Weather looks good!
I had planned on doing something this weekend no matter what the weather report was saying. My friend chico and I were originally planning on climbing the Fisher Chimneys route on Shuksan until his truck broke down and I received a call from him saying he couldn't go. Now that I was going to be alone, I didn't want to climb something quite as big so I thought I would settle for a small peak close to home. Soon I was planning on the west ridge of Lundin Peak. Then my plans kept growing and finally I settled on climbing Snoqualmie Mountain first, then traversing over to Lundin Peak, climbing the west ridge and descending the east ridge. Altogether it would be a nice 9.5 miles (including the one mile walk between trailheads where I parked and exited the climb). The night before, I find out that both Ellen
and Bob are wanting to join me! Two good friends, alpine rambling, decent weather forecast, what could be better?
An "early start"
my roommate cooking breakfast
Bob hates getting up early so I settled on picking him up at 7:00 am at his apartment in Seattle. We arrived at the Alpental parking lot around 8:00 after a stop for breakfast and coffee and were hiking by 8:30. Both Bob and Ellen hadn't done anything physical for a while so we went slowly. Normally a slow pace makes me antsy, but today it was really relaxing as we headed up the steep climbers path to the SE ridge of Snoqualmie Mountain.
Hiking up the climbers path
Before we knew it we were high on the ridge and into the snow. Even though Bob and Ellen hadn't been hiking or climbing recently, they were both keeping a decent pace and not even sweating! Far below we watched the cars fly down I-90 ad the fog peel back towards the east.
Within a few minutes, we were sitting at the top of Snoqualmie Mountain. We ran into a few people on the summit, ate a powerbar, filled half drunk water-bottles with snow and started the traverse.
starting the traverse
The beginning of the traverse descends the north side of Snoqualmie behind the northern "fin" of the mountain. To do this it requires going around the east side of the fin and an exposed but easy ledge scramble. This went with no difficulties and we were soon on our way to the snow dome. I had expected the talus to be barely covered with snow but the snow was surprisingly deep and stable. Only every now and then we would break through where we thought it would be solid.
crossing the ridge of talus
Before long we came to a steep section of the ridge. It required us to face into the slope and downclimb with the aid of trees. The runout here was terrible. It consisted of a steep iced up gully that pinched down to only a few feet wide. If one of us would have fallen we would have been destroyed by the squeeze in the gully then fall hundreds of feet off a cliff. Good thing no one fell.
The bottom of this downclimb put us on the beginning of the west ridge of Lundin. A few hundred feet of scrambling brought us to a place where we roped up. Normally I don't carry a rope on this route, but due to the wet and slushy/icy conditions the rope was a good idea. We simulclimed up to the crux of the climb in one long pitch.
getting ready to climb
After taking in Bob and Ellen I set out on the crux of the climb. The crux is an easy 4th class slabby section that is decently exposed but usually easy and fun. Since the slabs were all dripping with water and slush, the climbing was much more difficult than normal. Usual handhold were under snow and ice, good smearing turned into slippery lichen and dripping water had already frozen our hands. But a little spice added to an easy climb is always a fun surprise. The climbing was never really hard at all, just more precision was needed than in normal dry conditions.
climbing slushy slabs
Bob cleaning the pitch
From the top of the crux pitch we simulclimbed to the summit since it is mostly a flat bench from there. There was no real need for the rope but it would have taken longer to put it away than to just clim b to the summit.
Bob and Ellen just below the summit
We all signed the summit register, named the peaks in the area, ate some food, drank some water then headed down. The down climb and rappel of the east ridge was very uneventful except for one slip that almost ended Bob but he's still around to tell about it. After descending the east ridge you have to go up and over two false summits to get back to a trail. This involves a few short scrambles and a traverse of a snow slope with big runout. Since there was a bit of snow but not too much, this made the snow slope fairly precarious. But we were careful and made it back to dry rock.
Ellen scrambling the first false summit. fairly exposed.
After both false summits were out of the way we just had trail trail and more trail.
The trail back
You would think that the adventure would end here. Well, it didn't. We had been taking out time so much throughout the day that the sun was close to going down. We all had headlamps but no one likes to hike out in the dark when it could be done in the light.
It became dark as soon as we hit the valley floor of commonwealth basin. Since we were climbing in the middle of a high pressure system that brought warm air into the mountains, the streams were all roaring high with meltwater. The whole basin was basically a big mudhole/stream. The normal commonwealth basin trail was literally a stream for most of the way. To make thinks more interesting, when we got to the first real stream crossing, all the boulders usually used to cross it were under water. It required a good jump from a slippery log to a smaller slippery log. Once on the other side, we realized the trail was well under another part of the stream. We spent a good time trying to find a way around the stream. Finally, we found a way out of the watery mess back to the semi-dry trail... only to come to the next stream crossing. This one is normally wide and shallow. Today it was wide and deep (and by deep I mean 1 foot). There was no way across it without getting wet. We looked at each other and said, "we're only a mile from the trailhead, who cares," and just walked through the water turning out boots into swimming pools. We sloshed out way out the trail and the mile of road between the PCT parking lot and Alpental.
Back at the car we changed into dry clothes and shoes and hurried off to Arby's for a traditional post climb meal of thinly sliced piles of roast beef.