New Trail For Round Mountain
The forecast for Saturday was a little drier than the rest of the week had been, and the forecast for the following week called for snow levels dropping down. I thought I'd better get one last peak in for October, and why not a P4k? I gathered up my maps and headed for the mighty Round Mountain, 8th most prominent peak in Washington!
I quickly found myself at Deer Creek Pass and turned onto FS 1850. After only 0.2 miles, I noticed what looked like a bootpath or game trail disappearing into the brush. I knew I wasn't as far onto the spur as other descriptions had called for, but I stopped to investigate. Just out of sight from the road was the beginning of a heavily flagged, cleared route that appeared to be a new trail, partially constructed. Watch for a big gnarly fir tree just back from the road. The trail starts at the base of it. As I would find out, this was a new Round Mountain trail.
The new trail was still rather brushy, and that brush was wet, so I put on my rainpants. I should have put on my jacket too, but by the time I did, my fleece was already wet. The trail has been cleared and some logs have been sawn through but no trailbed prep has been done. If not for the pink ribbons every 50 feet it might be easy to lose track of it. The route angles up to the 3,800 ft saddle on Coney Ridge. It then follows the ridge to the 4,080+ point on the ridge where it joined an older trail that may be the original route. The ribbons came to an end but the old trail was easy to follow as it descended to Coney Pass and then made an ascending traverse across the SE side of Round to enter the summit basin at about 4,500 ft.
Clouds were still blocking my view of the upper mountain, and the trail seemed to fade away as it entered the basin, so I decided to cross the lower basin and head up to the south ridge. I soon ran into steep mossy rock scrambling and I angled farther towards the north. In a patch of talus, I found a very nice 2 or 300 foot long stretch of trail. It didn't seem to connect to anything on either end of the talus.
The upper basin and slopes had been dusted with snow and the combination of thin snow and heather slopes made for slippery scrambling but I was soon on the summit. The clouds had been coming and going all day and they now gave me a limitted view of Darrington below and Whitehorse across the valley. After a few photos I was ready to head down. Since I was alone and the slopes were slick, I took it slow and easy as I descended toward the basin. Once I reached the 300 foot trail, I angled toward the head of the basin. This worked well and I was soon back to the bottom of the basin and the end of the trail.
When I reached the 3,800 ft saddle, I saw a clearing down to the east and thought it might be the end of FS 1850. I investigated and found it was just a marshy area at the edge of a clearcut. I returned to the flagged route I had followed in and it soon had me back at my truck. 10/24/09
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