McClellan Peak (8,364 ft) and Little Annapurna (8,440+ ft)
Enchantment Peak (8,520+ ft)
Friday, September 12, 2003
Showers the day before but clear on climb day (a dusting of new snow above 7,200 ft)
Ingalls Creek Trailhead
Round trip time:
14 hours (11 hours off-trail)
At 6:30AM I left the Ingalls Creek T.H. (1,940 ft) on my bike. Yes, you're not supposed to ride a bike on this trail but there was no one around; plus, I figured I'd be coming out late when there would again be no one still on the trail; plus, if the horses can defecate on the trail, why shouldn't I be able to ride it in solitude? The first mile or so is not very amenable to uphill riding (ups and downs and jutting rocks embedded in the trail). Then there are two unridable talus crossings. Above these, the angle eases a bit and you can ride more or less unimpeded for another couple of miles. The riding here would be dangerous for a beginner or someone rusty such as myself because the trail traverses a steep bank, making a fall to the downhill side of dubious outcome. After about 4 miles of riding I gave up on the pedal power and stashed my bike. This was right before the steep switchback section of trail.
I hiked the trail about a mile more to a first brushy area whereupon the towers of the south slope of McClellan first become visible. It was approximately 8:30AM. I figured what I was seeing were the Nightmare Needles but I would later discover these were the Knitting Needles. I resolved to climb up one of the obvious drainages coming down from on high, so walked up the trail into timber to avoid a brushy beginning. That didn't help. It was just as brushy for a hundred yards or so under the forest. I decided to leave the trail at about 3,400 ft in an area where there was no underbrush. Lo and behold, there's an old grave
there! Once I got out of the heavy brush and onto grassier slopes, I found I was on a timbered rib between drainages. I was thinking I would ascend the drainage that goes NW (the one with a blue creek line on maps) from the 3,400-ft level on the trail. This drainage, if continued on northwestward, eventually ends at Fantasia Pond. However, as I climbed up the timbered ridge, I sort of kept swaying to the right (eastward). The rib rounded over to that side in such a way as to compel one to slant that way. At around 5,000 ft I finally decided to take a look at the right side drainage
. The drainage looked quite feasible and, since I had no idea what the left side drainage to the west was like, I decided this would be my ascent route. I figured if I could get up high then the terrain would ease up anyway no matter what drainage I took.
I found a grassy ledge into the drainage above a waterfall. Later, I could see that you could stay on the timbered rib all the way to about 5,800 ft before leaving it for the drainage. Either way, once in the drainage, I made quick work of it. At maybe around 5,600 ft the drainage splits. I could have gone left or right. I could see rock towers
on my left. I think I still figured them for the Nightmare Needles at the time (they are actually probably those of the Knitting Needles). After refilling my water bottles in the creek, I decided on the right fork. I'm not sure why. Maybe it looked less brushy. At any rate, the right fork drainage broadens as you go up until eventually becoming an indistinct sub-alpine slope. Easy travel got me higher and higher. Before I knew it, I noticed I was nearing the crest of McClellan's ridge. I crested the ridge crest at a wide saddle between Tulip Towers and Rocket Peak
(this is saddle 7,080+ 6/10th of a mile east of McClellan's summit). I had wasted time going up the right fork because it was not as direct. Oh well, I guess my plan for also climbing Enchantment Peak
will have to be nixed.
I had seen a big wall of crags and a large massif
on my left as I went up the drainage and, still figuring these were the Nightmare Needles, opted not to go up the aforementioned left fork. I now realized this was the McClellan's summit massif so aimed for it by skirting the alternately sandy and blocky terrain about 100 feet below the ridge crest. I rounded a small rib and saw my next objective
. It didn't look hard at all and it wasn't. A deep gap in the ridge presented a nice view of Snow Lakes
. As I was climbing up I noticed shards of rusty rock strewn about. This burgundy rock was out of place amongst the whitish granite. In no time I climbed up past a weird rust-colored dike
(later, I would see hints of this dike on Little Annapurna) and discovered the source of the shards.
