiking shortly afterwards. There were 3 couples on their way down we met and after that we had the trail to ourselves... only had to share with the few lizards, bees, and birds. To my liking, we did not see any snakes. Would not mind to keep it that way for the rest of the season.

The trail starts to climb right from the beginning and I can imagine one can really break sweat here on a hot summer day. Fortunately soft breeze that accompanied us for most of the way made our ascend pretty enjoyable.

After about half mile there is an intersection and the trail splits for another half mile or so. We took the longer (left) fork on the way up which offered pretty views of surrounding mountains, including Icicle Ridge and Tumwater Mountain, and higher up we also saw Leavenworth nested in the valley below.

The view of Glacier Peak announced by a nice handmade sign was not available due to dark stormy clouds gathering over the mountain but apart of that we enjoyed variety of great views all along the way.

Balsamroots lined the whole length of the trail. Thousands and thousands of beautiful yellow blooms. Even though little past their peak, they were still spectacular; however if you'd like to experience this magical yellow garden this season, you should not delay more than few days.

With somewhat leisurely pace and frequent stops to enjoy the views (me) and catch breath (Chad) we were back at the trailhead at 7:00 p.m.

Very nice trail. Around 5 miles RT and 1600 ft elevation.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Mt. Ellinor 5/2/2009

The forecast went from - it'll be quite nice, through it probably won't be so nice to it will for sure be soaking wet - as the week progressed but it did not stop our plan to scramble Mt. Ellinor and enjoy some glissading on the way down.

We started in a rain that did not leave us for most of the approach. Occasionally it would mellow to a drizzle but usually not for too long. Our raingear was put to a great test. We made a reasonably fast progress and soon found ourselves climbing up the best part of the route - the chute, gaining elevation fast.

The summit gave us a little bit of a break. It was windy and rather cold so additional layers went on followed by more additional layers and clouds surrounding us swallowed all the views but at least we could enjoy fast lunch without being poured on.

The conditions made for a very fast glissade down. Bumpy on occasion but lots of fun. Our friend rain returned as soon as we descended into the forest and followed us - gaining on intensity - all the way to the car. I have to say, this must've been fastest packing job we ever done. It was a matter of just few short minutes to throw everything in the trunk, find refuge inside the car, and get the hell out of there.

Despite the weather it was good to be outside though and the glissage definitely made up for the lack of views.