Iron Peak

In February 2005 I snowshoed up Iron Peak and spent the night on the summit at 6500'. In April of 2006 Bob and Kolleen joined me for a night at 6200' on the summit ridge of Earl Peak . This year I wanted to return to Iron on a clear winter weekend. The problem was that I could not get free on a clear weekend. There were precious few sunny weekends. Good Friday is a holiday in my business and the forecast was for sunny weather. Although nobody else was free I decided to go while the weather allowed. The views from the summit are spectacular when all the nearby peaks are still covered in winter white.

I had my first chance to use my one person Hilleberg Akto. It is much smaller than the Hilleberg Nallo 3 I use on snow but also two pounds lighter and less bulky. I added crampons and still came in with a 4 lb. lighter pack than in 2005. I was out of town by 6:15 and to the end of pavement on the NF Teanaway Road at 8:15. The Jungle Creek Road had snow almost immediately but the Teanaway Road was bare. I drove up about 1/2 mile passing over several small snow patches. At that point the snow patches were deeper and I chose to park off the road.

By 8:30 I was on the road/trail. The road is groomed for snowmobiles and the snow was very consolidated and icy. It was hard enough to allow walking without snowshoes. The road is still mostly snow covered. There were several bare patches and the snow was about one to two feet deep. I made very good time and reached the Beverly Creek Road turn off in only 63 minutes. I had covered over three miles but gained only 400'.

The Beverly Creek Road had only one small downed log part way across. It too was snow covered with a few bare patches. My pace slowed down as the grade steepened and the snow became softer. The Beverly road is used by snowmobiles but not groomed. It took me 40 minutes to climb a mile to the summer trailhead parking lot. There was still about two feet of snow in the lot. The hiker bridge is almost snow free. Another 20 minutes of slogging in softer snow brought me to Bean Creek.

Last year we planned to camp on Iron but the very high water caused us to climb up the ridge to Earl instead. This time it was no problem. I peeled down to shorts as it was already getting warm at 10:30. Bean Creek is very wide at the summer ford. There are several channels. I found that snow covered all but a five foot wide fast flowing channel. I was able to climb down to the creek, step on a slick rock and jump across. I climbed back up onto snow and walked the rest of the way across.

A short way up from the creek I found a short bare section of trail. There was no more dirt from there up. Several logs have fallen across the summer trail. It was easy to get around them on snow. The section through forest is easy walking. When I came to an open talus slope and meadow I put on snowhoes. Staying on route is not necessary. I popped out of the trees near the creek right where the summer trail emerges.

Heading up the valley is easier on snow than on dirt. Instead of switchbacks I just headed up along side the creek. Last year Suzanne and I crossed much earlier than I had before and I decided to give it a try once again. There was lots of snow and there was a good chance a snow bridge could be found. Soon after I dropped near the creek I found a good looking bridge. It was plenty solid and I scampered across.

Now I began a slow rising traverse. If I went up too fast I would end up with steep side hilling. The forest is open enough to allow easy travel. I crossed over one ridge and had a couple short steep climbs. This bought me out under the summit. The ridge north of the summit is heavily corniced. Farther north near where the summer trail crossed the ridge it is lower with fewer cornices. There is one small spot on the summit ridge with no cornices. This is where I usually ascend. It is much shorter than continuing to the low spot on the ridge.

The cornices were as big as I have ever seen. There was sloughing snow beneath them. The area with no cornice also had no sloughing at all. Just steep smooth snow up to the ridge top. I continued to right below the open spot and stopped. I changed snowshoes for crampons. In 2005 the snow was awful and I took an hour to climb straight up 500'. This day the snow was much better.

I was able to climb straight up the slope. There was a couple inches of soft snow on top of hard pack. In 30 minutes I was on the ridge top. It was now 2:15 and I had another 6 hours of daylight. I walked a short way to where I camped in 2005. I dropped my pack and continued a short way to the summit. The register was visible on the rocks. I saw one old ski track after Bean Creek but no signs of people on Iron Peak.

