6:00 a.m. at the Everett PUD???? What kind of cruel joke is this on the weekend after Christmas?? Well, we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time and that we did. Matt, Loper (Lisa), Mud Slinger (Bill), Cartman (Eric), Gus and the driver were set for this trip - but at the last minute on Sunday morning, Eric had to bail out because he wasn't feeling well. So, Gus and the driver loaded the three remaining members into the Highlander and off we headed to Marblemount and beyond. The temperature was below freezing in Everett - dropping to 23 degrees in Darrington - but by the time we got to the trailhead, the temperature was at 36 degrees! Downright balmy! Following Opus' report Hidden Lake Peaks from earlier in December, we expected to be stopped by snow at around 2500'. Nope, we could have gone all the way to the summer trailhead. There was snow on the road - but definitely passable. However, we decided that we should probably park at the last switchback, because that would put us closer to a starting point to reach the ridge (at about 3200'). We were on the "trail" by 9:00 a.m.
YIKES! The orange flagging we saw wasn't a trail maker - likely a road crew marker, because we literally went straight up! Gaining about 450' as we hit the ridge.
Here we stopped for a clothing adjustment, water, snack and a deep breath!
We really didn't hit "snow" until about 4300' - and what we did hit was rock hard. So, on came the crampons because this was still a fairly steep climb. We continued on through the trees - we could hear the wind blowing - but we were fairly well protected. Occasionally, we would see evidence of old bootprints - but we pretty much made our own trail. We reached the edge of the trees at about 5300' and views began to appear.
Also, the wind began to pick up - so we stopped to put more clothes on! The snow was pretty wind scoured, so we kept our crampons on - good plan. From here, it's a pretty straight shot to the summit - and what a beautiful day it was - clear, blue skies. We made quick work of this little 4000' day - reaching the summit just a little before Noon.
It actually felt pretty warm in the sun - but a bit breezy right on the summit, so we dropped down a little to eat our lunch. We had a bit of a debate about whether to go down to Sibley Pass and rejoin the "summer" trail - which would have been a nice loop - but they immediately lost my vote when they mentioned it would add about an hour to our descent - and would mean a couple miles of road walk!!!! I hate road walks, I hate road walks, etc. So - we opted to make a little side trip going further down the ridge to the north (towards the pass) and then heading back down the way we came up - we decided not to try for the look out - another day perhaps. Matt was opining about possibly staying for sunset - since it would be quite spectacular - but we pretty much assured him that we would be back in Everett by then and would send the rescue folks to retrieve him!
Some more pretty pics
Bill had spotted a lonely skier who looked to be heading for the look out - and we came across his tracks - but that would be the only other person we would see all day. Once back in the trees, we made quick work of the route down - removing crampons just about where we had put them on earlier,
and then finding our route marker (which we removed!) for our descent back to the car off of the ridge. OMG! That had to be the steepest slope I have ever been on! Lisa and I pulled out our ice/dirt axes to get down it - the butt slide worked well a time or two, too! We were back down to the car in about 2 1/2 hours, so we made quick work of this little summit! Great day out in the mountains with some fun folks!
Destination: Hidden Lake Peak 7088 via West Ridge
Party: Loper, Bill B, Sadie’s Driver (& Gusto), Matt
Here are the details that stood out for me on the trip:
The road was open remarkably late in the season.
HLP’s west ridge makes a very direct route to the summit.
The higher slopes had fine wind-carved sastrugi.
We drove to the road’s last (shorter) switchback at 3200 feet. (You could also start directly onto the ridge from the earlier switchbacks at 2700 or 3000 feet.) We hiked up the steep side of the ridge to reach its crest circa 3500, angling somewhat rightward to avoid even steeper terrain. The ridge crest itself made a fine upward path – well-defined, moderately wide, moderately steep, and brush-free. Circa 5500 feet we hit the top of the ridge, where the summer trail traverses perpendicular to our path on its way from the trailhead to the lookout. We went straight up to the true summit on open, wind-scoured slopes.
Hiking up the high slopes:
Arriving at the summit:
On the summit:
Starting down (we hiked a bit along the ridge toward Sibley Pass)
Back down the ridge:
-------------- “As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
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