A long day with beautiful views and abundant wildflowers

Page Type
Trip Report
Washington, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Jul 31, 2005
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70.83% Score
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Created On: Aug 1, 2005
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This was a Mazama Climb. We carpooled up on Saturday to spend the night at a cabin near Lake Cushman owned by a couple who was part of the climb group. On Sun morning I got up around 3:45am and we left for the trailhead at 5 am. The TH for the Putvin trail is along the Hamma Hamma Rd. and we reached it at 6am. This trail was quite an eye-opener for me in terms of its level of difficulty. It started out along the White Horse creek and quickly started ratcheting up the steepness. The first couple of miles were like interval training on a treadmill. It would ramp up steeply then level out for a bit then another steep ramp. We got some good views of Mt. Pershing through openings in the trees. This initial section climbed 1000 ft until we reached an abandoned forest road. We now entered a thick forest in the Mt. Skokomish Wilderness. The trail really started showing its true colors in this section. It headed unrelentingly uphill at a very steep angle with lots of roots and steps punctuating it. The dark and gloomy forest made it feel like going up a tunnel. It reminded me a lot of the steep section on Mt. Defiance -- same angle and same lack of switchbacks. The trail climbed close to 1500 ft before breaking out into the open at a flat bench at about 4000 ft level. The views were pretty nice here with a waterfall on the left side and lots of flowers. Small white pearly everlasting, yarrow, pink vetch, penstemmons, tiger lilies etc. One could also see some low peaks surrounding this flat bench. The flat section was all too brief and then the trail charged up the headwall in the steepest section yet. It included some 3rd class scrambling up a couple of rocky sections. I can only imagine how hard it must be with a 40+ lb pack strapped on. After we climbed up the headwall the trail flattened out. We crossed a stream where I filtered some water having polished off 2 litres of gatorade on the climb. We then entered flower-filled meadows in what I would call the pay-off section of this hike. The meadows were a joy to behold after the gruelling climb. Expansive views to Mt. Skokomish and Mt. Stone. St. Peter's Gate was a clearly visible notch on the right side of Mt. Stone. There were some pretty muddy patches along this stretch of trail. We soon reached a small pond and the national park boundary. The climbers guide book suggests going up a climbers trail towards Peter's Gap from the park boundary but we couldn't spot any trails despite scouting around and scanning the slopes near St. Peters Gate with a binocular. After this we climbed yet another steep section. However this section didn't feel quite so bad because of a wild profusion of flowers. It was really one of best wild-flower displays I had seen in quite a while. We soon topped out at the Lake of Angels. Originally our climb leader had ruled out any possibility of visiting the lake so I was kind of glad we had missed the climber trail. The teardrop-shaped lake was set in a spectacular steep-walled basin under Mt. Skokomish. I quickly snapped a few photos while the leader scouted out a route towards St. Peters Gate. We ended up heading cross-country along flower-strewn slopes. Everything from blooming heather to dense patches of paintbrush flowers made this a very pretty walk. It was a little tricky to find good footing on the steep slope. We then entered a big section of lava boulders and were ordered to dig out our helmets and put them on. The boulders were fairly stable and consolidated so it wasn't too difficult to cross them. We took our time negotiating the boulders and eventually reached the slopes beneath the gate. There was faint climber's trail here and it angled up along the base of Mt. Stone to the left. The going here was pretty dicey with loose scree slopes. My left leg started to cramp up with all the slipping and sliding. The traverse seemed to go on forever and I started to lag behind. We had been hiking non-stop across rough terrain for nearly two hours since the Lake of Angels and I was beginning to tire. However the leader was in no mood to stop. Understandable given the rock-fall danger. Finally I reached a point where I just didn't want to continue with this slog and told Paul (the climb leader) that I was done for the day. He wasn't too happy with it but told me to go down to some snow patch well away from a rocky chute below which we were standing. I suggested an alternate site with a big rock overhang and he reluctantly allowed me to stay there. The group vanished around the corner and I took off my pack and prepared to eat lunch and chill for a while. However I had hardly dug out my sandwich when Jim shouted that they had found me a nicer spot with good views if I wanted to come over there. I walked over to this point which was like 5 minutes away and was blown away by the expansive views into the heart of the Olympics. I could see Mt. Olympus and Mt. Anderson as well all the surrounding ridges with dozens of impressive peaks and spires soaring into the clear blue skies. It was a truly uplifting sight to behold and I felt pretty energized after looking at it. Turns out that this was the base of the climbing route up Stone. I looked at it and it didn't look bad at all. It was firm rock, not the loose chossy shit we had been traversing on for the last hour. I asked Paul if I could dump my pack and join them, he was a bit reluctant at first but relented after asking me to put on