Granite Mountain

Last week we were slogging through waist deep snow on Mt. Dickerman. This week we chose to tackle a peak a little closer to home. We had rain and freeze - thaw cycles this week. The snow would be consolidated but it was not clear how hard it would be. Suzanne and I met Bob and Kolleen at the Pratt Trailhead a little before 8:30 AM. There were only half a dozen cars in the lot. No snow at all at the 1850' parking lot. We hiked up to the trail intersection just short of one mile and still no snow. At about 1 1/2 miles the first snow appeared. It was a little hard and slick but not too bad. Kolleen and Bob stopped to put on Yak Traks but Suzanne and I did fine with just boots.

The gullies had snow but not very much yet. We continued ahead on the summer trail. Once out of the woods the snow was continuous and became a little deeper. The morning was clear with blue sky. The clouds were forecast to roll in as the day went on. We could now see over Snoqualmie Pass. The east side had a low cloud cover near the pass. We passed a couple of groups heading up. One trail runner passed us coming down. He had no pack at all. I'm amazed at the number of people who head up into the snow with no gear. We saw many hikers this day treating a snow scramble as if it were a summer day hike. End of sermon.

The trail finally began the traverse to the east. Where the summer trail continued traversing over and up to the summer tarns the boot path turned straight up the slope. We chose to follow the track. The snow quickly became much harder. The temperature had reached near 40 degrees at 3000' the day before. The thaw followed by an overnight freeze had turned the snow to ice. I had brought an ice axe but since the others did not have them I left mine in the car. I was not going to go on if the others turned back. With axe and crampons the slope would not have been that bad. With neither it was.

A short way up I turned around to make sure I could get back down. It was okay so we headed higher. The snow/ice soon became even harder. Now the wind was blowing very hard as well. It was frigid and we were moving slowly. I quickly realized that I could follow the others footsteps up but could not safely descend the tiny dents in the ice. I began to kick the hell out of the slope to make steps I could climb down. The others quickly moved way ahead of me. I kicked 5 or 6 times for each step. This was the hardest work I've done on a hike in a long time.

The others were now out of sight and with the wind out of sound as well. Another hiker came up and passed me. He had sneakers, no ice axe, and no poles. I finally crested the slope to a flat area above the summer tarns. This was at about 4900'. The summit lookout was now visible just another 750' above us. We headed over to a few trees to get out of the fierce wind. I was shot. I felt worse than after climbing up Kindy Ridge with a full pack this summer on the way to Snowking. The summit was well within our grasp but I had nothing left.

A little food helped but I decided to head down. Bob and Kolleen debated heading on to the summit but chose to descend as well. That's the price I paid for not being prepared. The mountain will always be there. I will not proceed on when I am not comfortable with getting back down. In fact, with my deeper steps and some unexpected softening the descent was not bad at all. If I had known that perhaps I would have gone on. Still, I have no regrets. A short way down we met an anomaly. A group was ascending with the proper equipment. I saw crampons and axes. They were not having any problems at all.

They were the only prepared climbers on the mountain the whole day. Coming down we really ran into the masses. Many day hikers with some or no proper equipment for a winter snow scramble. The views were very nice. Rainier was out as well as all the Snoqualmie area peaks. The descent went pretty quickly. The snow lower down was softening enough to provide good footing. When we reached the bottom the lot was just about full.

Bob and Kolleen headed for home but Suzanne and I headed across the interstate to the Annette Lake trailhead. I had heard that the bridge over Humpback Creek had suffered some erosion to the far approach in the recent flooding. I wanted to get some photos. We hiked up to the bridge quickly. The far side did suffer some serious erosion. Much of the dirt is no longer there. You can still step off the bridge but there is a gap that will grow larger as rain and foot steps cause more dirt to slide away. The footing look to be okay though part of the cement is unsupported.

Since we only managed about 7 miles on Granite we continued on to the railroad grade at about 1 1/4 miles. The trail is bare to the grade which does have several inches of snow on it. We met several groups hiking down from Annette Lake. They mentioned several feet of snow at the lake. Clouds had now begun to roll in as we headed on down. For the day we traveled about 9 miles with 3000' of gain on Granite and another 500' on the Annette Lake trail. We did not reach the summit but had a very nice day in the mountains.


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Photo Page 2

Trips - 2006