Jeannie: “Now for my favorite part…when you cross over the Cascades, NPR becomes a country station.” Later I would find out that she brought a harmonica along for the climb.
We had decided on a loose itinerary: two days with the possibility to climb any combination of Seven Fingered Jack
We drove the familiar route over Snoqualmie and Blewett passes and through Leavenworth, continuing on to the Phelps Creek trailhead where we would sleep. Jeannie pitched her tent (she’s become a softie and can’t handle the bugs) and I laid out my sleeping pad to crash on the gravel. I awoke at 5:30 to a giant mosquito bite on my chin, and Jeannie awoke to me blaring music from the car radio. We danced and milled around for a bit, having an early morning laugh with some trail runners as the theme-song to Rocky echoed off the nearby peaks. These are the only mornings that I like.
Our humor was a bit off by the time we started hiking; we reveled in our own funniness for several minutes after signing the trail register, having entered ‘monkeys’ as our mode of transportation. Next time we’ll pack coffee and save ourselves the embarrassment.
The first 3.5 miles of trail are flat as all hell, and we turned off to the right after crossing Leroy Creek in a large washout. The abandoned trail to Leroy Basin is my favorite type: straight up without bothering to switchback. Arriving at the basin, we claimed a giant campsite before proceeding to drool for several minutes at Jack and Maude above us (in hindsight, we really should have been making an effort to conserve water). Jeannie led the way out of the basin, and we made for Seven Fingered Jack. Soon after, I heard the freakish sound of Jeannie’s harmonica…she was trying to lure a marmot in by hitting a high note, thinking herself to be some sort of siren to the marmots…they didn’t fall for it. Had she taken a second to consider it, she would have seen herself not as a seductive nymph, but as an odd looking, sunburned freak honking on a harmonica…needless to say, the marmots ran like hell.
Near the top of the meadow, we decided to take a nap. This happens every time I hike with Jeannie…we are both lazy bastards at heart, and whenever we spend time together our laziness shines to its full potential (more on this later). The meadow was the perfect place, and we kicked it like the best of them to views of Glacier Peak and her snow-clad minions.
Finally rousing ourselves, we continued upward over the last of the meadows and to the beginning of our 2500’ scree-slog. The snow couloir was undercut this late in the season, so we clambered over the loose SW shoulder. The going was fairly slow at this point, involving more looking up than actually moving up. Scree, scree, talus, whoops! Rock! Scree, talus, more scree…you get the idea. Our plans for a second nap at the top were foiled by the general loosiness and uncomfortableness of the summit blocks.
We sat on the high point to the right of the true summit for a while, debating whether to scramble up to the crumbly and uninviting summit. Our views to the South and West were fantastic, but to the East and North limited by forest fire haze. The Tinpan fire was clearly visible in the Entiat valley, and was framed nicely by the Entiat Glacier. The Tripod Complex fire to the North was sending plumes of smoke up 35,000 feet that day, and we later heard that some residents of Bellingham thought that Mount Baker had erupted.
We climbed off the highpoint, and I decided to check out the true summit. I opted for a 4thish class scramble directly up the summit block, as the rock was a little more solid than the nasty looking crap in the summit gully. The top has a fantastically exposed little catwalk, and I finally had an unobstructed view of Bonanza Peak and Mount Fernow. Jeannie smartly opted not to tag the true summit, deeming it an unnecessary risk for getting a mere 30 feet higher. I think I’ll do the same if I go up there again; I don’t mind more difficult scrambling, but I really hate loose rock (ever since being in a large rockslide in the Goat Rocks). Nevertheless, the peak-bagger in me liked tagging the highest point.
We enjoyed some double black diamond scree skiing on the descent, and were back to camp within an hour. At this point we had decided not to climb [img:220965:alignright:small:]Fernow, and were leaning toward the normal plan of climbing Maude and then looping back to the car via the high route over Carne Mountain. We filled our water and returned to camp; 2:30 PM... Now for a leisurely afternoon of napping, petting the Larch trees and reading David Sedaris…
“Dinner in Leavenworth?”
We were back at the car within two hours.
We spent the first part of the hike out justifying our cop-out: “You know, I bet the View from Maude is almost the same…not really worth another 3000’ of scree slogging”
and “you know, I definitely would have stayed had there been a place to go swimming…”
truth: lazy bastards with caffeine headaches.
We got back to the car to realize that neither of us was actually even hungry, and decided to skip Leavenworth for the slightly shorter drive over Stevens Pass. We stopped at a gas station though, splitting to use the restrooms and meeting back at the car to realize that we both had the same idea: to treat the other to large amounts of iced tea and soda… we drank it all and shivered all the way home.