Atop the east side is a flat area not quite big enough to be a plateau. Several crags presented themselves to me, most notably among these was Glockenspiel Tower
. I walked around the south side of Glockenspiel and more crags appeared. Which one is the true summit? Hmmm? I walked in amongst them over and around the big blocks in the sand and scrambled up. As I neared one's top I got to a notch and finally
saw the true summit block
. There was a deep canyon between me and the true summit so I had to circle around back the way I came. At least the scramble up the summit block was inconsequential. I got there around noon and rested there for about 45 minutes. Someone had built a small cairn in the cleft between the two summit flakes but there was no register. I hung out and took some photos--most inspiring among these was a panorama of the entire Enchantment Plateau
. If I had had another hour to spare I would have gone for Enchantment Peak across the Plateau. But since I didn't have the time, I would only be able to get Little Annapurna
. I could see The Prong
where the easy class 3 northside gully off the peak is located but I was worried the fresh snow would make it undownclimbable. I made my way to the gully
and it looked good to go. As it turned out, neither the snow nor the ice remnant would hamper my descent.
The traverse over to Crystal Lake
was uneventful. I kept hearing voices but was not able to pinpoint the source. After a brief respite to gormandize a snack, I was thrilled to take this photo
from the same place I took a similar photo
with my then Polaroid camera 18 years earlier. I was thrilled to be back in that same spot after so many years. The Polaroid shot was the first photo I ever got enlarged (okay, so it was only enlarged to a 5x7 size, but when you're 14...).
From the south side of Crystal Lake I located a well-cairned trail up Little Annapurna. What a grunt that turned out to be. Hey, cut me some slack, I had already done about 7,000 vertical feet by the time I got to the lake. Another 1,200 feet didn't fill me with vim nor vigor. While I was up on the summit, I heard the voices again. Were they coming from the Flagpole Needles
? (I would later find out the voices were coming from there after all.). The views from Little Annapurna are nice, such as where I had come from
or to a summit I have yet to climb
, but you have to walk north off the summit area to an overlook to get the best Upper Enchantments Plateau panorama
or farther down the northeast side to get a view like this
. I had daymares just looking at the Nightmares
. But I could at least see the drainage I needed to take to get back to the Ingalls Creek Trail.
I got back to Crystal Lake around 4:00PM one hour ahead of the time I said I needed to be there if I wanted to get back to the Ingalls Creek Trail before dark. I followed the lake's outlet down into the drainage. Soon, the creek disappears into the talus and big boulders and isn't seen again until far below. I came upon a sleeping bag airing out and sundry other camping and climbing paraphenalia tucked in and around the boulders. I wondered where these people were (I would find out later on Cascadeclimbers
that these were persons I have chatted with on that site; they were up on The Flagpole
apparently). At this point, I turned around and got a last look up at Enchantment Pass
(as it is known on maps) before the walls to the west became too macroscian (you can look that
word up) for photography's sake. Eric
had warned me of the house-sized blocks below the flat area so I was fully prepared for the sometimes difficult routefinding and climbing through them. The cairns were sometimes helpful and sometimes unhelpful. This Cairn
, though interesting, was definitely not helpful. And to think I descended just below the downhill side of it.
The remainder of the Crystal Creek drainage offered no problems. In the end it was just a timbered slope. I stayed west of the creek(s) that come out of the drainage. I made it back to the Ingalls Creek Trail about an hour-and-a-half before dark (about 6:20PM) but I knew I had at least 45 minutes of walking to get back to my bike. Just opposite where I left the trail, I saw my first person of the day as he was dining on fine dehydrated cuisine directly opposite the old grave. I asked if he had seen the grave and he said he had. I carried on my merry way. My knees were feeling better now that I was on the relatively flat trail.
The last hour of cycling back to the car went pretty fast though I did narrowly avoid a crash in the steep bank traverse part. I walked the bike down the talus crossings and shortly thereafter came upon the trailhead much quicker than I had anticipated. Premature endings such as this always seem to be the case when you're having fun mountain biking.
After dining on fine non
-dehydrated cuisine in Cle Elum, I made for the Mirror Lake Trailhead near Snoqualmie Pass for another night's car camping. I intended to climb Tinkham Peak
the next morning as I had failed to make a dent in it the previous October (ran out of time after climbing Abiel and Silver peaks). I went up the Southeast Ridge of Tinkham (from the outlet of the lake) and down the West Ridge. Tinkham is a nice little mountain and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Well, not "thoroughly". I did happen to see the abhorred ex-girlfriend's name, along with the guy she left me for, in the register. At least it had been a long time between when she had been up there and when I was up there--enough time for that
miasma to leave the area. I don't like being reminded of that woman! (I guess life is not always a mountain ensorcellment.)