"I see my path, but I don't know where it leads. Not knowing where I'm going is what inspires me to travel it." -Rosalia de Castro
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -Mark Twain
It is mountains like this that makes mountaineering such an exciting part of my life. When I heard that I had an opportunity to climb Mount Logan, I instantly knew that this was something special. My family and friends were telling me that they had never known anyone who wanted to go on as many adventures as me. My feet were still blister from all the climbing I had done during July, but when offered a great opportunity, there is no way that I can decline. After all this is my passion.
The weather had not gotten any better after Jack Mountain which is usual for the state of Washington. Even after halting the climbing date for Mount Logan, there was a point which we had to take a chance, hope for the best and go for it. This turned out to be a great decision. Yem came over to my house late in the day in order to get to the trailhead by night and get a early start for the hike though the Thunder Creek Valley. I had never packed so much food for a single trip before, but knew it would be necessary.
Day 1: Hiking through the Thunder Creek Valley
In the morning it was a cloudy day with some views of the mountains we could see through the trees. We started hiking from the Colonial Creek Trailhead at 6:45 a.m. along the Thunder Creek Trail. We were in for a 15 mile day with heavy backpacks, but at least much of the terrain was relatively flat. Along the way we crossed over Thunder Creek using the bridge provided (the creek is like a river) and saw many wild flowers along the way. Unfortunately we did not see many mountains because there would either be trees in the way or there would be too much cloud cover. The one bad thing about the thunder creek hike is that many of the miles feel the same with traveling through the same woods mile after mile. But at least I'm in the mountains with good company, fresh air, and am on a great adventure.
Along the way there were many creeks which I had to be careful for because I was wearing approach shoes that get wet easy, and I could not afford to make my blisters any worse than they were for this trip. We did take a few breaks along the way, although setting down the pack was pleasant on my shoulders, I was not a fan of all the mosquitoes when trying to get a bite to eat or drink. But it's to be expected during the month of July in the mountains.
It's neat to think that during the month of July I been in the mountains so often that it felt completely normal for me, almost as if it was a life style. Most people when making it to the top of a mountain are in a hurry to go back home and go about there daily lives, for me it's more the opposite. I find the life style of the city for me to be too dull and unattractive. Although I will admit after a while I do at times miss my family and friends, so I try not to be constantly in the mountains the entire summer, although perhaps most of the time.
After reaching the part of the trail called "Junction", we are at the half way point to Parks Creek Pass. From here we travel a little ways further only to reach a part of the trail which we have to loose a 1,000 feet of elevation. The thought that comes to mind is "wow, won't this be fun on the way back out". After going down to the valley floor we soon come to our camp site which is called Skagit Queen. From here we enjoy a nice dinner of hot chocolate, tea, salami, cheese, and top romen. That night I slept very good after about 15 or so miles of travel.
Day 2: Traveling into Snowy Lands
In the morning I woke up to a deer traveling around our tent as well as a squirrel running away as I got up. By the end of the previous day it had actually looked as though it would clear up, but over night it had gotten cloudy again. We got a late start at about 10:15 a.m. in the morning, the trail was in good condition although there was a few trees in the trail that we had to go over. While switch backing along the trail we came across an old mining house as well as a old pine line that went through many of the switch backs. As we got further in the valley we came across our first encounter of snow, this was a ideal place to leave the shoes behind and swap to climbing boots. There were many places where avalanche debris was covering the trail, although some dry patches of trail.
After this the valley vegetation increased dramatically making the environment look semi jungle like. From here we came across the thunder creek crossing, I was not in favor for getting my feet wet. We went a little ways back and found a nice log crossing, we had to do the old fashion sit and edge our way across. At one point my shorts got caught on it which slightly ripped them, but it was better than not using the log.
Now we were close to the Thunder Basin Stock Camp, we took a nice break and had to make a decision whether to go all the way to Parks Creek Pass or take a short cut and go straight up the mountain. We finally decided to take the more direct route and follow along the right side of the towering false summit (Point 8,000).
