The Teanaway area is officially open for business.
The last few years I've started my backpacking season with a late winter
or early spring camp on top of a Teanaway Peak. Two solo trips to Iron Peak,
A group camp below Earl Peak's summit, and one to Navaho Peak's saddle
with summits of Navaho and Little Navaho. This year I convinced Bob, Kolleen,
and David to accompany me back to Iron Peak. We met in Bellevue at 6:30
and headed off to the Teanaway. We all crammed into David's Outback. I was
surprised we were able to drive half a mile beyond 29 Pines campground.
There was snow and bare spots on the road.
By 8:35 we were packed up and on the road. There were a few more bare
spots but the road is still mostly snow covered. It was just over 32 degrees
and the road was groomed all winter for snowmobiles. It is very hard packed.
It would have been possible to drive a ways farther on top of the snow.
The problem is that afternoon melting would likely have stranded a car up
the road. It will be at least another few weeks before the road is bare
to Stafford Creek. After Stafford we saw a bobcat! It was the first sighting
in the wild for all of us.
It was sunny and warming rapidly. We made good time on the nearly flat
road. At Beverly Creek we turned right and began to ascend the Beverly
Road. We reached the Beverly trailhead at 10:20. Four and a half miles
in 1:45, almost all on snow. The parking lot has about 3 feet of snow.
The hiker bridge is half snow and half bare. We crawled down to the bridge
deck easily enough. Getting back up the other side was much more difficult.
The snow was rock hard. With great difficulty we scrambled up the other
Half a mile up the road we came to Bean Creek. In the early spring the
creek can be totally covered by a snow bridge or a raging torrent. This
time it wasn't bad. All the channels were covered by snow except a 4 foot
wide stream. It was easy enough to climb down the snow bank. When it was
my turn to cross. I reached my leg across to a rock on the other side. I
planted both poles in the water and pushed off. At that moment my left pole
collapsed and I did a slow motion spin down and into the water.
At first I thought the only damage was to my pride. I landed in all of
8 inches of water left knee first onto a rock. I managed to submerge my
pants. I got up and climbed out. The knee stung but I thought nothing of
it. A little farther ahead the route traversed above the creek on a steep
slope. The summer trail was buried. We kicked steps across. It was soft
enough to kick steps but hard enough to make them less than comfortable.
We followed a single set of ski tracks. They continued all the way up
into the basin. Eventually we saw them on the side of Bill Peak. We crossed
the boulder field that was all under many feet of snow. By now my knee
was beginning to hurt more. I was down to shorts and a short sleeve shirt.
It felt like spring at last. We popped out of the forest into the lower
basin. The summer trail switchbacks high on the right side of the valley.
With all the snow we just kept to the right of the creek.
By now I was lagging farther behind the group. My knee was killing me.
We crossed the creek before the summer trail does. Our route was mostly
straight up the slope. I took some Motrin and that helped the pain. On snow
I always aim for a gap in the huge cornices just to the right of the summit
of Iron. The NW Avalanche Center warned of high danger on east facing slopes
from the heat and direct sun exposure. I figured we may have to go farther
right to nearer the saddle below Teanaway Peak. The climb to the ridge is
much shorter there.
Kolleen kept booting it but Bob, David, and I stopped to put on snowshoes.
We were sinking in 6" with every step. Looking up at the summit ridge the
cornices were as big as I have seen. There were a number of snowmobile
"high marking" tracks right up to the base of the cornices. Talk about
putting your life on the line for a thrill... We had no interest in being
below those cornices.
We stopped below my usual ascent spot and talked it over. It was soft
here but I knew it would be harder higher up. With the variability of the
snow and my bad knee we chose to traverse right to a short slope to the ridge
top. We dropped into a snowmobile track and the going was easier. We took
off snowshoes for the final climb to the ridge top. Bob and Kolleen were
out in front and began to climb. The soft snow grew thinner and there was
a rock hard layer beneath. While we saw numerous sloughs coming up the valley
there were none on Iron Peak. Bob kicked nice steps and in short order we
were on the ridge top.
The last .40 miles gained another 350' to the summit. As we climbed the
views became better and better. Earl, Bean, Volcanic Neck, Teanaway, Bill,
and Stuart were in sight. On the other side of the ridge we could see Koppen,
Jolly, Hawkins, and Esmerelda. Higher up Mt. Daniel came into view. It
was clear enough to see Hibox, Three Queens, Chikamin, and other peaks
of the Cascade crest.
We heard snowmobiles below soon after summiting. One of them roared up
to the ridge top and sped along it to our position. He had seen our deep
footprints in the valley and just had to see who was crazy enough to get
all the way up here without a motor. He turned out to be a nice guy. We
did not expect to be visited by a snowmobile on the summit but he was too
nice to be mad about it.
Just below the summit we selected our camp sites. This was a Hilleberg
convention as we had Bob and Kolleen's red Nallo 3, David's red Akto, and
my green Akto. We took the better part of an hour to dig out platforms
and set up camp. There was more snow on the summit than on either of my
previous camp outs. We were all about out of water and melting snow was
the next item on the agenda. High clouds came in from the west. We had high
hopes for sunset colors. Unfortunately, the clouds kept on coming and blotted
out the setting sun.
As the sun set the temperature plummeted. From shorts we moved onto long
pants, goretex pants, down coats, and gloves. It was cold as we went to
bed at about 8:30. I got up at 3:15 as nature called. The wind was calm
and I found my leg was really painful now. I was getting concerned with
a 8 1/2 mile descent with 4000' of elevation loss. The morning had more
clouds and we did not get the warmth or the lighting we had hoped for. Still,
the clouds were high and we had nice views to all the peaks around us.
I could not put much weight on my left leg. I was more concerned than
ever. We pooled first aid kits. I put on an ace bandage and that helped.
Next was more anti inflammatory medicine. The clincher was some high powered
pain killer. That stuff really worked. We broke camp and I could now walk.
The plan was to glissade the first 500' off the summit. We had hoped for
some sun to soften up the slope. It was well below freezing over night. All
our steps were frozen solid. The untouched snow was still pretty soft.
I went first. I've done this glissade many times. In fact it was slower
than expected. Some snow built up between my legs. I managed to get almost
to the bottom but not at the exhilarating speeds often felt. The slope had
some soft snow on top of a hard layer. The others had my track to follow
and had a better ride. In short order we were down the first slope. I was
moving slow but moving as we continued down.
The walk out was painful but not nearly as bad as I had feared in the
morning. We continued down the valley, across Bean Creek, and back to the
summer trailhead. The snow was softer than the day before but hard enough
to avoid needing snowshoes all the way back. At 1:15 we arrived back at
the car. We took 6 hours to ascend and 4 1/2 hours to come down.
The injury is the first one I have ever had on the trail. Still, it did
not wreck our weekend. The sunshine on Saturday was spectacular. The views
were just as good as I remember. The company was great. Even though we did
not get the sunset and sunrise we expected the weekend was a success. Now
I have to figure out what summit to camp on next spring.
Nwhikers report with photos from Bob, Kollen, and David:
Nwhikers Report With Photos
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
A Small Bare Spot
Scrambling Off Bridge
Crossing Bean Creek
David On Route
First Peak View
Iron Peak Summit
Beyond The Creek
Usual Route Up & Down
Almost To Ridge Top
Summit From Ridge
Hawkins & Esmerelda
Nearly To Campsite
Photo Page 2
Trips - 2008