Posted by: Matt | June 21, 2009

Esmerelda Basin and Traverse, #1394 Wenatchee NF

I woke up yesterday ready to head up into the hills. There was an element of excitement that I couldn’t suppress probably from spending the night before review potential trail possibilities. I went to sleep dreaming of the next place to go see. Tess and Justin rolled out of bed at about the same time and decided to join me on the Saturday outing. Everyone packed a bag and we headed for the hills. I altered my gear list a bit so we could spend some time together.

I’ve hiked Esmerelda Basin (NF trail #1394, Wenatchee) before, but never really tried to climb it quickly. The night before the three of us filled up on kalbi, kimchi and piles of chop chey so my legs were screaming for release when we arrived at the packed parking area at the trail head. The three of us put our kits together as others headed up the trail with backpacks and rucks. Today my kit consisted of the following:

  • Mountain Smith Tour with modified shoulder straps
  • 2x Ultimate Directions water bottles
  • Couple of Stinger Protein bars
  • Dried fruit
  • Halva
  • Nuun
  • MSR HyperFlow Microfilter
  • Itty bitty Petzl LED headlamp
  • Leatherman Squirt P4
  • Marmot Gortex wind breaker
  • Long sleeve shirt
  • Garmin Edge 205 GPS
  • Samsung Epix
  • Timex Watch
  • Black Diamond Contour Elliptic Shock Compact trekking poles
  • Tifosi Forza sunglasses
  • La Sportiva Trango S EVO GTX boots
  • Smart Wool Socks and liners
  • Smart Wool T-Shirt
  • Hat

All told my gear weight was about 9 pounds (~4 kg) and I could have easily cut out anything in red as I didn’t end up using those items. The items in grey I didn’t use, but I wouldn’t want to not have either. Notes to improve my kit, first I really *need* to spend some time making a holster for my GPS or spend the money to get one of the wrist ones. The track log shows what happens when I carry it in pockets or strapped to the side of my bag. I mash buttons and don’t even know it. This has the unfortunate tendency to blow data collection for the day. Yesterday’s is missing at least a mile and change at the beginning and I’m sure I started the device when I started up the trail.

Second, when Tess and Justin come along it would serve everyone’s best interests if we carried a pair of radios (FRS/GMRS). We started up the trail together and I quickly pulled ahead of Tess and Justin. I made very good time to the saddle and when I got there I had no way of telling them that I wanted to head out and traverse Iron Peak and back down the Ingles trail. Like the GPS it would be good to have a holster for a radio so it’s out of the way, but available.

I felt extremely light in the boots and I was using the poles like I was on XC skies; using my upper body to push myself up the trail I quickly passed everyone who was ascending the trail before I even got near the higher cat-walk. Every time I saw a group of people ahead I felt like putting on the speed and passed them with a “howdy” and a smile. After the high cat-walk the trail switches back and forth and then through snow fields. Mine were the first track in the snow which made me grin. I was only wishing that I didn’t have on shoes. Oh well, next time.

At the saddle I stopped for a bit, stretched, drank, and ate a bit. There was no sign of anyone down below so I decided to occupy myself by taking the left traverse toward Esmerelda Peak. There is a slight trail left over between the snow fields and it climbs quickly toward the granite monolith of the peak. Eventually foot traffic has to turn around and move back down a knife edge of rock because the cliff rises and is unascendable. On the way back down the knife edge I stopped and could see Tess’ red hat and backpack approaching the upper cat-walk. I glissaded back down to the saddle expecting to see Tess and Justin sooner than later.

I waited a little longer on the bench and then decided that the traverse to the right looked like even more fun than the one I had just done. The trees this high are all Krumholtzed so I imagined I would be able to see them when they broke the ridge line. This side rises above Lake Ann significantly higher than the first traverse. I set my poles and powered up the hill in low gear. Mostly following snow fields and rock lines exposed on the north side of the hill.

At the top I took a moment to catch my breath and rebuild the cairn that was knocked down. The dense bank of clouds back up against the Cascades looked like marshmallow dripping over the edge of a pie tin off in the distance. I headed down the way I had come because I couldn’t see Tess’ red hat bobbing along below.

The first group of people arrived at the pass while I was descending the hill stopping to eat and drink and take in the view. When I arrived back at the saddle a family carried a message from Tess that she and Justin had turned around so I headed back down the hill toward the parking lot thinking about the next time I get up to Esmerelda Basin.

Next time I’d like to make a loop traverse from the saddle east to the peak above Lake Ann and then follow the ridge line down to the big Ingles cat-walk which ties into the Esmerelda Basin trail below. If I started early enough I might be able to ascend Iron Peak behind as well and still make it back for a late lunch, conditions permitting. This was an amazing run/walk. The trekking poles made me into a leaping four legged creature and allowed me to cover some serious distance in little time.

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