Sunday, July 5, 2015

Pilot Ridge-North Fork Sauk loop, Glacier Peak Wilderness

The Grand Dishpan Gap loop and Pilot Ridge-North Fork Sauk loop are excellent neighboring ridge tours of the Glacier Peak and Henry M. Jackson Wilderness areas. Both loops are almost exactly 30 miles with options to add some easy walk-up peaks.

Today I did the Pilot-Sauk loop counterclockwise and added the short side trip up Johnson Mountain (6721'). An easterly breeze kept morning travel cool, yet a little hazy from the east-side fires (Wolverine Creek probably?).

I was finally able to manage the heat well and move strong all day; I think I was due :) . Thanks to the backpacking party of four near Indian Pass for recognizing me! That was a nice surprise and it was good to chat in the shade for a few minutes.

Relevant trail conditions (all in pretty good shape!):
  • Pilot Ridge: 5-10 blowdowns with a few requiring some awkward straddling/climbing over. One creek flowing three miles in from the NF Sauk trail head, then dry until Blue Lake.
  • Pacific Crest Trail: some water flowing north of Indian Pass, on the west side of Indian Head Peak. 
  • North Fork Sauk: streams flowing after the trail turns off the PCT, before the switchbacks. Completely logged out as well. Amazing old growth...
Footlog across the NF Sauk to the Pilot Ridge trail
Climbing up to Pilot Ridge
Mount Pugh and White Chuck Mountain
For some reason I think these look like Dr. Seuss-style mustaches..
The Monte Cristo group and Sloan Peak, from western Pilot Ridge
Pilot Ridge trail through the flowers
Pilot Ridge trail toward Johnson Mountain
Chipmunk and marmot lookouts
North Fork Sloan Creek and the Monte Cristo group
Small backpackers on a big ridge; looking back from Johnson Mountain
Blue Lake and the high trail over the pass, from midway up Johnson Mountain
Glacier Peak and Tenpeak Mountain (far right), from Johnson Mountain summit 6721'

Some of the most vibrant paintbrush I've seen
Look back west down Pilot Ridge from the pass
Both sides of the sign are Wilderness :)
Unnamed falls/creek east of Foam Creek (?)
Loads of lupine along the PCT
Indian Head Peak, from just before White Pass

Pretty much shows the whole route along the ridges

Back at the car...a darn good day...


Friday, July 3, 2015

Goat Island Mountain-Banshee Peak "7up" loop, Mount Rainier National Park

Besides White River, I haven't truly been in MRNP for over a decade. This is a sweet hiking loop that is about half on trail and half cross country (though reasonably tame). All credit to WillisWall for his very cool MRNP 7up route collection; excited to do some of the other ones as well!

Hitting the trail early I had the entire Goat Island Mountain traverse to myself and didn't see anyone until intersecting the Wonderland just above the Summer Land campground. Unfortunately, I had a very tight timetable with a hard cutoff of four hours before having to turn around. I reached the west summit of Banshee Peak at 3:58 elapsed and had to skip the little 1/3-mile walk out to the true summit. After making the descent from there to the trail head in only 1:50, it become apparent I probably did have enough time to hit the true summit and still be back in time. Oh well...

Made the round trip in 5:50 car-to-car (5:50am-11:40am).

Love those pink paintbrush; basin at 5900' when switching ridges on the climb up Goat Island Mountain (GIM)
White River from the east ridge of GIM
White River, Cowlitz Chimneys, Banshee, Adams, Panhandle Gap, edge of Little Tahoma
Goat Island Mountain summit 7,288'
Double selfie, I guess
Moraine lake in the White River valley, with Burroughs/Sunrise above
Idyllic ridge travel on GIM
Little Tahoma and falls coming off of the Fryingpan Glacier
No issues with crossing the moraine/two forks of Fryingpan Creek
Summer Land
Look back at GIM from the Wonderland Trail, just below Panhandle Gap
Meadow walking to Banshee
Adams, Hood and St. Helens
Cowlitz Chimneys and the Sarvant Glacier, from Banshee's west summit 7,265'
Lake on the Wonderland Trail, below Panhandle Gap
Practically a road walk back to the trail head!



