Climbing through the Sounds of Avalanches and Gunfire
After climbing much larger mountains in February and March, April brought a number of surprise storms that loaded the peaks with fresh snow and closed a number of previously open trailheads. Redwic, Josh and I found this out the hard way as we were trying to head over to Jack Pass for another shot up Goblin Mountain. Unfortunately Jack Pass was covered with a foot of snow and ice and Redwic's car could barely make it to the top of the pass. To proceed on with Redwic's car would be too dangerous and none of us wanted to be stuck up in the Wild Sky Wilderness.
So it was up to backup plan here which was Frog Mountain. At first Josh and I were not so excited about this peak. First of all it isn’t even a mile high and we were used to knocking off at least 5000' of elevation gain a week. And the mountain didn't even look like it broke timberline. But a new summit is a new summit and it was better that not hiking and climbing at all. So we decided to go for Frog Mountain.
Just as we began hiking we ran into a couple who pulled up to Jack Pass to take a couple of shots into a gravel pit which is right off the road. We were sure to be very nice to them in the parking lot and make sure to hit the trail as quickly as possible. From what we gathered they seemed like nice people and we will assume that but we didn't want to stick around long.
We headed up a road quickly and passed the gravel pit once passed the gravel pit it was bushwhacking time. The sloppy wet snow which barely covered the underbrush added a major obstacle here. Often times as we were heading up the trail we ran into tree rings and fell into waist deep holes.
After a while we put on snowshoes which stopped some of the post-holing but made uphill trail still tough because of the sliding of snowshoes.
Finally we clearly the gnarly forest travel (I can only imagine how bad it is summer) and got into open slopes of Frog Mountain. This was a little easier to ascend up but the uphill climb made for a slow climb up to the ridge top. Strange and unnerving enough we began to hear a number of avalanches shot off from Bear Mountain and another nearby mountain. The snow where we were when we checked was quiet safe but that noise was definite cause for concern.
After a tiring climb to the ridge top and false summit we caught our first view of the true double summit of Frog Mountain. We had to cross the ridge and then ascend through the forest slopes to the true summit of Frog Mountain. It was a little interesting looking down the open south side of Frog Mountain. But the views from the open section were excellent. There are two summit that are exactly the same height (according to Redwic's GPS). One is partially forest will decent views while the other is mostly open with stellar views of the Monte Cristo Range as well as Glacier Peak to the north. Of course no mountain view in Washington cannot be completely with a shot at the mighty Mount Rainier to the south. Though Frog Mountain is not a mile high, the views here are quiet impressive.
After thirty minutes on the summit it was time to head down the mountain. We were going to have to check some slopes if we were going to make it down the mountain successfully. We cautiously headed back to the open slope where we did a number of avalanche test. The snow seemed pretty solid so we decided to glissade down the open slope. The snow held very well and we were able to knock off 1000 feet of elevation on glissade. Unfortunately though the sound of gunfire began to go off from down below. Our slope was firm and held well but we were very concerned that the extra noise might cause problem. We were also concerned because they were shooting right where or route was heading down.
Once of the field we decided to bushwhack down the mountain. It was very wet and sloppy and often times we were dealing with both mud and snow at the same time. At times we would be dealing with no snow and then we would hit waist deep snow with holes that we fall deep into. It was not the most enjoyable part of the trip, but we were afraid that if we stayed on our ascent route we would literally be target practice. So we continued through the snow pit and the slippery mud all the way to the car. Of course when we got back to the trailhead most of the snow had melted and the shooters had left.
Oh well, Josh and I got a new summit, and all of us got a killer glissade. It was neat looking up at the mountain to see our glissade path going down the open slope. Of course the mountain did came a Wal-Mart trekking pole but at least it didn't cause us to croak!
Special thanks to Craig for setting up the trip, the ride and navigating us and for Josh who broke a lot of the trail. Good work on a beautiful day with another mountain with amazing views. It was a great trip and I can't wait until next week!