This honestly has been one of the roughest hiking months in a long time. With only two unique summits for the month of December and countless failed trips along with tons of mountain snow and glommy days, I will hope to soon forget December 2012. But it is not time to dwell on the iffy weather but to take action on what does come around. And for the first time in well over a month Western Washington was going to have a sunny day. I wasn't going to watch this day go to waste.
I originally was hoping to get a large group to go to Cleveland Mountain. I only up with me and one person and due to lack of people and the major fears of the snow being unconsolidated we decide to save Cleveland Mountain for another day. For this trip I went with Almostthere from NwHikers who has completely recovered from an injury on Merchant in May. He also brought his awesome dog who was a really trooper on this trip. I have had three fail attempts on it and I could definitely see this being failed attempt number four on that peak. For us it was time to scale back a bit so we choose Haystack near Route 2. Though there was a decent review on this peak I honestly wasn’t expecting too much here. Many in the peakbagging view this peak as a dumpster dive due to it's low elevation and realtive ease of access. But I knew getting out here would be a better choice than having a go big or stay home attitude. I was having serious cabin fever.
Heading Up to the Summit
Morning light over Merchant and Gunn
We both started on this mountain knowing that Haystack Mountain itself is mostly a road walk to the summit from the route we were taking. Luckily for us in terms of scenic purpose the road was completely snow-covered from the parking area all the way to the summit. And yes this mountain was surprisingly very scenic right from the start of the hike. We constantly had great scenic views looking through the clearcuts from the road. The snow itself for the first three miles left a lot to be desire. It was a foot of snow topped with a thick layer of ice. That layer was a real painful and both of us were really smashing through. Smashing through the snow was really tough on the way up and painfully annoying. I would have hated to do this our original destination, Cleveland Mountain, knowing I got 3000 feet of unconsolidated powder waiting for me.
The overgrowth of the road made us miss the turn. We knew this road was brushy but the slide alder made this road almost unrecognizable in the snow. So we continued on to an older forest area where we went through the forest until we ran into the road again. There were a couple of tough areas in the trees where you literally would sink in three feet of snow. Add on all the nasty snow traps and this next leg was a little more of a struggle than we bargined for. Who knew at 2000 feet there would be that much snow. We got the road which was much better higher and took that most of the way where once we found a flatter area we broke for the summit and the lookout tower.
The last little bit was extremely challenging with all the deep snow and the tree wells. We were greeted with 200 feet of rough terrain and fresh powder. Almostthere was cramping up and I was a little winded but we pressed knowing the summit was close. Both both almostthere and I worked as a team and though the last but was a bit of stuggle we got to the summit.
Mount Stickney from Haystack!
EastKing strikes again! The Olympics from Haystack!
It was easy to see why Haystack Mountain was once a lookout site. The smaller mountain definitely had good views. What made the view today so spectacular was the amazing coating of snow that made all the mountains really stand out in terms of there true beauty. The open area which looked out to the south had great views towards Ten-Four Mountain, Merchant and Gunn Peaks, and the western side of Mount Persis. On the north side between the trees were good views of Mount Pilchuck and Mount Stickney, the latter on my to do list later this year. To the west the distant Olympics were showing their mighty beauty and the Puget Sound was clear in site. It was clear to me that we made the correct call here. Haystack Mountain may be a lesser mountain on the to do list but for today with all the fresh powder and the snow at the lower elevations it was a great call and a great workout.
Great Shot of Baring.
A picture of Mount Persis while heading down the mountain
Like all good things after an hour on the summit it was time for us to head down from Haystack Mountain. Going down the first set back to the road was not that bad now that we kicked in most of the route. Where we suffered and labored kicking in past all the rocks and tree well we were now able to cruise down the woods. We then follow the road all the back down to a clearcut where the former road has now pretty been overgrown with slide alder. The slide alder made snowshoeing through it tough and I think this where one of my pieces from the snowshoes fell off from all the work from the slide alder. At this point that road through the clear-cut is all but recognizable in snow. After a while we both got quiet frustrated with the snow and were looking for a better way out of that mess. Almosthere did find a good shortcut right through the clearcut that got us out the way of the clearcut and right on back to the original road. This not only saved time but it saved a lot of effort as well.
For the first little we both cruised on down onto the road. Unfortunately it wasn't completely clear sailing at this point. The last obstacle I had was that one piece on my snowshoe had fallen off and my crampons now only connected in one area causing me serious problems with my snowshoes. It was causing my crampons to bend many ways on my feet and caused me to have serious discomfort with my snowshoe. My ankles were really beginning to have bad pain and my pace had slow substantially as a result. It was driving me so crazy that I finally took them off and booted the rest of the way back to the car which was only a half mile luckily.
I wanted to thank Almostthere for kicking step for 60-70% of the trail and his dog who kept us company. It was a very good trip that gave the exercise we needed and the great mountain views that we both craved. I hope to get that snowshoe repaired soon so I can be out there to enjoy the great views and Vitamin D!!!!
As for Haystack Mountain I would highly recommend going up this summit during a time where there has been a lot of snow and the snow line is at a low elevation. The fresh snow really made going up this mountain very enjoyable and the extra snow really enhanced the views. I would not recommend this peak during summer months. I can think of many other mountains that require similiar efforts during the summer that are much more impressive. That all being said this mountain was an excellent surprise and a great mountain to visit.