I was an Olympic athlete last weekend. I won the mountain pentathlon. I received an aluminum medal—a metal can of Rainier beer with gold rimming. I am famous now. I just got off the phone with Climbing Magazine. REI wants to endorse me. And Tomaz Humar wants to climb with me. But no time for that! Got to climb on…back on to my dream machine.
I took the ferry over to Kingston on Friday night. $13.30 for one way isn’t that bad, I guess. I only had to wait an hour. But what happened to the pretty girls in the car ahead of me? I never saw them on the ferry. Foiled!
By twilight I pulled in to the Maynard Burn Trail #816 trailhead (at end of FR-2950
), elevation 3,200 ft. For the first destination, Mt. Deception, I intended to take the way trail to the Royal Creek Trail instead of the normal, lower start point for it (Dungeness River Trail). This way I could camp two nights where I was instead of having to move my car.
The next morning I left the stump with the trail sign on it at 6:40AM on the dot. The way trail continues past where the Maynard Burn Trail cuts off to the right from the old logging road. The Maynard Burn Trail ascends to Baldy (6,827 ft) but that was tomorrow’s adventure. About ten minutes past this cut-off (still at 3,200 ft) I came to a sign that said “Little Maynard Burn Trail” right about where 3194AT is written on the map. Taking this I was immediately irritated with the fact that this trail was descending STRAIGHT DOWN to the Royal Creek Trail instead of traversing into it to save elevation loss. As it was, I junctioned with the latter trail at 2,800 ft, which is only a couple hundred feet and a half-mile or so from the Dungeness River Trailhead. My assessment: the way trail is longer for approaching Royal Basin and you’ll have to re-climb that lost 400 ft on the return. Don’t take it.
In 2 hours, 45 minutes I made it to Royal Lake. The sign at the shore explaining the lay of the land didn’t make sense to me. There was no “You Are Here” arrow for one. But the biggest problem with the sign I didn’t realize until the end of the day: the compass rose (North arrow) is backward on it. No wonder I was all turned around.
Soon I was ambling past the fantastic Shelter Rock, some 60 feet high and 100 feet in diameter. This thing must have been formed underwater—possibly under the sea—as it is definitely a conglomeration of pillow lava. I wondered if it had an easy way up and it appears there is a scramble route (Class 3 or 4?) on the backside where it is cleaved in two.
But I had looser rock to trundle, so onward to Deception I schlepped.
The mezzanine meadow above Royal Lake quite obviously used to be lake long since desiccated. Now the mezzanine meadow is merely mesmerizing. Okay, so it’s not that great. I just wanted to alliterate that sentence.
The Mezzanine Meadow
The upper meadows/basin is also nice—especially the tarn. A nice place to camp, of which there are plenty of flat spots.
But I had steeper spots to amble, so onward to Deception I leapt.
As I approached the northeast side of Mt. Deception I looked up at the haphazard talus, dirt, and cliffed slopes leading up to the north saddle (the Deception-Martin saddle where Martin Peak is Pt. 7638 north of Deception) and wondered where the route was. My old Olympics guidebook lists this route (Route 3) as Class 2. It sure didn’t look like Class 2. Must be old-timer’s Class 2.
The NE Face of Deception
At any rate, I soon found myself on the steepest of hard mud slopes one can reasonably scale and this was only because one out of every 10 imbedded rocks was NOT loose. It definitely requires a different kind of technique to climb.
I could see some right-trending slabs and wanted to avoid them. Yes, you guessed it, I found myself climbing them and therefore making a Class 3 ascent a Class 3+ ascent. It should be noted that the route to the saddle is harder than simply Class 2 but not as hard as Class 3+. I would rate it mostly steep, loose Class 2 with frequent sections of short Class 3 (two legs and two arms kind of climbing). All of the face is rugged with rubble and trouble. More often than not rockfall could be heard and sometimes seen tumbling and bumbling down the NE Face to my left. Who in their right mind would go up that route? “Rockfall can be a problem,” the guidebook warns. You’ve got that right. My route to the saddle
(actually, my descent route...but the best up route as far as I could tell).
