Here's an idea: Gather 20+ hikers, cart 'em out to a remote exit off I-90 in nearly as many vehicles, and then send 'em up a bumpy/muddy/snowy trail under deteriorating weather conditions and quickly advancing darkness. Recipe for disaster? Nope, just another trip for TNAB! This week's destination: Dirty Harry's Peak
The Players (not in alphabetical order and I hope I got everyone!): Chris (Omega) Chris (Magnum) Don (Malachai Constant) The Dalai Lama Justin Eric (ewb) Desmond Tutu Troy (mountainsun) Joe Wes (Big Foote) Rick Clay Bennett Bruce Jon (Roald) Kanye West Schmidt Altitude Andrea (wamtngal) (Just) Todd BarbE Steve (Yukon222) Felix Hernandez Rich (menandmyaussies) Drew(Coll) Joseph Leif Garrett Yours Truly
Quite a turnout!
It takes some time to get such a large group rolling, but once it's on the move, it's almost unstoppable. From outside the gate to the Fire Training Center, we started a little after 6 PM. Within 10 minutes, everyone was off the road and on the trail. The former logging road was in fine form: it was part active stream, rocky and muddy, with large doses of slippery compact snow for contrast.
I think I speak for all when I say I wish it was all snow...
Despite the conditions, Team TNAB moved deliberately up the trail, past the turnoff to the Balcony, and across the stream. Here, the snow depths were considerable enough to warrant using snowshoes - use 'em if you got 'em! Around the big bend, it was necessary to drop down off the snow to the melted out trail below to avoid trees and branches. Snow depth here was 3 to 4 feet.
It took us 1.5 hours to reach the talus field, from which you can usually take a sharp left switchback to follow the road upward. It did not look inviting, but the bright, clean slate snowfield that covered the talus was irresistable. 30 minutes later, we reached the ridge, and decided that for tonight, this was our summit. Food and beverage was charitably passed around. Then, it began to snow...time to go!
It was impossible to miss the trail of TNAB'ers descending the slope. Butt-sized grooves marked the path of glissaders, laying side-by-side with the deep trenches of post-holers (like myself). The group showed remarkable cohesiveness, waiting patiently for everyone to arrive off the ridge, despite the increasing precipitation. From there, being wet and tire, we did our best to get off the mountain as soon as possible. The last stretch after the Balcony trail split seemed to drag for hours.
When it was all said and done, we were out by 10 PM - right on time. Great effort by a great group! Snow is going to make the next month of hikes interesting. Hopefully, we'll actually bag a peak or two anyway!
Desmond Tutu skipped up the rocky trail. The Dalai Lama floated. Felix Hernandez threw snowballs at 93 mph. And Clay Bennett tried to drive a bulldozer up there.
I knew I was hiking with celebrities! And I'm not talking about Felix et al. I mean all those from this site, whose TRs I've read and about whom I've read these past few months. I tried not to fawn over everybody too much. Especially Mark. He's the real deal – a friggin' rock star, and a great guy to boot. Thanks for organizing this.
The truth of the matter is the Dalli Lama did amazingly well considering his age,but he was born and raised in Tibet after all. Clay Bennit on the other hand had to be prodded all the way up with a pole. He then took a quick trip to Lower Granite Lake.
-------------- "You do not laugh when you look at the mountains, or when you look at the sea." Lafcadio Hearn
My second TNAB event, and despite the pouring rain and less than ideal trail conditions, I still had a good time.
Sharing goodies at the top and running down the steep snow field in the dark with a wet glissade at the end made it another memorable event.
A couple of pictures before my camera was soaked.
I took advantage of a 30-40 minute head-start to make the balcony junction before being caught by afterburners. Being caught proved to be a good thing this night, though, because the pitter-patter of two dozen or more boots (and later snowshoes) made the way at least a bit more passable for this shoeless Joe. I was able to (almost) keep up for a while, but the post-holing just got more and more miserable. I finally succumb and turned around at about 3,340' in a 6-8' deep snowless creek-trail bed out of which I didn't have the gumption to climb.
After bidding Rick and Bruce farewell and snarfing a Cliff bar, I took off downhill, engaging in some brutal crotch-crunching post-holing before finally reaching the more shallow and compact snow near the junction. The way back was very dark and very wet, but also lovely in its solitude. Digging oneself out of waist-deep post-holes and tree wells in the cold dark seems to have a way of focusing the mind.
It took me a couple of hours to get down, leaving just 30-40 minutes for the group's return. I knew that as tough as I found the going, the group's effort to the ridge and back down in the cold and dark would be that much tougher. Sitting there by the cars I began to imagine all the worst possible scenarios, so it was a real relief to see those lights come out from behind the hill and start across that bridge!
Dirty Harry's backyard.
Hellllooo down there!
You know, I'm really looking forward to complaining about the heat.
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