West Granite Mountain

In my business Good Friday is a holiday. Each year I get out on a hike when most everyone else is busy. Until now that meant a solo hike. This time John took the day off to join me. We settled on West Granite Mountain. I had only done it one time back in 2008. That day we had a lot of snow and I had a camera malfunction. I was ready for a return trip. Granite Mountain is very popular year round West Granite, right next door, is less so. We headed up I-90 arriving at the Pratt Lake Trailhead just after 8:30 am. We were on the trail by 8:45 am. I expected to find snow not far from the 1850' trailhead. That was not the case. No snow up to the Granite Mountain junction.

We took the left route. Soon we reached the big creek crossing. It was an easy rock hop. Snow began at this point. A mix of bare and thin hard packed snow/ice. We chose to continue without tracking devices. It was slick but we had no falls. I found several winter trip reports where the groups went straight up from just after the big creek crossing. that route has 2300' of forested climbing to Point 5182 (Red 2). This day the slope was half bare after the big creek. I chose to climb the way my group did it in 2008. After passing the waterfall the icy snow had a new layer of snow on top. Much better traction. We continued on the Pratt Lake trail.

The long boardwalk was interesting. Lots of snow and quite a drop off the sides. The next creek crossing required a seven foot drop to the creek and climb back up the other side. It was so icy we just slid down. At the Talapus/ Olallie junction the sign was just above the snow. We continued on until the hillside began to flatten. Here we stopped to put on snowshoes. We left the trail at about 3850' leaving us with 1300' to gain to reach Red 2. The snow was pretty good. we sank in 4-6 inches but had good traction. Gentle grade gave way to a short steep section then gentle again. When the slope became very steep we traversed to the right and climbed onto a ridge. The next 100' vertical feet was the steepest of the day. Fortunately the snow was good for climbing.

When the grade relented the forest thinned and we had the first good views of the day. It was tiring only having two people to trade off the lead. I was just about out of gas when we reached the top of Red 2. It was 12:10 pm and time for part of our lunch. It was cloudy with some blue sky. Not the clear day I had hoped for but much better than my first time up. Granite Mountain was just across from us. Much to my surprise, we had almost no wind at all. It was above freezing and not that cold even when sitting. Our break was short. Next we had to drop about 80' before the final climb to West Granite. This is a great ridge walk. Granite Mountain on the right and Bandera, Pratt, and Mt. Defiance to the left. Olallie Lake was right below us.

The final climb was steeper than it had appeared from Red 2. With snow conditions still good in the open we wound our way around trees and on to the top. There are two points on the summit ridge that seem to be about the same height. The easterly one is forested and the west one is bare. That's where we went. The west one also has the 5566 elevation on the map. Still no wind as we added all the views to the north. Chair and Kaleetan are close by. Mt. Stuart was in the clouds at first but the top was clear when we headed down. We had no seen anyone on the open ridge up Granite but we now saw a single person on the summit.

The rest of our lunches were finished and many photos were taken. It is a very nice summit for views. it is also a lot less visited than nearby Granite Mountain. We reached the top just before 1:00 pm and spent 45 minutes on top. The snow was noticeably softer on the way down. Though it was quite steep we could plunge step in snowshoes. One last climb to Red 2 before the drop back to the trail. The breaks in the clouds provided some interesting sun patterns on the white slopes of Granite Mountain. As we dropped down from Red 2 John noticed old snowshoe tracks coming up from the south. We had not seen them at all higher on the ridge.

The steepest spot was a little tricky as the snow was soft enough to slide under foot. We took our time to be safe. The rest of the way back to the Pratt Trail was fast and pretty easy. Once on trail we saw a number of new boot prints. The hard packed trail had become much softer. We kept our snowshoes on for over a mile until back to the waterfall. From there we slipped on the icy packed snow until back on bare dirt. We made it back to the car at about 4:15. It was 50 degrees at that elevation.

This turned out to be a great trip. Less snow down low than anticipated. No need for snowshoes the first 3+ miles. We did a good job of navigating to avoid the steepest slopes. The ridge walk was fantastic. Some clouds but good long range views. There was some drizzle while we hiked in the forest but it was dry once in the open on the ridge. The wind stayed away all day. Finally, it was warm enough for me to be short sleeves much of the way down. As expected we saw very few people all day long. I would still like to return on a winter day with blue sky but all in all it was a great day to snowshoe in the mountains.

Big Creek Crossing
Dirt & Snow
Falls Along Trail
Solid Snow Now
Deep Pit
Sliding Down
Heading Off Trail
Climbing Higher
Pratt & Definace
Open Slopes
Views Improve
Granite Mt. Lookout
Almost To Red 2
West Granite Mountain
John On Red 2
Bandera Mountain
Ridge To West Granite
Descending To Saddle
Route To The Summit
View West
John Near Summit
View North
Lookout & Climber
McClellan Butte
Pratt & Olallie
Kaleetan Peak
Mt. Thomson
Chair Peak
Pratt River Valley
Mt. Defiance
John On Summit
Heading Down
Looking Back To Summit
Silver Snag
Light On Granite
Frozen Olallie Lake
Look Up To Granite
Meadow On Descent
Smooth Water
Summit Panorama Looking North
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2013