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Forum Index -> Trip Reports -> Hidden Lake Peak, 12.9.2009
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Opus
Wannabe



Joined: 04 Mar 2006
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Location: The big rock candy mountain
Post Wed Dec 09, 2009 10:44 pm    Hidden Lake Peak, 12.9.2009
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I went crazy, quit my job, and went hiking.  Ok, so it wasn't anything that dramatic.  I just had some vacation time I had to use by the end of the year or I lose it.  But maybe I really did go crazy?  When I requested it my boss asked, "You want to take the day off and beat your self up on a hard trail on one of the coldest days of the year?  You're crazy!".  Yup.

So I drug myself out of my nice warm bed at a crazy hour, brewed some coffee, threw my pack in the cold car and set off.  I think it was about 18 degrees in Seattle.  Darrington was the cold point at 10 degrees.  I drove to the parking spot BadDog and Flow used over the weekend: it was 17 degrees out.  Surprisingly I found another car here!  Another hiker had just arrived and was gearing up.  He intended to hoof it up the road to ascend via Sibley Creek and the ridge.  I used the same route as the other NWHikers party, going right up the ridge line to the summit from here.

Off into the woods I went and immediately upwards; wow that first 1000 ft is steep!  At least Evergreen on Sunday had a boot path.  If nothing else this served to warm me up.  About 4000 ft I hit enough solid snow that I stopped and put on crampons for extra traction.  The snow was fairly hard and still bootable but I wanted a little more grip.  I continued upwards and at the two hour mark emerged onto the summer trail route.  Glorious blue sky and white peaks everywhere!  It was bitter cold even in the sun and even the very slight breeze was harsh on the little exposed skin I allowed.

The tracks from BadDog and company were occasionally visible but mostly washed away in a sea of snowy wind scour.  Above 6000 ft there was a firm and thick crust that at first encouraged my progress.  Quickly this devolved into random punching through and difficult conditions.  Some steps held, some broke through a few inches.  Steady progress was impossible.  The last push to the top was slow and I was starting to run out of gas.  But after a short steep stretch I reached the top!  Amazing views everywhere I looked.  I really cant remember the last time I was out on such a clear day.  Or one as cold: my thermometers both read 5 - 6 degrees F.  campfire.gif

I put on my down jacket and all but my final layer.  With the calm conditions and bright sun I was able to stay up here about half an hour.  If there was any wind I would have been a popsicle in less than half that time.  Looking down I could see the tracks from the other hiker towards Sibley Pass and continuing up the ridge towards me but still no sign of him.  Surprisingly there were tracks in the snow up to the lookout!  I think they were ski tracks but I couldn't tell for sure; the twist-focus mechanism in my little scope had frozen in place.

Getting cold, I packed up my stuff and started down.  The snow crust hadn't softened at all in the sun so I slowly plunge stepped my way back down to treeline.  The sun was dropping quick and already the lower parts of the forest were in shade.  The snow here was pretty solid so I left my crampons on until I ran out of snow.  Initially I took them off for the dirt but after a few slips on the steep surface I put them back on for more traction.  That final stretch back to the cars is sure steep.  At this point the other hiker caught me, descending the ridge route as well.  He didn't use crampons all day but was wearing plastic boots.  I had my leathers ... and fairly cold feet.

For whatever reason my altimeter doesn't agree with the maps on this one.  I recorded a parking spot at 3300 ft and summit of 7765 ft, accumulated gain of 4465 ft.  The map lists the summit as 7088 ft.  I think I actually parked around the end of the 2800 ft road switchback.  Driving up I passed a flattened area with a fire ring, then made a left turn to the next switchback, parking in a wide spot shortly beyond this.  There was an obvious start trail (game trail?  boot path?) here.  I didn't cross any other road switchbacks on the way up.

EDIT: Drawing in routes from my TOPO software I'm pretty sure I did actually park around 2800 ft.

Click here for all the photos.


