It's June 1st and time for another
Spring snow scramble. This time my friend Bill Stocker was free to join
me. Since I don't get to hike with Bill very often I chose what is usually
a great scramble summit with flowers, some route finding, and terrific views.
This trip delivered all three. It also presented some challenging creek crossings.
Since the Mountaineers scramble class would be in Bean Creek Basin this
day I chose to climb Earl via Standup Creek. The trail includes 7 creek
crossings each way. There are several more small crossings up high we avoided
with our off trail snow travel. The trailhead is snow free. The trail up
to the first creek crossing is also snow free. There were many Trillium down
low. Farther up we saw Indian Paintbrush and Glacier Lilies. The first crossing
can be made on "bridge" consisting of several small branches spanning the
creek. Now on the right side of the creek we encountered a little snow. The
second crossing was a little tougher. I was just able to get to a log and
shakily get across. On the return we found another multi-log "bridge" just
up stream. The third crossing was more challenging. I put on my diving boots
and Bill put on neoprene socks. The water was fast and deep. We each took
a hiking pole and forged across. After crossing we headed up the trail and
saw a big log across the creek upstream. This was our route for the return
crossing. One concern was that by our afternoon crossings the creek might
be much larger due to snow melt. This did not seem to occur. The creek was
big in the morning and equally big in the afternoon.
Crossing number four may have been
the toughest. I put the diving boots back on for this one. The water was
deep and very fast. I'm 6'4" and the water was 6" above my knees. The trail
on the other side was a substantial creek in it's own right. I kept the
rubber boots on and carried my hiking boots. A short distance and we easily
crossed a part of the creek. Now the snow was over most of the trail. A
short distance and we came to crossing number 6. With the rubber dive boots
still on I plowed right through. After crossing I finally put my hiking
boots back on. Up to the last crossing the trail is in forest and mostly
snow covered. The last crossing was just a big jump. Back on the left side
of the creek and out of the forest the snow was gone. The trail switchbacked
up a steep slope at an easy grade. We came around the end of a ridge and
had a food and water break. Bill had not done much hiking lately but was
doing very well. The trail quickly became snow covered again. We saw very
little dirt from here to the summit. The trail traverses the slope then drops
down for another creek crossing. The creek was snow covered and I had no
desire to try crossing a weak snow bridge so we stayed up on the slope. The
travel was easy as the snow was firm but provided good traction.
We headed towards the saddle where
the summer Standup trail crosses over into the Stafford Creek valley. Part
way up towards the ridge we angled over to the left and aimed for a spot
midway from the saddle to the summit of Earl. The slope was steep but with
good footing there was no trouble climbing up. When we reached the ridge
we took a quick break. From here we could see the summit and the first Mountaineer
scramblers on top. The ridge top was mostly snow covered with some bare sections
on the south side. We mostly followed the ridge top on snow. In a few places
it was easier to drop down on the south side and follow dirt or do a little
easy rock scrambling. The ridge was bare just below the summit. From there
it was a snow traverse around the south side and straight up to the top.
The summit is at 7036'. With a few small ups and downs it was 4000' gained.
The views were as spectacular as I had hoped for. Some high clouds were above
but the view was from Rainier and the Goat Rocks to the Cascade crest and
all the peaks in between. Mountaineers were crawling around the peaks like
ants. With my binoculars I could see them near Volcanic Neck, Bean Peak,
Mary Peak, and Judy Peak. Soon after our arrival another party summited Earl.
We spent over an hour on top. With the creek crossings and snow travel our
time up was a not so spectacular 3 1/2 hours. We came down in 2 hours.
After putting on our rain gear we were
ready for the descent. We quickly retraced our steps back to where we first
reached the ridge top. The way down the steep slopes was equal parts running
and sitting glissades. Within 12 minutes we were down 1000'. The day was
warm and we determined that we would not mess around with the creek crossings
on the way back. The rubber boots stayed in the pack. 5 of the 7 crossings
were managed without fording. On the other two we just plowed across in our
boots. As I said earlier, we were all the way back to the trailhead in two
hours. Total distance was 9 miles with 4000' gained. Congratulations to those
Mountaineer scramblers who reached their first summit today.