Thursday, July 5, 2012

Island Peak - 92 Days to Departure - Hannegan Peak

Hannegan Peak was one of my first hikes along Hwy 542, and with the walk through green picturesque valley full of magnificent views, challenge of a 3000 feet elevation gain, and a treat of 360 degree views from the top, it instantly became one of my favorite trails, a destination to which I always longed to return. Seeing photos from a recent trip my friend David Chatham took up there deepened that desire and with (finally) a sunny day in the forecast I was sure Hannegan Peak will make a great destination to celebrate the Independence Day.

The trail, as I remembered it, was easy 3 miles before any serious elevation gain started, a walk through a valley full of greenery, wildflowers, and views of never-ending line of peaks rising to the sky.

The peaks were there, standing in their rugged beauty, so were the windflowers - bright yellow wood violets lining the left side, the right side filled with blooms of purple hues. What I did not expect, at least not to that degree, was the amount of avalanche debris in the area, multiple slides tearing down sizable trees, shredding them to pieces, depositing them along the way, sometimes as far as the valley floor. 

The slides, crossing the trail in so many spots I stopped counting, slowed the approach significantly. Some of them were easy to navigate but often the slide presented a snow bridge under which the water rushed and rumbled, and often those snow bridges were not in the best shape. Weakened by the warmth of the summer sun, partially collapsed, and too thin for comfort, there was couple of crossings where we chose to scramble down the muddy hillside holding onto the branches rather than risking falling into the ice cold snow melt water should the bridge not hold.

Once we reached area about ¼ miles before the switchbacks, the snow coverage became solid, and straight up we went, following a nicely set boot track. The sun was now out, the sky nearly perfectly blue, and not much breeze to calm us down. After a little bit of huffing and puffing and a whole lot of sweating, we reached Hannegan Pass. We did not linger long; the promise of the great views drove us up the now very steep slopes. The snow conditions were good and we made a quick progress. Soon we were rewarded by first unobstructed views of Granite Mountain, Ruth Mountain, Mt. Shuksan, and many more, and the higher we got, the more spectacular mountain views our eyes could feast on became.

We were in no rush to head down. We spend over an hour on the summit, striking a friendly conversation with a couple who arrived shortly after us, learning about the surrounding peaks and some interesting routes in the area. Finally the lateness of the day, and the fact we had to be back at work bright and early the following day, made us say good bye.

What a day! And the weekend (and more sunshine in the mountains they say) only couple days away!

1 comment:

Jake Johnson said...

Looking to head up to Cooper Ridge this weekend. ANy places to camp on the ridge? Thanks for the TR