FOREWORDI typically do not dwell on the past. I am a person who tends to look forward to the future. However, because 2012 was my most successful peakbagging year to date, I wanted to reflect on those experiences and share some of them with other people.
During 2012, I reached more summits, gained more cumulative elevation, and hiked more peakbagging miles than I ever have previously done in any single year. In fact, as a person who has an active schedule which includes family, work, and non-peakbagging hobbies (yes, those exist!), I doubt at this point that I will ever improve upon those single-year personal peakbagging achievements.
During 2012, there were many great trips and few dull moments. My peakbagging year started with a trip in which I was caught in an avalanche. My peakbagging year reached its midpoint with a trip in which I achieved a major peakbagging accomplishment. My peakbagging year ended with a trip in which I got to (finally) relax and enjoy fantastic views of a region very sentimental to me.
I was able to do peakbagging and highpointing across different regions of the USA, in the Northwest, Southwest, Northeast, and Southeast. I even summited my first peak outside of my home country. Not all of the trips and destinations were exciting, and few will probably make the list of my favorite summits of all-time, but I will view this year in its entirety. 2012 was a year during which I achieved things that only a few years ago seemed distant. It was a year I will treasure for the rest of my life.
JANUARY, NOTABLE SUMMIT TRIPSThe year did not start as planned, but if anything it was a wake-up call to always expect the unexpected. As part of a personal effort to continue exercising even during the dreary Winter months of the Great Northwest, my friend Bryan and I decided to go on a local snowshoe trip together on New Year’s Day. With what seemed like a favorable weather forecast and low avalanche danger, we chose low-elevation peaks Scout Patrol Peak and Little Saint Helens as our destinations. The two peaks seemed like good options because snow-covered forest roads could be used for much of the trip, with minimal shortcuts and off-road travel necessary if desired.
As we ascended a steep slope to a forest road several hundred feet above us, I stopped several times to probe the slope (as I often do on steep snowy terrain). Despite the low elevation and low regional avalanche danger forecasted, it never hurts to take a few extra moments to check slope stability. Everything seemed OK, and we made it to the top of the slope to the forest road without incident. Our trip and route were working very well for us, and we were making great time.
However, shortly thereafter, as we walked along the non-wind-loaded side of the road I watched as a crack quickly formed around Bryan’s feet, sweeping him down the slope. Then, without time to react, where the crack stopped its circle around him suddenly started a new crack around me. To give an analogy, my visual of the occurrence was as if snowy boogie boards were carrying us down the mountain and we were suddenly in a “wave” of sorts. Fortunately, we each remained calm and talked with each other while “swimming” on top of the slide. The minor avalanche was wide but fortunately not deep. It swept us both down several hundred feet, but except for some minor bruises we were both OK.
That evening, we worked with the Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC) to report the incident and determine the cause of the avalanche despite our observations that danger was not imminent. But sometimes nature wins despite caution being used. The official NWAC incident report is available online.
In the middle of the month, I organized a group to snowshoe up Arrowhead Mountain, which was my first 6000’+ summit of the year and first-ever 6000’+ summit in the month of January. At the end of the month, I visited some relatives in Arizona and used the opportunity to summit several mountains, including peaks with 2000’ of prominence and county highpoints. I was surprised to find Mount Lemmon drivable up to the gate located at 8350’, a feat which could never be acomplished in Washington. The following morning, I hiked up Harquahala Mountain, which was my favorite peak of the trip. I really enjoyed the solitude I found while hiking the peak, and the weather and scenery was much better than I anticipated.
FEBRUARY, NOTABLE SUMMIT TRIPSMy first summit trip in February was as part of a group of snowshoers and skiers going to Mount Angeles, in the Olympics Range. Mount Angeles is a very popular hiking destination, so I was amazed to be a part of 12 notable climbers who had never previously summited the peak. We enjoyed great weather and great views all day, and when our group reached the summit we all celebrated the birthday of one of the climbers. I created a short video for the trip.
