Mt. Defiance

Yet another sunny January weekend day with not much snow in the mountains. Gwen wanted to hike up Mt. Defiance. The trip should have required snowshoes, ice axes, and maybe crampons. Not this winter. Based on recent trip reports we brought microspikes which proved useful though not mandatory. Never needed gaiters. Lots of folks wore trail runners instead of heavy boots. We met in Bellevue and headed east. The road to the Ira Spring trailhead has some bad pot holed spots. We arrived at th 2200' trailhead at 8:15 am to find 14 other cars already in the lot. A crowd was expected due to sunshine on Saturday and rain on Sunday. Also the Seahawks in the Super Bowl meant most folks would be out today and in front of the television on Sunday. Four more cars arrived before we started out at 8:30 am.

It was a cool 36 degrees but it warmed up quickly. Mason Creek has no bridge and I was a little concerned about the crossing. It turned out to be no problem. Some small logs with a higher handrail log or rock hopping. I choses the shorter steeper alternative of the old Mason Lake trail. It starts out with easy switchbacks then gets down to business. It is much steeper and less defined than the main Ira Spring trail. No problem staying warm on such a steep trail. Much to my surprise we saw two groups going up and two going down the trail. Lots of photos along the creek slowed us down. We arrived at the lake at about 10:30 am. There was no snow until near the outlet where boots have compacted some snow down to near ice. Only a few inches but slick. The rest of the way around the lake was snow free.

The lake is frozen over but with no snow on top. We met one group who had camped at the lake. Continuing on past the lake we reached the Defiance Trail junction and turned left towards Mt. Defiance. The route climbs moderately along the ridge. I could hear wind above us but we had little breeze in the forest. The temperature was at the roughly 40 degrees that we maintained almost all the rest of the day. As the trail began to drop off the north side of the ridge we hit snow. It was not hard enough for us to stop and but on our microspikes. Tracks in the snow made following the trail even easier than when it is bare. The tread is meager in a few places in the summer. Intermittent snow became for continuous as we climbed towards the ridge.

It was now more icy though only a few inches thick. This side of the ridge gets no sunshine this time of year. The last few switchbacks were slick enough that microspikes were very helpful coming down. I expected the ridge to be snow free so we continued up with just boots. The ridge top was in fact bare. We climbed up the ridge and then headed out onto the open south slopes. There was snow in places where trees blocked the sun. The wide open slopes were mostly bare.

At the far ridge we took the side trail up to the summit. This one is very steep. The bottom was bare but higher up it was partly snowy. Again, not too bad in boots but we used microspikes on the icy snow for added traction coming down. When we reached the south facing lower slope we met a group that mentioned "about a dozen" folks on the summit when they were there. We then passed a group of half a dozen coming down. Then four more. Then another two and so on and so forth. I thing we passed at least 20 hikers coming down. The good news is our slower pace meant that nobody else was on top when we arrived. Two other guys arrived a few minutes later. The pulled out a big Seahawks 12th Man flag. Gwen joined one of them in holding it up in the brisk breeze for photos.

It was sunny on top but there was snow and a steady wind blowing across it. At 5584' it was cold. One of the guys had on shorts. They left soon after. One more hiker arrived. He said "hi' using our names. Huh? Jay had seen talk of our trip the night before and chose to drive around from Silverdale to join us. Both Gwen and I had conversed with Jay online and I had met him at the summit of Benchmark Mountain several years before. It's fun to meet on a mountain top.

We headed out of the wind for a bit then headed down. Jay jointed us for the entire trip down. Microspikes were very helpful for the steep icy spots near the top. Soon we took them off. We headed across the south slope and back onto the ridge. Where we left the ridge on the north side the spikes went back on. With them the icy trail was no problem. We took a break back at Mason Lake. When we were leaving we met JK, Ingunn, and baby Nora. We met all kinds of hiking friends this day.

On the way down we chose to take the longer and much gentler main trail. Much of the way down we met folks coming up though it was already 2:50 pm when we left the lake. We saw more folks coming down the steep Bandera Mountain trail too. Lots of folks seen but nothing like the summer crowds. The long traverse on the new trail and old roadbed trail took just as long as ever. It seems to be endless when coming down. I was down to short sleeves but near the bottom the temperature seemed to drop at least ten degrees in an instant. The lot was still more than half full. There were also a number of cards parked down the road. Not your typical January crowd. Heck much of the winter the trailhead should be snowed in.

This turned out to be a great hike. Very good weather conditions. I would have preferred less wind on top but we still managed to spend nearly an hour on top. We did manage to miss the big crowd on the summit. We even managed to make it a social affair meeting hiking friends along the way. It was nice to finally hike with Jay. All in all, a very nice winter day out in the mountains.

Starting Up Trail
Gwen & Falls
Creek On Old Trail
Roiling Creek
Devils Club
Leafless Brush
Gwen On Trail
Putrid Pete's Peak
Icy Mason Lake
Onto Some Snow
Defiance South Slope
McClellan Butte
Putrid Pete's Ridge
Summit Flag
Lots Of Lakes
Gwen Celebrates
View To Crest
Glacier Peak
Pratt & Granite Mts
Mt. Rainier
Gwen & Jay
Heading Down
Back On Snow
Light On Mason Lake
Patterns On Ice
Bandera Beargrass
Defiance Summit
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2015