An Adventure That Never Had to Be One
It was a peakbagger's kind of day. Three summits in one day on a day when the weather could have gone either way. None of these summits were very difficult with only simple bushwhacking and simple scrambling involved. In fact two of them really didn't even have that great of views. But with one miscalculation this rather simple trip became a little more of an adventure than I ever wanted it to be. Luckily my friends Jimbopo and friend Jordan and I found a way around the mistake and got back of the right way back to the car.
We started off our trip simply enough at the Paul Peak Trailhead right on the road to the Mowich Lake entrance to Mount Rainier National Park. After parking at the trailhead we had to hike down the road a half mile to the decommissioned but still in very good shape Boundary Trail. From there we took the Boundary Trail all the way up to near the ridge-line. On the way up we got a couple quick views from a clear-cut and saw a very interesting rock feature. We continue up the trail until we hit snowline at about 4000 feet. Once the snow became solid we then got off trail and head straight up to the summit Martin Peak.
The snow was in good conditions with exception to when it was near a log. For the most part we could clearly walk on top of it but once we were near a log we kept punching in. Jimbopo lead the way here and we made good top getting to the top of Martin Peak. We topped out within an hour of starting and we enjoyed our first and probably our best view of the day. Though it was cloudy we could see the Olympics, the Black Hills by Olympia, Tacoma and the sound as well as many of the other Cascade Foothills in the region. It wont rank there with the legendary views that I have seen before but it was clearly the best on this trip.
From there we traversed the ridge and headed on over to Virginia Peak. This part of the trip felt to be the slog portion of the trip. It was very basic bushwhacking and there were no views all the way to the summit of Virginia Peak. The forest here are quiet thick and don't allow for any good views to form in the area. We slogged or way along the ridge crossing over the Boundary Trail along the way only to lose it again as we continued to Virginia Peak. Once we made to Virginia Peak we were greeted with yet again no views. So after a quick snack we continued to Berry.
Berry Peak was much more interesting then Virginia Peak. For one thing the ridge over to Berry became more interesting in spots than in Virginia Peak. There also were some peak-a-boo views that broke out to the north of both Mount Florence and Howard. Though most of the traverse over to Berry Peak was yet again a boring slog, the last little bit to the true summit of Berry Peak was actually somewhat interesting. There was actually at one point a rather simple class 2 scramble we had to traverse and a stepper gully crossing we had to go across to the summit of Berry Peak. This section was the only area that we were able to see the cloudy but still majestic Mount Rainier to the southeast. Though the true summit of Berry was clouded in, at least the northern ridge had some views to make up for it. We ate another nice snack on this summit and celebrated our three summit success on this peak. But we were running out of daylight and though all of us had headlamps (I usually carry three) we want to beat sunset to head back to the car.
Don't Take This Shortcut To the Bottom!
While on top we looked at the map for a shortcut back to the car. Though we could see some steep sections on the map we decided head straight down from the summit of Berry Peak. From the summit we made quick time glissade the first three hundred feet down from the summit of Berry Peak down the ridge. It looked we were going to make the road in no time, right. That was until Jimbopo quickly discovered that we were about to cliff out at the foot of a waterfall. Realizing we had lost lot of elevation our first instinct was to side traverse the ridge over back to a safer way to the descend the ridge.
We decided to side traverse over and quickly found ourselves in between a number of steep cliffs, rocky terrain and a mix between icy slopes and muddy heather. None of these were good for footing and a slip here could cause serious injury. What was just a simple trip was now become a little more spicier than any of us wanted. We huddled by the tree and made the quick, smart yet painful decision to head back basically the way we came down.
Though it was mentally tough, it was clearly the right decision. Still the extra elevation gain was quiet a workout. Weather was also starting to move in with fog starting to get the ridge-line. We attained the ridge and from there continued back the way we came. We basically headed back over Virginia Peak and headed all the way back to the Boundary Trail. The map did indicate a better way down but we did not want to risk make the same mistake yet again. We continued at a quick pace all the way to the Boundary Trail when light was really beginning to disappear from us. Once we broke past the snowline we made a quick run all the way to the bottom of trail. Jordan took off well ahead and quickly ran for the car so he could pick us up. By this time it was clearly dusk but we had beaten full nighttime.
Jordan picked us up and we were well on our way back to Seattle. On the way back, I went to sleep and because of that we took a quick diversion over to Orting where we got a good bite to eat. The good thing is that we all made out safe and in good spirits. For that I am very thankful to have both Jordan and Micheal on this trip. The lesson though here is carefully read the map and the terrain before you take that gamble. We didn't and we made what should have been a rather routine three summit trip into an adventure.