Elbow Peak and Yellow Hill 3-2-2013
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Elbow Peak is situated close to the center mass of a small grouping of mountains between the Cle Elum and Teanaway River Valleys. In winter the Middle Fork Teanaway River Road is plowed to about 2.5 miles from the spur road that leads to the start of Trail 1222 at the southern base of Yellow Hill.
I left the car and started out on the snowmobile-groomed road at 7 a.m. with Maverick the Mountaineering Mastiff. This was his first hike since he ripped off a toenail over a month ago, and he was clearly very excited to finally be back out in the wild. We crossed what looked like cougar tracks several times on the road, and twice more on the way up Yellow Hill.
The spur road that begins the first mile or so of the trail was also groomed but I strapped on snowshoes to cut the switchbacks. The wind was calm enough that even before 9 a.m. I could feel it's heat from behind a thin layer of overcast. Shortly after the road ended I began to notice the larch and lichen that give Yellow Hill its name. The summit has limited views of Mount Stuart and the Enchantments through surrounding trees. I quickly left for Elbow Peak, hoping to make it back to the road before the predicted rain which I could see forming in dark clouds over Snoqualmie Pass.
The ridge between these two peaks is mostly exposed. I stayed to the top of the ridge, gaining and losing a few hundred feet along the way rather than sliding with each step in the softening snow while traversing. There were a few heavily corniced sections with some exposed rock surrounded by moats and softened snow due to the thermal mass within. This section could be hazardous for dogs, so I was sure to keep Maverick close in my trail.
When we reached the Southern point of Elbow Peak, marked as 5673' on the Green Trails Map for Easton (No. 240), the Northern point looked higher so we ventured over just in case. Upon reviewing my GPS track, it looks too close to call, with both high points registering at 5722'. We took a nice long break at the summit and watched the storm clouds slowly approaching from the West. Views were clear from Sasse Mountain all the way around to the Hills near Yakima. Above Yellow Hill I could see a windmill farm near Thorp.
While we rested on the summit the sun burned through the overcast layer and I stripped to just a t-shirt and stayed plenty warm for the rest of the descent. I followed my tracks most of the way back to avoid sinking in the softening snow. Back on the Middle Fork Road we were passed by a friendly group of a dozen snowmobiles. I strapped my snowshoes and poles to my pack at the bridge, but the poles proved to be very useful for the 2 miles of slushy road ahead. I almost stopped to put the snowshoes back on in a few seriously soft sections exposed to the sun.
Looking through my pictures from the last year I stumbled on this one, sent to me by another NWHiker who took it when we crossed paths below the summit of Hex Mountain. In the background, perfecty framed, are Elbow Peak and Yellow Hill:
There is an excellent vantage point to The Enchantments and The Wenatchee Mountains few hundred feet down the West Fork Teanaway River Road. On the way in I took a panoramic and when I returned in the evening clouds had filled the Ingalls Creek Valley and shrouded The Enchantments, leaving only The Wenatchee Mountains visible in front. Below is a time lapse of the two scenes.
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