At first it was a little brushy entering into the woods, but as soon as we got onto the lower slope of Mount Logan, things became much nicer... or at least for the first few hundred feet. As we climbed up we used veggie belays and such to help keep us stable on the slope. Sometimes the ice axe would get caught, but even worse was when one of my backpack straps would get caught which I would have to maintain balance until I got it untangled. As we climbed higher we came across mini cliff bands and steep sections that made traveling tedious, it got to the point where I started to wonder if we would reach a point where we could not climb any higher.
After doing a bit of navigation we managed to get through without anything too dangerous. We went up a little ways further to the left and now where out of the woods and nearing the Fremount basin.
The clouds all around were getting darker which did not seem like a sign of the weather getting better any time soon. From here we hiked up the basin to a flat area around 8,000 feet high. As I broke trail it began to rain a little, further up the winds were picking up and it became colder. Keep in mind I was still in a t-shirt and shorts, but now I was on a slope that was a little steep to be taking off my pack, plus we were almost to our destination of the day. As the wind was blowing it suddenly changed to snow which my arms and legs were getting quite cold by this point. Once I got to the top of the hill I had to put on everything that I had to regain warmth. I had a hard time putting on my gear because my hands were becoming numb and I had to be careful about clothes blowing away. A moment later we found a flat spot which was great for setting up camp.
After stomping around for a while on the snow to make a flat spot for the tent, Yem started up cooking for dinner. Looking all around I couldn't help but feel as though I was in a winter wonderland. The sky was getting dark, and the fog continuously would pour in from the valley below. Only for a split second could we faintly made out Mount Logan through the clouds, it then went back to the same old cloudy views. After dinner we finally went into the tent to make attempts to sleep that did not come easy. As we talked I could see the flashing of lightning above, I was a bit worried but they seemed distant. After a while we finally fell asleep.
Day 3: Going for the SummitWaking up early in the morning the weather had not improved one bit, we decided that it would be best to wait out the storm before making a summit bid, even if that meant crossing the glacier late in the day. I rolled around a bit having a hard time going back to sleep only to realize that my air mattress was popped which is why I could feel a lump in my back. But it was still better than being at home. A few hours later I woke up seeing that it looked bright outside the tent, for a moment I was excited. When looking outside it was once again just bright fog with a few minor clearings from time to time. Eventually we got out of the tent when I spotted a clearing in the sky which raised hopes for some views. For about 30 or so seconds Mount Logan came into view which I frantically took some photos of the view.
And then back to the same old cloudy view. After watching the clouds for an hour, Yem and I noticed there was a pattern with how the clouds would blow in. First you would see a few holes, then a view of a few peaks, and then back to being socked in. Then it would repeat itself again.
Looking at my food supplies I realize that we have to summit today, plus I had another adventure lined up as soon as I got off this mountain. The mountain itself had not come back into view, so in a sense I was taking two risks if we went for it. 1: Not being able to see exactly where we need to go. 2: We risked not getting the incredible view of Logan from the summit. At the end of one of the clearings we finally decided that it was worth a shot, so we packed up our climbing gear, put on our harnesses, and made way for the summit.
It was 3 p.m. when we finally left camp. I was in lead which now all I could see was the lower face of Mount Logan with clouds all around and my partner. I knew from a earlier clearing that there were two gullies, which I went for the first one on the right assuming that it was the cross over spot for the ridge. After traveling up a snow slope we reached the bottom of it, it looked like class 4+ all the way up with a lot of exposure. Yem and I were not pleased with how it looked, we even saw a foot print in the dirt which seemed like evidence that it might be the route. "Hang on a second, perhaps there is another way" Yem finally announced. I decided to pull out my camera and look at former photographs that I took earlier in the day. Remarkably it helped us figure out where we were, and where we needed to go.
After down climbing off of the steep section, Yem suggested that I stay high on the snow ridge. This turned out to be a very good idea. As we travel along the ridge, it felt as through we were constantly going to the right. Almost as if it was endless. It was at this moment that I thought of a quote "I see my path, but I don't know where it leads. Not knowing where I'm going is what inspires me to travel it". It was exciting traveling the ridge, faintly through the fog I could see it glowing. Pretty soon I came across what appeared to be a cornice, when deciding to travel on it to my relief it was the hogsback. We were officially on the route again.
