The Year In Review

2011 was a phenomenal year by the numbers. 931 miles was my third best ever and best in 17 years. Elevation gain of 258,900' blew away my previous best by 15,800'. My 105 days on the trail tied my previous best set 19 years earlier. The year began at a steady pace and really picked up steam the last four months. December was my biggest month for both mileage and elevation gain with 113 miles and 34,100' gained. That is not usual. I had two months over 100 miles and two months over 30,000' gained. It was the second year I have averaged over 20,000' of gain per month.

I joined Gary, John, and David for a number of midweek headlamp hikes that gave a big boost to the numbers. Those 19 hikes averaged about 8 miles and 2500' of gain. It was nice to break up the week with an evening on the trail. It was a less than exceptional backpacking year as I only managed four trips with 7 nights out. The trips were all excellent. The Poet Ridge trip was mostly on new to me trail or lack of trail. I hiked 15 new trails and a few others for the first time in many years.

The winter had little snow in the middle then a lot at the end. A cold spring kept it around until late summer at higher elevations. Lots of snow travel and a short snow free season higher up. For the first time in 24 years I did not get in even one cross country ski trip. The wildflower show was very good. Same with the larch trees in the fall. I managed two good larch trips. I did almost exactly half of my trips solo and half with a variety of partners. I visited my brother again in Central Idaho and had my sixth annual backpacking trip in the Sawtooths and White Clouds. Great weather once again. A great year on the trail. Now on to a month by month recap.

The year started with a nice 13 mile loop to Wallace Falls and Lake. Sunny and sub freezing all day. Next was a one way group hike across Rattlesnake Mountain. I made another winter visit to Oyster Dome. A blizzard on I-5 and snow all the way from the freeway. I made a second visit to Fuller Mountain and beyond. A really fun trip. With the new and expensive permit this year for Hancock Timber it will likely be my last visit. I ended hte month with a first visit to McDonald Mountain. 13 miles with 3600' of gain. I have wanted to get up there for decades.

Four of my nine hikes were after work headlamp hikes. I never had any rain the whole year on those hikes. On one dry trip there was a blizzard on I-90 driving home. 20 mph most of the way. I joined Suzanne and the group for my first visit to Welldiggers Ass. A short snowshoe trip just east of Stevens Pass. I joined Janet for a first snowshoe visit to Diamond Head. A nice sunny day. A loop trip on Tiger Mountain was largely on snow. it was 19 degrees with high winds on Tiger 1.

The month began with a trip on Rattlesnake Mountain to Grand Prospect and the West Summit.  Few people and snow all the way. There were only three more trips and they were all on Tiger Mountain. Not a stellar hiking month. In fact, it was by far the worst of the year. On to bigger and better months.

April was the second worst month for miles hiked but the quality was much better than March. I hiked up to East Tiger and Sallys Summit. Nine inches of fresh snow on top. I snowshoed to Red Top Lookout in 2008. This time we came from the Highway 97 side. Shorter but just as much fun. I made another backpacking trip to a Teanaway summit. This year it was Iron Peak again. Total solitude and clear skies. A great trip once again. Janet joined me on a trip to Yellow Hill, another Teanaway snowshoe summit. Still some snow on the road. We did not see any other people.

The first five trips were on Tiger, Si, and a trip to Lime Kiln with Kim. The second half of the month I finally began to get out of the Puget Sound area. I hiked 15 miles  on the John Wayne Trail. Some great wildflowers. I had a second visit to Oyster Dome for the year. Some great colors. Janet and I had a long day at Ingalls Creek. 14 miles of fantastic wildflowers. Hard to believe it was my first visit. A solid 83 miles for the month but my second fewest feet of elevation gain.

The month was a continuation of the cold wet spring. I went east of the mountains for four of the six trips. First was the longest trip of the year. Janet and I did the Mission Ridge - Devil's Gulch Loop. 18 miles with 3800' of gain. My second time all the way around the loop. High water creek crossings and lots of wildflowers. Janet and I did a snow scramble of Esmerelda Peak. I did another snow scramble looping over Navaho Peak. I did a non headlamp hike with Gary and John as we scrambled up Miller and Jester Peaks. Snow remained in the mountains so snow scrambles were the norm.

I picked up the pace in July. Nine hikes and one evening mountain bike trip through the Snoqualmie Tunnel. It had been closed for several years. Tronsen Ridge has become an annual event. Always amazing flowers. Kim joined me for an outstanding wildflowers show. I failed to reach Rainbow Lake as I post holed waist deep in poor snow. A lot of snow left for July. Bob and Kolleen came along for my second visit to DeRoux Peak. I joined Sarah and Kim at Bean Creek Basin. I summited Bean Peak. More great wildflowers. I made a fourth visit to Beckler Peak just before the trail was opened to the public. It quickly became popular as I expected. Another new trip was an overnighter to Basalt Ridge with Bob and Kolleen. At the end of July Silver Lake above Monte Cristo was still frozen and snow covered. A great sunny day.

