Posted by: Matt | July 13, 2009

Making Up Mileage in the Clouds

Yea, yea , it’s been a couple of days since my last post. Last week was some kind’a morass and believe me when I say I’ve been busy. The good news is that I’ve had several occasions to get out and up in the interim and that’s helped me remain me more or less sane.

Last Wednesday I was able to get my son Justin out on the trail for an evening ascent of Mount Si. He really didn’t enjoy the climb, but he lit up when we topped out and got to spend a few minutes in the chill of the white room on top of the “haystack”. The descent was a race to beat the coming darkness and we got into the car just in time to avoid jogging in the dark. Big plates of Mexican food later there were a couple of very happy boys headed for bed.

There were several excursions made by Tess and I this week as well. I took her to Snow Lake (#1013) last Monday. Tuesday we visited a back road north of Cabin Creek for something less strenuous and in the cool of altitude and Cascade clouds. Thursday we ran along the cliff face of Lion Rock. Most of this was overland, but there is a road we found which parallels the cliff face for a while too. And Sunday afternoon we headed up along US 2 to try Mount Howard (#1587 and #1583).

This was probably our most challenging hike of the week and we didn’t summit because of weather and warmth concerns. That said it’s certainly worth a second look. The trail head appears to get very little traffic and as you climb up the steep (dare I say it again, yes I think I shall), no I mean steep switch backs above US 2 the footprints left in the dry, southern face of the hill become increasingly spare. This trail is not for the faint of heart, but the even though it rapidly ascends this mountain side (see there’s some optimism for you) the views are amazing and the feeling of exposure is invigorating. It helps that there are mosquitos aplenty near the upper bench below the peaks to keep one moving as well.

Tess proved she is a real trooper setting the pace up the hill. She really dug in and pushed herself to a new level of exertion on this one. The wind kept me nicely cooled off, but I think she got a little cold. The cloud cover engulfed us once we reached the upper bench and Tess got down right chilled in her sweat soaked clothes. Presto change-o, we exchanged her wet clothes out, catered a brief mosquito feast, and bundled in dry gear once again decided it was time to descend.

The drive home was eerily quiet last night as all the girls in the truck more or less passed out as soon as I got them loaded into the cab. Ah, there is a certain satisfaction one gets bringing the joys of the trail to one’s public. Thanks to all three of you sore ladies for joining me on the approach to Mount Howard.

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Responses

  1. I tried to hike Snow Lake this past weekend, and was turned back from the snow. Just saw the date on your posting, but it came up in the recent post list, so I was about to ask by what sorcery you managed the top?

    I like hiking in the mountains. If you run them, well, all I can say is that I’m in awe!

  2. Howdy SeattleHiker,

    I think the last time I made it up to Snow Lake was in September. At this point in the year I don’t know I’d recommend the attempt as both the northern and southern approaches happen to be potential avalanche zones.

    Two weekends ago, my wife, the dogs and I were below Mount Margaret (just east of Snow Lake). The road had enough snow on it we ended up hiking to the trail head, and the trail had so much snow on it that we turned around wishing we would have brought skis. I would hazard a guess that there is even more snow that high up now then two weekends ago. This is great news if you like snow (I know I do), but means that hiking will have to occur lower down for a while.

    I do indeed run trails when the conditions are conducive. It’s not that much faster than walking (or maybe I walk really fast because I know I run pretty slow), but over the course of a day the difference in distances one can achieve can be impressive. That said, occasionally I find it really enjoyable to take my time and go nowhere in a particular hurry.

    Hope to see you on the trail sometime soon.

    Matt

  3. Since you mentioned the fact that Snow Lake is in an avalanche zone, do you have any suggestions on where to learn more about gauging this danger on the trails?

    My guess is that below timberline, the danger is much less, as the trees will prevent enough momentum from building, but that stream gullies and other canyons are dangerous places that should be crossed as quickly as possible? And also that newly fallen snow hasn’t had time to pack itself into the rest of the snow, so poses extra danger. But I still feel nervous with this meager knowledge.

  4. I’m right there with you regarding avalanche danger. The last time I took an Avalanche course was back when Bush the First was in office. There is still potential for slide even in areas that are treed. Much of the danger comes from the way snow falls and packs IIRC, so understanding how that works and what to look for is important. Danger level goes up in areas that have experienced slides before. I know that the south face of that particular bowl has control work done on it routinely.

    I’ve been looking at taking at least the entry level (Avalanche I) course this winter. REI, and several others offer these in your area. Check out the schedule. Maybe I’ll see you at one of these.


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