The Final Chapter of Mount Zekes
"Take risks not to escape life, but to prevent life from escaping."
"Good things take time, great things happen all at once!"
After 5 attempts on Mount Zekes I finally decided to give it a break for a while, which once the longest day of the year came around I figured that it would be the right time to make another attempt. Fortunately I was right this time, but it certainly did not come easily.
The first few attempts I didn't even get close to the summit, although the Second attempt I came pretty close but I did not want to go beyond the Point of No Returns (missing the final bus). The second time was the hardest of the Zeke's attempt, but I can safely say the 2nd hardest was this time.
A Rough BeginningEarly in the morning I meet Mark at the Everett bus station excited to finally get the job finished. On the bus ride to Gold Bar I would have said "This is it" but I remember all the other times, after all "Never say Never". Getting off the bus we begin the bike ride along highway 2, then turn off onto Reiter road which goes to the "trailhead" of this peak.
The night before going on the trip I tried to figure out exactly how to get to Lake Isabel which I finally decided to go right at the power lines. Unfortunately this ended up being a big loop, and a bit of a side trip. After biking a ways up the hill Mark did not seem to like biking up hill for a long time, so we found a spot on the side of the road and ditched the bikes and walked up the rest. At the end of the road everything seemed to check out as I had read online, which we entered onto a unmaintained trail. There was a fork that went right on the trail but it did not seem like the way due to how over grown it was so we went left which stayed at a constant elevation. Later on though we started to loose a lot of elevation which had both of us wondering why. We broke out the map and it looked as though the trail did loose elevation, but not as much as we were. As we were going down there was a steep section of the trail which I slipped on and got a scrape on my arm.
The trail eventually evened out and sure enough we were back on the road that goes to May Creek. "So much for trying to take the trail route" I told Mark as he got his first aid kit to disinfect my cuts. Ever since the last time I was there, I been without a first aid kit on my trips because it molded over after getting wet from May Creek. Once we got to May Creek once again the creek was rushing with tons of water, it almost seems to get bigger every time I see it. When Mark crossed it using the tree, he got one of his feet wet from the jump over spot. Once I saw this I decided to take off my shoes and socks and throw them over the creek and cross barefoot. The water was very cold and a bit swift, but I managed to get over just fine.
After getting my shoes back on we began the long switch backing road walk which we made decent speed on.
Mount Zekes Here we Come!After a few miles of road walking we then hurry over the creek bed and then into the brushy woods. By now because I had already been here quite a few times I knew the way to the boulder field well and knew what to avoid. At the base of the boulder field there was a little bit of Devils club, but for the most part was alright (Mark gives it a rating of Bush Wack 3).
The boulder field was covered with lots of moss, but still better than falling into snow holes. We then took a left at the top of the boulder field and once again went back into the woods with many bushes. Pretty soon we went into the gully which most of the snow this time was melted out, now it was a class 2/3 scramble up with loose rocks.
There was a section that was class 4 with some wet rock, although if we really wanted to we could have went up the steep slide alder but did not want to go through it. At the top of the gully things got a little steeper which Mark had to be careful not to knock any rocks down because I was below.
Going to the Summit
Wanting some MoreMark was feeling adventurous so at first we wanted to tag at least the middle summit of Mount Zekes (we already got the real summit). Mark ascended a 100 feet down or so down the snow slope, it would have been a bit sketchy for him to do with an ice axe, and certainly unsafe for me because I did not bring mine. Mark found a high point on the ridge to the east which he figured perhaps it may not have been climbed, so we went for it. We first followed our tracks and then went onto Mount Zekes east ridge. At first traveling up the slope was fine until I went past a snow moat and it got steeper which I started to become a little nervous. Mark could see that I was becoming a bit worried here so he came back down and handed me his ice axe. He had mountaineering boots which made snow travel a bit easier, I had only tennis shoes.
