One of the first signs or spring
for me is a snow scramble up Iron Peak. It sits west of most of the Teanaway
Peaks and has a spectacular view of the other Teanaway peaks, Mt. Stuart,
and the Cascade crest peaks. Suzanne joined me for this trip and she brought
along two dogs. When I did this trip in 2002 only 11 days earlier (April
20th) I could only drive 1/2 mile beyond the end of pavement. This year
we drove the next 4 1/2 miles to the trailhead. There was no snow even there.
There were already 4 cars in the lot at 9:15 when we began. We quickly reached
Bean Creek. The water was too high to get across on the logs and rocks.
We forded with high water at mid calf with a strong current. As usual, I
used my dive booties to keep my boots dry. Across the creek were some of
the few wildflowers we saw in addition to trillium at the trailhead. Glacier
lilies signaled that the snow was here not long ago.
We continued at least another 1/3 mile before reaching
patchy snow. With the warm temperatures the snow was soft, even in the
darker forest. As we hiked higher the snow patches became larger. I was
surprised that there was still some bare ground even at over 4500'. We
came out of the trees near the creek right on the summer trail. Instead
of heading up and away from the creek as the trail does, we headed straight
up the valley near the creek. Half way up the valley the snow became continuous
and fresh ski tracks could be seen. The next obstacle is the crossing
of Beverly Creek. There is usually more snow on my spring trips and a snow
bridge is no too hard to find. The few that we saw were very thin. There
was still at least 4-6 feet of snow making it very difficult to climb down
and back up the other side of the creek. We kept hiking along the side of
the creek until I saw a snow bridge over a log. This one looked promising
so I carefully walked out on it, testing it with my pole. Indeed, it was
plenty strong enough and we were quickly across.
Now came my favorite part of the trip. The creek
crossing was at about 5000' leaving 1500' more to climb in under a mile.
The terrain is sparsely placed trees with good views out. We climbed up
while angling slightly to the right. I usually head up the east face of
Iron just to the right of the summit. I didn't know if the dogs could climb
such a steep slope and so I thought we might have to ascend the ridge farther
north (right) where it is lower. This means adding more distance so I still
hoped for the direct route. As we climbed the views improved rapidly. Bill
Peak was the first to show itself completely. Higher up Little Annapurna
and Volcanic Neck came into view. Bean Peak and Teanaway Peak were next.
As we rose above Fourth Creek Pass the long ridge up Mary Peak was seen.
Best of all was Mt. Stuart rising up over Beverly-Turnpike Pass. Part way
up the slope we began to posthole and it was time to put on snowshoes.
As we climbed above the last trees the ridge of Iron
loomed above. The usual cornices covered most of the ridge. Half way to
the Iron-Teanaway Peak Pass was a spot with no cornices, a moderate grade,
and not too much elevation gain to the ridge top. Right above us was my
usual route. I go through two lone trees and aim for the tiny dot of a rock
just below the ridge top. To the right of this is a huge cornice. This one
spot is fairly safe. The dogs had not had any trouble with the lower slopes
and Suzanne suggested we try straight up. The snow was actually quite good
for climbing. My snowshoes sank in 3-6 inches with each step but no more.
Above us we could see the tracks of fresh telemark turns. Someone had recently
come down this slope. The sky was clear and there was almost no breeze.
It was plenty warm for me on the snow. I was not feeling very good for some
reason but was too near the top to stop. To my surprise the dogs had no trouble
at all, even on the steepest part.
At long last I crested the ridge and the expected
great views to the west were every bit as good as hoped for. Suzanne was
right behind me and we walked the final few hundred feet to the actual summit.
There was less snow than I would expect at the end of May. Last year I dug
down and could not find the summit register. This year it was sitting on
the completely exposed rocks. We were the second party to sign in this year.
Thanks to Slide Alder Slayer and Pack Pup for providing the register.
We had lunch and admired the views. I could easily spot HiBox, Alta, and
Three Queens to the west. Mt. Daniel and Cathedral Rock had a bright white
coating of snow. Mt. Stuart was its usual imposing self to the north.
After lunch came the highlight of any spring scramble
of Iron. We donned rain pants and stowed our snowshoes. I was afraid the
snow would be too soft to allow any glissade. None the less we had to give
it a try. With the lower snow on the ridge it was possible to down climb
a little closer to the summit than usual. This spot was also a little steeper
than where we came up. The start quickly dropped over a short near vertical
spot then the angle began to moderate. The only key was to have the nerve
to go over that first part. There were no exposed rocks and a big run out
about 500' below. I pulled out my axe, sat down, and took off. About 20
seconds later I was 500' down the mountain. Suzanne and the dogs were just
tiny specks above. They soon followed in the nice trench I had created.
It was not the fasted ride I have had down Iron but it was a blast. Suzanne
soon shot down the mountain to join me.
We managed a few more short glissades but mostly
snowshoed back down to the creek. It was easy to follow our climbing tracks
in the soft snow and we had no problem finding the snow bridge. We kept
the snowshoes on most of the way back to the forest below. After stowing
them at last it was an easy snow then dirt walk back to Bean Creek. After
crossing the creek we saw the first person of the day. Back at the trailhead
we talked with the skiers who made the tracks that we had seen earlier. They
had come back via Mary Peak and Bean Creek Basin. All in all it was a great
trip. We had terrific weather, much solitude, good snow, fantastic views,
and a phenomenal glissade.
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
Fourth Creek Pass
Iron Peak Slopes
Photo Page 2
Trips - 2004