John Semrau racing the sunset...

John Semrau racing the sunset...

John Semrau racing the sunset on the return along Sourdough Ridge. The sun is just a few degrees above the horizon, and we have a mile or more left before reaching the thin trail down into the forest. It has dawned on us that finding that trail before dark is essential. We can hike the trail by headlamp all night, if need be, but finding it in the dark by our meager lights is iffy.

We did find it in the last few seconds of light, and we reached the car at 0100 the next morning, 20 hours after leaving it.

Eric Sandbo
on Mar 21, 2005 12:41 am
Image ID: 96136


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-2 of 2

Klenke - Mar 22, 2005 12:19 pm - Voted 10/10

Bushwhacking in the dark

I can relate very well to your story.

The first time I tried to climb Elephant Butte (with my ex-boss Charlie Vaughan) was in May 1998. I was näive back then. We tried to climb it in a day via the Stetattle Creek Trail (SCT). Big mistake. After the trail "succumbed to the forest" we had about 1 mile of heavy bushwhacking just to get to the base of the peak, at which point the deep canyon of Torrent Creek permanently deadened our chances of making the summit. So we turned right (east) and climbed Pk 6728, the highpoint of Stetattle Ridge (aka Sourdough Ridge). Because it was early season there was snow up on the ridge. This led to our second mistake. Since we hadn't come up the Sourdough Mountain Trail (SMT) we didn't know where it was and we had no summer bootpath to follow or locate. On the return SE along the ridge we got confused. With very little daylight left we began descending too early, thinking we were above the SMT and would therefore run into it once the snowline was met. We never did find the SMT. Instead we bushwhacked for two hours all the way down the west side of the ridge--the last hour in the dark with headlamps--to eventually hit the SCT again some one or two miles from the trailhead. It was my first nightime bushwhacking experience (interesting but not fun). We only barely could see the SCT when we got to it. I suppose once we hit the creek we would have known we had missed it and gone back up to find it, thus wasting more time. Suffice it to say, it was a long day. Not quite 20 hours. Probably 15 or 16.

On the second Elephantine attempt in Sept. 1998 Charlie and I smartly took the SMT. Charlie stopped short on the ridge but I pressed on. When I got to the deep notch before the summit I realized I had a lot of descending then re-ascending to do. The hour was again getting late so I turned around. Definitely a long, long one-day climb. Next time I'll camp up on Stetattle Ridge and do it in two days.

Eric Sandbo

Eric Sandbo - Mar 22, 2005 3:43 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Bushwhacking in the dark

I wrote an article for the Skagit Alpine Club once: "Observations on Post-Sunset Descent". If I can find it, I'll post it as a trip report for East Wilman Spire. I think you'll identify with it.

Viewing: 1-2 of 2