Fall Colors, Scrambles, Waterfalls, and Emergency Rooms
What was supposed to be just a easy rainy day hike became a nice visit to the hospital for an inch deep gash in the elbow. Both Magellan I were looking for a low level peak to go for that was close to home that we had not summited before. Magellan has lived here a long time and has done many of the standard I-90 walk-ups while I have been up many of the local I-90 peaks as well. The forecast was unfortunately calling for rain like it has been doing for the last month. Because of the time issue we had to stay close. So we decided to pick Avalanche Mountain close to Snoqualmie Pass. Less than an hour from Seattle the Snow Lake trailhead is a highly desirable area to locals even on rainy days.
Though there was off and on rain in Seattle we decided to head to this peak. We knew there was a little back-country work but both of us have been doing off trail and scrambles this summer so we felt comfortable with where we were going. The temperature has been much warmer and wetter though the past couple of day with the Seattle receiving four times the amount of rain it normally receives in early September. We wondered how this was going to effect our chances on Avalanche Peak. But I rather would go hiking in the rain, then sit at home and get depressed over watching a weekend both by without an adventure.
We arrived at the Snow Lake Trailhead at 12 noon. The weather in the Pass was dry. Were we going to get off this lucky. Guye Peak stood tall as it rose majestically from the floor. Snoqualmie Mountain's slopes had a number of berry bushes that had changed reminding us that fall is drawing closer. We started up the trail at a decent pace but soon we recognized that the weather was going to change and it did rapidly soon. Within ten minutes from the trailhead it was raining steadily and we were getting wet. It was very warm though so the rain actually felt good from the start. We continued up to the pass at good pace. Once over the pass we decided to get off at the second switchback and head to the Avalanche Mountain. This is not the recommended way but it did save us some elevation loss gain. I got my first view of Avalanche Mountain from a field as I was bushwhacking to the base of Avalanche Mountain. On our way we ran into some amazing berry bushes. We were slowed up by them and ate a ton of these great berries. We continued to the base of Avalanche Mountain, traveling up steep and slippery heather field and thick woods. Soon we reached the base of Avalanche Mountain.
Nearing the Summit
Here is where the fun began. We started by heading up a slope mostly avoiding scree field. We walked up the steep slippery fields. At time these slope got up to 45-50 degrees. Once we made it to the top of ridge. We decided to scramble the summit ridge to the summit. At first many of the rocks were avoidable as we made our moves. For most of the scramble we stayed to the west of the ridge and avoided most of the wet rocks. Once we on the final summit rocks. We had to make one move that was Class 3 to cross over to the eastern side of the ridge. This normally would very fun and up my alley. But will the wet loose and slippery rocks this normally fun scramble was making quiet nervous. One slip and I was at best getting pretty injured and the rock here was very wet slippery. I nearly stopped just short of the summit but my heart pulled be through it and soon my hand was on the final summit rock. The view today wasn't great due to rainy skies. But luckily for us the rain had stopped and there was a quick sucker hole for us to get some peak-a-boo views of Snoqualmie Peak and Snow Lake. I know there was so much more to see from this summit, but the weather today was quiet nasty.
Accident on the Scramble Back
We stayed only briefly because we were drenched and the temperature was beginning to drop. As we were heading down the rain started to come back. Magellan had the first scary moment when he step on a loose rock only to watch it roll of the edge. I did not here it stop at all which only reminded me why I was so nervous here. Once over that last section of the summit rocks I had to take a little time to breath some relief. We carefully though navigated down the ridge and soon we were in the thick heather fields.
But this is where the real drama begins. Once on the wet heather field I became one the heather ground four times. The first time when I fell I slid ten feet before doing a spread eagle and stop the momentum. But it was the second and third time had the most damage. The second time opened a gash in my elbow while the third made me real field the gash. The gash it was one inch but luckily not hit an artery. I did not feel the pain though because I was so worried about getting to the bottom. I slipped one more time on the slippery but no further damage.
The Race Back to Car
As soon as Magellan and reached the bottom of this section we stopped and I took a look at the damage. Once I took a look I knew I was damaged and I had to head back as soon as possible. Magellan rapped up the wound with a nice wrap and duct taped to that it would not open up. It should noted that the nurse in the hospital was very impressed with his work. Due to his good wrap job the big gash actual stopped bleeding which gave us plenty of time to get back to safety. We decided to take the recommended way back which most of the way back was a steady rain but for one brief moment was a clear opening down the tarn lakes. We caught the boot path and took it back to the Snow Lake Trail.
We took this trail back to the car. We could not run it because of all of the rocks but we went as fast as we could. It was frustrating because the rain now was really coming down now. But we knew we had to continue all the way back to the car. So we moved as fast as we going through the rain all the way to car. Once in the car Magellan raced all the way back to the hospital and soon I was in good hands. After four hours of the deep cleaning of the bark still left in the wound and a couple of stitches I was good to go.
I want to thank Magellan for first inviting me on the trip. Moreover I on to thank him for not panicking when he saw the deep gash on the arm and quickly wrapping it for safe travel back. The wrapping of the wound as well as the calm demeanor is really what made the difference here. I am very lucky to have him as a good hiking partner, especially in this situation. Five hours I was out of hospital and I am forced to miss a day of work. But his strong action prevented possibly much worse.