It seems in the past 5 years I always have grand plans to make it through on my great list of climbs and somehow that great list always seems to be in shambles by July due to a wide variety of repeating variables that seem to be out of my control. Though have done some cool trips these past years I never have been able to find any rhythm with the trips and often year after year I seem to be very disappointed by the time December rolls around.
I decided that in 2015 to set my sights low this year and just take what I can get. I just can't stand be disappointed anymore. During this past winter, I have been struggling through yet another group of setbacks and it has led me to be severely out of my normal hiking condition. My weight is dramatically higher than it was when I summited Mount Rainier. How much higher? I am embarrassed to say, but I will say I look very different from the near perfect tone I was back in 2009 and 2010. But that was then and this is now. And despite the disappointments I still have successfully summited at least one Bulger in the past 3 years so I wanted to continue that streak with the easiest of all the Bulgers. I know it is a wimpy peak comparatively. but I just want to get some sort of peak to find my rhythm.
I invited my good friends Josh Lewis and Michael Lewis. Each of them have had their struggles with Josh Lewis nearly losing his life back last September. Despite their struggles, both of them have been enjoying an excellent climbing summer unlike my year so far. For them, this would be a nice light hike in between different Bulgers that they did just days before. Josh Lewis was going to be helping on a trip up to Mount Baker just the day after this hike so they were feeling very strong. They also brought their dog Rex with them due to no one able to babysit him. He has been on a couple of Bulgers, but had not been on a hike in a while.
We took one whole day just to get from Seattle to the trailhead. We got a late start due to issues at my work the night before and did not start the drive until noon. Our drive up was very long but uneventful and due to the cloud cover it wasn't too miserable on the way to Windy Peak. As soon as we got to the Cathedral Trailhead, we set up camp close by for the night and set up our wake up time for 4:30 am. None of us slept too well due to the fact that the temperature went from warm to very cold overnight.
We hit the trail shortly after 6 am in order to avoid the powerful sun and heat. I took off a little early just because I knew that Josh and Michael would catch up to me as soon they were done eating breakfast. The morning was nice and cool which helped us get a lot of steam very early. Going down the Cathedral Trail was easy to navigate; however, the Windy Creek trail has faded a lot due to lack of use. Hopefully us using the trail will help return the trail to its prior condition.
Because the Windy Trail stayed in the valley throughout most of the early stages, it stayed cool for most of the morning. Even at my larger and slower pace we were still making good time heading up Windy Peak. Occasionally, we had some issues spotting the trail, but then we quickly rediscovered the trail. We helped do some trail maintenance to make it easier to navigate on the way back. The burnt forest wasn't exactly the most scenic forest I had ever seen, but there was plenty of lupine and shrubs to cover the ground floor and make the ground green.
The last mile of the trail left the valley and climbed up a western ridge to Windy Peak. As we got higher the weather got warmer and the trail got sandier. The elevation was kicking in on me and it also was having a bad impact on Rex. Both of us were getting tired. That being said, we were still heading up the mountain at a decent speed. At about 7,800 feet, the views off to the west really started to open up and we could see the Sawtooths, and the North Cascades very clearly. By the time we hit the trail intersection, the views became excellent.
The last leg to the summit was easy walking; except for the fact that both Rex and I were struggling a little. For me, it was the highest elevation by 2,000 feet that I have summited since late September of last year and I was really feeling the impact. For Rex, it was his first hike in 6 months and he was very tired. However, we put it all together and in about 3 hours from the trailhead we were on the summit.
Upon reaching the summit, it was obvious that this was going to be our only summit of the day. Rex was in bad shape upon reaching the summit and we were on a serious time crunch with Josh having to get back to be ready for his Mount Baker trip. The weather was also starting to become very warm. The most important ending point was Rex the dog. He was clearly not doing so well and was not feeling well on the summit. So when we got there, we took some time to rest on the summit and really appreciate Windy Peak for what it is. Michael brought spinning pinwheels to put on the mountain and the rest of us just chilled out and took in the views.
It was great to see Mount Bonaparte to the east, Tiffany Mountain to the south, Canada to the north and the Cascade Crest to the West. With all the hot ad dry weather coming in the next couple week, this is probably the last clear day until September in this area. Forest fires are likely to start in the upcoming week due to all of the dry weather. After enjoying the views for a while, it was time to head back down.
The trip up might have been cool but heading back down from the summit was quite hot. The heat wave that was predicted for the following weekend was already starting and we were all feeling the effects of the heat. We did make great time heading down and we had no problems at any point spotting the trail down in the valley. However, moving in the heat was painful at times. During a couple of times, we literally had to stop ourselves and throw water on our heads in order to cool off. The last half mile going uphill on the Cathedral Trail was a real energy drain, and I for one was very thankful we stopped with just one mountain.
The drive back was not much easier. My car is a great car but the A/C in it does not work. At the trailhead, this was not too bad but by the time we hit Tanasket the heat was well over the century mark and the effects were brutal on us. Every once in the while we literally had to pour water on Rex just to keep him cool because the outside air was very hot. Mike and I took turns driving and we both kept wilting for the hundred degree heat we encountered. Finally when we made it out of Mazama and into the North Cascades we could feel the cooler air coming in. Seeing the constantly stunning North Cascades along with the nice cool breezes was a welcome relief from the brutal heat of the inner Washington valleys. We made it back just in enough time for Josh to get ready for his trip and for me to get home with time to sleep.