Forum Index > Trip Reports > Redtop Lookout via Medicine Creek, 1/3/09
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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot



Joined: 30 Jan 2007
Posts: 4022 | TRs
Location: Shoreline
Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot
PostWed Jan 07, 2009 1:58 am 
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Date: 1/3/09
Trip: Redtop Mtn via Medicine Creek
Party:  Matt, mtnmike, Suzanne R, Richard, B, Lynn G, loper, Bill B, cartman

Preface

Sometimes things just keep improving.
  • Low expectations (email Friday 2:37am): "I still want to get out on Saturday, even though the conditions are suboptimal.  I’d like to at least hike in the woods and get some exercise, since views are unlikely."
  • Better forecast (phone calls Friday 4:00pm): Weather forecast has only 1-2 inches of new snow tomorrow.  Passes have re-opened.  Avalanche forecast improved to “moderate below 6000 feet” for east cascades.
  • A conservative plan (email Friday 6:18pm): "The trip will be to Teanaway Ridge, starting at its southern end and running up the ridge as far as we get.”
  • A more ambitious plan (email Friday 9:06pm): “Another option in the same area, start from Mineral Springs and go west to Red Top.”
Route

Our route started from the Mineral Springs resort on Highway 97.  We hiked through the campground, followed a road west along Medicine Creek for about 1.5 miles, followed the ridge crest further west to Teanaway Ridge for about 2 miles, then turned north 1.5 miles to Redtop Lookout.

Redtop via Medicine Creek Route Map
Redtop via Medicine Creek Route Map

Report

When we parked at Mineral Springs resort, the Subaru's thermometers read 4 degrees, so we got moving quickly.  Started at 9:10am, we crossed the highway to the campground, walked counterclockwise to the far side of the campground loop, and then cut straight west till we found the road up Medicine Creek.

Trailhead
Trailhead

Snowshoes sank a foot or more into the loose powdery snow, which made for tiring trailbreaking, but we had plenty of people to take turns in front.  The road was untracked, but its flat surface provided steady progress.

At the end of the road, we got on the ridge on our right, and followed the crest westward up and down a few intermediate high points.  Trailbreaking was okay under trees on the crest, but arduous when we sidehilled around some higher bumps.  At the end, we struggled up steeper softer snow and thicker trees to climb up onto the side of Teanaway Ridge.

On a ridge crest, with Redtop’s rocky summit visible at upper right
On a ridge crest, with Redtop’s rocky summit visible at upper right
Kicking steps
Kicking steps
Going up toward Teanaway Ridge
Going up toward Teanaway Ridge
Squeezing between trees
Squeezing between trees

The snow-covered pine trees made new patterns I hadn’t seen before.  Frost weighted the long needles so that they hung straight down, while piles of snow stacked on top of the branches.  Lower on the big trees, the curvy branches supported swooping little ridges of snow, piled surprisingly high on the narrow branches.

Pine top
Pine top
6-inch snow on 1-inch branches
6-inch snow on 1-inch branches

On Teanaway Ridge, we found the pathway of winter heaven.  Along this higher ridge crest, the trees grew tall, the spaces between made wide lanes, and the snow coated everything in white.  We strolled along untracked glades amid gilded giants.  I love big snowy trees.

Coming onto the ridge top
Coming onto the ridge top
Pathway through the big snowy trees
Pathway through the big snowy trees
My favorite big snowy tree
My favorite big snowy tree
Hiking on the ridge top
Hiking on the ridge top

After a quarter mile or so, we found the main road, with a few snowmobiles passing by.  For once I was happy to see the machines, because it was getting late in the day, and their packed track let us pick up our pace.  We stopped a few times to ponder our maps, as it turned out that we had hit the ridge further south (and further from the lookout) than we had expected.  This meant we'd be returning after dark, but we all agreed it was worthwhile.

On the Road 1
On the Road 1
On the Road 2
On the Road 2
On the Road 3
On the Road 3

The snowy trees continued to delight (and delay) me.

Spreading snowy tree
Spreading snowy tree
Tall snowy trees
Tall snowy trees

A road sign reassured us that we were on the right road and not too far to make it today.

Reassuring Sign
Reassuring Sign
Further along the road
Further along the road
Snow patterns on the trunks
Snow patterns on the trunks

The trees became even taller and snowier.

Sunlit Snowy Trees
Sunlit Snowy Trees
Pair of Taller Snowy Trees
Pair of Taller Snowy Trees
Hiker Beneath Taller Snowy Trees
Hiker Beneath Taller Snowy Trees
Triangular Snowy Tree
Triangular Snowy Tree

There were signs that the end was near.

This sign exaggerates; it’s at most a quarter mile.
This sign exaggerates; it’s at most a quarter mile.
Foggy lookout through the trees
Foggy lookout through the trees

When we reached the final open ridge to the lookout, both the trees and the building were coated with rime.

Rime on trees & the Lookout
Rime on trees & the Lookout
Rimed Tree
Rimed Tree
Rimed Lookout
Rimed Lookout
Rime cleaned off of lookout sign
Rime cleaned off of lookout sign

We arrived at 3pm and took a short 20-minute break for food and photos.  Winds were unusually mild for this location, but the temperature was starting to drop.

Matt at the Lookout
Matt at the Lookout
Summit break huddled against an outbuilding
Summit break huddled against an outbuilding
Summit tea and the far side of the ridge
Summit tea and the far side of the ridge
Summit tea looking down off the edge
Summit tea looking down off the edge

With skies already becoming more gray, we headed down off the summit.

