"The Training is nothing, the Will is Everything! The Will to act." -Ras Al Ghul
Who Came: Joanna, Michael, XDiablox, Josh
Time: 30 hours and 20 minutes
Elevation Gain: 5,300 Feet
December 30-31, 2010
Distance: 10 miles
This is the second time I've been on Stetattle Ridge, the first time was a bit different. Although this trip was certainly worth it, it did not go without suffering. I underestimated the winter temperatures up there on the ridge, and over estimated the ability of my alarm clock.
On December 28, 2010 I hurriedly dashed home from my friend's 18th birthday, a friend of mine offered me some climbing gear which I was excited to get. On the way home in the dark my bag ripped open which I was thankful I randomly had carabiners on hand to rig my stuff to my belt loops and using my shirt pocket. Then on top of that I was slipping on ice while biking trying not to fall over (North Lynnwood got hit with more snow than many other areas). Then I dashed on over to the youth group party which I got home at 10:30 p.m. My brother blames this for the gear issue I later encountered but I don't believe that to be true.
I stayed up doing a few things before going on the trip, fortunately I packed most of my gear next to my pack. It was already late so I figured I would pack my gear in the morning before we left. When I was about to fall asleep I decided to double check my alarm to make sure everything was in order. I then went to sleep.
Bam! At 5:03 a.m. Joanna honks the horn waking me up. "Oh no!" was my first reaction. Not only did I not have breakfast but I was not fully packed! I had to make a choice between not going or being rigdly prepared. I chose rigdly prepared. This was the fastest panic I have ever had dashing wildly around cramming in all my gear into my pack, grabbing my water, and just barley not forgetting the most essential pieces of gear. As I grabbed my camera I knew time was running out, it had been 3 or 4 minutes since I woke up, I dashed out the door getting my gear in the car. We then went on to pick up Michael. We were in a hurry to get to the Marysville Parking ride.
We picked up XDiablox and headed on to the trail head. After taking a nap I had a complete 2 hours of sleep for the night. We put on our gaiters and started up the mountain. There was snow right from the beginning although not much. As we hiked through the woods there was tons of fallen over trees which started to make travel annoying, now I wanted above tree line early on.
Eventually I was happy when we passed the "fallen over tree" zone, Michael then generously broke trail from here. I was very pleased to see the weather so good, even a few clouds to help create a scenic environment. Then came time to break out the snow shoes, by now we ditched the trail to go straight up the ridge.
Looking Down the Blue Ridge
The snow became a little unfriendly, even when kicking in steps, you would still end up slipping. So what I did was use the tree branches for extra support in getting over a few spots, then after the thicker part of the woods it became friendly again. Joanna now was breaking trail.
I'll admit I broke a little trail myself but because I was a bit sleepy tired I let Michael and Joanna be the hero's of the day. We then broke out of the trees (mostly, but not fully) and got to the crux of the trip. On the ridge was a mini cornice, I could see there was some avalanche danger potential so we tried to be careful when going up. The wind blown slope formations were very nice looking, and made stepping easier.
On the crux we carefully planted our ice axes, when I bumped an edge of the cornice I would watch a snow slide off to the side, a warning that the snow is not as solid as I would hope. After the crux we had one last section which was almost flat to walk. At about 5,600 feet we found a spot protected from the wind and started to set up camp.
The Beautiful yet miserable Camp
The sun was almost setting which it was now much colder outside. I tried to get some photos, but my camera batteries were too cold. I was quite desperate to try to capture the moment, so I look out the batteries and put them in my pockets. My hands by now were almost numb, burning from heat pains. I wanted to help Michael out with setting up camp, when I tried helping him dig my hands just became too cold. I could no longer take it and had to put my hands in my pockets. For some reason I thought of a boss buy saying "what are you going to do, stand around with your hands in your pockets?"
Sunset over Mount Davis
In the mean time I got Joanna her burning log (which has chemicals and such) and she could not get it to light up there. No surprise. I then tried to get the batteries out of my inner layer pocket, I got 3 of them out, but I had a very hard time getting out the 4th. My fingers were malfunctioning from the cold, then it fell out somewhere, I tried finding it which with every second my hand was exposed the colder it got. After spending too much time I was forced to give up. I hated to give up. But there was not much I could do. All around me the scenery was absolutely incredible, the surrounding slope was pink and I could see Snowfield Peak with amazing clouds. I then managed to shake out my coat which the battery then fell out, at last here is opportunity. With some of my more functioning fingers I managed to get the last battery in and snap a few shots, then I had to get my fingers back in my pockets. Then once I could feel them again I had one moment where I had to get a panorama, it was just too beautiful to pass up.
Panorama from Camp
Alpenglow on Sourdough Mountain
Looking out at Snowfield Peak
By now the sun had set, the tent was up, and I could get inside to try to get warm. Getting my boots off was difficult, I just unbinded the laces and with trying as hard as I could I managed to take off the boots. Then immediately hurried into my sleeping bag to warm up. After a few minutes I knew it was beautiful outside so I warmed up the camera just enough for it to work and got more photos. Sometimes the camera would turn off while the lens was out which had me a little worried at times. But I figured a way to close it when getting just enough power to turn it on.
