President's Day weekend of 2007 Austin Tim, Colton Ranson, Matt Voll, and myself set out with one small goal: to summit Granite Peak. The weather forecast called for great weather Saturday and most of Sunday, but turning harsh overnight Sunday and Monday. We arrived at the trail head on Friday evening around 10:30pm and made it to the boarder of the Beartooth wilderness area around 12:00am. The weather was surprising warm that evening for mid February, which came as a pleasant surprise. With dreams of the summit in our head we settled down for a not so long winter's nap.
We awoke the following morning a bit behind schedule (9:00am) to the unnerving sounds of wind rushing through the trees. However, upon closer inspection of the skies it was sure to be a bluebird day. We set off toward Mystic Lake encountering much less snow than anticipated. It was a comfortable boot back the remaining 2.5 miles with virtually no post holing. As we crested over the rise above mystic lake (which we aptly named the funnel due to the funneling effect it had on the wind, 50 mph sustained on the trip in and gusts of 80mph on the way out) the strong presence of wind continued to concern us all. We tuned into our backcountry weather radio to hear an affirmation of good weather until Sunday night. The trail was soon lost under drifting snow, thus we headed along the lake shore to avoid deeper snow in the timber. At the point where we were directly under the the headwall leading to the cirque below Froze to Death Plateau we strapped on the snow shoes and headed up. We soon crossed paths with the trail which had the faint remnants a trench made by a earlier party. The trench soon faded and the trail was found by the break in the trees as it headed up the 29 switch backs. We had been making great progress until this point at which even a 30 inch snow show could not keep me from sinking through drifts up to my knees. After several hours of postholing we made it to the cirque where we decided to make camp. That evening we determined that a summit attempt was out of the question and that the following morning we would re-adjust our sights to mystic mountain atop Froze to Death Plateau. The winds again strengthened and nightfall fell.
That morning we awoke to strong winds despite our sheltered amongst tall pines. We wanted to make it to the summit of Mystic Mountain by 12:00pm to avoid getting caught in bad weather on an exposed ridge. As we began to climb the cirque headwall to Froze the Death Plateau conditioned only worsened. Once we climbed above the tree line, wind of 30-40mph sustained and blowing snow added to the epic feeling of our trek. As 10:30 rolled around the bad weather predicted was already making its presence known. The winds gusted so strong at times it was nearly impossible to stand, and dark clouds began to close in from nearly all directions. With the story of the recent Mount Hood tragedy fresh in our minds we decided to call it a day. We posed for the typical group photo and headed back toward base camp some 1100 feet below. By the time we reached camp, Mystic Mountain and the head wall were already engulfed in clouds, reaffirming our decision to head back. After breaking camp we headed down the trench we had created the previous day. The hike was fairly uneventful. Once we reached the car at the trail head the sight of a valley consumed by clouds gave credit to our decision to turn back.