Well it was another rough week in the schedule. I had been sick the entire week leading up to the adventure and I really wasn’t up for a hike. But looking at the dreadful weekend forecast and seeing how beautiful it was outside I really knew that it was either that I got out on that day or that I would not be getting out at all. After all summer long I had been faced with a daunting schedule and yet I was always ready and willing to make the most of the situation. I didn’t achieve what I was shooting for in the bigger mountains but I was able to clearly get in the backcountry and at least practice many of my hiking and climbing skills while developing a stronger comfort level with exposure.
This trip it was time for me to head back to last week’s area, Mowich Lake in Mount Rainier National Park. My goal here was to further explore the Irish Cabin Peak list created by the Mountaineers and possibly knock off a couple summits. Once on the road to Mowich Lake I was highly energized by crystal clear sky and the beautiful views of Mount Rainier. On this trip I invited my good friend Jordan, who had been a large number of successful hikes and climbs with me this summer and had recently summated Mount Rainier in one day.
Once at the park we started of taking the Spray Park trail. This is yet another fairly user friendly and well maintained trail that cuts into the famous Wonderland Trail. Once on the Wonderland Trail it was a nice and pleasant walk all the way to a beautiful lookout to Mount Rainier. We took a brief stop here where we encounter another hiker who warned us of a bear up my Hessong Rock, which just happened to be our destination. He tried to tell us it was a grizzly bear but we were not buying the grizzly part. There has not been a grizzly spotted in this part of the Cascades in a long time and only one up by Glacier Peak for the last decade or so.
We continue up the trail toward Spray Park. The next part of the trail was all switchbacks. The switchbacks were not bad for going up but still took up some of my energy heading to the main part of the park. Once at Spray Park we got a good view of our intended destination Hessong Rock and Mount Pleasant. We stayed on the trail all of the way until running into a well defined boot-path shooting straight up the ridge to the col between Hessong Rock and Mount Pleasant. We took the trail past many of the summer ponds and headed up to our destination.
Big Bear Encounter
A little too close for comfort!!
On our way up we hit an obstacle we were not expecting!!!!! It was a large golden colored bear. Some people love to look at bears. I am not one of them and when I see a bear close by that is when my vocal chords can get real loud. I have had three close encounters with a bear and the way I usually approach them is to hide out of sight of them and begin to talk to them as humans but be aggressive in the words. I wasn’t about to change my approach here. For Jordan it was his first close encounter with a bear and both of us were quiet nervous.
We started to vocalize at the bear but instead of the bear walking or running away it still kept heading our way. So the vocals came to the clicking of our trekking poles together and that seemed to do the trick. The bear did keep its distance but we stayed quiet loud just to let the bear know where we were so if it wanted to continue to get there it wouldn’t be startled by us. Besides none of us at 200 pounds would be much of a match for this bear, which was at least 500-600 pounds.
With the bear encounter out of the way but still fresh in our minds we turned our attention to Hessong Rock. From all the literature we read this is only supposed to be a walkup but from what we were looking at there was no indication of such from the col. To make matters worse we did lose part of the boot-path early and found ourselves traversing the snow. But we let logic take over here and quickly found the boot path. It was good though to get some time on yet more snow. It looks like this snowfield will make it through the entire year which is very rare. We continued up the boot
path, which at times had some moderate exposure. The path though did not have any catwalks or heavy scrambles which made it quiet easy for us to make it all the way to the double summit of Hessong Rock. One thing I have seen a lot recently is a lot of double summit peaks where the difference between the two bumps is mere inches or feet. We decided to stand on both to be 100% sure we made the summit.
While on the two summit Jordan and I got to be able to spot the bear and what actually looked like an entire family of bears. Luckily it looked like the bears moved away from the way we came up which was very good news or our decent back. As fort the views from Hessong Rock, they were legendary. The close by mammoth Mount Rainier dominated the southeast while to the north was distant Mount Baker and Glacier Peak. Mount Stuart could also be seen the distance as hundreds of other mountains. Hessong Rock definitely delivered in views.
That being said we were running out of time but we had one more mountain that we wanted to summit before we headed on out of Mount Rainier National Park, Mount Pleasant. We took our time heading down Hessong Rock. Though there was a boot path to Hessong Rock, one wrong step could have some bad results so caution was needed. Once past the tougher spots we quickly speed up to our next destination.
Once past the col we continued up the boot path to Mount Pleasant. At first this boot path was quiet faint. But literally about a hundred yards up the boot path was practically a trail. Unlike Hessong Rock Mount Pleasant was basically a trail all the way to the summit and a well defined one at that. We continue hiking all the way to the summit where more amazing views of the backcountry awaited us.
What made the views here even more spectacular than neighboring Hessong Rock is the fact that the mountain was able to look over the ridge that connected Mount Pleasant to Fay Peak. From here there were excellent views of many more summits or soon to be EastKing conquests. The late day lighting also helped out quiet a bit to enhance some of the views to the perfectly named Mount Pleasant. It was a great peak to sit down and chill out to some great views.
Unfortunately we were running out of sunlight rather quickly so we could only take in the scenery for so long. Finally it was time to head back down where hopefully the bears were not waiting for us. Heading down from Mount Pleasant was actually quiet simple and very quickly we were right back at the col between Hessong Rock and Mount Pleasant. Once in the col we quickly took the boot path down the mountain making sure we were consistently making noise. Luckily on our way back to the trail we did not have a second encounter with the bears.
As soon as we hit Spray Park the sun had completely set and now we were low on light. I had brought two lights while Jordan brought two as well. Despite being on good trail heading back was a little tricky. The lack of light made the focus on the trail become much great so we could not go as fast as we wanted to. At times it was hard stopping the trail just because of how the terrain looked. But using team effort we made our way back to the parking area. On the way back though two miles really did feel like two miles due to the fact that we were in the dark and all we really wanted to do was to get out of the woods. It took a little while but we did make it back to the car safely and luckily without either of our headlamps burning out.
As for this week due to the weather it turned out to be the only hike I did. The weather did turn out to be not very friendly as predicted and I was even more grateful for being able to go out and enjoy another beautiful time in the mountains. This set of Irish Cabin Peaks looks to be a special area for great peaks and views. Hopefully in the coming weeks I will be able to continue to hit this area for more great summits.
I also want thank Jordan again for coming on yet another awesome trip. Jordan as made the most of his short time up here in Washington State summiting dozens of mountains including Mount Rainier 3 times (one being in a day trip). There will be many more climbs with him. Again another awesome trip for what little time I have to climb.