From here it was back to scrambling, which to our right was a bit of a cliff which is why I went a little slower here (I do not like taking risks that I don't have to, I always like to make sure every step of the way is solid). After a bit of careful scrambling we reached a class 4 section that had loose rock, below were a few trees which could possibly catch you, but there were big cliffs below that. Mark decided to go for it and climb it, but I personally did not feel comfortable of the idea of climbing loose class 4 here. The entire day I had been sweating which I lost a lot of water content, making me feel a bit weaker. Mark soon turned around due to getting cliffed out and down climbed back to where I was.
The Long DescentFrom here we scrambled back down the ridge and back to our tracks. Mark checked the time which it was about 5:00 p.m. We knew that we needed to hurry, so we can down the rest of the summit ridge to make good time.
Pretty soon we got back to the scramble section which we could not go quite as fast as we wanted, although we figured out a good method of retaining some speed. Every time we descended rocks would always go tumbling down thousands of feet down the gully in high speed which was dangerous for the person below (in this case it was Mark). So in a sense our descend was kinda like climbing, when ever I would go down Mark would be on the far side and I could rock glissade (although slowly because it was a bit steep). When I would get down to him, then he could then rock glissade down and I would wait for him to get a ways down. It was a interesting technique but it was much safer and it worked quite well.
After doing this for a while we finally got to the crux of the gully, on the way down I found a way down it that was class 3, but with a few spots I had to be careful on. Beyond here travel was much safer from rock fall hazard.
But just because it was safer travel didn't mean finding our way back was going to be east. Near what we thought was the bottom of the gully we turned off to the right. Mark and I have conflicting views of whether we went past our turn off point or whether we turned off before the turn off point. My personal opinion is that we turned off too early because I had been at this exact turn off before but it was snowy at the time and descended very fast here. But this time I decided to cut over far to the right through the forest to avoid some steeper terrain. This turned out to be a mistake.
Crawling over logs, going through bushes, and swatting mosquitoes the place became suddenly a bit annoying. Although I always had a good idea of where I was on the mountain by looking over at a landslide on the mountain across, I did have a hard time finding the boulder field. At one point there was a mini waterfall with a cliff which I had to carefully traverse and check out the slopes beyond which once again turned out to be a dead end. By the time we got to safer grounds it was 7:20 pm. "Oh boy! Mark, we gotta get down this mountain... FAST!" I exclaimed to Mark. As fast as I could now we were racing down the mountain. Unfortunately there were many obstacles such as fallen over trees, bushes, and slippery sections. But I had to jump over them at all cost, or else we would miss the final bus. Many of the trees were rotted which of course we all know what that means, when you crawl over multiple trees they snap and you have to be ready to catch yourself. The mountain side was absolutely covered in this kind of terrain, it was almost as if someone set up traps. The slope became more gradual as we went down, I knew we had passed the boulder field but also knew that we would reach the bottom one way or another.
Finally we reached the creek bed which was a relief, but at the same time there was no time to celebrate, we had to run down the mountain which I ended up getting terrible side aches as we were running. Eventually I was forced to slow down to a walk which Mark used his Iphone to check the bus website to see exactly how much time we had. A little over an hour left, this was a big relief, for a while we didn't have to go as fast. But as we were walking I kept track of time (without a watch, using a good sense of time).
After a few miles of road travel we get to May Creek. This time we got to use the nice tree crossing, although it was thinner than the other one but went all the way across. From here we did more running in order to get to our bikes in time, in my mind I was mapping out exactly what time we should be at the bikes, on the road, and of course at the bus stop. Looking above I could see Mount Index with the alpenglow, but literally could not photograph it because we were very pressed for time. Soon we were running up hill back up the loop we made earlier to get our bikes which once again the side ache was getting to me, and Mark wanted a minor rest which we walked for a moment and then got back to running again.
Finally we got to our bikes, got on, and biked down the road in speedy time. Biking down I felt so excited that we now had very good chances of making the bus, although sadly not enough time for me to go to the store next to the bus stop and get a drink (I was very thirsty at this point). When we got to the bus stop we had about 2-3 minutes to spare! We sure lucked out on this trip, I know I can say I certainly did. I could finally say Three Things: Good Job Buddy, What a Day, and at last I finally succeeded on Mount Zekes!