This was perhaps the most difficult peak of the Mountain Loop Highway that I have ever done. The trip ranged from bushwhacking to snow climbing and ended with steep dirt near the top. Thunder storms were predicted in the forecast which even with this factor this was our best shot at Morning Star.
After getting back from Colorado my buddy Gimpilator invited me on this trip which we had been wanting to do for many years. The weather in the morning was mostly clear with a few scattered clouds.
Morning Star Video created by Gimpilator
Bushwhacking to Morning StarWe started out at the Sunrise Mine trail and hiked .3 miles to the Stillaguamish River. After this the trail began to slowly fade away as we started hiking into bushes. I don't mind casual bushwhacking, but once it gets to the point where I'm constantly getting cut up it starts to get out of hand. As we hike towards Del Campo Peak, the sticker bushes start up as well as the mosquitoes. Eventually I decided to put on gaiters to protect my legs. An hour and a half later we break out of the sticker bushes and cross the Stillaguamish River.
We passed by the "House Rock" which is where the entrance gully up Morning Star is. Thank goodness the bushwhacking gets much friendlier on the mountain itself. After a few minutes the gully forks which is when we head left. There was a few times I fell due to the slick rocks and bushes.
The Upper MountainAbout 2 hours from when we crossed the river we arrive on the snow which slowly traverses south and marks the end of the bushwhacking. I was very happy to be on snow as well as being able to get views of the surrounding peaks. As we arrive onto "Morning Star Basin" we see a large forming thunder cloud. Gimpilator and I are not quite sure whether to turn around or not. If this was a casual outing I would be totally fine with going back. But we endured quite a deal of bushwhacking and to have to turn around when were almost there... hmmmm. I then proposed the idea of waiting it out.
As we wait on a rock we hear the booming of thunder and see dark clouds heading over. A moment later it begins to rain which we throw on our jackets. Not too long later it stops and the clouds pass which gave us an opportunity to proceed for another hour or so until the next storm came in. From here we went up the rest of the basin and up the first "gully" to a saddle. From here we went down a little ways to enter into the second gully.
Further up the gully it begins to rain but fortunately no thunder. The snow ended at the top of the gully which we took off our crampons. At this section I used veggie belays to climb up. I got a bit stuck in a tree because of how thick they were and only one spot was safe for crossing them (Gimpilator took a better route here). After this came the crux of the climb.
Below us was steep terrain and cliffs making it necessary for us to be as cautious as possible. I decided to put my crampons back on which Gimpilator joined me. There were not very many good holds (bushes) so the crampons into the dirt was most of our traction. I used my ice axe to high dagger the dirt for a few holds at one spot. After we got past the crux it was an easy walk the rest of the way to the summit.
Heading DownAfter spending a while on the summit we carefully climbed back down the crux which was much easier on the way down. I avoided the tree area to prevent me from getting stuck again (especially with crampons on). The weather was cooperating well by this point. The rest of the way down the upper part of Morning Star was plunge stepping with a little bit of down climbing. Once we were back in the bushes I kept my crampons on to prevent myself from slipping. Once we crossed the river it was back to the bushwhacking though sticker bushes. It went on for what felt like hours which thankfully I had an ice axe to move some of the sticker bushes. There were times were we found the trail and then would loose it again. Eventually we arrive back into the woods and then on trail! Oh how it was so nice to be back on trail. Then it was an easy walk back to the car.
Although experiences like this can be a bit miserable at times, it really makes one appreciate the luxury of trails and for the folks who donate there time to maintain them.