The Art of Florence Peak
It was another Tuesday and Bryan and I both had the afternoon off from work so we decided to tackle Florence Peak is Mount Rainier National Park. I had never been to Florence Peak and Bryan had only been there once and could not make the summit due to extremely icy conditions. We were both hoping for good conditions on this summit bid for insurance we both brought or crampons just in case we ran into icy rocks again on Florence Peak. We knew from the forecast that the weather might be a little iffy but this peak was well worth a shot.
As we pulled into the Carbon River Ranger Station things did not look good. We were greeted with cold drizzle which did not excite either of us. But we knew this might be our only shot for a while so we knew we had to take it. Strange thing is once we got our backpacks on the sky would clear for a second before clouding up once again. We start of the viewing trail below designed to show the travels during the summer the ecosystem of the western valley below the summit of Mount Rainier. With it large mossy covered trees and its skunk cabbage this lowland forest area is very pretty to walk through and is quiet a work of art for painting and picture taking.
Soon we hit the “decommissioned” Boundary Trail. This trail was in great shape for being “decommissioned”. In fact the trail itself was one of most well maintained trail that I have been on in a long time. The switchbacks going up the to Alki Ridge were very well maintained and very comfortable to walk on. There wasn't a lot of rocks or excessive mud like other trails in the area. We continue up until hitting the snowline at 3500 feet. Though the trail was in excellent condition I was still feeling some pain from ten mile snowshoe two days before on Philadelphia Mountain. Still though I was feeling quiet strong and we continue up. On the way up we passed by a beautiful waterfall and then continued to head up a number of switchbacks. Once the snow was completely covering the trail I decided to put on my micro-spikes for traction. They were exactly required but the micro-spikes did help with walking on the packed down trail area. From there we booted all the way up to Alki Ridge on a trail that began to fade in it usage.
Once on Alki Ridge we decided do an off trail snow traverse of the wooded Alki Ridge to the summit. At first we booted the trail but after a bit of booting up the peak we decided to put on our snowshoes. The weather was quiet fickle throughout with the snow at times up on the ridge and then some blue sky from time to time. We made good time across the ridge-line to the base of the false summit of Florence Peak. We headed up the steeper slightly open south slope of the false summit of Florence Peak to the top of the false summit. From the top of the false summit of Florence Peak, the clouds were so thick that you could barely see the true summit of Florence Peak. This was supposed to be the interesting section of the trip. From here we drop down into saddle between the false and true summit (I am guessing 70 feet). This was a narrow ridge on the left side there was a nice very steep drop-off so some care was needed on this section. Once at the point of the rocks I decided to take off the snowshoes and put on my micro-spikes and booted it up to the summit. There was some ice on the rocks but the peak was very doable and Bryan and I fared very well on this YDS Class 2 scramble section.
Once on top we were greeted with thick clouds and a heavily sleet shower. So much for sun and good views! Or so we though. The good views never did come out but the sun did make an appearance when we were on the summit. In fact it was like a piece of art watching the clouds part just enough to show us the beauty all around us. I still can't tell you how beautiful Mount Rainier or St. Helens looked like that day and I only saw the false summit once from the true summit (it is only a 300 yards away) but I can tell you the sun and clouds and the snowy trees clearly will always stick in my mind when I think of this peak. We stayed on the summit for ten more minutes to see if any views would open up but none really did. So after the last of the sun show we decided to head down.
Heading Down and Conclusion
Heading down the Class 2 rocks was a little tricky just because some of the footing was not that great. We took our time and soon we were back up to the false summit again once on the false summit and past the windblown rocky area I was able to get a nice 70 foot glissade down to the trees. From there we just followed our tracks all the way across Alki Ridge. At one point it looked like the mountain from a distance was clearing out once again but that was a false call because weather was once again moving in on the mountain. We made good time heading down to below the treeline. Once below treeline we set a good speed on getting to the car because the trail was in decent shape. You could not run the trail due to the fact that it had some mud but the good shape of the trail helped us descend from the snowline in 40 minutes. Soon we made it back to the car in great time and were on our way back to the city.
I want to thank Bryan for bringing me along on this trip. It great seeing an area so close to me that I have never been to before and tackling a mountain that is such a peace of art. I would highly recommend this summit for anyone looking for a diverse hike, snow travel who likes beautiful forest, waterfalls and a great summit. I would NOT recommend this summit in summer due to the fact that the thick forest are quiet humid and the off trail traverse towards Florence is a pure bushwhack.
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