President Reagan's funeral gave
me an unexpected day off. With another wet weekend forecast for the west
side of the mountains I headed east. Seattle traffic was a mess and I did
not reach the Ingalls Pass trailhead until nearly 10:30 am. The sky was mostly
blue but white clouds were visible to the west. There were only two other
cars in the lot when I got started. There was no snow at the trailhead and
the river was loud and full of water. I soon came to the intersection and
turned right on the Ingalls Way Trail. There were some flowers along here
though this is not a great flower trail. There were a few snow patches before
the Longs Pass Trail. The actual intersection was buried under a solitary
snow field. I looked for the sign both coming and going but did not see it.
Once beyond there the snow was gone. The trail itself is in good shape with
no downed trees or water damage.
Now that I was above the trees views began to open
up. Fortune Peak has some clouds near the summit but was mostly clear. Last
weekend I was atop Esmerelda Peak with zero visibility. This day the peak
was crystal clear. The north side is much more impressive than the scramble
route up the south side. Koppen Mountain was also in the clear. Hawkins was
the wall holding out the clouds. Tufts of white slipped over and around it's
bulk. The skinny trail skirting the slope was bare making for easy travel.
Where the trail turns and begins to head up to the pass the snow began. The
last 500' vertical feet were almost all on snow. The trail could usually be
seen but a more obvious boot path took a more direct approach. It was easier
to go straight up than to traverse the switchbacks on snow. I postholed a
few times but the snow was well compacted.
A few hundred feet below the pass I caught up with
a group heading up. The trail now had disappeared and they were a little
uncertain just where the pass was. I took the lead and headed straight up
until I found a small bare patch of trail. From there it was easy to reach
the pass. It turned out the gentleman I met had climbed Mt. Stuart 40 years
earlier and had not been back to the pass in a long time. It was fun to see
his reaction to returning. He was also kind enough to take a photo of me
with a mostly clear Mt. Stuart behind. On the way up there was some wind
but it was not too bad. The forecast was for gusts of up to 30 mph. At the
pass it was suddenly all of that. We hid behind some rocks to get out of
the wind. I had hoped to scramble up South Ingalls Peak via the slope to
the south of the summit. The route looked reasonable but there were a number
of rocks showing through. I did not want to take a chance of a deep posthole
while alone. Instead I could see that there was solid uninterrupted snow
all the way to the summit of Fortune Peak. Fortune looked like a better choice
for this day.
The one thing I knew was that staying in that wind
at the pass was not a good idea. To the north of the pass everything is still
snow covered. I would guess that the snow is a well compacted 2-5 feet deep
still. There were some old half melted footprints heading below the ridge
to the west and I followed them. Once away from the pass the wind lost more
than half it's velocity. It was still blowing but with a few more layers
of clothing it was not too bad. The ridge from Fortune to Ingalls was now
the dam holding back the clouds. One moment I could see Fortune, South Ingalls,
and Ingalls, and the next all three were lost in the clouds. I came to a
big rock and stopped. I could see that there was a good route all the way
up Fortune but that the slope did steepen substantially in places. I decided
this was a good spot to put on my lightweight crampons and get out my ice
axe. The crampons probably were not absolutely necessary but they provided
a nice margin of safety. The snow went from soft to rock hard and back again
as I progressed.
As I neared the summit of Fortune the clouds really
thickened. At times I could barely see forward or back. The last part was
very steep but with crampons it was an easy walk up. As I came off the snow
for the last short walk to the summit rocks a strange thing happened. The
wind suddenly dropped way down. It was darn near pleasant on top. Unfortunately,
the maximum distance I could see was about 75 feet. In the last month I
have been on top of Navaho, Esmerelda, and now Fortune with almost zero
views. Still, all three were fun scrambles and none were in the rain. Some
of the small bent trees near the summit were caked with a bright white coating
of rime ice. With the clouds and the ice it really looked neat. I debated
dropping down the ridge to Fortune Pass and looping out but the safer course
was to follow my own footprints back. At first it was nearly a white out
but as I descended I dropped out of the clouds and had a clear view all the
way back to the pass.
When I reached the pass there was a couple there.
They had planned to camp in the basin and summit Ingalls. They had rope,
helmets, and other climbing gear but had not expected so much snow. That
and the wind convinced them to head on down. The hike down was uneventful.
I reached the trailhead having seen exactly 8 people the whole day. It was
nice to be camping as I headed back to my site and did not have to make
the long drive home that day. In the morning I'd have a short drive to the
next day's hike. The whole trip was just over 8 miles with 3200' gained.
The summit of Fortune is at 7382'. It may be June but this day was one last
blast of winter.
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
West Esmerelda Peaks
Esmerelda Close Up
On The Snow
Photo Page 2
Trips - 2004