While this one was within my physical and technical levels, I think I pushed my temperature level a bit.  I've never been out in anything so cold before.  Going uphill I was wearing more than half the clothes in my pack and just to stay on top I had to put on my down jacket.  I love cold temperatures but this one scared me a little.  I always carry emergency supplies to spend a night out if I have to but I dont think anything else I own would have helped much for this without carrying a 50+ lb pack.
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Layback
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Joined: 16 Mar 2007
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Post Wed Dec 09, 2009 10:53 pm   
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Looks like a magical day.   up.gif
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Magellan
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Post Wed Dec 09, 2009 11:01 pm   
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Great stuff Opus.  How would you rate this route during moderate to high avi conditions?
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Opus
Wannabe



Joined: 04 Mar 2006
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Location: The big rock candy mountain
Post Wed Dec 09, 2009 11:05 pm   
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Magellan wrote:
Great stuff Opus.  How would you rate this route during moderate to high avi conditions?

I'm really not great at estimating avalanche danger.  I'd say it's very safe until you exit tree line though.  The ridge is well defined and there isn't much above it to come down.  I went straight up the side of the peak to the summit which probably wouldn't be safe in higher danger.

It certainly seems safer than the trail at least.  I could see some fairly fresh avalanche debris over there.
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BadDog
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Post Thu Dec 10, 2009 12:03 am   
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I am SO glad you made it Ok.  I was worried!  The temps seemed too low to tolerate any errors.  I assume those frozen paw prints belong to Holly-very cool.  I will print that pic and frame it.  Looks like you had way better views than we did. up.gif
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Gil
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Post Thu Dec 10, 2009 1:25 am   
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I see a December calendar photo for next year.

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Ingunn
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Post Thu Dec 10, 2009 1:49 am   
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Paw prints & Stocking! wub.gif

A most excellent day to not work, I say.
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peltoms
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Post Thu Dec 10, 2009 5:27 am   
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When you going back to see if the stocking is filled? Everything looks so frozen still.  On those types of days I have to keep moving. up.gif
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furthur
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Post Thu Dec 10, 2009 6:09 am   
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Love reading this while my feet are resting on the heat vent.  Great payoff for your gumption to get out and up--the potential wind chill must have been a worry.  Your pix never fail to satisfy my imagination.

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Opus
Wannabe



Joined: 04 Mar 2006
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Location: The big rock candy mountain
Post Thu Dec 10, 2009 8:59 am   
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It would have been a very straight forward trip if not for the temperatures.  Had there been wind I probably would have bailed once I reached tree line.  I didn't have to dip into my final layer but it was my Mountain Hardwear Sub-Zero parka.  I've only worn the thing once.

Sadly the stocking wasn't filled.  I figured getting it up north closer to Santa and easily accessible for flying sleighs would do the trick but I guess its still too early.
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Jim Dockery
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Post Thu Dec 10, 2009 9:32 am   
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Sweet summit panos Opus. up.gif

I also thought twice (once I got home) last weekend about having any problems that would keep you out overnight in this weather. I think the only way to survive would be to dig a snow cave, which would be hard in most places due to the firm snow. If you have a headlamp and just keep moving that should keep you warm, but an injury that had you sitting or laying down would likely finish you off if you didn't have a sleeping bag, pad, and bivy sack. Even with 0 avy danger winter climbing is serious business (esp. solo).

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reststep
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Post Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:49 am   
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Thanks for sharing Opus.

I love pictures like that taken on a bluebird day.  You could make a calendar using just those photos.

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TrailPair
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Post Thu Dec 10, 2009 11:26 am   
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Ooooo, very cold....but way kool!!!! cool.gif   A nice way to spend the day away fromm work. Those views are magnificent! dizzy.gif

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dicey
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Post Thu Dec 10, 2009 11:38 am   
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You are CRAZY to go out on such a cold day!
wink.gif

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BadDog
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Post Thu Dec 10, 2009 11:51 am   
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Jim Dockery wrote:
Sweet summit panos Opus. up.gif

I also thought twice (once I got home) last weekend about having any problems that would keep you out overnight in this weather. I think the only way to survive would be to dig a snow cave, which would be hard in most places due to the firm snow. If you have a headlamp and just keep moving that should keep you warm, but an injury that had you sitting or laying down would likely finish you off if you didn't have a sleeping bag, pad, and bivy sack. Even with 0 avy danger winter climbing is serious business (esp. solo).


Yes, I shudder to think what night time temps would be and/or if some wind kicked in.  eek.gif   There's no way I would have brought Holly in these temps. shakehead.gif
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