Friday, January 30, 2015

Ruby Mountain loop, North Cascades

This is a route I probably wouldn't do in summer, but wanting to actually do a little running I was looking for something mostly at low elevation to avoid snow. The choice came down to this or the East Bank of Ross, which is out and back and I've been on that trail three times, so the Ruby Mountain loop won!

Starting from Colonial Creek campground, relevant trail conditions are:

  • Thunder Creek: all fine, some tiny patches of booted in snow/ice.
  • Fourth of July Pass and Panther Creek: snow free up to FoJ Camp, then solid snow (2-3') all the way until the bridge over Panther Creek, with patches continuing until the climb. Light-to-moderate route finding is required.
  • Happy Panther: quite a bit of large branch and tree blowdown (some old, but a lot new). Also three trail semi-washouts that are easy to pass, but the rocks are icy and frozen together.
Definitely slow going over Fourth of July Pass for four miles, but otherwise a very fun loop with a quick finish down an empty Highway 20. They were all new trails to me too, which always is an added bonus.

Special shout-out to Jessie from Seattle Mountain Running Group; who knew there would be another trail runner out there (especially one that's seen my blog)?! Hope you had a good run up Thunder Creek!

Thunder Creek (always amused by how monstrous North Cascade creeks are) 
East ridge to Snowfield Peak
Tricouni (l) and Primus peaks
Snowfield Peak
Fourth of July Camp
Fourth of July Pass area
Fourth of July Pass: swamp trail with snow?
The wood equivalent of cairns; route finding through Fourth of July Pass
Upper Panther Creek SNOTEL
Heavy frost in open areas
Panther Creek and Crater Mountain
Falls near Panther Camp
The closed section of 20 between Panther Creek and Happy Panther/East Bank TH
Near washout on Happy Panther (one of three)
Jack Mountain over Ross Reservoir; similar to the webcam I look at daily (sometimes hourly)
Colonial Peak (l), Paul Bunyan's stump, Pyramid Peak
Quick view of the Pickets: McMillan Spires (r), Inspiration Peak, The Pyramid, Mt. Degenhardt, Point 7200'+, Davis Peak

Monday, January 26, 2015

Umtanum loop with Ben and Ethan

Oh, how naive we were, thinking the east side would be wonderfully dry and perfect running terrain! We planned for some cross-country travel and light bushwhacking, but did not expect unrunnable mud for close to 10 miles of our day...

None of us had been out on Yakima-area trails, it seemed like a fun option. Ben put together an adventurous outing doing the first two climbs (~11 miles) of the Skyline Rim 50k course, and then utilizing "dirt" roads, steppe-shrub wandering, canyon-bottom shwhacking and a few miles of trail to create a nice 27-mile loop.

It was a good sign that Ethan, Ben and I were able to laugh and smile about it all day. We had great views north to the Stuart Range, west/south to Rainier, Adams and Hood, saw a lot of deer and two bighorn sheep, went up and down through the inversion fog and escaped the day largely unscathed.

Ben and Ethan, starting out under the inversion fog
Ethan, coming up the first climb to Umtanum Ridge
The Stuart Range; Alpine Lakes peaks further west (Chikamin, Lemah, Summit Chief, Bear's Breast?)
Shoe-deadening, slip-and-slide mud
Descending Umtanum Ridge to Roza Creek, second climb in the upper-left 
Aforementioned second climb...

Inversion fog seeping over a low ridge
Top of the second climb, heading west down the ridge with Rainier
Little bit of cross country
Our route from the top of the second climb (center-left) followed the ridge down, then one mile of cross country to hit         Old Durr Road; taken from near the top of western Umtanum Ridge
Our trail-less descent into upper Umtanum Creek canyon
I think we forded the creek eight times in the upper section before reaching the real trail
A few prickly items, but not bad for the two miles to reach the trail
Columnar-basalt in upper Umtanum Creek canyon

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Capitol Peak Mega Fat Ass 50k

Well, at least the company was good! If not for Kevin and Paul the Capitol Peak Mega Fat Ass yesterday would have been even more miserable than it was....and it was mighty miserable...

The first two or three hours were actually pretty good, but from mile 18ish to the finish was a consistent mix of ankle-to-shin-deep mud, trough puddles and cold rain that amply compensated for any enjoyment we experienced during the first half. Somehow Ethan must have levitated over all of it, finishing practically half a day before we did.

Thanks to Kevin for snapping a few weather-appropriate pictures during the day, and to Paul for logging another ultra together.

Kevin's beard and Paul, early in the day
Me and Paul, still early
Mile 13 or so?
Around mile 20, when things started to get ugly
Kevin, me, Paul; "smiling"
But maybe it was just the kick in the butt, or slide in the mud, that was necessary for me to more seriously start on a structured spring to be prepared for the goals of summer. After five weeks off from running (November to early December) and then mostly hiking with one or two runs a week (mid December-January) it feels like time to start putting some fitness together. Consistent weekday runs and getting back in the weekend-long-run rhythm will be good and much needed for some of the outings I'd like to do.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Stetattle Ridge with Dave

Every Wednesday should be like this.

It seemed like today was the last of the weather window and luckily I was able to use a vacation day to venture out with Dave to experience some of my favorite views in the North Cascades. After my trip here in September it was obvious a winter outing would be in order.

The snow was in perfect shape: no snowshoes needed, nice and firm for walking and kicking steps on any steeper sections. It felt hard to call it winter though when you're in short sleeves at 6500' in January.

I guess it should be expected on a weekday in winter, but we had the whole mountain/ridge to ourselves, which was a real treat.

Opening up on the very southern end of Stetattle
Stetattle Ridge (r), Luna, Elephant Butte, Fury, southern Pickets, Davis 

Dave with Colonial, Primus group, Logan, Thunder Creek Valley, Buckner, Red and Ruby
Jack and Crater, which Dave and I ran around during the Devils Dome loop
Central Stetattle Ridge

Chilliwack group: Redoubt, Mox Peaks, Spickard

McMillan Spires, Inspiration, Degenhardt and Azure Lake

Colonial-Snowfield group

Done by 2:30pm!