Route StatsGranite Mountain
September 15th, 2007
Distance: 8 miles
Elevation Gain 3800
Time: Up 2 ½ hours; Down 2 hours; On summit 1 ½ hours
YDS Class: 1 on trail; Class 2 summit ridge boulder scramble
Above the Clouds
Often in life you come across firsts. Maybe it is the first time you on mountain and assume that you are going to have a view only to hit the summit and have the greatest of all views. Maybe it is your first experience being above the clouds. Maybe it is the first time you gained weight from the hike because you ate too many berries. Maybe it is the first you saw a five year old on this kind of hike and side Class 2 scramble. Or even more amazing that five year old beat you to the summit as well as most others on the trail.
Well on September 15th 2007 all of these first actually happen to me. My friend Curt, his son and I decided to do Granite Mountain as a in shape hike for next year. He wanted to bring his son Lance to go on his first hike and was prepared to carry him if Lance needed to rest. But 5 year old Lance had a little more energy than any of us expected. Original game plan Lance was going to go has far has he could then Curt would carry him up while I would take supplies water and food. Both Curt and I needed conditioning for plans in 08’ (Rainier, Adams, Hood, Baker) so rain or shine it was a go.
When we arrived at the trailhead all we could see was clouds. It looked pretty dreary outside and both Curt and I had our doubts about finding that Granite Mountain view. We start on the Pratt Lake Trail which is nothing more that a standard Pacific Northwest Trail. It went up at gradual to moderate clip and there was nothing very special about it. It was there when I discovered how much energy Lance really had. He clearly was keeping pace and in fact getting impatient with the slow pace. After a mile we turn right on the Granite Mountain Lookout trail. Again this trail was nothing too special at first and when we hit an avalanche chute all we could see was fog. In fact this was the beginning of the cold fog that lasted for a while. After the avalanche chute we continue going through a mixture of fields and forest, all the while Lance keeping pace and at time getting ahead. As we past a number of hikers they looked at us with amazement over the fact that Lance was passing them.
Berries and Cold Fog
We were kind of disheartened because we kept getting hit with cold water from the moisture that had landed of the evergreen. It felt so cold that each touch of water put chills down your spine.
After about 2.7 miles we hit a field of huckleberries, many which we perfectly ripe. Hey why rush to summit, there no views or so we thought. Each one taste like heaven and soon our hands were blue due to blueberries. After eating a ton of them we proceeded on to the summit. Lance was getting a bit impatient and Curt and I thought he was going to be let down.
Island In The Sky
Then came a group of hikers going down saying that the summit was clear and that views were superior. Yeah right we though. But then just when we about to break the ridge we could fell the temperature rise up again. Slowly but surely the weather began to clear. We could actually see blue ahead. Oh my goodness, we were actually going to leave the abyss of the clouds and enter a new world. All of the sudden the Granite Mountain Lookout appeared. Curt and I were stunned and Lance was excited. We decided to take the boulder route up because it would be more scenic and feel like a climb. Curt let me go ahead so that he could help Lance negotiated many of giant Class 2 boulders. That quickly changed though because though Curt had hand nearby Lance to help him out at anytime Lance was determined and fearless to get to the top. Quickly Curt and Lance got about 150 feet ahead of me and cruised to the top. Yes I did take my time on the rocks but soon we by the lookout tower which was actually open. We skipped it the lookout tower though and headed to the true summit just a couple feet away.
Once we got to the true summit, we all sat down and enjoyed the views. After eating we rested (except Lance who was still energized) and took pictures. It was amazing to be completely above the clouds. It felt as you were on an island in the sky. To the north lied Baker, Glacier and many of the other towering peaks in the North Cascades. To the east lied many of the higher mountains of the Alpine Lakes region including Alta Peak, Hibox, and Mt. Stuart. To the south lied Silver Peak, Mount Rainier and a very faint Mount Adams. To west lied nothing but cloud which seem to cover everything below 5300 feet. What any amazing day. I have never encountered this my life. Nor have I ever encounter a 5 year old who was faster that I was on a trail.
Back To The Abyss
As Curt say this maybe the last few minutes of summer so we better enjoy this beautiful island of sun before we hike back down to the cloud abyss. It was warm and so refreshing. We decided to hit the fire tower but the ranger had just left and it was closed. Oh well the true summit had better views anyway. After procrastinating we decided to head down. We decided on the trail on the way back because descending the boulder scramble would be much more difficult that ascending it. Lance cruised down the mountain, though he had to be closely watched. It was sad to head back into the abyss but once we past the area where the small ponds are the clouds were waiting for us. Down we went through the cold dense fog. We stopped to have some more absolutely amazing berries. Those really hit the spot.
The Amazing Child
Once again we past people heading up the who starring at us in amazement. They were stunned to see my sunburn and even more stunned to see a five year old doing the mountain. Often we would hear comments like, “you put my seven year to shame” and “is he really hiking this”. I could only guess the reaction if they saw him doing the scramble. Most of the time people get tired when they go down the mountain. Not us! For the last two miles we were doing a combination of fast walking and running down the mountain. We probably did the last mile in 10-15 minutes which is not bad for five year. The clouds were starting to clear toward the bottom and the lower avalanche chute was starting to have views.
Of course you can only guess who was the first person back to the car, Lance (with us very closely behind). A strange day indeed and a day that I saw a world above the clouds and a five year old who amazement his father and I.