After I signed the register I went back to scope out a campsite. There are only a few short trees on the west side of the ridge. There is really not much of a wind break. I began to dig out a flat platform. Under a few inches of soft snow was more well consolidated hard snow. I took a full hour to dig out a platform. The Akto went up easily. It was cooling but still comfortable in the sun at 6500'. I spent much time taking photos. This really is a great spot.

What I was waiting for was sunset. As the sun sets over the Cascade Crest the colors and alpenglow can be spectacular. While waiting I melted snow to replenish my water and then had dinner. The sunset colors were good but not as good as I had hoped for. Still it was well worth the effort to get up there. I hoped the sunrise would be just as good. At my high vantage point it did not get dark until about 8:30. As I went to bed the wind began to blow.

The wind kept blowing all night long. Not really hard but 10-15 mph without a break all night. I woke up at 6:15 and it was just getting light. I waited for the rising sun to heat up my tent. It did not happen. When I finally poked my head out it was to see dark black clouds all around. They were higher than the peaks but dark all around me. What happened to my sunny Saturday? No first light photos this day.

It was cloudy, windy, and soon began to sleet on my tent. This was not part of the plan. Should I wait to see if it cleared or get out before it got worse? I chose the latter. I did find that the Akto with less than half the interior space of my Nallo is much warmer. I was toasty all night long. Cooking in that wind was not a good idea. I had melted snow for water the night before. All I need to do was get packed up.

The sleet stopped and I began to pack. Any light item not weighted down would go flying off the ridge. Fortunately I was able to get everything packed up with minimal difficulty. One highlight of this trip is the glissade off the summit. I hoped the early morning snow would not be too icy. It was just about perfect. What took me 30 minutes to climb up I slid down in 30 seconds. A very fast and easy 500' of elevation loss. The drop to Beverly Creek went very fast. I chose to cross the creek higher up the valley as it would be easier to find a snow bridge.

I did find a good bridge across the creek. As I headed down the valley I found two sets of ski tracks. They were not there the day before. It was only 9:15 so they must have come from the day before. I was able to follow my tracks down. The skiers also followed my tracks up. I snowshoed from the creek crossing down to the Teanaway Road. Below the summer trailhead I met two skiers heading to Bean Creek Basin. Farther down the road I met a lone skier and his dog. His brother and a friend made the tracks in Beverly Basin. They were headed on to a ski ascent of Mt. Stuart.

The Teanaway Road was still hard enough to allow me to pack my snowshoes. I took a few breaks along the river and still made it out by 1:00. Just before reaching my car I met three folks. One of them was John Morrow. I have read his ski reports for several years at Turns-All-Year. I had conversed with him just a few days earlier on It really is a small world. John told me that the lone skier I talked with earlier was Josh Hummel. Jason Hummel was one of the Mt. Stuart skiers. That was the  only time I will ever be first up a trail ahead of Jason.

Friday turned out to be warm and sunny. I had a great day climbing up Iron Peak and had some very good photo opportunities. Saturday was not so great. Still it did make the trip more of an adventure than I expected. In a few weeks the roads will be melting out and it will be easy to day scramble up many of the Teanaway Peaks. It was fun to jump the gun and get to a high peak to camp before the crowds arrive. Now I have to think about what peak to camp on next winter.

Stafford Iintersection
Bare Road
Teanaway River
Beverly Bridge
Tree Down
Beverly Trailhead
Bean Creek
Up Bean Creek
Beverly Trail
Snow Bridge
Valley Wall
Dragontail Peak
Stuart & Bill Pks
Iron Summit
Mt. Stuart
Fourth Ck Valley
Corniced Ridge
Teanaway Peak
Beverly Turnpike Pass
Bill Peak
500' To Go
Mary Peak
Very Big Cornice
Mt. Daniel
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Photo Page 2

Trips - 2007