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:

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