IntroductionWell I must be honest, 2011 has not been quiet the year I wanted it to be. I failed to do one of the ten must-do peaks I was planning on for 2011. I saw many of my friends go on a lot of great mountains while I was just working my two jobs and just dreaming about. I did though find a number of cool new summits in which I probably would have never been to if it was not for the fact that I was in the two job situation that I was in. I also finally woke BearQueen up to the amazing benefits of hiking and climbing in the mountains. I did get well over 60 summits this year, just not many that were jaw dropping or as inspiring as in years past. That looks to change in 2012!! But it best to end a year on a good note and for New Years that would going up Scout Patrol Peak.
Joel, Zephyr and I were looking for an obscure peak that we [i][u][b]THOUGHT [/b][/u][/i] would have low avalanche danger and would easy enough for a good snowshoe. For Joel this would only his second major snowshoe hike in his lifetime so I had to keep it on the easy side. The one thing going for him was the other snowshoe hike he was on was Little Saint Helens, located right next door. From the way it looked on the map it looked like a large part of this trip was going to be using a forest road most of the way up to the summit.
We started out in an open area right at the base of Humpback Mountain just below the bridge that goes over the John Wayne Trail. From there we just walked up the snow-covered Hansen Creek pretty much in the same fashion that we did to go to the Hansen Creek Trail. We did benefit from someone taking their 4X4 up the road but for the most part we were very thankful that we brought our snowshoes.
We did make one cut on the way up from the Borrow Pit to the Road above. What we ran into was not very fun. Deep tree wells and deep moats where an under snow creek was trickling made travel rather difficult. At one Joel fell into a tree well and was stuck in there for a couple minutes. Just to go 300’ of vertical took us 40 minutes.
After seeing those conditions and the struggle that came from that cut we decided to stay on the road right up to the last 300' zone to the summit. On the way up we did recognize some hoarfrost on the road. But looking at the angle and the tree coverage we felt pretty safe. It did help thought that four Extra-large wheel SUV's went over the block road and drove their SUV right almost to the end of the road near the summit. Not very visually pleasing but it did make travel dramatically easier.
We went off trail just before the end the road. It was there that I fell five deep into a snow trap where the seedlings potential cause the trap to develop. It was no fun trying to dig myself out of a 6 foot hole and it alarm both Zephyr and Joel. It was one of those brief moments in which I was completely caught off guard. Once we did get to the end of the road it was a solid 30-35 degree snow-climb up the partially tree northern section of the mountain. We stayed away from the eastern slopes because with the 6-12 inches of snow above the icy layer of snow we feared sliding a long way down. The angle did make this last little section tough but after competing with both the icy sections and some waves of deep snow we finally made it to the summit.
Once we got to the true summit we were able to enjoy the beautiful views from the top. For Joel it was his second snowshoe summit. For Zephyr and I the long streak of safe and successful summit and climbs continues. On our route we really did not see any major hint of avalanche, though we were cautious to stay mostly on ridge-tops and away from slope. The slope we were on was partial wooded and the snow was very solid. That being said there were a number of open slopes and even on our route some potential did exist. However we did notice a steep slope immediately to the east of the peak that was almost completely bare.
On the way back we stuck to the road the whole way down. We had seen enough of the off-trail conditions not to mess around with this mountain. We were also running low on time and with only three headlamps between us it was important that we stay on the wide road all of the way down the mountain. By the time we were heading down from the Borrow Pit there were a number of other trucks that were at that trailhead. From there we quickly headed all the way back to the car. The lack little bit back to the car was quiet icy. Joel who did not have micro spikes was having a very hard time dealing with the sheet of ice that he had to walk on top of to get back to the car. But just as nightfall had arrived we had made it back to the trailhead and were safe and sound.
ConclusionYet another great end to another wonderful day in the mountains. Winter often makes even the smaller mountains look very pretty. For this mountain wintertime is a special time and thankful all of us got to end our year on this peak. Little did we know that the day after this mountain would nearly took out two people that I had done many mountains with in the past.
I end this on a note. It is very spooky that we were on a mountain that kicked of an avalanche the next day. Add on to this that those two people who were caught in the avalanche were two that I have been on dozens of trips and I know that both of them are very good and very cautious hikers. I also know many of their loved ones and am very thankful that they are alive and well to tell there story to be able to go home to their loved ones.