Hail to the Big Chief
Well it was yet another mixed weather day in Washington. Cyohma, Josh, Jimbopo and I were pumped about our successful trip last we and were ready for another awesome mountain this week. Unfortunately the weather was much warmer and the precipitation that was coming down was only rain. With conditions being mixed in the Cascades it was hard to tell which mountains would in winter mode and which mountains were in fall mode. So instead of trying to go for any really massive challenges where we could run into messy road conditions we decide to knock off Big Chief in Stevens Pass. At over 5800 feet Big Chief has a good view (when clear) and is at a ski area in case there was enough snow to glissade down the mountain. Since the ski area is closed we knew it was the best time to head for Big Chief.
Once we got to the trailhead we knew what we in for; slush. Jimbopo had become ill from the night before and after two times on the trailhead latrine in 5 minutes he called it a day. We went up the Pacific Crest Trail all the way up until we attained the ridge of Big Chief at 5200 feet. We saw our only clearing of sun today from this point. The Pacific Trail was well traveled and the snow on it was quickly becoming a slushy mess. For cyohma who just moved here from Maine, he was shocked at how the Pacific Crest Trail had so many switchback and was built in such a way that the grade never exceeded 10%. This is way different than the Appalachian Trail which has a number of very rugged sections especially in New Hampshire and Maine.
Once on the top of the ridge we basically follow the ridge all the way up to the summit. I am sure there is a boot-path from this point but the snow had covered most of it up. We basically went right up the first part of the ridge and then ran into some footstep which were kicked into the mountain. We continued to follow them past the last lift hill. Once past the lift we ran into a small slightly sketchy section where there was about three inches of loose rocks covering a scree field and traction was not very good. I decided to put on my micro-spikes for this section because it was somewhat poor footing. We side traversed this steep scree section to and reattained the ridge.
Once back on the ridge we follow the ridge all the way to the summit. The ridge walk was interesting and this ridge would have definitely required an ice axe later later in the year. I could only image the views from this ridge-top. Unfortunately it was foggy on top and the wind was really beginning to pick up on the summit rock. All of us took about thirty minutes to eat our food and get our gear ready to head on down the mountain. I would love to see this summit on a clear day.
Once down with our break we decided to head on back the way we came. The trip down was a little more interesting. The traction under our feet was much less from the slush and at time we were all tripping. Looking at the 40-50 degree at times rocky slope to the side we knew it might have gotten interesting if there was a full fall. We took our time going down this section and once past the hard sections we made good time to the ridge.
The Pacific Crest Trail now was a waterlogged mess We went down this trail a ways but as soon as we saw a safer ski trail we opted off the slushy waterlogged mess and headed down the ski trail. At this point the weather really began to pick up. The wind was starting howl as we were making our final trek down the ski paths. Finally we hit the bottom where we ran into Jimbopo now well rested from his homework and his sleep. He was feeling much better now and helped drive us who were tired from the wind and hike back.
I want to thank Mike for helping with the driving, and cyohma and Josh for making the trip up Big Chief. Hopefully on the next trip we will finally be able to see the beautiful Cascades in their full majesty. Awesome trips today and hopefully a better one next week.