Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mount Thompson - 09.29.10

So it was time again to make another attempt at Mount Thompson. After last year's long walk in the rain, I was ready for another try. This time the forecast was for solid sun and I partnered up with Adam. We were going to use the super secret shortcut to shave 6 miles off the round trip.

We met rather casually for this adventure at the park and ride at 6:15am. We then drove to the shortcut and proceeded up the road. Unfortunately the road was closed in less than a mile. But we felt we still had a chance to do the climb and drove a few miles to the standard trail head. We knew there was another shortcut we could use that would shave some distance off as well. We headed up the Commonwealth Basin in an attempt to do this shortcut. Things were working well, but then the trail disappeared and we were heading up a dry creek bed. When the creek bed was no longer dry, we left it for bushy terrain where we eventually made it to a talus field. We went about half way up the talus field before ducking into the trees on the left when we saw a passage through cliff bands.

The going got immediately tough and we were yanking on blueberry bushes to make progress in solid BW3 terrain. The first slope was steep and we were under huge bushes. Continuing got me to a point where my head was above the blueberry bushes, but we were still bushwhacking. We knew this travel was reducing our chances of a summit. The crux came shortly after a small waterfall which I climbed but Adam went to the left of in the trees. There was some steep terrain where we both at some point used our vege belays to "save" us. For me it was having both feet give out on a steep wet slope where I belly flopped onto the ground still holding a berry bush in each hand. Who knows how far I would have slid had those bushes broke.

Shortly after the crux the angle eased and we were back to a more moderate bushwhack. We followed a few gullies littered with granite boulders while continuing upward. I knew we must be close as the rock had changed. After moving up through a few gullies, I saw someone above me. At first I thought Adam had somehow found a way up faster than me. But I looked back to see Adam below me and I shouted to him that the trail was only twenty feet above me. I popped up on the trail to see the rest of a party of through hikers pass me on the PCT. Adam and I quickly hiked the trail a bit and stopped for lunch on a rock shortly after the Katwalk. The time was 11am.

During lunch we devised a turn around time of 1pm. Of course, this was if we were not climbing by 1pm. We made great time to Bumblebee Pass and dropped over the other side. Compared to last year this was much easier as it was not wet and visibility was great. On the way down from the pass I located the trail to the start of the climb. Something Sabrina and I could not see last year due to clouds/fog. We hiked this path to the talus and started up. Right at the start of the talus are a few cairns, but then no others. I hopped around on solid rocks for a bit and was making good time. I thought we'll be climbing at 1pm.

I was more than halfway up, and there looked to be a gravel path just above me. Arriving at it, I was dismayed. It was loose gravel and each step cause a two square meter area to start sliding downhill. I had to tamp with my foot before each step to stabilize the slope and prevent this from happening. Adam was gaining on me. I left this loose gravel for more stable larger blocks, but my progress wasn't much better. I was looking at my watch after each series of moves. 12:40...12:45...12:50 Adam shouted up that it was 1pm. We still had some time I thought. My watch showed 12:55. I was still probably 100' vertical from the notch, while Adam was perhaps that distance below me. I spun around. I told Adam I wanted to at least make the ridge. But I had no desire to continue up this annoying slope. I just wanted to take a rest. We had a short discussion about making an attempt on the peak. I eventually conceded knowing we would have got back to the car near midnight even if the rest of the climb went flawlessly.

We scrambled back down the talus field to where it ended. Skier's right seemed to be better, and I'll keep that in mind when I finally give this mountain another try. At the base of the talus field we took a rest and snacked while sitting around on boulders. We saw a military jet fly by fairly low near Chikamin Ridge. About ten minutes later we saw another that appeared to come up Burnboot Creek toward Lemah. Then another buzzed Chikamin Ridge. A final F18 flew up Gold Creek not more than 500' off the ground and split the saddle between Chikamin and Huckleberry Peaks. It happened so fast I could not get the camera out in time. We waited in hopes of seeing it again, but that was our one chance. It was a wow moment that must have been a real show for anyone on the PCT in that vicinity. After waiting twenty minutes for another spectacle, we headed back to the car.

The hike out was long, tiring and uneventful. Although a bit more scenic than last year when there was little to no visibility. I find myself having more difficulty with such a long approach, and more importantly deproach to a climb. I now have the approach dialed for this climb, and if the weather does not deter, I hope to make it happen in the future. I doubt I'll attempt the shortcut again, but we did scout the shortcut a bit on the way back. Not enough to see where we went wrong though. And for all the bushwhacking through blueberry bushes, the blueberries were not all that good. (Seemed like they needed another week.)

My pics here.

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