Saturday, February 18, 2012

Island Peak - 236 Days to Departure - The Trip of Changes

With the weekend approaching a discussion sparked as of where to go play in the snow this time. Several destinations competed for out vote, and in the end Middle Chiwaukum with good elevation gain and superb views won unanimously. But the closer to the weekend we got, the more obvious it became that the nature wouldn't treat us with clear blue sky, afterall we are in Washington State, and 2 weekends with good weather during winter is usually only wishful thinking.

We still could climb Chiwaukum but everybody agreed it would make more sense to postpone it for a sunny day when the long journey to the top will be rewarded with views. And there came the first change. The new destination was chosen - Sparkplug Mountain via Surprise Lake, where majority of the trail leads through a snowy forest that is fun to navigate through no matter whether it's sunny or not.

Then, on Saturday morning as we drove to the trailhead, the rain picked up and grew stronger, and it was raining rather heavily at Scenic where we were supposed to start our adventure. It did not take us long to agree on another change, and off we were headed over Steven's Pass to check what is the weather doing there. What a surprise it was to be welcomed by sunshine and mostly blue sky.

The clouds came later as we made our way up Smithbrook Road towards Lake Valhalla and mount McCausland, bringing snow showers, and when we arrived to the lake there was not much more than a hazy view of Lichtenberg, a mountain rising above the lake, available to us. McCausland was completely engulfed in clouds, and for a brief moment we considered another change - climb Lichtenberg instead - but then we proceeded in Mccausland's direction.... and just when we arrived to the summit, the sun broke through the clouds, and even opened some views down in the valley. Perfect timing.

Our lunchbreak with sun and nearly no wind was most enjoyable. We sipped on tea and shared chocolate, and then another change was suggested.... since we are already here, why wouldn't we attempt Lichtenberg also? It was a mere though at first but less then an hour after it originated we found ourselves in the uphill direction again, plowing through deep snow, making slow but steady progress towards the summit.

It was hopeful that we could actually bag two peaks during the trip, but then, less than 100 feet from the summit, a narrow corniced ridge banished our hopes. Still it was a good climb, finished by a fun glissade from the top, and leaving us with a reason to come back in the future.

Date: Saturday 2/11/2012
RT: 10.7 miles
Elevation gain: 3953 feet
Time: 9 hours

No comments: