Mount Ellinor 2013-5-4
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As of Saturday, Mount Ellinor was in ideal condition for a safe snowy ascent with plenty of glissading on the way down. The road was snow free to the lower trailhead. Snow started about a mile up on the North side of the ridge that the trail follows (about 3400ft).
The huge glissade chute in the gully below the summit saddle was an exciting site as I left the tree line. Ascending that gully was probably the crux of the climb. Near the top the slope extended well past 45 degrees and large moats were forming against the rock on both sides. Luckily the snow pack was well consolidated, otherwise there would be substantial avalanche danger along this route.
When I exited the gully i turned to see what the pair in front of me was looking at, it was a large mountain goat lounging in the sun on a ledge in front of Tahoma. In the other direction the summit was visible,a few people nearing the top and a few coming down. There were two short hills from there to the summit, both complete with deep glissade chutes. By 10 am the snow was starting to soften in the sun. I watched a few folks glissade past, a long line of slush following them like a lahar.
The view from the top was spectacular. the heart of the Olympics are still covered in snow. Mount Washington's summit block and a few southern rock's on Ellinor had melted out. To the left of Mount Washington, Mount Baker was poking over the East shoulder of what i believe to be Mount Jupiter. There were far to many distant peaks in view to count, I couldn't even decide if Mount Olympus was one of them. Auto and I sat on the rocks and soaked up the sun at the summit for at least an hour. Occasionally cool winds from the North crested the ridge right into our faces, making me forget momentarily about the 80 degree temperatures below.
I had high hopes of continuing on to Mount Rose and Copper, but the ridge that separated us looked a bit more treacherous than the map contours suggest. I considered losing some extra elevation to the south to traverse below the treeline and the steeper terrain, but gave up after post-holing into at least a dozen fallen tree voids before even beginning the traverse. We stopped at a ledge just below the main gully for lunch and solar bowls where Automahn made friends with more people with food (big surprise). The three big volcanoes had begun to emerge from the haze that covered everything to the South and West, and while surveying the landscape I noticed Seattle in the distance.
I could feel the growing heat as we neared the parking area, which had accumulated another 10 cars or so. I think we were lucky to have missed the enormous crowds that I have read about. On the way home I made a quick stop in Shelton for a skydive at Kapowsin Air Sports, which more than made up for missing my 2nd and 3rd planned summits for the day.
~7 miles round trip