Saturday, August 14, 2010

Kaleetan Peak - South Route - 08.13.10

4000'+ elevation gain
12 miles RT
Left car: 8:15 am
Summit: 12:15 pm
Back at car: 4:15 pm
8 hours car to car

Adam and I opted to do something. He wanted something "mellow" as his leg was bothering him from playing soccer. I wanted exercise. We decided on Kaleetan Peak as it seemed fairly mellow. The trip had similar stats to my hike of Alta Peak last year which I completed in five hours. This trip, we were bringing helmets, but that was about it for extra weight. The pack really feels light on a day trip like this.

We left Seattle around 7am and were hiking a little after 8am. We made great time on the trail and got to Melakwa Lake in good time. (I wasn't paying attention, but probably in a little over an hour and a half.) We took a break at the lake where we were surprisingly not bothered by mosquitoes. Then we located the trail to gain the ridge. We opted for gaining the ridge at the outlet of the lake as it is easier, and we were looking for a mellow outing. There are a few other options near the inlet of the lake, but they involve more scrambling.

The trail goes up through forest for while and meanders around some cliffs before getting near Point 5700, sometimes called the false summit. Just below there, the slopes become a bit more open and there is a little bit of talus to cross and then another band of trees before climbing open talus slopes to the top. Then the trail dropped back down on the west side of the ridge through some horrible muddy slopes where the veggie belays were mandatory. Then the way traversed a bit before going up through talus to gain the ridge once again. We tried to take a brief break, but the bugs were bothering us and we continued on.

The path started getting steeper and less trail like, so we put our helmets on. I was moving a bit faster than Adam and near the gully to the summit he declared he would not continue as his leg was bothering him too much. I continued up the scramble which was very easy and I liken it to the haystack on Mt. Si. Although it has been a while since I've been on Mount Si, I remember the Mt. Si gully to be more loose and steeper. I reached the top and was greeted by another hiker we saw ahead of us. He was kind enough to let me summit before heading down the gully. The views from the summit were great. I could see Mount Garfield, but could not see Anne and Sabrina who were supposed to be on the peak. (It is seven miles away.)

I also enjoyed the "peak finder" on the summit which was dated from 1935. I didn't need it (do I really need to be told the name of Mount Rainier?) But it was an interesting artifact. There were some flying ants on the summit which made me not want to stick around too long as they had a bad habit of landing on me, including one getting inside my sunglasses. I made a brief attempt to head to the west end of the summit area, but thought better of it being up there alone. I grabbed my pack and headed back down to Adam, where we continued further a bit so I could eat a lunch.

We scrambled back down the talus and had a freak incident of rockfall come from high on the ridge. It was headed right for Adam. Unfortunately, he slipped and had difficulty moving fast from the final piece. He remained untouched, but aggravated his leg injury in the process. This isn't an area where there are goats, and we didn't see anything moving about, so we scratched this up to just natural rock fall. After that, the rest of the trip down to the lake was uneventful.

By the time we arrived back at the lake we were out of water. (I drank three liters and the temp is Seattle reached 84°F.) We decided to take a dip as we didn't have a means of filtering the water except for Iodine, and that would take a half hour and we'd be very close to the car. The brief swim was refreshing and we both soaked our headgear in the lake before continuing down hill. After about an hour the cooling effects wore off and we'd attempt to soak our hats in any stream we passed. Even that was no longer doing the trick and we just gutted it out to the car where we had water waiting. I had a ferocious headache like someone was stabbing me in the eye for the last twenty minutes of the hike. We got to the car and guzzled water.

This was a fun if hot outing. Definitely a possibility to do alone and just the right amount of difficulty for the trip I wanted. (A little more than what Adam was up for though.) The heat really took a toll, and it made me think I do not want to be out for the rest of the weekend without a reliable water source nearby. Had I anticipated the heat would affect me so much, I would have carried four liters with me instead of three.

My pics are here.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Leavenworth - Pearly Gates - 08.08.10

The weather wasn't cooperating for alpine plans, so I stayed in town on Saturday in the rain. Rod and I were working out options and when Sabrina called Saturday night the plan was set to head to Leavenworth. It had rained there too on Saturday, but was forecast to be warm and sunny on Sunday, unlike the west side.

We left Seattle around 6am giving the sun time to dry things out if needed. We opted for the Pearly Gates due to the shade it receives. We parked outside the Snow Creek parking lot, and hiked up. This time I had no issues with the log crossings, and did both of them standing up and walking. Perhaps that little amount of time on the slack line last week really helped out?

The hike up was hot, steep, and long. We arrived at the base of the crag soaked. But now we were in the shade and cooling off. What a relief. We started slowly with Sabrina leading The Dog ate My Topo. It had some bouldery moves at the start, and felt stiff for the rating. Thin holds and slabby climbing for most of it. It was a two star route, but I didn't like it that much. Perhaps the rust of me not climbing rock too much lately is beginning to show?

Once all three of us were on top, we scrambled to the base of the second pitch of Milky Way. Rod led it and fell once or twice at the crux, combined with a fair amount of hanging. Once through, he brought up me and Sabrina. I really enjoyed this route more than the first one, and loved the friction crux. We rapped off and contemplated The Scene is Clean, but I did not feel up to leading it with the first bolt high, and a hollow flake to climb below it. So we rapped to the base.

