From Preparation To Haystack ScrambleLast weekend, I summited Little Si and Fuller Mountain on Saturday, then Mount Teneriffe and Dixie Peak on Sunday. For the next two days, I kept wanting to make it a "sweep" of the highpoints closest to the northern side of North Bend, Washington. On the same ridge containing Mount Teneriffe and Dixie Peak were Mount Si, which I had previously summited multiple times, and two lesser-known peaks, Blowdown Mountain and Crater Lake Mountain.
I realized it was possible to combine all three remaining highpoints into one trip. However, recent weather forecasts in the area had not been suitable for such expeditions. I told my boss I was going to take Wednesday (March 4, 2009) off work as a "vacation day" if the weather cooperated enough to allow for good hiking conditions. When I woke up early Wednesday morning, I checked the North Bend weather forecast and found good news. "Cloudy with a slight chance of showers in the morning, changing to partly cloudy in the afternoon." I called my boss and told him I was going to have a vacation day, after all.
I arrived at the Mount Si parking lot at 6:45 AM and began my hike shortly thereafter. I would have preferred parking at the "School Bus Turnaround" further up the road, for a more direct route up the slopes via the Mount Teneriffe Road-Trail ("fire road"), but it was a school day and I would not be allowed to park at that area. At approximately 2900' elevation, I first encountered snow on the trail, which then covered the entire trail from 3200' elevation and higher. I reached the base of the Haystack Scramble at 8:30 AM. At 1h45m, it was only a few minutes slower than my best straight-hiking (i.e. non-jogging) time up the Mount Si Trail, and I was wearing a 35-lb backpack for this trip. Planning to ration my food and drink supply, I only took a small drink from one of the two Gatorade "G2" beverages I brought with me.
I spent the next 30 minutes exploring the area around the Haystack Scramble, trying to (unsuccessfully) make cellphone calls, and drinking some of my Gatorade "G2" beverage. The fog seemed to lift for a short time, giving me hope better weather was approaching.
Trip Goes To The Dogs... Then A Blowdown
By 9:00 AM, I put on my snowshoes and began traversing east of Mount Si along the snow-covered trail. After approximately 0.5 miles, I heard a noise ahead of me and stopped walking. A pack of dogs was roaming on the trail. They might have been harmless, but they looked big and mean, and I was not going to take any chances. I yelled "HELLO!!!" several times, and the dogs ran away. I kept calling out for several minutes, even blowing my emergency whistle a few times, but never heard any response. I reached into my backpack side-pocket and grabbed an ice screw. There was no prior reason to have it on this trip, but it was the best possible self-defense weapon I possibly had with me. I removed the cap and held the ice screw in my right hand, pointing outward. After about 10 minutes had passed since the dogpack ran away, I proceeded down the trail in the direction of the dog tracks. I soon descended a short slope and entered an open area; dog tracks were everywhere, with no clear indication of where the dogpack ran away.
Shortly after the open area, the trail continued downhill so I opted to follow the dense forest following the ridgeline to my leftside (north). I figured my snapping of branches would make noises that would keep the dogs away, but if they did approach me I could hear them better there and possibly climb a small tree, if needed. I removed my snowshoes and proceeded on foot using my La Sportiva "Trango S EVO GTX" mountaineering boots. The forest was thicker with trees than I anticipated; the progress was slow but steady. I reached an open area, possibly an old snow-covered logging road, west of Blowdown Mountain. I began ascending the steep snowy slopes of the mountain, postholing and double-kicking along the way. The mountain seemed to either be covered in a dense evergreen forest or a steep slope containing deep snow. I finally reached the summit of Blowdown Mountain at 11:00 AM. The summit of this peak is constantly in dispute, from the actual summit location to the summit elevation. The map input into my Garmin "eTrex Vista Cx" GPS device said the elevation is 4593', and it appeared I found the highest point after walking around and doing visuals (using my GPS device as a backup). I took several photos at the summit, and completely feel through the snow shortly after the camera took a photo of me (I had it on "Timer" mode). Dense fog had rolled into the area during my ascent, ruining any possible views through the trees. I took a small drink of my Gatorade "G2" beverage.
Fog Ruins Views, Leads To Quick Descent
At approximately 11:15 AM, I began my trek to Crater Lake Mountain. To say Crater Lake Mountain does not have many visitors would be an understatement. One of the smallest and remote highpoints along the Mount Si-Mount Teneriffe ridge, Crater Lake Mountain is often forgotten. In fact, most hikers on the ridge might not even know of its existence. I descended west from the summit of Blowdown Mountain, and then I hiked north to the forested ridgetop towards Crater Lake Mountain. Following the ridgetop, the ridge descended approximately 250' before ascending up to the summit of Crater Lake Mountain. After pushing aside some tree branches and moving carefully on the final slope, I reached the rocky summit, 4351' elevation, at 11:45 AM. By this time, the fog was very thick (perhaps 30' visibility) and no views were available. On a clear day, thick treecover prevents views west of the summit while an open eastside slope opens up views to Dixie Peak and Blowdown Mountain. I took several photos at the summit, most of which did not come out correctly due to the fog and water somehow getting onto my camera lens. Surprisingly, I had cellphone service and called my wife. I took a small drink of my Gatorade "G2" beverage.
I left the summit of Crater Lake Mountain at noon. I followed the ridgetop back south towards Blowdown Mountain. Once near its summit, I checked the map on my GPS device and compared it with a paper map. I noticed a GPS Waypoint due south of me, along the Mount Teneriffe Road-Trail. I descended the mountain via a steep slope that appeared to be a seasonal spring drainage. After descending 700' elevation down the hill, within 0.5 miles, I reached the Mount Teneriffe Road-Trail... almost exactly at a location I had made a GPS Waypoint during my Dixie Peak hike several days prior. I followed the snow-covered road south for approxiamtely 0.25 miles, until an intersection with the trail leading back to Mount Si. I then followed that trail west, eventually passing the locations where I had originally veered from the trail during my ascent and where I had encountered the dogpack. I arrived at the base of the Haystack Scramble at 1:30 PM. Only stopping once, for a few minutes, when asked by a passing hiker to take a photo of him with his camera, I arrived back at my car at 2:40 PM... just shy of eight hours since I began the trip that day. What most impressed me, however, was that I only drank one complete (20 fl oz) Gatorade "G2" beverage for the entire trip, without craving other nourishment. When I reached my car, I drank water and ate beef jerky.
I still do not know where the pack of dogs came from, in the middle of the backcountry, as their tracks did not appear to come from any major trail or route. And although the weather had not cooperated as I had hoped (and as earlier forecasts had predicted), I still considered the trip a success.
Trip StatisticsMOUNT SI TRAILHEAD TO HAYSTACK SCRAMBLE: 1h45m
HAYSTACK SCRAMBLE TO BLOWDOWN SUMMIT: 2h00m
BLOWDOWN SUMMIT TO CRATER LAKE SUMMIT: 30m
CRATER LAKE SUMMIT TO BLOWDOWN TURN-OFF/TOP OF SOUTHERN SLOPE (~4500' elevation): 30m
BLOWDOWN TURN-OFF/TOP OF SOUTHERN SLOPE TO HAYSTACK SCRAMBLE: 1h00m
HAYSTACK SCRAMBLE TO MOUNT SI TRAILHEAD: 1h10m
TOTAL DISTANCE TRAVELED: Approximately 12 miles roundtrip, because of the steep descent down the southern slope of Blowdown Mountain decreasing travel time and distance for the trip.