There were some minor winds (not much) but enough to make the place a bit more chilled. Even when getting both double layered pants, mini puffy, puffy coat, shell jacket, hat, and fresh socks I was still cold. I put my water bottle inside my sleeping bag to help stop it from freezing. By now I did not care that I had not much to eat that day, and was thirsty, the cold had stolen away from all other worries.
The Morning Sunrise
XDiablox gave me a snack bar and 2 pieces of string cheese which was nice. Before I went to bed Michael attempted to cook some food, with only two matches both of them failed. So there was no cooking, so sad. I then fell asleep for a while. I normally don't dream but when I did for about 2 minutes it was crazy. I would wake up to reality and still feel as though it were crazy, then went back to sleep. I then woke up in the night cold, even when wrapping myself up it did very little. My ground pad is for a 10 year old or so, which means my legs where sticking out and on the snow. What I would then have to do to retain warmth was bend my legs, but I would wake up feeling very uncomfortable being in such a bend position for so long. Then another time I would wake up feeling as though loosing air and I could not find the hood of the sleeping bag, fortunately I found it and was able to get good air again.
The night just kept going on and on and on, almost as though it would never end. I had gotten little sleep the night before and it felt like it would be the same once again. I then realized a sad reality, even when the sun rises it's still going to be miserably cold outside. When I finally had managed to get a decent nap I was woken up by Michael. "Quick wake up! The sun is going to rise soon" he said excited. I loved seeing the sun rise, but I did not want to get out of my sleeping bag. When I finally did I opened the tent for my shoes outside which were now frozen.
Golden Sunrise on the Picket Range
Getting Ready to Continue
I was in a bit of a panic, I knew that not only if I could get my boots on my feet would be cold (there was some snow that blew into them in the night) but how would I get them on? They were frozen solid. Michael managed to help me unlace the last part of them, and he told me that "it's amazing what the foot can stretch into". I did not like the sound of that, I knew what he meant. I got one leg out and tried jamming it in. No success, tried it again and again which it kept failing. Eventually I went on a very hard shove, millimeter by millimeter I got my foot in. When it was half way in I knew there was no going back. I eventually managed to get my foot in! Then for the other foot, sadly it was the foot with the slight injury which hurt to shove in. When I got both feet in I was so excited! Once again time to warm my hands because they were numb by now. Michael made me some roman which tasted wonderful although it barely made me any more full. The air was cold to the point where when I pulled out my water I watched it freeze in fast speed!
Michael Boiling some water
I then tried to get a few photos in with the usual camera turning on half way opened. I had to beat my hands together so I had enough movement in my hands to press down the button. Then I saw that everyone was almost ready. I was not, I still had to get my gaiters on and take off and on my snowshoes. Putting on my boots, snowshoes, and gaiters must have taken at least an hour because every time I would have to warm my hands enough so that they would work. There was a moment when I looked over and for the first time in my life I hated winter, it had always been my favorite month. It was a temporary phase (for the hour or so) but it was just so miserable, not just the cold, but the pain of my hands when they warm up just enough to get them to move some more. I rigdly got my snowshoes and gaiters on, and did not even bother grabbing my back pack. I was well behind the group and had no idea how far ahead they were.
Heading up the last Section
West McMillan Spire
After traveling over the first bump I felt much better already, feeling in my hands returned and my feet were no longer cold. I saw Joanna already going down, we did have a ways down to go after all. Plus Joanna had somewhere to be later that night. The views were wonderful, but the rest of us also had to turn around and head on down.
Hiking through the Snow
Looking back towards Camp
We then reached our camp again which now was the time to pack up, Joanna could not feel her feet. We packed up camp in a jiffy and were out. I gave the Pickets one last glance before leaving. Going down the crux was not so bad this time, so long as we were careful. And then we were back into the woods. The only thing that annoyed me was when one of my snowshoes fell off, I knew that would be a little bad. Now that my snowshoe fell off, it was supporting my gaiter which was holding the snow out of my boots. My laces were not even tied!
From here on out snow then got in my boot which I expected and got my foot soaked and cold. Fortunately it did not get numb. Again we had the usual tree hops and such. Joanna gave me a kit-Kat bar which made me feel better. Then after it was decent descending until we got to the car. In Newhalem the store was closed, in Marblemount the shell station was out of chocolate milk! At least Darrington had some.
Seeing Prairie Mountain always reminds me of The Prairie Mountain Adventure. Although there was a lot of suffering that went on in this adventure, it was certainly a glorious adventure. I learned quite a few things. Someone once told me I'm not learned from my mistakes. Wrong! I'm making different mistakes all the time, but they are building me up. Example the Arrowhead trip saved me some trouble from a lesson learned. There is so much more I could say, but what can I say you have to live it to fully understand. Thanks Everyone for being such an awesome group!