It was already 1pm so we had a lunch and a big break before tackling something else. We looked through the book and Sabrina and I scouted Loaves of Fun. I decided I would give it a go. It is a blocky affair with good rests. However, I was rarely super comfortable with the gear. So I tended to place gear at every good rest and sewed it up a bit. There was a cruxy bit that I took a long time on due to not feeling great about my right foot options. (The rope was running in an area where I wanted to place my foot, and I just didn't like that place that much anyway.) After a long time in the spot, I managed a good right foot and made some moves higher, placing another cam along the way. The last bit of the crack system goes up a corner with a nice horn on top as a hold. I did some fun moves out around the corner, and then gained the slab which finishes the route. I brought up Sabrina and Rod, and we rapped off. Most raps here are exactly 30m and this was no exception.

We went over to Cloud Nine for Rod to lead, but he wasn't feeling sure of his crack skills. So he backed off. It was after 4pm, and I wasn't really up to another 5.8 gear lead, so we decided to call it a day.

The hike out was much dustier than in the morning, and I once again had no issues with the log crossings. I didn't feel so great about my climbing in this outing, but I haven't been out cragging in a while so I guess that is to be expected.

My pics are here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Thorp Lookout - 08.01-02.10

Jennifer's birthday getaway.

We had lofty ambitions to go hiking/camping in the North Cascades, but the 30% chance of thunderstorms scared us away. I was hoping for views, while Jennifer was hoping for lake swimming. In the end we found a combination that should work just fine; Thorp Lake and Thorp Mountain Lookout.

We got a leisurely start and drove up to the trail head arriving around 11am. Unfortunately, the signage is not ideal and we drove to what is listed in the book as the shortcut. This is a trail at the end of a logging road that leads to the lake. After we geared up and started up the trail we immediately noticed a sign stating it was not the trail. We opted to continue as the trail looked well used (and there was more than a half dozen cars at the "trail head.") However, a few hundred meters from the parking lot we made a right instead of a left. This put us in some open clear cuts and following some trails that looked like game trails. There was flagging tape, so we figured we were heading in the right direction.

After a while of not seeing tape, we stopped for lunch. I scouted ahead, and did not like what I saw. We decided to head back down to the parking lot and hopefully pick up the trail somewhere in between. It was difficult to retrace our steps, and the way down was more slippery than coming up. We slipped a bunch and had to bushwhack even more. After reaching the parking lot elevation, we traversed through some devils club and rejoined the trail. But not after a fair amount of suffering.

Fruits of our labor

This time we noticed the correct trail heading left and followed it. It was nice being on a real trail, and in no time, we were at the lake. Jennifer felt that the two hours of off trail travel was good because the actual trail to the lake was too short. (Mind you, this was the "shortcut" trail.)

Once arriving at the lake we noticed what we often do every time we go in the woods for Jennifer's birthday: the bugs. The mosquitoes at the lake were voracious. Fortunately, it wasn't that hot and we were able to put on jackets and pants to keep ourselves somewhat protected. On the flipside, it did not make us determined to do anything outside, so we hung out in the tent a bit to escape.

Home sweet home

After a bit of relaxing in the tent we got out and scouted the route to the top of the mountain for the next morning. We also took a path part way around the lake to a boulder field and watched the pikas who were apparently watching us. When we returned to the camp, we made dinner.

After dinner, we did a bit more local exploring before retiring to the tent. (The mosquitoes were driving us crazy and we had no repellent.) It was early, but Jennifer felt she could use the sleep.

When we awoke in the morning, the mosquitoes were not as bad. But as we ate breakfast, they became worse. We figured we had to move quickly once done and hopefully the higher we went, the better off we would be.

We started the hike to the lookout and kept moving because stopping made you a target. It was fairly humid, and for the most part going higher did not result in more breeze. It was warm, but I opted to keep my pant legs on to keep the bugs off. There were a few trail intersections, including the one for the real trail to the lake. For the most part the trail switchbacked through subalpine meadows below cliffs.


In what seemed like a very short time we were at the lookout, greeted by the lookout, Lori, and her dog Grace. We took in the views and ate snacks, then chatted with Lori for a while before signing the register and heading back down. The lookout had told us the view was better than the previous day, so we were fairly happy that we waited until the morning to come up to the lookout. Rainier was under the clouds, but the Snoqualmie peaks to Dutch Miller Gap were visible as well as Hinman and Daniel. Mount Stuart was just a shadow in the haze.

The hike back down to camp was warm and uneventful. When we arrived back at the lake, we considered swimming, but we cooled off fairly well with the breeze off the lake. We also weren't sure about subjecting more skin to the swarms of mosquitoes. So we packed up and hiked out. While trying to find the trail out, we stumbled upon the toilet. We passed the not so obvious real trail head on the drive out.

I think this is a nice trip for families, but if you needed to do more and just a day trip, there is a nice loop that can be done incorporating Little Joe Thorp Lake as well. It seems to me the ridge trails there would also be nice options, but we didn't consider them at the time.