Soaring like an Eaglet
For all of us in the Pacific Northwest, 2011 began on a great note weather wise. We had three straight days of sunshine and the temperature stayed cold enough to keep all the snow that we have received in the past week. I had to head to work later in the day so I was looking for a good mountain to go. Then I read a good trip report on another site by a very respected climber up here in the Pacific Northwest about the Eaglet. After looking at just a couple of pictures I knew I had to head up there. The thought of beautiful blue sky, snow capped mountains and snowy ridge made me daydream for hours, I knew I had to head up to check out the Eaglet.
The Icy Road Up
I compiled a great crew in Charybdis, Jimbopo, Josh and Mark Straub on this cool adventure. Despite a later than average start we started up the Eaglet early in the morning. Part of the reason was because the Mountain Loop Highway was extremely icy. No one could do over 30 miles per hour on the road or they would have ended up in a ditch. This 4 days after a weak snow storm hit the region. I guess no one here has heard of salt or it is against some law! To be honest that was the crux of the whole trip. But we took our time driving to the trailhead and made it there safely.
We pulled into the Heather Lake trail. The Heather Lake trail had just a dusting of snow but because it was icy I put on my micro-spikes for this part. The trail itself up to the cutoff is very well maintained and pretty popular. I was surprised to see there wasn't anymore snow on it considering the past week of snow and cold temperatures in the region. Once we hit a ridge-line we got off the trail and bushwhacked up the ridge. Charybdis realized that her dogs were not going to do well on this peak and decided to head to Heather Lake instead. We wished her well and headed on our way.
When we started this bushwhack might have had maybe an inch or two on it. It was quiet steep and there were a number of blow-downs on the bushwhack up the mountain. It should be noted that there is a formal trail or even a boot path to the summit. Therefore a bushwhack is required to attain the summit of the Eaglet. The lack of snow made this bushwhack slick in some spots. The ridge at times got quite steep at times and the footing was questionable at best. Because I had micro-spikes I kicked in the trail on the section of the climb to the summit of the Eaglet.
The good thing though was the higher we went the more snow there was on the ground. And because it hadn't snowed in four days the snow was firm and no snowshoes were required for this mountain. On the way up this mountain was mostly forested with little to no views. Once we got higher up the 1200 foot steep pitch which turned out to be the crux of the trip leveled out and the snow now was a comfortable depth for snow travel. We also benefited from another hikers snowshoe path and they beat down the snow enough for us not to sink deep in the snow. Well actually I did sink a couple of times but not too much.
The final section is a narrow ridge up to the summit. It is forested so it is not quiet a knife edge. However you would not want to slide off the western edge because I doubt you would stop until landing into a tree a hundred feet below. The views opened up on the final ridge and the climb up the last sub crew made the trip all the worthwhile. Unfortunately my camera froze here so I don't have any good pictures of this section. :(
Once we reached the summit we were blessed with peak-a-boo views of very close by Mount Pilchuck to the south and west as well as Three Fingers and others on the Mountain Loop Highway. The actual summit was mostly forested however about 100 yards to the south just before the ridge drops off of into gap between it and Pilchuck, a nice open field gave even better pictures of the Mount Pilchuck. The winter feel was a great place for us to take a small break and enjoy the mountain splendor of the Pacific Northwest.
After a nice 15 minute break it was unfortunately time for me to head back down. I had work in three hours and I needed to head down as quick as I could. So we headed down from the summit. I took a little caution on the steeper section, especially going down the last sub-crux of the trip. Despite the slower more cautious place through the slippery bushwhack we made good time heading back to the trail. I took a minor final on the steepest part of the bushwhack but I did not even receive a scratch on the way down. On the way down I ran into a large number of friends that I made over the years on other websites. Apparently they saw the same trip report I did and decided to check out the rarely climbed mountain themselves. Great minds think alike when it comes to the mountains.
Taking the trail back to car was a little more eventful for my friends than they would have liked. All of them were slipping on the ice that had formed on the trail and walking on it was quiet tough for them. For me even with my micro-spikes I could feel the ice beneath my feet. They took a couple falls on the way down but luckily they did not get hurt on the way back. We made it back where we them decided to head on back.
COnclusion and Thanks
I want to thank everyone for coming on this great trip. I wished I had capitalized on this weekend more but at least I got one day of sunshine in. I hope though this is not the last day for a while. I have BIG PLANS in 2011.