MARCH 1, 2009:
At 8:00 AM, EastKing and I departed the infamous "school bus turnaround" area (920' elevation) to ascend Mount Teneriffe via the "Southwest Ridge" route, also known by hikers as either the "Kamikaze Falls" or "This Is Not A Trail" route. After 1.3 miles, at ~1240' elevation, we turned off the main trail and walked past the "This Is Not A Trail" sign. This marked the beginning of the Southwest Ridge route. Immediately, the trail gave signs of what was to come. Slippery rocks, logs, and dirt. STEEP terrain. A trail that periodically seemed to disappear. At approximately 2300' elevation, we began to have great views of Kamikaze Falls. The trail continued to climb STEEPLY east of the waterfall, eventually becoming completely snow-covered after 2800' elevation. From this point on to the summit of Mount Teneriffe, the trail had MANY questionable areas where one miscalculation of a step or one piece of debris heading downhill might cause either of us to slide uncontrollably down the steep ridge slopes.
The final slopes were completely snow-covered and full of open exposure to the elements. We heard several pieces of ice and snow rolling down the slopes ahead of and above us, so we did our best not to linger in the open areas for too long. When we reached the summit, at 4788' elevation (actually higher than that, with the snowpack), it was 11:00 AM. Given the adverse conditions, the elevation gain (3900' in just a few miles!), and that we were each carrying loaded backpacks, we were very satisfied with a three-hour ascent via that route. The Southwest Ridge route is typically very intense in different sections, but as a wintertime ascent the route becomes even more intense and careful traversing is necessary.
The views from the summit were spectacular; it was easy for me to realize why EastKing and so many other hikers love that peak. A cold wind was blowing, and we made certain not to get too close to the cornice edge. Mount Rainier loomed large over the southern horizon. But this was only Part I of our journey. We had one more "bad boy" (as EastKing put it), to summit, in our sights. After a short snack/water break, we continued our trip.
We descended Mount Teneriffe via the standard route, until the road section encountered a saddle ridge, 4150' elevation, at 12:15 PM. We each put on our snowshoes and then ascended west along the ridge, climbing 300 feet in the process, to a forested unnamed highpoint (~4450' elevation). From that point, the ridge began heading due north to our destination, Dixie Peak.
Shortly after reaching the highpoint, I removed my snowshoes and continued the remainder of the ascent (and then descent) using only my mountaineering boots (La Sportiva S Evo Gtx; they were great in the snow!); EastKing kept his snowshoes on for the remainder of the ascent (and, later, much of the descent). We descended down the northern ridge and then up again towards the true summit of Dixie Peak. On one part of the ridge before the final slope to the true summit, I looked down the gully to the west and saw frozen-over (and snow-covered) Crater Lake. Looking down the gully to the east, however, I found no views of nearby Rachor Lake.
We reached the true summit (4606' elevation) of Dixie Peak at 1:00 PM. By this time, the wind was really picking up speed. The views from the true summit were wonderful, and we took several summit poses for photos. But we *still* were not done. We wanted to go to the northern false summit of the peak, as well. We each left our backpacks at the true summit, then continued following the ridgeline, down and up, for about 5-10 minutes before reaching the false summit.
The false summit is only slightly shorter than the true summit, but offers (in our opinions) more spectacular panoramic views. In my personal opinion, the views rival those of Mount Teneriffe. We quickly became cold from the 45+ MPH winds moving in. Given the steep snowy slopes of the summit(s), we knew it was time to leave soon after arriving. When we again reached the unnamed highpoint south of Dixie Peak we decided to head basically due south down the steep snow-covered slope, rather than heading back east to rejoin the standard Mount Teneriffe Road-Trail. We hoped it would eliminate a lot of time, and we believe it did.
When we reached and rejoined the Mount Teneriffe Road-Trail, a rainstorm was moving in and started to sprinkle. The sprinkle eventually turned to rain showers, but only after we reached the snow level on the road at approximately 2800' elevation. The road-trail was wet & rocky for the remainder of the descent. We only saw one other person, a mountain biker, on the road, but the snow-covered sections higher up on the mountain were full of fresh tracks.
We finally reached the car at 4:45 PM, 8h45m after we originally began. We hiked approximately 13 miles today (added to the ~10 miles I had already personally hiked the previous day), most of which was through snow. All-in-all, it was a great trip and we had a lot of fun. We certainly earned the summits during this monster loop.