From here we climbed over the Hogsback and on to a section where we had to cross over the ridge. We took off our crampons and left our ice axes to save weight. We knew that any snow on the east face would be too treacherous to be traveling on which is what made leaving gear a acceptable choice. Once we crossed over onto the east side of Mount Logan the terrain suddenly became quite rugged, I'll admit that for a few minutes I became a bit nervous. After finding some good scramble spots I became comfortable again, this was perhaps the best class 3-4 terrain I have ever been on. Despite the exposure, the rock was remarkably solid. After making a few careful moves and looking back down, I smiled in excitement. The climb was on.
Once past this section it became flat with a bit of exposure. We carefully traversed this spot and came to a snow field. Yem announced that it would be best to stay as much to the left as possible to avoid the snow. From here it looked like we were virtually at the summit. But like many mountains when fog covered, it was a teaser summit.
Yem and I had to do a bit of a down climb move to continue along the ridge, but fortunately there was not a whole lot of exposure here. From here there was one last traverse with a scramble ending with more fun moves. We were officially on the summit. I was in awe that we had made it.
It was getting late in the day, so we decided to spend only enough time on the summit to have a quick snack and mini celebration. Going down was much easier than I had expected. On our way down we could see clouds rising in fast motion, and soon enough we got a major clearing.
This was the moment we had been waiting for all along, the views of mountains kept pouring in through the clouds. It was more beautiful than if it had been clear skies all day. When crossing over the ridge I could see that the Hogsback was glowing brightly with a ultra contrast lighting to it. "It doesn't get much better than this" I whispered to myself as I descend onto the slope below.
From here it was a easy descent back to our camp which this time we got to travel on mostly flat terrain due to us being able to see where we were going. At camp Yem boils the water for my top romen, when it finally cooled down I got to enjoy the sunset with glowing peaks with tasty warm food. This in my mind was an example of a moment of perfection in the mountains. We took photos until our hands became too cold from the cool air, and we then went to sleep feeling great from an amazing day.
Day 4: The long journey HomeIn the morning I woke up around 5 a.m. Normally when this tired I would go back to sleep, but I very much wanted to see the sunrise. So I put on my boots and scrambled up a few hundred feet to get views of Jack Mountain as well as a few others. Then I went back down to camp to see the rest of the views during the sunrise.
From here we knew that we had a long day ahead of us with over 20 more miles of traveling left. After breakfast we packed up camp, refilled water at a near by creek and were ready to go. I'll admit the descent was a bit hard on my ankles and knees because of the crampons on the hard snow on steep slopes. Below us were still come lingering clouds in the valley below, ironically now I was wishing for some cloud cover to help made going back a bit cooler. After all there are not a lot of views from the woods even when there is no cloud in the sky.
Once we were near the pass, Yem decided to take a short cut down one of the side gullies. This turned out to save us time, although it had an interesting section near the bottom. It was a little bit difficult with crampons on, we had to travel over a tree with a mini water fall that had to be avoided.
Many miles later of traveling through the woods we finally reach the part that we all dreaded. The 1,000 feet of elevation gain. This was certainly one of the hardest parts of the trip, plus the fact that it was hot out did not make things easier. After pressing on for hundreds of feet up the hill, I was becoming quite tired by this point, as well as my shoulders hurting (I know, I sound like a complainer. But I want the audience to know that just because it was the way back doesn't mean it was easy).
After another mile or so we reached Junction, from here we decided to cook our last meal of the trip. Unfortunately not only were there lots of mosquitoes, but there were lots of black flies. I kept getting bite marks all over my legs (even a week later they were still itchy). This made it hard to sit in one place during lunch. As soon I was done, I was wanting out of Junction to get away from the bugs. For the next 9 miles we ran down the mountain, I'll admit it was a bit monotonous, but I was still having fun. After more hours of walking through the woods we finally reach the trailhead. "Finally I can rest" I announced as I take a bite into a cookie that I had a stash saved up for me for the ride home. As I start to fall asleep I realize "My adventure is not yet over, tomorrow I have a climb for Vesper Peak, and the next day Mount Rainier". I smile at the thought that I am having an amazing summer with never ending adventures.