my harness. I quickly dug it out and put it on, however Andrew the climb assistant double-checked it and found I had messed up the leg loops so I had to straighten that out. Then we scrambled up some fairly steep rock slopes using abundant hand and footholds. After a 150 ft or so of scrambling we came to saddle with a small snow field. We crossed it rapidly to reach the base of the summit pinnacle. Here the route became unclear and Paul led us through a narrow cleft on the left side to a very exposed ledge several hundred feet above a snowfield. Here he went up a fairly steep crack to scout out the terrain and set up a handline. Everybody was ordered to put on their harnesses. I was feeling pretty scared at this point and wondering what the hell I had let myself in for. Paul soon called us from above and told us to backtrack since he had found the main climb route and it was behind us. So we scambled back through the narrow cleft and found Paul standing above a very steep 20-30 ft section. Apparently this was the climb route because it had a big cairn at the base of it. We had missed it because the cairn was built right at the base of the pinnacle and melded into the background. I was the first to go up it. I focused on not looking down and just concentrated on finding hand and footholds one step at a time. Before I knew it I was standing next to Paul. He told me follow the straightforward slope to the summit and sign-in at the summit register. I followed the directions and soon emerged onto the summit. The 360 degree view was absolutely amazing. The whole Bailey range as well as the interior of the Olympics spread in one direction. Skokomish, Pershing, Elinore, Washington, Bretherton, the Brothers, Cruiser and countless others. In the distance the sprawl of Puget Sound, Downtown Seattle, Hood Canal. And Beyond that the entire Washington Cascades from St. Helens, Adams, Rainier, Gl. Peak, Shuksan and all the way to Mt. Baker. This was the first time I had seen all of them in one shot and I was amazed that it could all be seen from a single vantage point. Looking down we could see turquoise Lena lakes. The whole team (all five of us) were soon up on the summit. Lots of hand shakes and summit shots ensued. We all signed the summit register and admired the views. It had taken us about 7.5 hours from TH to summit. It was about 1:35 pm. We stuck around on the summit for a good half hour before starting down. I was secretly dreading this part but figured with the rope and handline it would be OK. The last section didn't seem as scary as I thought it would and we all managed to down-climb it unassisted. We quickly made our way back the saddle to the initial scramble. Here Paul and Andrew spent some time discussing whether to put in a handline. It seemed like a waste of time to me since we had done much tougher shit on the summit pinnacle and I said so. Paul decided against the hand-line once I piped up. We scrambled down this last tricky section and were soon back to the point where I had ditched my pack. We stopped here for lunch and to put on gaiters and then headed down the scree. It was not as difficult as I thought and in some places it was downright easy to plunge step in the loose stuff. We quickly descended to the notch and then decided to make a bee-line for the pond that was clearly visible below us. This involved making our way down to a relatively light-colored boulder field below Peter Gate and then following it down to a small creek. We followed the small creek, bushwhacking our way through alder thickets and liberally using vegetation belays. Unfortunately this led us to a sheer drop-off above a pond. We started heading right towards the lake of angels side. A lot of cursing, thrashing around and bushwhacking led us to a sizeable stream running in a small canyon. There was a somewhat faint trail running along its true-left bank. We followed this and it eventually led us right to the Park boundary sign. I applied some more tape to my feet near the "pond of the false prophet". From there we had a long, long descent back to trailhead. I only stopped along the way briefly to filter some more water. I consumed a staggering 6.5 litres of water on this climb-- no doubt the warm weather played a role in this. The trail was pretty steep and we all slipped and fell in the muddy section. Paul and I fell almost simultaneously in one particularly treacherous section. We had to scramble carefully down the dicey class3 sections of the trail along the headwall before entering the gloomy forest section. The bugs had been pretty mild on the way up but they were out in force now and I suffered quite a few bites before liberally dousing myself with DEET. The rest of the trip down was uneventful but seemed to take forever. The steepness of the trail precluded a speedy descent. For once my altimeter was accurate and I hit all the key waypoints at the exact elevation readings it had shown on the way up. By the time we got down, my feet and toes felt like someone had run them through a meat grinder. I hobbled out to the TH at 8pm after spending 14 hours hiking. We all breathed a collective sigh of relief and broke out the cold beverages and Pringles. Then back to the cabin to drop off Jim and Laura and the 3 hr drive back to Portland. Quite a memorable trip all in all -- my first real hike in the Olympics. I have to say I was very impressed with the flowers and views but somewhat disappointed at not seeing a single mountain goat. (7/31/2005 10 miles , 5100 ft elev gain)


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Brian Jenkins

Brian Jenkins - Aug 13, 2010 3:02 pm - Voted 9/10


I'd give you 10 stars if you made this less than one paragraph!

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