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Eric Gilbertson
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PostFri Dec 25, 2020 9:30 pm 
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Pinnacle Mountain (8,400ft)

Eric and Fred

Dec 23, 2020, 3am Ė 10:30pm

22 miles skiing, 25 miles snowmobiling

Tuesday morning I was solo in Winthrop looking for a partner to climb Bulger peaks in the good weather window. Fred was available to come on short notice and we planned to ski Pinnacle Mountain. Pinnacle made sense because it didnít have any avy terrain and could benefit from my snowmobile for the long road approach. Ryan S had made the first winter ascent of Pinnacle in March 2019 and we planned to follow his route. He had skied in the 12.5 miles on the road and then snowshoed to the summit over a three-day trip. I was hoping to do it in a bit shorter time because I could snowmobile to the trailhead. The plan was to summit Wednesday then ski and ride out Thursday.

On the summit ridge
On the summit ridge
The route
The route
The snowmobile all loaded up (photo by Fred)
The snowmobile all loaded up (photo by Fred)

I drove out to the Entiat River Sno Park in the late afternoon and slept in the car. Fred arrived at 2:30am and we were packed up and moving by 3am. My snowmobile is actually big enough to fit two people on the seat, strap two full overnight packs on the back, and strap two sets of skis on the side. That seems to max out its capacity though I think if someone were willing to get towed like a waterskier I might be able to take a third person.

Unsurprisingly we were the only ones at the sno park at that hour. We went around the snow berm and soon started up the road. Luckily it was groomed, which made for much easier riding than the previous day when Iíd been going through fresh powder and getting stuck a lot. The previous winter and spring Iíd made four trips up this road either skiing or biking and was pretty familiar with every feature. It was amazing to see them blasting by so quickly now.

Cold!
Cold!
Below snow brushy creek, with south spectacle buttes in the background
Below snow brushy creek, with south spectacle buttes in the background
Looking back down the valley
Looking back down the valley

After the turnoff at the 3.5-mile mark the groomed section ended, but luckily there were still other snowmobile tracks to follow. We made it to the cottonwood trailhead a bit before 4am and stopped to unload. Snowmobile tracks went farther into the woods along the trail, but I was too nervous to proceed off road since I might get stuck, so we continued on skis.

It was very fast skinning along the snowmobile tracks, but they ended after a mile or so. From there we took turns breaking trail through icy breakable crust that eventually turned into nice powder snow as we got higher. The forecast low for that area had been the mid teens but it seemed much colder. I checked my thermometer and it was 2F ! The deep valley must have trapped more cold air than expected.

By sunrise we reached the Ice Creek confluence and dropped our overnight gear. Though that didnít really change our pack weights much since it was basically just a sleeping bag, stove, and tarp to leave. We then headed straight up the drainage east of point 5007. The snow was deep powder and the going a bit slow. We took turns breaking trail up the drainage, and then roughly followed the old trail up Aurora Creek. Though there was no evidence of any trail with the previous forest fire and all the snow.

Looking back at chilly, ice box, freezer, and Maude
Looking back at chilly, ice box, freezer, and Maude
Just above Borealis
Just above Borealis
First view of Pinnacle
First view of Pinnacle

As we passed Borealis Peak the terrain flattened, then we zig zagged up another slope to just below Borealis Pass. There we got our first view of the summit and, as hoped for, the south east face was scoured down to rocks. This was the only aspect that would be steep enough to pose an avalanche risk. But, as seems to be normal east of the crest in winter, the tops of summits are generally scoured down to rocks.

We skinned up to the pass just southeast of the summit and dropped skis when the snow ended. From there we booted and scrambled up to the ridge, then scrambled across to the summit by 2:30pm.

Summit ridge
Summit ridge
The final scramble
The final scramble
On the top
On the top

It was reasonably warm with hardly any clouds and great views around. I even managed to dig out the summit register and sign us in. I looked back east at Saska Mountain and recalled feeling very remote climbing that peak last February, but now we were even farther into the wilderness!

Hiking back down
Hiking back down
Down to the col
Down to the col

We soon turned around and scrambled back to our skis. Then we started the amazing descent. The snow was deep powder almost the whole way 4,000ft back to our gear, with only a few brief flat sections. I think this was one of my top ten favorite backcountry ski runs, and I bet thereís no risk of it ever getting crowded.

We reached our stashed gear just around sunset and decided to just continue and ski out. We were certainly influenced by the fact that it was at least 15 degrees colder than predicted that morning and might get close to 0F again that night. We could have made it work with our gear, but it sounded more comfortable to just continue skiing out.

Skiing out
Skiing out
Skiing out
Skiing out
Sunset
Sunset

It was much easier skinning along our tracks and not having to break trail, though given how flat the trail was it took us about the same amount of time going out as it had skinning in. By a bit after 9pm we reached the snowmobile and luckily nobody had stolen the gear Iíd left there. We soon strapped everything down and headed out.

Unfortunately I only had tinted goggles, which didnít make sense wearing at night, so it was very cold riding out in single-digit temperatures. Luckily the handlebars have heated grips, though. After 45 minutes riding we got back to the sno park that night, loaded up, and slept in the cars. The next morning we drove back to Seattle.

Link to more pictures
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Bryan K
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PostFri Dec 25, 2020 10:39 pm 
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Damn fine looking trip!!!!! Thanks for sharing  up.gif

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kitya
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PostSat Dec 26, 2020 5:33 am 
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Wow. This trip is both cool and cold. Amazing.
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Gimpilator
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PostSat Dec 26, 2020 5:58 am 
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Great to see you guys going deep this time of year.  2 degrees is cold!  What sort of thermometer is that?  I really wish I had brought something similar to use on the high Andes peaks.  Do you happen to know the temperature range in which it will remain accurate?

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Fletcher
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PostSat Dec 26, 2020 8:58 am 
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Wow, excellent job guys. And so good to see Fred back in the saddle.
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Brushbuffalo
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Location: there earlier, here now, somewhere later... Bellingham in between
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PostSat Dec 26, 2020 9:20 am 
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Eric Gilbertson wrote:
Cold!
Cold!

Another outstandingly bold trip by you two intrepid adventurers.

That area seems to get cold. When I camped on top of Duncan  in mid-October of this year the temp inside the tent dropped to 10įF, rather cold for mid-fall.

No wonder there are summits nearby given the names Freezer, Icebox, and Chilly, not to forget Ice Lakes.

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Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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Eric Gilbertson
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PostSat Dec 26, 2020 7:40 pm 
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Quote:
What sort of thermometer is that?

I just bought a cheap $20 digital thermometer off amazon. I'd spent too many trips estimating the temperature from a little mercury thermometer and finally decided to upgrade. The one I got is called "Sun Company Digital Zipogage - Compact Zipperpull Digital Thermometer". It's supposed to be accurate to -20F.
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puzzlr
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PostSat Dec 26, 2020 7:50 pm 
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Thanks for a vicarious winter adventure. I don't have the equipment or ambition to do a trip like this but it's really fun to follow along. And thanks for labeling your photos -- I know that is a chore, but much appreciated.

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Mid Fork Rocks ē flickr
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