Rabu, 28 Mei 2008

Mt. Pilchuck climb May 2008 trail conditions

Today was a deviation from the norm for me. My long lost son is in town for an all too short break between graduating from college (double major, Arabic studies and Russian Language) and his twelve month study abroad program. Before I go further I should clarify that I was twelve when my son was born because there is NO WAY I am old enough to have a son who is out of college.

So we took the day and hiked up to the top of Mt. Pilchuck in the Cascades. Because of snow the road was closed (by steel gate) at 1,400’, four plus miles from the actual trailhead. After heading out early, we parked at the Heather Lake trailhead and started hiking the bone dry and totally clear road. After about two miles the snow became solid and the downed trees thick enough that even I would have parked. After two hours of hiking we reached the outhouse buried in snow that told us we were at the Mt. Pilchuck proper trailhead.

I spent many years backpacking and mountaineering. In addition to taking my own kids, I have taken countless boy scouts and teenagers up mountains and rock faces. During those years I patched so many blistered feet I probably went through enough moleskin to recover a couch. For the first time I can remember, I had to deal with a blister on my own heel. Once my heel was ready, we pulled out the ice axes and slathered on more sunscreen. The only problem was we were now in the clouds and so visibility was very limited.

We began our journey up the mountain via the old ski runs. This is a pretty straight forward route when you can see. In the fog (clouds) we were unsure that we were on the right path. To my amazement we were never more than 50m off of the perfect line.

Zach did great on the steep stuff and seemed very comfortable with an ice axe. I must confess I love kicking steps under a blue sky. And at about 5,000’ the clouds thinned and we could see that not only were we on course, but we could see our target above us. So I got my blue sky.

Some exposed traversing and then some rock hopping and we were to the lookout. We had to unhook the huge shutters and prop one up with Zach’s ice axe and then unhook the door before going inside. According to the summit log we were the fourth party there in 2008, all in May.

We took off our shoes and wet socks and ate pumpkin scones, apples and energy bars and drank and drank. All too soon it was time and we put on fresh socks and took some pictures are then headed down.

The descent was fun and the snow perfect. Glissading down was such a rush. The long road back was hard, but our conversation made the time fly. We were even able to catch a ride with a Forest Service truck the last mile and a half.

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