Monday, March 1, 2010

Granite Mountain Winter Scramble 2/27/2010

Let's admit it. When you sit in your car and the rain pounds on your windshield, the idea of spending next 7 hours outdoors climbing a mountain is not quite appealing. But knowing you REALLY need to get in shape after a lazy month, you drive to the trailhead anyway.... thinking "I really wish I wasn't hiking today".

Then as the miles go, the clouds become scarce and suddenly even some blu sky appears... and after few more miles you are driving in a beautiful sunny winter day thinking "This can't be true!" and suddenly you're shivering with excitement to hit the trail. This is exactly what happened today and I must say it was the best treat the nature had in store for us in a very long time.

Our today's outing took us to Granite Mountain. 3800 ft elevaton gain in about 4.5 miles makes it a very decent winter scramble. I've been on this mountain numerous times now and every time, there seems to be a great adventure awaiting for us along the trail. Today was no different.

We covered the first snow-free portion of the trail in very good time. Once we hit the snow, we decided to leave the official trail and scouted for a possible route until we found very straight forward, incredibly steep slope to climb. This shortcut made us gain hundreds of feet of elevation incredibly fast. This shortcut also made us sweat incredibly lot. As I said, I've been on this mountain few times before, including an August berry picking trip but today was by far the hottest day I've ever experienced here. Here we were in Pacific NW in February, hiking stripped down to the very last layers we had.

The weather window we hit was absolutely spectacular. Perfectly blue sky in front of us, and some worse weather coming from behind which provided some incredibly dramatic clouds and made the views 100 times more enjoyable.

After breaking some serious sweat, the lookout came to view. The terrain got little milder and with most of the elevation done, we enjoyed the last few hundred vertical feet of this winter wonderland.

Just as we approached the lookout, the weather caught to us. Most of the views dissapeared... but it remained very warm and windless with just a few drops of rain which considering the forecast was pretty remarkable.

Yet the nature had one more surprise in store for us. We descended using the very same route we took up, and just as we were passing few rocks sticking from the snow, well away from the edge of the ridge, there was this sudden dull noise of breaking snow, and in the next second, two members of our expedition were being swept down the hill on a mini avalanche created by a triggered cornice.

Fortunately the runoff was very short and there were no hazardous obstacles in the path that could cause serious injuried. Even more fortunatelly they managed to stay atop the flowing snow (purely by luck) so once the movement stopped and they shook off their initial shock, they walked out of there unharmed, with a very valuable lesson learned - no matter how far from the edge you are, if there's more space away from it, use it.

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