Thursday, July 26, 2012

Island Peak – 75 Days to Departure - Steamboat Prow

Once again the weather forecast changed on a short notice just before the weekend and shattered our plans to attempt Mt. Rainier. What to do? Being in the “Rainier” mood, ideas such as Echo Rock, Observation Rock, Hessong Rock, and Skyscraper Mountain came to mind, but as Friday evening rolled in, we found ourselves exhausted after a long week of juggling between work, and preparations for the climb, so in the end we decided for an easier, relaxed outing in Sunrise area where the forecast still promised Mostly Sunny.

It did not look mostly sunny when we left Seattle at around 8:00 a.m., and it looked even less sunny when we drove into a downpour shortly past Enumclaw. We still had no plan of which trail we’ll hike, and with the rain getting stronger, we were not quite sure if we wanted to hike at all. 

Surprisingly the sun was out before we crossed the White River Entrance, and with it our hiking spirit. After a brief stop at the ranger station, we were on our way to Steamboat Prow.

The route started on Glacier Basin Trail which was smooth and well maintained an easy walk under the canopy of evergreens with occasional views that grew more plentiful as we approached the trail’s terminus. Flowers bloomed in numerous colors along this part of our hike, and creeks chirped songs of a happy summer day as they rushed down the hillsides.

Then we entered the basin, a meadow of delicate Glacier Lilies which we soon left behind as we hiked into the harsh environment of the alpine zone. Tall crumbling rock lined the walls, occasional rock fall stirred the dust, and evidence of prior slides littered the valley floor.

The views were incredible, especially after we ascended the initial formidable looking slope, our company here were the Burroughs Mountain, Ruth Mountain, and Rainier itself. Looming over its surroundings Rainier grew bigger as we approached the top of Inter Glacier, and made the final push – a rock scramble to the top of Steamboat Prow where it was so near we could nearly touch it.

Underneath us lay Camp Shurman and from there our eyes followed the route to the summit via the Emmons Glacier. It seemed quite straightforward ascending from the camp, then cutting through seracs, and then a long, steep looking slope. 

This vantage point also provided spectacular views of Little Tahoma, the whole Burroughs Mountain and far beyond, and up close and personal view of the mesmerizing Emmons Glacier.

It was hard to leave this gorgeous world of rock and ice and never-ending views but the evening was closing in and finally we had to say our good byes. The 1800 vertical feet glissade helped us make a good time, and even with our later start, we made it back to the car before it got dark.

RT: 10+ miles
Elevation Gain: 5300 feet

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