In the middle of the month, I ventured to Anaconda Peak, an obscure mountain near the Mountain Loop Highway. This was not a fun solo trip, as the mixed dirt/snow-covered forest duff continually slipped beneath my feet and the weather left much to be desired. The best part of the trip was meeting a local resident who lived near the entrance to the access road, while the peak joined my “one and done” list.
MARCH, NOTABLE SUMMIT TRIPSMy first summit trip in March was a trip to Ironstone Mountain involving three other local peakbaggers. This would be my first-ever trip with local peakbagger Paul Klenke, something which I had looked forward to for some time. We had great weather and some spare time, so Paul and his friend Stefan had us do some “dumpster dive” peakbagging to finish the day’s events.
My final summit trip of the month was a side-trip I took while visiting friends in the Tri-Cities region of Washington. I visited Washtucna Benchmark, which Paul (Klenke) had speculated might be a contender for the highest point in Franklin County, Washington. I had previously expressed to him my apprehension at such an assertion, and my findings at the highpoint area confirmed (at least to me) that Washtucna Benchmark is definitely not the county highpoint.
APRIL, NOTABLE SUMMIT TRIPSI was a part of several fun trips in April. My favorite of those trips was a snowshoe trip I organized for Lennox Mountain, a 2000’ prominence peak located in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness of Washington. Several of the group members doubted that the route I had chosen (via Coney Creek) would be successful, but the route worked very well for us. One of the highlights of the trip was when our friend Micheal (a.k.a. “Jimbopo”) caught up to us midway during the ascent. His expedition involved arriving too late at the meetup location, then running (literally) too far off our route, and then backtracking and running (literally) up our route… and he had started on our route approximately 1.5 hours after we had! I wrote a trip report for the experience.
Later that month, I also determined a new summit route for Storm King Mountain, a mid-elevation 2000’ prominence peak. I also did a solo snowshoeing trip up Crystal Mountain, near Mount Rainier, for which I worked closely with the ski resort personnel to make the trip happen and also gave me a good opportunity to try different non-emergency features of my SPOT device.
MAY, NOTABLE SUMMIT TRIPSThe month of May started with one of my favorite trips of the year. My childhood home was not far from Mount Index, so it had been a goal of mine for a long time to summit the peak. “Gimpilator” and I had previously attempted and failed on the peak, timing-out, and we wondered if the snow conditions on the mountain would cooperate on our second visit. We invited a solid group of climbers to join us and also had some luck. We hit the right snow conditions at the right times we needed them, and the trip was a success. “Gimpilator” wrote a brief trip report about the experience.
The month ended with a Memorial Day weekend trip to eastern Washington, some parts of which were solo and some parts of which were shared with “Gimpilator” and Paul Klenke. I was able to summit nine peaks that weekend, six of which had fire lookouts. The weather was taking a turn for the worse on the west side of the Cascade Mountains, so we were each able to accomplish a lot more peakbagging on the east side of the Cascade Mountains, as a result.
JUNE, NOTABLE SUMMIT TRIPSThe first half of June was amongst the most frustrating times of the year for me. After nearly two months of great mountaineering weather, most of the Northwest was ravaged by lingering storms for nearly all of June. Although I was able to go out on some minor trips early during the month, I continued to wait patiently for the right weather, conditions, and mountaineering partners to join me for an attempt of my biggest goal of the year: Mount Baker.
Finally, on June 19, the weather forecast looked to be favorable for approximately the next 24-36 hours. “Gimpilator” and I quickly took the following day off from our respective jobs, assembled two other mountaineers (Joe & Jeremy), and that night began what would become a non-stop, 18-hour, 7500’+ gain trip up and down Mount Baker. We chose the Easton Glacier route, and we lucked-out with weather and conditions. Not only were we successful, it marked my simultaneous completion of the Washington County Highpoints, Washington County Prominence Points, and Washington 25-Miles Isolation lists. It also was my 100th USA peak with at least 2000’ of prominence. “Gimpilator” wrote a trip report, and I wrote a trip report, too. I also created a summit video.
