Manhandling Pickhandle Point
Pickhandle Point has been very high on my list ever since February 19th when I was stopped short by my own poorly picked route, and not very good snow conditions. Unfortunately due to few takers, very high avalanche danger, and a couple bouts of illness I never got my chance to really get back to this beautiful mountain. But my persistence finally paid off and once the avalanche conditions lowered and I could find the right combination of people then I was going to give it another shot.
Luckily my hiking schedule worked well with my friend Bryan (Maintenance Man is his name on this site) his girlfriend Megan (Firestar), and her friend Lora (with be a member soon). Bryan is probably one one the most fit hikers I know and he has good judgment in the mountains. Megan who was on the Crown Point trip, is really getting into summit bagging and mountaineering in a big away and her friend Lora looks like she is heading in the same direction.
We got a late start on this trip but with daylight savings I knew we were going to be at least on the summit before sundown. We took a similar route at first from the ski area. We headed up the closed lift hill up to the base of an area near a number of ski chalets. From there we followed a snowshoe boot-path up to Pickhandle Point. At first this was quiet easy when we on the path. But son we a hit a gully and the snow was a nightmare to break up through up the Basin. Bryan took lead here and really did an amazing job cutting a path up this deeply snow-covered gully. Even to follow his steps were quiet tough. We all though made it through this very hard stretch and though sweaty, we were still pumped about making the summit.
Once past that tough part we made it quickly to Pickhandle Basin. Once there we got our first view of our destination, Pickhandle Point. We also noticed all the cornices along the ridge. The 7 to 12 feet of snow which had fallen in these higher mountains had clearly made there impact and massive cornice at Pickhandle Gap were in full view from the Basin. We also notices a well picked out ski run that traveled up a another gully toward Pickhandle Point. We quickly made our way up the gully. Once through the gully we found ourselves in an upper basin. On the SP page I actually have the tracks lead to the lowest point on the ridge and then cut to the left to the summit. That is a very doable route, bit today we decided to follow the ski path up to the summit. Bryan did a good job kicking in the trail and following the ski path up to the summit ridge.
Once we made the ridge-line though we were greeted by a number of large cornices. The largest and most impressive though was the cornice that was on the true summit of Platinum Point. This cornice was quiet imposing from below and the route up to the summit was a little challenging. Bryan slowly took his time on this route and kicked in some great footsteps to the true summit. As we maneuvered through the trees and away from the heart of the cornices we slowly but surely made our way to the true summit. Bryan did a very impressive job of finding his way through the cornices and tree and picked a great route to the true summit of Pickhandle Point. Sure enough, though we had a late start we all soon on top of Pickhandle Point.
It was great to finally get to this summit. I often hate waiting for the right situation to attain a good summit. But today was definitely the right day. The views were somewhat limited because of the clouds and the occasional flurries but we were able to get a good shot of Crystal Mountain and Crown Point from the summit of Pickhandle Point. If anything, the clouds made the mountains look much more majestic. We spent twenty minute to enjoy our summit victory and really take in the moment. It was great to be on a good summit with great views and this hike really made my week. But like all mountaineering trips when you reach the summit you are only halfway there and we had to rush down to beat dusk.
Once off the summit walked a little ways and noticed how large a cornice the is which lies right on the summit. The cornice itself is roughly 20-30 feet tall at its lip and we were glad not to get very high on it. We had first traversed down the ridge until Bryan spotted a cool area to glissade and took a nice ride down the slope. All of us followed and I was the lucky guy to get the last ride!!! That was a great first glissade followed by another cool glissade just after that. Actually in a matter of just 10 minutes we had descended 500 feet.
After getting our last look up at Pickhandle Point we quickly marched back to Pickhandle Basin. On the way up this snow took a lot of effort but on the way now the trail was a whole lot easier and at this point we were just gliding down the mountain. Using our trail back on the flatter sections and the slight inclines also helped us down as well. Soon we were back at the same tough gully that Bryan kicked in on the way up. For this gully we decided to glissade down it which was a ton easier. It was last really good glissade of the day though only I did manage one more at the ski area. From here on it was just a nice snowshoe back to the car. After gliding down the mountain back to the car I got one last shot of my familiar 2011 hiking ground before heading back home.
I really want to thank all my friends for coming on this trip. The trip would not been the same without all of you and I hope we combine on many, many more this year. I also want to thank my friend Bryan for kicking butt on the trail for this trip. The while experience was great and I hoping many more in the coming months.