IntroductionIt had been a long since western Washington had experienced a good weekend but this upcoming weekend was looking really good for a trip. The weather was warming up and the snow was beginning to consolidate from the previous weeks storms and climbing looked like a good bet this weekend. With the weather improvement comes some of my old friend’s interest in climbing again. Curtissimo a long time friend of mine finally was getting the urge to go out and enjoy the mountains again and both he and I have been targeting Tusk’ O Granite for a long time. My good friend and up and coming summit bagger CascadeCohen came along on this trip. For him this would be a good test in snow mountaineering as he prepares for Mount Hood, Whitney and Rainier.
Heading Up to Red 2
Sunshine ruled the day as we began our climb from the Granite parking area right off of I-90. It was seasonably cool but there was a strong sense that the day would warm up over time. As we began to head up some of the snow in the lower elevation was already beginning to melt and what wasn’t melting out was well packed for travel. That was until we hit an open field that was now littered with avalanche debris from a recent avalanche. The debris did not cause much delay, but it did alter the route of the trail.
Past the avalanche debris the trail was well packed and in good working order. Along the way the trail gain elevation slowly but steadily as we continued to head up until we got to a point of the trail in which we saw foot prints in the snow leading up to Tusk’ O’ Granite. In summer and even some parts of winter this is described as a nasty bushwhack. However on this day it was nothing more that a steeper snowshoe in the woods up to the base of Red #2, a minor sub peak of Tusk O’ Granite. On the way up to here we took it slow due to the deeper snow. CascadeCohen was also struggling a bit with his snowshoes. It wasn’t until later that all of us finally were able to figure out how to get his snowshoes to work. We continue up the mountain though slowly. The sunny warm weather slowly gave way to darker clouds as we looked over to Bandera, Granite and many of the mountains south of us. Rainier which was mostly cloud free in the beginning was slowly becoming cloud cover as we were making our way to Red 2.
From Red 2 to the summit of Tusk O'Granite
Though it was a bit of struggle, all of us may our way to the sub-peak Red #2. From the highpoint of Red #2 West Granite looked like it was going to be some distance away but in reality the trees were stunted and West Granite was only 20-30 minutes away maximum. For CascadeCohen this would be his highpoint for the day due to being fatigued and tired from a long work week and a physically demanding job the previous week.
The weather unfortunately on Red #2 had decided to change for the worst. For what started out as a sunny day now became a snow/rain mix on Red #2. It was interesting watching the storm get closer and closer to the area. Unfortunately it looked as if it was going to make its visit right when we were going to be in the most scenic part of the trip. This was frustrating, but Curt and I were not going to let this stop us from getting to the summit of Tusk O’ Granite.
For Curt and I it was time to get a quick snack and move on. It was then that I met another old friend of mine; Mtn.climber. Mtn.Climber and I were old friends who met while trying to set up an honor climb up Mount Hood for his good friend Luke Gullberg, along with fellow climbers Katie and Anthony. Due to my work schedule struggling with two jobs we had not been in touch for a while but we were talking about a trip up Glacier Peak, the only major volcano in Washington State that I have yet to summit. From Red #2 Curtissimo and I linked up with mtn.climber and his son and headed all the way to the summit of Granite. At times we all took turns finding the path to the summit but in the end we all made up to the summit of Tusk O’ Granite.
There the views started to disappear and we were quickly reminded that it was still winter in the mountains. There were some views from the summit but these views were being heavily blocked by the now heavier snowfall that was hitting the top of the mountain. Because of the combination of the heavy snow and also the fact that Joel was on Red #2 we all were able to spend a couple of minutes on the summit of Tusk O’ Granite before it was time to head down the mountain.
Struggling Down From The HeightsFrom the top we decided to part way with mtn.climber and his son and head down via a combination of snowshoeing and glissading down all the way until we reached the base of Red #2. We stopped at Red #2 picked up CascadeCohen and we were slowly beginning to head down the mountain. He began down the mountain strong but slowly but surely the terrain was starting to effect him as he was heading down the mountain. The fatigue from the past week had caught up with him and that along with the steep terrain was starting to effect him as he was going down the mountain.
For that we headed down the mountain very slowly keeping an eye on CascadeCohen so that he did not become overtired. The terrain down though seemed much more tiring than on the way up. At one point it became very steep that both Curtissimo and CascadeCohen decided to take off there snowshoes in order to get better traction in the snow. I kept mine on and decided to lead ahead in order for them to follow behind me much more easily. Finally after a struggle down the mountain we decided to take a small break and try to get CascadeCohen some more energy with some fluids and vitamins.
That seemed to do the trick and just after the break he was doing much better on the way down the mountain. It was just after the break that the precipitation which was now all rain decided to finally stop. Like the weather CascadeCohen got strong and by the time we hit the trail and he was in good strength. From this point we quickly made our way down the trail. The snow had actually melted quiet a bit during the day and there were some new ground spots on the trail especially towards the bottom. We quickly made our way to the bottom and our struggles on the mountain were quickly becoming a distant memory.