Mt. Dickerman - Lake 22

Little old Mt. Dickerman, with a trail all the way up, has become my nemesis. Suzanne and I turned around within 400' of the top when an older dog along with us could not manage the deep snow. Gary and I were turned around by insanely deep and unconsolidated November snow. Suzanne, Bob, Kolleen and I were turned around last November by insanely deep unconsolidated snow. Three straight trips failed to reach the summit. Suzanne, Bob, Kolleen, Joe, and Nikolai joined me for another try.

The gate at Deer Creek was only opened the day before. It was unlikely that there would be any track set on the mountain. I was concerned that the parking lot would be snow free enough for us to park. We arranged to meet at the trailhead at 8:30 am. Road work on I-5 seems to have removed any signs for the Highway 2 exit. We looked for it but sailed right on by. A detour through Marysville had us back on track. Bob and Kolleen also missed the unsigned exit.

We were the last to reach the 1950' lot just after 8:30. The entrance was bare but most of the lot still had 4 to 12 inches of snow. We all managed to park on dirt. There was another group just getting ready to go as well. The temperature was 37 degrees but there was no signs of rain in the offing. Surprisingly the trail began on dirt. There were a lot of branches down but not too many trees. We probably crossed over half a dozen trees on the route. None proved to be too difficult.

The bare trail continued a lot farther than I expected. At 3200' there were a few snow patches. Steady snow did not begin until near 3450'. By 3600' it was all snow. The trail was still easy to follow even under a foot or more of snow. At about 3800' the trail began to disappear and the foot prints headed straight up. A single hiker set the track early in the morning and the group of men who passed us early on followed. Three of those five had no ice axe. I hope they came down okay. This mountain early in the season is no place to be without mountaineering equipment.

At 4000' we regrouped. It was clear to me we were already above the trail where it takes a long traverse to the left. Above us were cliffs. The tracks began an upwards traverse to our left. The terrain was steep and the snow was mostly soft. In places it was hard and icy. We all had axes out now as we continued. The early winter route I have taken crosses the summer creek/waterfall gully and climbs steeply up the far wall. Once up the route is much more moderate all the way to the top.

The key was getting to the gully and getting across and up the other side. We were already getting concerned about the soft snow and how much softer it would be on the way down. The route flattened and sidehilled along. Soon we were up against the cliffs. The gully came into view ahead. We would have to descend to the bottom of the gully then climb a very steep slope on very soft snow. The footprints from the earlier groups showed the way.

Now we had to decide whether to continue or turn back. The exposure was really quite compelling. The gully narrows down to a funnel and then goes over a cliff. A number of people have died here in the early season. We felt we could get across and up but were very concerned about getting back down. The snow was already soft enough that an ice axe would not bite but it was steep enough to allow a body to slide. The decision was made that the risk was simply too high for this day and these conditions.

Now I have missed the summit of Mt. Dickerman four times in a row. I think I'm heading back in mid July when the trail is bare dirt. We gingerly followed our tracks back the way we came. We reached our regrouping point where it was flattish and took a food and water break. Our high traverse did open up nice views south to Big Four, Hall, Sperry, Vesper, Morning Star, and a bit of Del Campo Peak. The sky was mostly white but it was bright enough to make for some nice photos.

As we began to climb steeply down to the trail we were passed by the solo early morning hiker. He summited while the snow was somewhat harder and came down before it would  really soften up. Once back on trail we speeded up considerably. Soon we were back on dirt and really speeded up. We were back at the trailhead by  early afternoon. We had climbed 2400' but only traveled about 5 miles. I was up for more.

The group agreed and we decided to hike up to Lake 22 on the way home. There were many cars in the lot as expected but room for us to park. Reports were that the trail was snow free to above the rock field so we chose to leave all snow climbing equipment behind. In fact I peeled down to shorts and took off my gaiters. With light packs we made great time. Bob and I stopped just before the rock field to see the twin waterfalls. Bob was trying out his new camera. Suzanne was in speed mode and was soon out of sight. Snow began within less than half a mile of the lake. It quickly was a foot of two deep.

The first arrivals reached the lake in about 1:10. With our detour and a little slower pace we were not too far behind. There is still lots of snow at the lake. We saw a number of avalanches coming down from the near vertical walls behind the lake. This is a great place to see and hear the avalanches come down. I have often been to the lake with snow but it had been about 8 years since my last visit.

Our stay at the lake was short and we were soon on our way back. The trail is so gentle that it as very easy on our tired legs. By 4:30 we were back at our cars. I failed to reach the summit of Dickerman again but all in all it turned out to be a fun day of climbing and hiking. We had some good views form high on Dickerman and reached a snow covered lake as well.  Not a bad day to be out hiking. Within 25 hours Suzanne and I hiked three trails covering 14 miles with 6000' of gain. Now it's time for a rest.


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Photo Page 2

Trips - 2007