Sunshine on Stormy Mountain (Entiat)
I was on the road with the dogs by 4 a.m. for the long drive from Seattle to the Entiat, looking for some sunshine and hoping to complete a hike we started about a month ago. Highway 2 over Stevens Pass had areas of ice and snow so we took the slightly longer route over Snoqualmie and Blewitt, lending an early perspective on the crappy weather on it's way from the coast. The Entiat River Road was slightly icy above 1500' which had me questioning the drive-ability of the forest roads to come. When we arrived at FS-5301 I was optimistic about what looked like an inch or two of powder covering the gravel road, but tires were spinning within the first twenty feet. I parked at the junction after some struggling and began booting up the road, which turned out to be covered in an inch of solid ice disguised under 1/2" of fresh snow. Microspikes were essential from the get go.
Stormy Mountain and Devil's Backbone quickly came into view as we rounded a corner into the sunshine. About 2 miles up I came upon a memorial to Thomas F. Beebe, who led the recovery efforts after a wildfire devastated the forest around Perry Creek in the 1970's. From there I could see several ridges leading to the summit. We left the road a mile or so later and began ascending a partially forested ridge. We crossed several overgrown roads as well as one clear road that did not appear on google maps.
As we climbed through a rocky section, Tyee Ridge and the West end of Four Mile Ridge came into view. Only a few inches of snow covered the South facing slopes just below the saddle between Devil's Backbone and Stormy Mountain, but wind swept powder rapidly increased to several feet deep at the top of the ridge. I switched to snowshoes and continued toward grey clouds forming around the summit. A large dark cloud mass was sweeping over the Cascades, making the 4 hour drive from Seattle seem like a small price to pay for a hike in the sunshine. On the other side of a large clearing filled with downed trees I followed an obvious trail that switched back and forth through fairly thick forest the rest of the way to the top.
The temperature dropped and wind picked up for the last few hundred feet, allowing for a firmer surface. The the dogs started zooming around, clearly stoked to be out of shoulder deep powder. With no views to be had we didn't stay on the summit long. We began our descent on the long ridge just North of the South Fork Perry Creek. The deep powder continued down to almost 5000 feet, a welcome change from ascending through it. We stayed to the right of the ridge to avoid extra elevation over a few bumps and turned straight down the hillside through thick new-growth. The forest only got thicker as we descended, but I realized my mistake too late and was not interested in climbing back up through the stuff. We passed over 3 roads that seemed like it would be even worse travelling and 1200' of bushwhacking later we finally reached a road with a slight trail through the brush, complete with orange tape hanging every few hundred feet.
Once we returned to FS-5503 it was an easy downhill road walk back to the truck. Two pairs of boot tracks had followed us to the memorial site where they turned around, meaning we had the sunny mountain to ourselves all day. Cameras at Stevens Pass showed no snow or ice on the road and there were no vehicle restrictions so we returned via Highway 2 but low clouds and darkness obscured the beautiful views along the way.
13 miles round trip
5500' elevation gain
9 hours car-to-car