|Page Type:||Trip Report|
|Lat/Lon:||48.37221°N / 120.56274°W|
|Date Climbed/Hiked:||Apr 29, 2015|
|Activities:||Hiking, Mountaineering, Scrambling|
Gimpilator joined by Heather "Anish" Anderson picked Josh and me up at 6pm on the 28th and we drove over Washington Pass to meet Matt Lemke at Mystery Camp on the Twisp River Road. The drive was long and pleasant and the camp quiet. We awoke at 4am and were up the trail by 5. The road had a couple blow-downs that were easily driven over. I was surprised to learn this would be Heather's first snowshoe even though she's been climbing mountains for a while. Down trees were easily navigated in the low light, hopping some and walking others lengthwise. I was sort of hoping that the early start would allow the snow to freeze over to avoid punching through but that didn't turn out to be the case. By the time we hit all that punchy snow at about 4,400' the sun started to rise. Magnificent colors were hidden behind trees, teasing us. We caught glimpses of the mountain in a meadow near where we had to look for a log crossing to ford Reynolds Creek. From here we went somewhat steeply uphill about 200' until it leveled out and decided to split up briefly. Matt and Josh wanted to stay on the NW of the the South Fork of Reynolds creek while the rest of us chose to go SE which required another log crossing. We met back together at the lower basin where I was teased by the sight of a giant bag of M&M's.
Before I got to the lower basin I noticed something that I'd never experienced before: intense pain in my left knee. I don't recall hitting it on anything or getting hurt. Probably a cumulative chronic injury from all the mountains. I had to take 5 and hoped it was just some inflammation. We put on crampons when the snow got icy and the steps were easy again so I kept going until we neared the lower basin. Then the snow was semi-punchy and I found myself dragging my leg. Still morning, we had made a great pace so far but for me that was changing. It was starting to look bad. A slight uphill to meet-up with Matt and Josh confirmed for me that something was wrong. Just in case I didn't make it, I handed Josh a Reynolds Wrap label I was bringing to the summit for a good laugh. This is where some NSAID changed my luck. Josh lent me one of his trekking poles and both he and Matt broke trail for the rest of the day. Following their steps made it a lot easier and I probably wouldn't have made it otherwise. I was still slow though, struggling to be only a couple hundred feet behind. I enjoyed the shadows from passing clouds over the snow to get my mind off the pain. I managed to catch them once for a silly Mad Max re-enactment but lost them again. When I arrived below the summit scramble at 8,000' where people had stashed some gear they were already heading up. I needed to take a long break and to figure out if I was going for it or not. The view was nice here while I watched Matt Lemke lead the way up snowy ramps and scrambly rocks. Some Gatorade and water quelled my discomfort.
I decided to go for it even though I was in pain. I figured with the shape I'm in now, I won't be climbing mountains for a good while and I didn't want to miss this one while I'm here. The scramble is only class 3, with alternative snow options and most of the descent is a fun glissade. I scavenged what I thought I needed from my pack and started moving towards a 50° snow ramp that would put me about 15 feet below the summit. I was well over 30 minutes behind everyone but they waited patiently. Unfortunately as I was climbing the ramp my steps were getting harder to kick, forcing me to cut them with my adze until it became ice underneath. I had stupidly left my crampons below and had to bail off the ramp onto some class 4 rib. The rock was pretty solid but I was nervous and glad to be wearing a helmet. A few fun hand jams got me over a short low 5th move to the easy scrambling of the route everyone else went. I had some trouble staying steady on the rock with my knee but once I mounted a steep and exposed snowy arete it was easy to get to the summit with solid ice ax placements. There were plenty of congrats, signing the register, munching M&M's and of course the obligatory Reynolds Wrap photo.
Going back down the way I went up was not an option for me because of my knee. I would have to take a snow route that allowed me to keep my leg straight. I had planned on using the 50° snow ramp and after bailing on it earlier was a little nervous. Luckily, plunge stepping was way easier and as long as I self belayed it was no problem. I ended up getting down the same time as everyone else and felt pretty good about my route decision. By the time we reached the gear I had to take another break though, which I'm certain was testing my comrades' patience. I put my stuff back together and before long joined them on one of the best glissades in recent memory. The first drop was very long, almost a thousand feet and had an excellent view. I waited patiently for Heather to slowly and carefully get to the bottom of it and then flew down having so much fun I forgot my knee. Then I wallowed painfully in the deep mushy afternoon snow to catch them at the next one and the following after that. Of course this is all on the video.
Gimpilator handed me another NSAID for the hard part coming later and we got into the lower basin. This is what I had dreaded since the morning. The snow was softer now and I had to pick up every step. Josh and Matt assured me their route in was mostly level and so I followed them about half-way back to the trail. But it turned out the slope was forcing my left leg to work harder and I had to hop across the creek to join gimpilator and Heather which made it easier for me. Josh also joined us and I didn't see Matt again until the trail head. Retracing our steps we crossed all the same logs that gimpilator had smartly geo-cached. After a little while on the trail I was crying out in pain so we stopped and he lent me one last NSAID. (I used to have plenty for myself in my FA kit but lent them out to others and forgot to refill my own supply). They kept moving while I took a little break to finish the last of my water. The last couple miles were easy trail but agonizing when I had to do something where I couldn't keep my leg straight. Random cursing and yelling probably made me look like a lunatic with my haircut. I changed out my soaking wet socks to boost performance. My pace still managed to be strong and as I was gazing at the rising moon through the trees and fading alpenglow I arrived at the trail head sooner than expected. Matt had been waiting a while and I was surprised he stayed. It was decided that Josh and I would go back home with him, which couldn't have been more in our favor (you see, Gimpilator is a great friend of mine but being a vegetarian and healthy eating oriented he detests cheap restaurants and... well, Josh, Matt and I really wanted Denny's so it worked out).