Arrowhead Mountain

I have been up Arrowhead two times previously. Each trip was via a different route. First was up the west side then the south ridge. Next was up the northeast ridge. At least that was the plan. We headed up way too early and got into some very steep terrain. We did not hit the ridge until 5500', only 500' below the summit. We come much farther down the ridge coming out and it was much easier. Now it was time to try going up the northeast ridge.

Opus, Nikolai, Barry, and I met in North Seattle. Opus and Nikolai headed straight for Highway 2 and Barry and I stopped at the 160th Park & Ride off I-405 to pick up Brewmaster. We all met at the Stevens Pass Nordic Center. It's only about 1 1/2 miles from there to the wide spot in the road where about half a dozen cars can park. The sky was blue all the way to Stevens Pass. From there low clouds filled the valley. It was after 9:00 am and a balmy 23 degrees when we got started. It only took a few minutes to reach the railroad grade. The plan was to walk about 1 1/4 miles losing 100' before heading uphill. I reached the grade first and saw two folks hiking down the grade. Where did they park? Stay tuned for the answer.

There was only a fraction of the snow along the grade that we had two years earlier. About half way along we heard the sound of a train heading uphill. We expected it to be on the right heading uphill. In fact it was on the other side. Four of us ran across to the left side and Barry stayed right with the trail on one side and the hillside on the other. Brewmaster counted 102 cars plus 5 engines. After the last car passed us the train stopped. Another train passed us heading downhill. What are the chances of two trains on our short walk down the grade? The second one was "only" 88 cars long.

We saw footprints heading up a spur road but chose to stay on the grade as we neared the ridge. We found a good spot to exit the grade and head uphill. Two folks put on microspikes, two of us used Yaktrax and Nikolai went with boots. The slope is pretty steep. We needed to gain 1200' in a very short distance. The snow was hard enough to make me wish for more than Yaktrax. I stopped in the middle to switch over. Much better. Nikolai went to crampons too. We met up again on the ridge top. I started out in boots while the others put on snowshoes. I hoped to find the tracks set by the other nwhikers who summited last week. I soon gave up on that and put on snowshoes.

The ridge walk is right on the ridge top most of the way. We saw elk tracks then finally picked up snowshoe tracks. The tracks were fresh. Undoubtedly the ones we saw heading uphill from the grade well before we left it. Higher up we picked up older tracks. Must have been from the nwhikers group a week earlier. The ridge is mostly forested though we did have views out to the peaks of the Chiwaukum Range. Higher up we could see over to Rock Mountain and Nason Ridge as well. The trench laid in by those two folks I saw when I first reached the grade helped a lot. The grip was tremendously better than I had on Red Mountain the week before.

On the lower ridge the snow was icy hard in the trees with 3 or 4 inches of fresh snow in the open. Up higher the fresh snow deepened. I was happy to be following in the trench rather than setting it. At 5100' the gently rising ridge abruptly changed. Ahead was a steep climb of the last 900' to the summit. I did not remember it being all that steep coming down last time. In fact, the route was much easier than it looked. It is a steady climb but not bad at all.

As usual Barry was now way out ahead though I was surprised to be in second place. At long last the summit came into view and a few minutes later I topped out. A big red puffy jacket said "hi Jim". It turned out to be Mesahchie Mark of nwhikers. He was with Magnum (Chris). They did a very nice job of making our ascent easier by setting the track. It turns out that they parked farther up the grade on a side road off Highway 2. It was windy on the summit and I immediately put on several more layers. Barry recorded the summit temperature at 25 degrees. With the strong wind it was much colder. The whole trip was almost wind free until the last 50' to the top. Summit views were excellent. Monte Cristo peaks, Sloan, Glacier, Rock, Howard, and Mastiff to the north. The Chiwaukums to the east, The Cradle, Daniel, Hinman, and Jim Hill to the south. There were a few clouds but we were above the valley clouds since we reached the ridge.

Brewmaster, and Opus soon arrived and we were freezing as Nikolai and his dogs arrived. Nikolai did not have snowshoes and had a much more difficult time on the ridge. Still he persevered and made the summit. We dropped below the summit to get out of the wind until Nikolai joined us. Going down the first 900' was interesting. On fresh snow I had plenty of traction. In the trench I skied more than walked. That led to two or three pratt falls as I slid out of control. Even with that it was much faster coming down. We dropped 1000' in less than 20 minutes. Now came the long walk along the ridge. You definitely do not want to slip off the right side as the drop is pretty impressive.

We met up again where we first attained the ridge. We saw that Mark and Chris went farther down the ridge to descend than where they ascended. Snowshoes came off. Microspikes and crampons went on except for Brewmaster who preferred to plunge step in boots. I was glad to have the crampons as the snow went from soft to hard over and over. The biggest challenge coming down was to get over snow buried logs without falling through. I did post hole a few times but none were crotch deep. Brewmaster had one that was difficult to get out of.

Back at the bottom we went back to just boots for the gentle uphill slog back to the cars. This time we did not meet any trains. It took us a little over 3 1/2 hours going up and about 2 hours to descend. I have now been up Arrowhead three times by three different routes. With the parking problems This will likely be the route used in the future. It was a fun snow scramble. Cold at the bottom, very cold on top, and pleasant for the middle three quarters. I used Yaktrax, crampons, ice axe and snowshoes. Everything came into play. The views were outstanding. It was also unusual to be passed by two trains on a winter peak scramble. The company was good too. All in all, it was a great day in the mountains.

Opus's trip report is here: Nwhikers Report & Photos

Heading Down Tracks
First Train Coming
Opus & Train #2
Solid Ice
Steep 1200' Climb
On The Ridge Top
Booting It
Barry On The Ridge
Brewmaster On Ridge
Summit In Sight
Starting Last Climb
Another Arrowhead Ridge
Framed View South
Mt. Howard
Almost To The Top
Chiwaukum Range
More Chiwaukums
View South
Monte Cristo Peaks
Sloan Peak
Glacier Peak
Glacier, Rock, Howard
Jim Hill Mountain
Summit From Grade
Opus At Work
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2009