Once I got to the saddle (c. 7,200 ft) I could see through the wispy fog that was forming over the mountain tops. I could see Gilhooley Tower
and the saddle to its left with the “short 40-degree snow gully.” But it was not only what I saw but what I heard: the constant sound of minor rockfall. It was reminiscent of my June climb to Skamania Pinnacle on the West Ridge of Mt. Adams.
The Gilhooley saddle is about 100 yards wide. Below the right side toward Gilhooley Tower was a dark brown streak running over the white of the upper glacier. It was looking like the inside of an incontinent old man’s Fruit of the Looms. From the safety of my grandstand, I watched as rocks continually shed themselves from the upper talus slopes of the saddle (the 40-degree part) and rumbled down to a bergschrund. Occasionally the rocks would be large enough and carry enough momentum to hop the schrund and carry on down to Deception Glacier
. The truly lithe hole vaulters among them managed to bound over as many as four lateral crevasses until running out of momentum on the shallowing glacier.
Oh, but grander standing I was pandering, so onward up Deception I crept.
There was no way I was heading over to the right end of the saddle. Fortunately, a conduit on the extreme left side looked doable. Fingers of the glacier reached high on the side and I had to avoid some ice to get to a short Class 4 step. The rest was just unpleasant Class 3 looseness. At one point a grapefruit-sized rock careened right past my head. Hmmm, better get up post haste before I’m laid to waste.
As I stood there at the saddle
I witnessed rocks seem to randomly spring out of the talus and begin sliding then tumbling down the slope. And this was above the area I had just up-climbed. Yes sir, downclimbing it later had me a little concerned, enough to warrant looking into the Honeymoon Route’s 45-degree gully as an alternative.
The rest of the way up to the summit of Mt. Deception
(7788F, 4108P) was easy and not worth elaborating on. No views due to my head being in a big white sock. It stunk. Not even a register to throw a little light on the fabric of boredom.
The final slopes from the summit
I then descended back along the north ridge to find this supposed newlywed’s gully. Oh I found it all right with my eyes but my feet will never feel the discomfort of that sketchy thing. For one it was all melted out. I can’t see climbing up it when there’s no snow in it.
So as it was a descent back down the bowling lane was in order. I purposely angled into the lane so as to not pre-set any rocks into sliding mode. Then I crab-walked my way as necessary. All went well until the very bottom at which point the clattering sounds of rocks tumbling above had me crouching like a paper tiger under a rock outcrop while hitherto hidden rocks bounded over me. Only a few knuckle-crackers managed to bounce off my backside. Time to get the heck out of there. It didn’t help that more rockfall occurred on the traverse back to the Deception-Martin saddle.
The descent from the D-M saddle back to upper Royal Basin
went pretty fast though I couldn’t get away from that mountain fast enough.
What a sloppy stroppy mountain!
Mt. Deception the next day
I talked to a ranger on the way out and gave him some details about Mt. Deception. He said a lot of people have been turned around by the rock fall this year. I can see why. I told him I wished I had had a brain bucket. I surmised that for thousands of years that Gilhooley saddle might have had a permanent snow slope above the glacier and that global warming has melted it back--the now-exposed talus being free to slide away.
Also on the way out I was looking ahead to the place on the trail where I got stung on the back of the elbow. As I approached that point two cute women came through the yellow jacket trap unscathed. I stopped and chatted with them. It was too much to ask that I be going the same way as them. Damn. Foiled Again!
My last concern was making the round-trip in 12 hours or less. It was soooo important to me. Well, I crossed the finish line at the Maynard Burn Trail stump at 11 hours, 58 minutes, 30 seconds. My aluminum medal was waiting for me in the nearby creek.
Time up =
6 hours, 20 minutes
The Next Day
For the report of the next day’s climb, click here