Trip Gear and DetailsYDS CLASS 2+
Equipment Used: Helmet, Trekking Poles
Distance: 13.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 5000+ feet
Taste of Berries: Incredible
Taking me through the Grindstone
With the snow levels being low for late August and a storm approach from the west it time to head to the eastern Cascades to tackle a new summit. both my friend Don and I had been to Teanaway a bunch of time and we wanted a new challenge in a new area. So we decided to go with Grindstone Mountain a mountain that has little literature on but one we could see on some trip reports had great promise.
After energizing with a nice hot breakfast we decided to hit the trailhead which we knew was going to start 1 1/2 miles early due to a washout. Once arriving at the trailhead we made short work of the 1 1/2 mile road and hit the trailhead in good time and shape. Along the way I noticed that fall in beginning to show up in the mountains. Soon we hit the Chatter Creek Trailhead and were on our way.
We took a nice steady pace up the Chatter Creek Trail which was at first a very gentle pitch. The trail soon steepened up into a number of switchback as we were entering a gap in the ridge. There were a could spots that could use maintenance from the brush overall it was not that bad. The trail at first went away from the creek but around 4000 feet quickly turned toward Chatter Creek. Along the way some views did open up to the south. We noticed that some of the higher mountains had received fresh snow. At about 4200 feet we went by the first of a series of two camp areas. The second camp area showed up at 4600 feet. Once above 5000 feet no fires are allowed in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
Once past the gap the somewhat bushy trail mellowed out in elevation and the eastern ridge of Grindstone showed itself. My first though was "Wow this mountain is going to be a good challenge. The eastern slopes looked very rocky and almost cliff like. The blueberries and the alpine meadows on this mountain are quiet amazing. However this mountain looks like a great fall masterpiece which I hope others get a chance to climb. It was actually one of the first areas I have seen where the larches and berry bushes are close together. On this field there is one section where the trail actually travels quiet close to a number of small cliffs and somewhat catwalks one of them.
Once near the top of the gap on the second small switchback before the trail reaches the height of land and left the trail and headed for the summit. We headed right up to the gap between a higher false summit to the south and a sub-peak to the north. The mix of heather and scree was not too hard of a challenge getting up there but once we were on top of the ridge we got a good look at what was left and we knew we were in for a challenge. We first had to drop 200 feet down and then traverse a 40 degree slope before ascending for a summit we had yet to get a good of view on.
The traverse was slow going. The loose scree made for traveling a struggle. At one point I slipped but luckily I didn't go anywhere. We took our time through this section where we then headed what we could see what was the highest area. If another attempts the peak it is the only summit that looks less than Class 4. Once we spotted this summit area we ascended first through heather, then snow and then finally boulder. At one point we climbed up a 2-2+ boulder gully to what looked like the top of the ridge. We noticed a false summit to our left and then an open field to the right. I went to the field in the rubble where I spotted the true summit. The summit fever struck and I was on my way. Again it was another set of Class 2 boulder scrambling but nothing that approached Class 3.
Soon we were on the summit of Grindstone enjoying the terrific views from the peak. Clouds had moved in blocking views of Rainier, Glacier Peak and Baker but the Enchantments, Stuart, Eightmile and Ladies Peak were in good view. Both Don and I took in the views for fifteen minutes before heading down the mountain in order to both beat the weather and nightfall which was only 4 hours away.
Heading down was just as tough as heading up. We descended the boulder scramble in decent time but the scree field was quiet a task to traverse across. After the traverse going up that last 200 feet to the gap was quiet painful but we made it through very successfully. We found another hiker's trekking pole on the way down. Luckily he posted it on another website so we could look for it and my friend Don found it on the way back. We quickly headed down the mountain. At one point we ran into two deer. They stared at us but then after a minute went their own way.
We continued down the mountain this time at a faster pace in order to beat the sunset and the lack of light. It kept getting darker and darker so we both broke out our lights only to find that mine did not work. So we made quick of the rest of the trail down to the road. Once hitting the road Don turned on his headlamp and we cruised back all the way to car.
Overall it was a great trip. Don was great at leading us through the scree and on many of the other parts of the trail. I also want to thank him for that making that long drive. It was an incredible feat driving 3 hours climbing 10 hours and driving back three more. This was an awesome trip and I only wish I had more days in the week in which I could hit these mountains.