Winter in the Pacific Northwest much of the time get depressing with the constant precipitation moving through in the wintertime. But when it is sunny in winter and there is snow in the mountains there is no other place in the world I would rather be then Washington State. I will pick one sunny winter day in western Washington over 30 in other places in the United States because the mountains here can really light up and show their true winter beauty like few other places in the world. Case in point would be Bullion Peak and Crown Point. These two peaks really do give excellent three volcano views of hundreds of peaks on a clear day and make for excellent summits to explore.
It had been almost a year since Gimpilator and I teamed up on a really good summit. Though we nearly combined on many incredible peaks such as Sahale, Glacier Peak and North Ingalls my work schedule never gave me enough time for us to combine on some cool climbs. But with the approach of winter most of the great summer climbs are much harder to get to and now that Gimpilator is back after conquering a ton of incredible South American peaks we could now combine for a good couple summit. I also invited Firestar, an experienced hiker who recently made the move out west to give a shot at true mountaineering. I was very fortunate in that many people showed me the ropes of how to mountaineer out here in the Cascades and I am always very thankful to give another climber at shot. With Gimpilator, who was a former guide and I, I knew she would be OK.
We starting out with a couple delays. First was the fact that I did not get out until 9:30 am from work and the second was due to thinking there was a gas station at Crystal Mountain only to find out this was not (we had to buy gas from the lodge at $6.00 per gallon). We finally hit the trail around noon and quickly headed up the Bullion Basin trail. The snow up was very firm and time it was to the point of near icy which made for some struggle with traction. Snowshoes here were clearly not needed but microspikes did come in handy here. Though this is the third time up Bullion Basin it was still a great treat to get up to such a magical area. Once we hit Bullion Basin we got a good view of our first objective, Bullion Peak.
Getting up Bullion Peak this time was quiet different from last time. For Firestar this would be her first true ascent with an axe. We stayed close to her and showed the proper positions of the axe as well as how to arrest. Last time we were sinking in deep snow with a heavy stiff wind behind us. This time it was sunny as we took virtually the same trip up the to the ridge-line and then traversed the ridge to the summit. Where last time we only had a two minute window between the storm when we could see blue sky, this time it was all blue sky and great views from the summit. Firestar was trooper especially in the one steep section where we had to ascent the ridge. She really hung in there and made it to summit in good time. Though I would say that nearby Platinum Peak had the best views, the views from Bullion are more than worthwhile. The best shot though from Bullion was the shot the peak had of Crown Point in the foreground and Mount Adams in the background. Between that shot and the one of Rainier, Bullion Peak is definitely a worthy winter summit.
It was great to see Gimpilator and Firestar to get a great summit but for me I had my eyes on nearby Crown Point!!! From Bullion Peak, Crown Point looked like a good peak. Luckily to get from Bullion to Crown Point required just a quick into the saddle and then a rise ridge traverse to the summit of Crown Point. The only danger was the fact the ridge was filled with large cornices. Luckily we stayed off them but someone ski tracks were dangerous close to the edge of many of them and to be honest the guy who was skiing there was quiet lucky to be alive. It is key to stay as far off a cornice edge as possible and this skier's tracks were way too close to the edge. We carefully navigated up to the summit of Crown Point and then for me the goal was attained.
Crown Point and Heading Down
I finally got my Crown after making it Platinum two weeks ago. :) The summit views of Crown Point did not disappoint at all! Great three volcano views could be seen from this great summit as well as better views of nearby peaks in the Crystal Mountain area. Now came the great descent to Pickhandle Basin below. We took the open windswept ridge all the way to the gap. At first this looked steep and tricky. But once we stared down the ridge it actually was not bad all. We even found a very good area for Firestar to learn how to self arrest from the forward backwards and in the glissade position.
Once in the gap we had to find a safe spot to descend. Though the slope was steep we decided to down climb at first in a mostly treed area in order to avoid an avalanche danger. But then with good check at the snow, the fact that the snow was solid and there was no sunlight on it and the temperatures were below freezing we decided to take a nice 400 foot glissade down the slope.
I headed down first while Gimpilator stayed back to help out Firestar with the glissade. It was great to see Firestar do a couple of self arrest on the way down. She really picked up the use of the ice axe which is great for future climbs. From there we continue to head down to Pickhandle Basin. We knew we were close but we had one more steep section before we were home free.
At this point we kept going down until we hit one very steep section. From there we headed to the left and picked up a slippery but very doable steep slope back down the mountain. At that point we finally hit civilization by way of a number of ski homes. Once on the road we took it right to the ski lift which was now close. We made to the ski lift just before dusk and we did a combination of hiking and glissading all the way down the lift to the lodge. It was starting to get dark but nightfall sometimes bring the beauty out in the mountains. It was also great riding a nice glissade back down to the car. It should be noted that is can only e done when the ski area is closed. If open you risk potential issues on the property. We made it back to the car before 6 pm and soon were on our way back.
What an awesome six hour trip. In it was two summits, snow climbing, large cornices, beautiful sunshine, great glissades, evening glissades and terrific views. It was a great action packed half day and one of those days I wish would never end. The team worked out perfectly and all of us had an awesome time. I want to thank Firestar for coming out, driving, and kicking butt on this trip. I also want t thank Gimpilator from coming on this trip as well and help teach Firestar much of the basics of winter mountaineering and snow-climbing. Both of you are awesome and hope this group combines on many more awesome trip. All of us had, fun, safe and successful trip in the mountain. Nothing more to say but that it was truly an achievement worthy of a Crown!