With my major peakbagging list goals for Washington now complete, I immediately set my eyes on other goals in other regions. At the end of the month, while poor weather still plagued the Northwest (but seemed better further south), I drove to southwest Oregon to summit several county highpoints and prominence points. The most notable of those peaks was Grayback Mountain, the Josephine County highpoint, which, despite a poor-quality road and even worse weather, I summited within 1.5 hours.
JULY, NOTABLE SUMMIT TRIPSJuly started where June left off… in southwestern Oregon. On July 1, I successfully summited Pearsoll Peak, the most prominent point in Josephine County. But it was a pre-hike incident, and not the hike itself, which was most memorable. I was basically chased off from a standard approach (via McCaleb Ranch) for the mountain before I even got to begin. A man at the ranch homestead did not like me being there despite a ranger previously telling me that I could be there, and even after I moved myself and my vehicle to a different location… as instructed by the man at the ranch, no less… he still sent two of his assistants to my parking area. I suspect that they were either going to damage my car or harass me, but I did not give them much opportunity to do so. I soon left and headed for another route approach (Kalmiopsis Rim Trail), which might have been a better choice, anyway. I mention the incident in my SummitPost Climber’s Log.
Later during the month, I returned to Oregon for more peakbagging. This trip was even more ambitious than the previous one. In nearly four days’ time, I had driven almost 1600 miles roundtrip, hiked over 58 miles total, achieved nearly 19,000’ of cumulative elevation gain, and summited seven peaks. All seven mountains were Top 100 peaks in Oregon and 2000’ prominence peaks. Those mountains also included six county highpoints, six county prominence points, four wilderness highpoints, and one national park highpoint. My favorite summit during that trip was Mount Thielsen.
Less than one week later, to finish the month, I visited Utah and Nevada on another peakbagging trip. The trip began with a one-day, 28.5-mile ascent of Kings Peak, the Utah state highpoint and my 42nd state highpoint reached overall. I then drove overnight to Nevada, where I summited two more high-elevation peaks. I then drove back to Utah and summited Mount Nebo, the third-most isolated and fifth-most prominent point in the state.
AUGUST, NOTABLE SUMMIT TRIPSAfter I returned back to Washington, I took some time to spend with family rather than outdoor adventures. By the middle of the month I found myself returning to a peak that I did not know if I would ever return: Mount Buckner. I usually do not repeat peaks which I have already summited, unless given an opportunity which did not present itself during the first visit(s). In the case of Mount Buckner, I wanted to help a fellow peakbagger, Adam Helman, get one step closer to finishing the Washington county highpoints. It also would give me an opportunity to visit the northeast peak of Mount Buckner, a hilltop which some people believe is the highest point of the mountain while most others (myself included) believe is just a lower sub-summit location.
Due to a late dinner commitment elsewhere, I was not able to join my friends Adam, Bob Bolton, and Duane Gilliland up to Sahale Glacier Camp during the same day as them. So instead, after dinner, I drove to the Cascade Pass trailhead in the middle of the night, slept 2-3 hours, and then met-up with my friends (much to their surprise) by 6:30 AM. I helped alleviate Adam’s concerns about a steep downclimb of a snow finger to enter Horseshoe Basin by leading the team down a different way. When Adam eventually reached the summit of Mount Buckner, Duane and I asked him if he wanted to join us for an ascent of the northeast peak. Adam, looking over towards the northeast peak and deducing (as many of us already had) that the southwest peak is the higher point, opted to not join Duane and I for an ascent of the northeast peak. When Duane and I reached our destination for the trip, our opinions had not changed; if anything, we both believed more strongly than ever that the northeast peak was the lower of the two Buckner peaks and not worth other parties visiting in the future. But that is a choice left for each person to decide.
Near the end of the month I joined two other friends, Edward Earl and Eric Noel, for an ascent of South Twin, a 2000’ prominence peak near Mount Baker. Edward, “Gimpilator”, and I failed on an attempt two years earlier due to timing-out but we learned a lot about the terrain on that trip. “Gimpilator” made a successful second attempt less than one week prior to