Sunday, August 8, 2010

On to New Heights!

After I climbed to 10,000 ft. on Mt. Rainier, I started to having something like remorse going through my head. I had set a new altitude record, an excellent achievement, but then the reality set in that at this present time I can’t climb any higher. To go any higher essentially requires two things, neither of which I have: mountaineering knowledge, and a climbing partner.

So that left me wondering what’s left for me to accomplish this summer. Then it occurred to me that though I had climbed to 10K on Rainier, and 7300 ft. on Baker, in both cases I have yet make the summit. Thus the highest summit I have stood upon is Mt. Defiance, at just 5584 ft. above sea level. That leaves me with plenty of room to grow in terms of summits conquered. So yesterday I set my sights in Granite Mountain, which is part of the group of peaks surrounding my old favorite Mt. Bandera. So here now is the tail of my adventure.

The trail starts off really easy, so much so you almost forget you’re on a mountain side. The sky overhead was completely overcast, making for a relatively cool hike. After around a mile it splits in two, with one path leading to the summit, while the other leading to some lakes. Upwards I climbed towards the summit, and from this point on the trail alternated from grueling switchbacks to easy trekking and back again. Just an hour into the hike I reached the first of the avalanche chutes. Breathe easy Mom, there isn’t any snow on the mountain this time of year, so it was completely safe. From this point on, the trail alternates between being under forest canopy and open ground. If there was any view to see it was at this time I might have been able to get my first real glimpses of it, but, alas, the clouds covered everything in a gloomy grey.

After about 1 hr. 45 min. or so the trail leaves the forest and travels along open steep meadows, filled with wild flowers and a few scraggly trees. Just a few minutes after I hit the open face it began to rain, and I was obliged to stop and put on my raingear. After some switch backs I reached a level space of ground with several trails going in different directions. The trails all more like deer paths through the grass than the well maintained and wide trail I had been hiking until now. Not knowing where to go, I selected a path that seemed to go upwards towards where I assumed the summit was, but I didn’t know for sure because the clouds prevented me from seeing more than perhaps two or three hundred feet at best. It wasn’t long before the trail started to climb a ridge. I could see glimpses of the valley on the north side, and the open face to the south. Just after noon the trail became a boulder scramble, which means there really wasn’t a trail at all!

Now, bear in mind that Granite mountain is one of the most heavily traveled hikes in the Snoqualmie area. When the path became an unintelligible scramble, it didn’t fit with the picture of hundreds of climbers a weekend. Because of the foul weather I had only seen a few people, so I couldn’t follow someone who already knew the way. So here I was, stuck in the rain on a pile of rocks that seemed to go up forever, and with no trail to follow. So I decided to stop and take lunch. While I was cooking my Ramen noodles, I consulted my map to see where I was. I had thought that perhaps I was climbing a subsidiary peak, but my map suggested there was none. However, in a stroke of luck, I spied through the clouds a trail in the valley below, and even a few hikers traveling along it. After wrapping up my meal (eating my noodles very carefully with my knife, because I had forgotten my spoon), I doubled back and found a spur that descended to where I had seen the trail, and discovered that trail was the main one after all.

From there it was just another 30 minutes to the top. As I hiked I could make out the ridge I had been on, and realized it led all the way to the top. I could have stayed on it if I wanted to, but it wouldn’t have been much fun. At the summit was an old look out, and I’m sure on a better day there would have been an astounding view, but since the clouds dominated everything, there wasn’t anything to see. But I had reached my goal of climbing to a new highest pinnacle. Granite Mountain stands at 5629 ft., just 45 feet taller than nearby Mt. Defiance, but that that’s all it takes to keep going up. My next goal is to climb a mountain that is 5700 ft tall, and then climb mountains that are each 100-200 ft. taller than the previous one. A cursory glance at my hiking books suggest that this might be Sasse Mountain (5730ft) or Mt. Dickerman (5723ft), the latter being a well regarded climb.

Well, there wasn’t much to photograph on Granite mountain, but here are a few dreary pics.

No comments:

Post a Comment