Taking a Chance to this Mount Washington
Wintertime can be very unpredictable and dangerous in the Pacific Northwest. This is especially the case when it comes to avalanche danger in the mountains. Storms hit the Cascades consistently and even though downtown Seattle averages barely 5 inches of snow a year (SeaTac the official measuring place 11 inches) the mountains in the area can easily average over 500 inches of snow a year. When the avalanche danger is very high in the higher Cascades you can either not go for be flexible. I prefer the flexible way, and this weekend was another one those weekends in which we had to be flexible.
This week’s third choice turned out to be the one we decided to go with. At 10 miles and 3000 feet plus of elevation gain, some on fresh snow with no tracks kicked in Stimson Hill and neighboring Mount Washington fit the bill perfectly. We were planning on doing some much higher mountains but things did not look so safe up high for the second week in the row so we decided to head for some decent off the beaten path summits that few people know about, Stimson Hill and neighboring Mount Washington.
Redwic, Cyohman, and I headed out very early for this summit bagging trip. Normally these two mountains would not interest any of us, but with more than ten feet of snow that has fallen in the past two weeks in the Cascades and a snowline that was sitting at 500 feet these two mountains were set for a great snowshoe trip. Often these lower mountains are to be best visited in these conditions. The snow often makes the views more dramatic and makes the mountains themselves look more impressive and special. We brought our snowshoes and made sure that we were ready for the long push up these mountains.
We got an early start to the not well marked starting point. Once we parked we got our gear ready for what could potentially be a very long slog up the two summits. To our surprise the logging road was actually plowed. The road being plowed helped us make great progress starting out. The road though stayed plowed though all the way up to about 100 feet below the summit of Stimson Hill. The road being plowed really helped us because we were in a major time crunch due to the fact that I had to be at work in the afternoon. Along the way up we had some peek-a-boo views of the neighboring valley and the Puget Sound. At times this mountain was foggy but during other times this mountain could be open with a shot or two of Three Fingers along the way.
We made it to within 100 vertical feet of the summit without needing snowshoes but the last little bit did require some snowshoes. Soon we were on the logged true summit taking in whatever views would open up of the area. Since we made good time we knew we had a chance at Mount Washington so we hurried on down to the road. From there we picked the logging road that lead extremely close to the true summit of Mount Washington.
Unfortunately our luck ran with the cleared roadway. I decided to take lead and break the trail heading up Mount Washington. I knew I was on a time schedule so I decided to push myself in break the trail. On occasion though I was going a little too quick plowing the snow on the slog but the road to me was quiet painful and the sun beating on it was making the trail breaking actually quiet hard on the way up. At one point I though of cutting up a steeper slope through some open woods but luckily Redwic and Cyohman smartly advised me not to because the now soupy snow would have been real hard to gain elevation. So we stayed on the road all the way up the mountain.
We did see one section where we took a nice shortcut through the woods but rising to the last stretch was slow going. The shortcut was a little tougher than I anticipated but we made it through the trees much better than in last week’s adventure up Taylor Mountain. We made the final stretch to the forested summit of Mount Washington. At one point this summit area was called Bald Mountain but this must have been twenty years ago because this summit is completely forest though there are some views just to the east of the true summit. We did not spend much time on this summit because there was no view and we were now on a time deadline. Chance though did remember to bring his Mount Washington “World’s Worst Weather” tee shirt. On the summit it was spitting flurries but it hardly fit the tee shirt. The shirt must be the Mount Washington in Oregon or the Olympics. There would be no other area in the country that has quiet the extreme weather that Washington has (LOL)!!!
We did not take long to head down from Mount Washington. As slow as it was going up is as fast as it was going down. Our group going down was very focused on getting off the mountain in time for our engagements. It was tough in some section dealing with the now soupy snow but we made great time going down. Just like pretty much all the way up I decided to kick in the trail all the way down the mountain.
The sun finally completely broke out just as we were in the saddle between Mount Washington and Stimson Hill. The snow at this point was becoming slush and it was hard to the maneuver. Thankful we were back at the plowed section before the slush really could start having an impact. From there it was a mixture of a fast walk and a slow jog down to the car. On the way down we did encounter some dogs but the three of us were another to keep the dogs away. Soon we made it back to the car just in enough time for me to make to work in time.
I want to thank both thank both Redwic and Cyohman for coming on this great trip. It was a double summit trip and the correct call for the conditions. I also want to thank Cyohman for driving on this trip. The whole trip came out great and I am looking forward to next week. Hopefully though the WE CAN BREAK INTO THE HIGHER COUNTRY SOON!!!