Two years ago I
big group which snowshoed up the Red Mountain near Salmon La Sac up the
Cle Elum Lake Road. It was short and steep. Suzanne missed that trip. I
had a good time and hoped to do it again. I joined Suzanne, Barry, and
David for a return trip. We met in North Seattle and drove through
Roslyn and on to the intersection of the Cooper Lake Road. There is
parking along the side of the road. The vast majority are snowmobilers.
We were on our way at 9:35 and some snowmobiles were revving up. The
road had been freshly groomed and was easy walking.
It's about 1.6 miles to the Red Mountain trailhead. We hiked it in just
over 30 minutes. It's only another 2 miles to the summit. It took a
little longer to reach that. We had to drop down into a ditch then
climb out to reach the start of the route up. The summer trail follows
the creek into a high basin. Our route was just west and climbed
steeply to the summit high above the basin. I had a vague recollection
of the route and we had a map of my previous trip. The route is pretty
much straight up. At first the snow was not very deep. We have not had
much new snow in many weeks. There was a small dump early in the week.
I did not expect much east of the crest.
In the forest the snow was very hard crust in places and soft snow on
top of the hard crust in others. I had good traction on the crust but
my snowshoes slid on the dry powder. It was slow and very tiring
sliding back so often. I did not feel very good and David didn't get
much sleep the night before. We fell behind Barry and Suzanne. Higher
up the snow became deeper. Now I was really slipping. It took three of
four kicks to get down to the crust to get any traction. It was
painfully slow going.
On the positive side the slope was smooth with no cliffy areas. Barry
did a great job finding the best terrain. It was only 30 degrees when
we started. the first off road part was warm enough to have sweat
pouring off me. Higher up it cooled enough to be comfortable. The slope
finally narrowed down to a narrow ridge. Barry and Suzanne were up a
short steep section taking off their snowshoes. The snow was deep here
and it was easier to kick steps. David and I did the same thing at the
bottom of the slope. Turns out that that little 20 vertical foot climb
was solid ice. Should have kept the snowshoes on.
I was able to kick steps into the crusty ice. Four or five hard kicks
broke the crust and provided a step. That had me wondering what the
last 700 vertical feet of climbing would be like. We were able to
follow Barry's steps in the deep snow up the steepest section just
above the short steep icy crust. We did switch out one pole for ice
axes. The route from there to the summit is along a forested ridge. The
drop off the right side is near vertical and a long way down. We zig
zigged in trees and around them when too thick. The snow conditions
continued to frustrate me. Six inches of dry powder on ice at one point
then a few feet later solid ice. It was like sand dunes at the beach.
One step up and slide back down on the snowy parts.
What little energy I had left was rapidly disappearing. Once the ice
reappeared we went back to snowshoes once again. I swear that was the
hardest and slowest 700 feet I have ever climbed. I thought I saw the
summit above and when I popped over the top I found the others having
lunch. The summit was still another 80 of so feet above us. I was
getting a little nervous about how to get down. Snowshoes would slide
on the snow over ice for sure. I had crampons and the others had
The first item was whether or not to try for the summit. It was more
deep snow over ice mixed with crusty ice but steeper here. The others
put on their microspikes and headed up. I thought about trying it with
crampons but I figured the soft snow would ball up the crampons in
seconds. What the heck, I put them on and gave it a try. With crampons
I motored right up the slope. Much easier than the flailing I had been
doing. It was 2:00 pm when we summited. Four and a half hours to climb
3500' in only 3 1/2 miles. That has to be the slowest I have climbed. I
checked my other report from Red Mountain and that one took 3 1/2
hours. That one seemed so much faster but take out our lunch stop and
it wasn't much slower at all.
The day had been very cloudy and our views were minimal. It was a
little better than earlier though. We could see down to Cooper Lake and
across to Sasse Ridge. Later Jolly Mountain came out of the clouds.
Even close by Davis Peak was not totally in the clear. Two trips up
here and clouds both times. I guess another trip is in order sometime
in the future. Our summit stay was short and soon we were heading down.
The snow was so dry I had no balling of snow on my crampons coming to
the summit so I kept them on. In fact I kept them on all the way back
to the road.
Going down proved to be much easier than expected. I was able to plunge
step through the soft snow and get my crampons to dig into the crust.
It was tough on tired legs pounding down 3200' but much faster than the
ascent. At the bottom we had to cross the ditch again to get onto the
road. The other three had no problem. I did. The ditch was more than
waist deep so I had to bend my leg and kick a step into the wall.
Instant pain! One serious cramp. Now what? I tried sitting on the wall
and pulling myself onto the road. Arm cramp! This was getting
ridiculous. I was stuck. The other just laughed and I couldn't blame
them. It must have looked funny.
I finally found a snowy ramp that held my weight and allow for small
steps without bending my leg much. Once out I couldn't reach down to
take off my crampons. Talk about frustrating. On the positive side the
cramps did not hit on the descent or I might still be up there. This is
only the second time I have been hit by really painful cramps and I
hope the last. I'm sure I was dehydrated after the long sweaty ascent.
Well, I did finally get them off. The others were off on their way by
then. It took us less than 1 1/2 hours to reach the road. Another half
hour and we were back to the car.
It took four hours up and just under two hours down. The views were
less than spectacular. The snow was "challenging" to say the least.
Still it was a fun trip. As expected we saw nobody other than a few
snowmobilers on the road. We did see snowmobile tracks on a road we
crossed high on the mountain. This is in an area listed as a "voluntary
no snowmobile area" at the trailhead. I'm sure I'll head back in a few
David's report are here: Nwhikers
Report & Photos
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
Cle Elum River
Freshly Groomed Road
Heading Off Road
Angle Of Ascent
Cooper Close Up
Suzanne & David
Davis Peak In Clouds
Trips - 2009