Sunday, June 28, 2015

Pasayten Wilderness: Amphitheater Mountain, The Pope, Apex Mountain

Last winter Ethan and I planned a Pasayten Wilderness mega-excursion, summiting a whole bunch of the Eastern Pasayten's highest peaks over a ~70-mile lollipop. I was also interested in seeing all the views I'd missed on the same trails in June 2014 (1' of fresh snow, clouds, fog).

The way our schedules aligned, however, had us going out yesterday into a Heat Advisory where it hit 105F in Winthrop and the point forecast for 7600' was 80F. The summer of 2015/2070 has not been good to me. I'm a cool-weather guy and long days at high temperatures continually have shut my stomach down; a problem I've never had in not-hot weather.

Trying to beat at least a little of the heat, we left Aunt Janie's cabin at 2:29am, were at the Thirtymile Trailhead an hour later and hit the trail at 3:51am. It was already 65F out.

High motivation had us on top of our first peak, Amphitheater Mountain 8358', in 4:40 elapsed at 8:30am. We descended Amphitheater and got on the Boundary Trail through Cathedral basin, over the pass and descended to where the trail passes slabs below The Pope 8264'.

We started the climb up at about 10am and it was steep, hot and south facing. It really took it out of us and we were tired on the summit, even though the views from the top were great: first time we'd seen the border swath and Canadian peaks in Cathedral Provincial Park. We descended and headed over to Apex Pass to climb Apex Mountain 8297'.

It's a long slog up and we reached the false summit and took a little break before heading over to the true summit further south. Something about sitting down seems to induce the sickness I've had on hot days; the rest on the summit incited my fall into an unpleasant afternoon and early evening (which was not much fun for Ethan either).

We made our way over to Wolframite 8137' which Ethan summited as I rested in the shade off the trail, trying to turn things around. By the summit of Apex we already were behind schedule and now it was 1:30pm and entering the hottest part of the day.

Tungsten Creek was the only bail option on our entire route, so we pointed south and started back toward the Thirtymile Trailhead. It was a sad second half to the day as we both had a great time during the first ~8 hours, covering 28 miles and summiting three 8,000'+ peaks.

Pretty sure I owe Ethan a six pack...or two...

On the plus side, we didn't see another person all day and my new Pearl Izumi N3 was great and probably will be my 50m+ shoe going forward (make one with a trail outsole!).

Relevant trail conditions:
  • Chewuch River trail: lots of dead fall through the burn (50+); decent shape after that. All streams can be crossed staying dry. 
  • Boundary Trail (Cathedral to Tungsten): Good shape, no issues. Good stream below The Pope, most others were trickles.
  • Tungsten Creek: OK shape, some dead fall/blowdown, but better than Chewuch. 

3:50am
Approaching Amphitheater Mountain on the Lesamiz cutoff trail
Pano looking west from Amphitheater Mountain 8358'; from Baker to Remmel
Amphitheater summit
Descending Amphitheater through larches
Upper Cathderal Lake and the north face of Amphitheater
Cathedral Lakes basin
East side of Cathedral Pass; same view from June 2014.
Climbing The Pope 8264'; summit visible above Ethan
US-Canada border swath west, from the summit of The Pope
Sheep Mountain, Cathedral Peak, Amphitheater Mountain, Remmel Mountain; from the summit of The Pope
Signing The Pope summit register
Canadian peaks: Matriarch, Grimface, The Pyramid, The Deacon, Orthodox
Feeling a little beat on The Pope
Approaching Apex's false summit; true summit back left

Apex Mountain 8297' summit register
Descending Apex back to the pass
Butterflies along Horseshoe Creek on the way back to the trailhead