Janet and I hiked Rock Mountain from the Highway 2 side. Snow the last mile with plenty on the climb to the ridge. The back side of Lake 22 was still snow covered in August at only 2500'. A most unusual year. I've done four winter trips up Norse Peak. I did only my second summer trip. Lots of solitude on a sunny day. Kim and I made a first visit to Gee Point. A sketchy scramble at the top. Still snow in the meadow. The month ended with another trip to Sun Valley, ID. Six straight days of hiking with day trips first and last and a four day backpacking trip in the Sawtooth Mountains. I visited Pioneer Cabin from the opposite side first. In the Sawtooths I went cross country to see the half of 10 Lakes Basin I missed the year before. A great trip.

The month began with a fantastic loop backpacking trip around Poet & Cady Ridges. Some sketchy "trail" on Poet Ridge then summiting Indian Head Mountain. Great wildflowers most all the way. I hiked up Mt. Dickerman on a rare hot day. Cooled off at the Big Four ice caves later. I spent another hot day at Heather Lake. Only my second visit. Some snow remained at this low elevation lake. After a few months off I rejoined the headlamp hike crew for a trip up Bandera Mountain. Next, Kim joined me for my annual visit to Rainbow Lake with a trip to the Blazer Lake overview. The final trip was another headlamp hike up Granite Mountain Frigid wind at the summit and great sunset colors coming down. A very good month with 91 miles hiked and 30,600' gained, both the best of the year so far.

My pace usually slows a little in October as the days shorten and the weather cools. Not this year. I hiked 12 days traveling 105 miles with and 29,300' of gain. I did a real favorite hike, the Iron - Bean Loop. First up Iron Peak then over Bean Peak and down through Bean Creek Basin. This has become an almost annual favorite. After a headlamp hike up Mt. Washington Gary and Janet joined me for a larch hike to Ingalls Lake. The larch were largely at or just before their peak. Beautiful day and one marked by a Meet Up group of over 20 people. That is not allowed in wilderness. Kim and I made a first visit to the under construction Pratt Connector trail. It will be nice when it reaches the old Pratt Valley trail. We came back via the old boot path. I had a second larch trip to Carne Mountain. Gary, John, and Janet came along. Great larch, sunshine, and a little fresh snow to highlight the golden trees. Finally, I had a nice long 13 day hiking to the Kendall Katwalk and Ridge Lake. A little fresh snow on the Katwalk and beyond.

I slowed down a little in November though 9 days, 76 miles, and 18,400' of gain are well above average for the month. I returned to the John Wayne Trail with Kim. Only my second fall visit. Great fall colors on that sunny but very cold day. I joined Janet for a first visit to Estes Butte. We did not see a soul all day. Cold with only a little snow and some great mountain views from the old lookout site. Janet and I went up to Lake 22 mid month. Snow in the parking lot and a lot of it higher up. Too much snow to hike around the lake though we tried. 14 degrees at the lake was the coldest day of the year for me. All the other trips were back in the Tiger, Cougar, Squak Mts. area close to Seattle.

I often pick up the pace in December. With more holidays off and aiming for goals I usually get in more trips than the previous few months. This year I went overboard. For the first time ever I hiked more days (13), for more miles (113), and more elevation gain (34,100') than any other month of the year. The elevation gain was actually my second highest monthly total ever. Hard to believe during the darkest and often wettest month of the year. We had very little rain this December. I started off with a snowshoe trip to Glacier Vista at Mt. Rainier. Elena joined me for the first time. Low clouds and fog over Western Washington but bright sunshine for us all day.  Next was a trip to Mt. Si via the Mt. Teneriffe Road. I saw almost nobody. That's not possible on the Mt. Si Trail.

I returned to Mt. Rainier for a first time trip up the Kautz Creek Trail. Janet came along. We carried snowshoes but used microspikes all day as the lack of  recent snow made for icy conditions. Great views of Mt Rainier from our turn around point a little short of Indian Henry's. The term "Dirty Harry's Peak" is almost a joke. Most trips up this rocky and wet trail are an ordeal. This time I went up with nearly perfect conditions. A sunny day and firm snow made for easy and comfortable travel. Easily the best trip on this route. I finished the year, as always, with a hike on Tiger Mountain. John joined me for a fun day with 5 summits and almost no other hikers. Our one way trip covered much of the south and east sides of the mountain that get very few visits. A great way to round out a really terrific year of hiking.

 My Top 10 Trips Of 2011
01. Poet - Cady Ridges Loop w/Indian Head Pk
02. Sawtooth Mts. Traverse, ID
03. Carne Mountain
04. Ingalls Creek

05. Basalt Ridge
06. Iron Peak
07. Ingalls Lake
08. Devil's Gulch - Mission Ridge Loop
09. Red Top Lookout
10. Pioneer Cabin, ID

All Trips - 2011