Whipped cream winter wonderland
First time at Granite Mountain, central Cascades, WA.
Waited for a sunny day with relatively low avalanche danger and was well rewarded. Arrived at the trailhead about 9:30 monday morning, no other cars there. No snow at all, in the upper 40's with sun and some clouds. Very pleasant hike up though the forest which eventually thinned out and gave way to snow. The trail on the map seemed to disappear, so I decided to follow some tracks that went straight up towards the summit. Had to put on crampons and exchange the trekking poles for the ice axe here which was pretty much mandatory for reaching the summit. the snow became very deep and the grade was very steep. I took a ridge path as opposed to going up the avalanche chute. Beautiful views in spite of some of the cloud cover. Made it to the top and relaxed for a few minutes enjoying the rewards of winter climbing before heading down. Decided to try and find the map trail down which heads southeast. Again followed a track until it abruptly disappeared (either the aliens came down and abducted the track maker, or a snow slide obliterated the track). From here it got tricky. Descended a few thousand feet over very steep terrain in snow and then woodland. Crossed a few of the streams on my topo map and navigated a miserable chute chock full of avalanche bent thicket trees until eventually relocating the trail. Made it back to the trailhead after 6 hrs. A very full and exhausting day, but very worth while!