Bronchitis on Tahtlum Peak
I had every excuse not to go on this trip. I was sick with bronchitis and feeling very weak. My partner had baled on me at the last minute. It would a lot of money to the trailhead. I was just getting out of work! I had no idea about the conditions. I am sure I could make many more up but I don’t believe in excuses because my whole summer has been working two jobs 80 hours a week with only a couple partners and I have still managed more that 30 summits this. They were not the ones I had planned on but they are all still special. After reading my wife BearQueen's article, Struggling To Find the Right Path , I decided to change to a mountain that was more doable with my time limit and go for it.
Tahtlum Peak is a peak that I had been staring at more a long time. The beautiful looking pyramid peak had been in my mind ever since I been hiking in the Chinook Pass area. There is some literature on the peak but really much has been discussed about this mountain. The pyramid like summit looks actually quiet tempting from Highway 410 and looking at its proximity to Mount Rainier, the peak looks to have great views. It looked to be a pretty day and despite the fact that I was tired and coughing up a storm I decided to give this peak a shot.
After pulling into the visitors trailhead on the eastern side of Yakima Peak, I took a survey of the area and decided to bring my ice axe with me due to the amount of snow right on the peak that the Pacific Crest Trail. The trail had some snow on but it turned out that the snow was at a low angle and the it was only partially snow-covered. The Pacific Crest trail here maintains a nice five degree rise in this section and seems very easy to get a lot of mileage on in a short time frame. Because I was ill today I kept a slow pace on the way up the Pacific Crest Trail. At one point I did pass by a beautiful waterfall on the way up. I stay on this trail to the height of land where I was then to head to the summit of Tahtlum Peak.
Unnecessary Adventure: Taking the Wrong Way
Once I hit the height of land I decided to bushwhack over two hump to the base of Tahtlum Peak. Little did I know that this was an excellent boot-path just fifty more feet from where I was I had gone of trail. I saw a rather faint boot-path and followed it until it faded out. From there I decided to bushwhack around the two peak until I hit the height land between the two peaks. It seemed that faint boot-paths would come and go and not any of then would lead anywhere. I was starting to get a little frustrated and was really beginning to question my reasoning for heading up this peak solo and being ill. So I decided to head to the top of this sub-peak to get a better view of what was needed to get to the summit.
From the top it looked like I was going have to make one tricky maneuver and then I was going to be home free and heading right for the summit. So I strapped on my helmet and headed down the hump. At one point at had to look around to make sure I did not cliff out. I did have one somewhat interesting experience down-climbing a Class 3 area but I did finally make it to the saddle. I continue about fifty more until I ran right into a very well worn boot-path The boot-path was heading right to the peak so I followed it up to the peak.
Back On Track for the Summit
I followed the boot-path as it went to the base of the peak. It was pretty well maintained up t the base but it faded out once I was heading up the pyramid. Slowly I made my way up the peak, pretty much staying on the now faded boot-path The boot-path rose at a decent grade up the peak. It was steep but very doable. Sometime the faded boot-path would come out on the open 40 degree northern slope. Earlier in the year this slope would be perfect for snow-climbing but today it was just a melted leftover cornice that was left from this year's near record snows. Other times this trail would go back into the now stunted trees and maneuver fairly safely through them. I took it slow up this part of my hike up the mountain because I was now still very tired and worn out from my bronchitis. I kept on through and soon enough the head of the pyramid was near.
Yeah I made it, sick and all. Once up there it was clear why I decided to go for this peak and why I was attracted to it. The views here are quite remarkable of the took area. Towering Dewey Peak lied in the distance while the Crystal Mountain area lied in the north. To the east was Mount Aix while to the west was the great Mount Rainier and it's neighboring snow-capped peaks. Mount Adams and the Goat Peaks towered over the south and southeast sides. The weather was perfect and the peak was great up top to sit down and enjoy the beautiful views of the surrounding area. I was in heaven and I could now sit back on the pyramid summit, rest, eat and enjoy this peak.
As ten minutes slowly became 50 minutes I realized that unfortunately I was going to have to head off this peak. I was content to to sit there for a couple hours but I knew I had to head on back. While on the peak I did cough up some of the nasty stuff that was in my lungs and after recovering from that hacking I was feeling good enough to head back down the mountain.
Heading Down and Choosing The Correct Path
Heading Down I decided to take the pace slowly here I was solo and I did not want to be clumsy here. Slowly but sure I headed the sometimes boot-path sometimes open walk traversing a 40 degree ledge. Because I took slow on the way down I was able to follow stay on the boot-path all the way down to the saddle. Once in the saddle I decided to follow the boot-path and see where it lead. At worst I knew it could have lead to Dewey Lake which had easy access to the Pacific Crest Trail, but I had a feeling though that it lead very close to the Pacific Crest Trail. The evenly paced boot-path was a much better way than the unnecessary scrambling I did heading over here. The boot-path did faded in spots but it held enough together to get me right back to Pacific Crest Trail and cut my time dramatically.
Once I was on the Pacific Crest Trail I realized how close I was to the correct boot-path It was a mere fifty feet so I took a picture of this boot-path for records in case I decided to bring back BearQueen here later in the year. Heading back down the Pacific Crest Trail was rather uneventful. I did pick up the pace a little on the way down to Chinook Pass. The snow that was left was actually quite soft. I ran into a number of very friendly people on the way down. Some of them where I went noting the axe on my back. I showed them the peak and looked at me like I was crazy. If only they knew.
I can't tell you that the mountain gave me medicine that I was 100% better once off the mountain. I right now am still very sick with this bronchial infection. I am still coughing up a storm and still not feeling. But as for my sanity and my feeling of taking advantage of this amazing August weather I am very glad that I made it out there to refresh my soul and and give my body to fight on throughout the rest of the 80 hour work week. And the views today are once I wont be forgetting for a while.