The StatsSan Juan Hill
Equipment Used: Ice Axe, Trekking Poles, Snowshoes (me),
Elevation Gain: 2400
Distance: 5 miles
Ostacles: Tree Bombs, Tree Traps and Rings, distance roars of avalanches
With another week comes yet another interesting summit adventure. This week’s adventure is the reenactment of Battle of San Juan Hill. This summit came with complete with dropping snow bombs and the cannon like sounds of avalanche falling off neighboring mountains. As we battled this summit we battle through fierce sunshine, nasty postholing and at times syrup style snow which was not the May Cascade Crust which we have grown accustomed to in the Northwest.
The warriors’ names were EastKing, Redwic, Gimpilator, and hopefully future member Aaron. The goal was winning the battle and summiting San Juan Hill. After driving to the Wild Sky Wilderness we stop at the trailhead of Jack’s Pass. All of us here were not expecting in terms of views from this mountains due to the fact that based in pictures of the mountain, it did not appear that there would be any summit views except some of the clear cuts. The mountain also looked like a fairly easy summit to bag and that we were going to make quick work of it. The peak itself didn’t look very attractive especially from neighboring Frog Mountain.
Well off we go from the parking lot with our rise up San Juan Hill. The trip up began off on an old snow-covered dirt road. It was quick to see on this road though that there were going to be great views. Kyes Peaks of the Monte Cristo Group was standing tall off in the northern distance off on one of the many road clearing and Silica and Frog Mountain controlled the eastern skyline. The snow here easily made this trip so much prettier than it would have been in summer here. We continued up this road until it leads to fairly moderate gulley. We decided to take the gulley as a cut up to the next switchback, staying away from the middle due to the rapid warming of the snow. It was a little slow coming but the snow was stable here and we were starting take control of this battle up San Juan Hill.
We than stopped by a second crossing of the road. After checking the slopes for possible avalanche risk, we decided to continue rise up the forested slope. Rising up here we kept dogging deep tree rings, which acted as traps as we rose up the mountain. With the rapid warming of the snow, we kept an ear for possible warning sounds below our feet and a lookout for bent trees and possible loose debris. It was a little bit of a slow go but Gimpilator did an excellent job leading us up the slope and preventing us from falling into tree traps. Redwic kept an eye on his GPS the entire way up to make sure we stayed on course. Along this section there were decent views easy and southeast of many peaks in the Wild Sky Wilderness.
On the final leg of the Battle for the summit of San Juan Hill we hiked up an old growth forest. Though the slope was moderate here the snow was considerably harder here and was firm enough to make nice kick steps up the mountains. We attained the ridge here and were greeted with great tree framed shots of the Monte Christos, Bear Mountain and of other taller peaks of the Wild Sky Wilderness. Though we were constantly dodging tree bombs, this leg of the trip looking at west was quiet a pleasant surprise. The only unnerving thing was hearing the constant avalanches from neighboring steep Bear Mountain. I hope no one was even thinking of trying this mountain today, because it they did they probably would have been dead. That roar noise was quiet a sound and the reason why we were looking for gentler slope back.
After crossing the ridge we came to the final 125-foot summit cone of San Juan Hill. This section was of steep firm snow, and a section where I ditched the poles and the snowshoes I was wearing briefly and decided use my ice axe to self belay myself up the steeper snow. The snow held well and within a couple of minutes all of us were standing on the summit. It should be noted that the summit itself lived up to expectations in that it barely had any other views. However much of the trip up as well as on the ridge had quiet amazing views of the beautiful Wild Sky Wilderness. WE WON THE BATTLE OF SAN JUAN!!!
After taking in our victory dance of being in one of the views areas without killer views (the summit). We decided to take the gentler sloping northern ridge down. This was the best idea of the whole and special thanks for Redwic for finding this route down on his GPS. We started by retracing our steps down the northern ridge. The slope went down for the most part but then went up at one point to clearly the highlight of the trip. Gimpilator and I decided to investigate one area that looked like a possible little sub-peak. What we found ourselves was a terrific west facing 220-degree panoramic open area. This open sub peak gave us close-up views of the constant avalanches on Bear Mountain and others. It also gave us a deep look west and north at the Wild Sky Wilderness, the Monte Cristos and Glacier Peak. Clearly a wonderful unexpected surprise.
We then continued down the northern ridge. This trip down was slower going due to the fact that the slopes were getting steeper. Luckily we were in a well-forested old growth forest with trees up to 200 feet tall. The slope here was very stable and we made a save decent here. We did pop out of the old growth but by that time we were on a more level slope making for safer navigating down the mountain and lower avalanche risk. At one point on our return trip we could clearly see our car, which helped us with our bearings heading down the mountain. Aaron and I did a couple quick mini glissades here and we were starting to make a faster pace back down the mountain. Soon we hit the fire road again and were back at the car shortly after.
Well the Battle of this San Juan Hill was won and we have a ton of pictures of this gem summit. We passed through the tree bombs, the tree rings and the constant roar of avalanches from neighboring mountains. Most importantly we had a great, safe fun time on another not well-known treasure. I'd like to give a special thanks to all for yet another time in the woods.