Departing the lookout
Departing the lookout
Rimed tree at dusk
Rimed tree at dusk
Down the summit ridge
Down the summit ridge
On the road down
On the road down

Snowflakes drifted down lightly from the sky.  Nothing heavy, just enough to add a sweet sparkle to our exit hike.  It just felt nice to have the bright snowflakes floating around us as the day dimmed.  (I tried to photograph them, but they came out looking more like blotches on photos.)

Snowflakes in the air
Snowflakes in the air
Lightly snowing on the road
Lightly snowing on the road

As we dropped off Teanaway Ridge, a narrow orange band colored the western horizon.  Later, a half moon shone hazily through the clouds.  Even in the gathering dusk, our snowshoe trench was easy to follow.  About ¾ of the way down the Medicine Creek ridge, we had to put on headlamps.  We reached the cars about 6:40pm.

Exiting the ridge
Exiting the ridge
Sunset color
Sunset color
Trailhead sign, with steaming breath lit up by the flash
Trailhead sign, with steaming breath lit up by the flash

Appendix 1: Winter Routes to Redtop

There are at least three winter routes to Redtop.
  • Starting from Hwy 97 at Mineral Springs via the Blue Creek Road.  Richard reports taking the road to about 3600 feet, then following a ridge up to the north side of the summit.  This is probably the simplest approach, since the road is packed down by snowmobiles, but least desirable for the same reason.
  • Starting from Teanaway River Road at Indian Creek, via Middle Creek.  We did this route in 2006 (see link below for trip report & map).  It has the advantage of being all cross-country, but is longer and has more ups and downs.  Brief very steep section through cliffs on north side of lookout.  13 miles round trip, 2900 net gain, 4200 cumulative gain.
  • Starting from Hwy 97 at Mineral Springs via Medicine Creek.  Today’s trip.  An even mix of road and ridgetop travel.  11 miles round trip, 2700 net gain, 3300 cumulative gain.
Appendix 2: Winter Lookout Hikes That Would Have Been Much Shorter in Summer

This trip continues my annual tradition of snowshoeing all day to reach a lookout peak that I could have driven miles closer to in summer.  All but one trip has included Richard & Lynn; many also included mtnmike or Suzanne R.
Final Word

Sometimes things keep getting better.

--------------
“As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
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Layback
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Joined: 16 Mar 2007
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Layback
Proud Papa x2
PostWed Jan 07, 2009 8:37 am 
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Thanks for the great TR and pics Matt.

Matt wrote:
Final Word

Sometimes things keep getting better.

Sunday turned out to be an amazing day, did it not?   up.gif
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JimK
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JimK
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PostWed Jan 07, 2009 8:54 am 
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Matt, we greatly enjoyed following the route to Red Top you took via the NF Teanaway Road. Might have to give this one a try this year.

--------------
Hiking Northwest
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Opus
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Joined: 04 Mar 2006
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Opus
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PostWed Jan 07, 2009 8:54 am 
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Very nice!  Looks like another good route to Red Top.  We really enjoyed the cross country trek from the Teanaway side.
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wamtngal
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wamtngal
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PostWed Jan 07, 2009 9:24 am 
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Love the snow-draped trees!  up.gif  up.gif

I'm bummed that we ended up missing out on this trip in favor of a closer one that wouldn't take all day...I've been wanting to do Red Top in the winter for the past few years now. Still plenty of winter left though.  biggrin.gif

--------------
Opinions expressed here are my own.
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rdyhiker
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rdyhiker
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PostWed Jan 07, 2009 11:27 am 
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Beautiful pix... and those are some seriously rimed trees and lookout!   Nice write-up and thanks for all the various route info.

wamtngal, Redtop has also been on my list since this time last season.   Maybe I can join you and Todd and make it happen this year?  And I'm bummed I had to say no to 2 trips on Saturday and stay in to prepare for company coming!  Sunday was nice, but not with the blue skies and rime of Matt's pix...
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Jennifer S.
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Jennifer S.
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PostWed Jan 07, 2009 8:34 pm 
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Wow, looks like a wonderful trip! & beautiful photos.
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Hiker Mama
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Hiker Mama
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PostWed Jan 07, 2009 11:30 pm 
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Wow, Matt, and all the rest of y'all, that looks so fun!

--------------
My hiking w/ kids site: www.thehikermama.com
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Type E
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Type E
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PostThu Jan 08, 2009 11:13 am 
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I had slated Red Mt. Lookout for last Monday but was worried about the extreme avalanche conditions. I was more worried about being stuck on the East side of the pass. I think it is funny how so many of us think alike when planning trips. I can remember numerous times I had planned on doing some obscure peak only to read a report prior to heading out.
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twodogdad
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twodogdad
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PostFri Jan 09, 2009 5:13 pm 
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Matt wrote:


Sometimes things just keep improving.
Sometimes things keep getting better.

Understatements of the week smile.gif

Great report, though, as usual: would you hazard a guess as to the avy potential of this route under current conditions? Not too high, as far as I can see, but you have a better eye.

Thanks, tdd
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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot



Joined: 30 Jan 2007
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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot
PostFri Jan 09, 2009 7:15 pm 
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The route would be good in moderate to considerable avalanche conditions.  The earlier part is surrounded by forest with no open slopes above.  Once you leave the road by Medicine Creek, you can stay on ridgetops.  We briefly crossed a few small open clearcuts, but we could have avoided them by staying higher and being right on the ridge crest.

--------------
“As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
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