As I get closer to attempt to summit Mount Adams in a little less than a month, I joined Trailblazing Todd, his parents, and 6 others for a conditioning hike/climb to the summit of Mount Defiance. It was a hike that had elevation, snow, distance, and defiance built into it.
The road to the Ira Springs trailhead which takes you to Bandera Mountain, Mason Lake and its sibling lakes, and Mount Defiance is in great shape. The trail is mud and snow free all the way to Mason Lake. What it is not free of is people and their dogs running loose everywhere. The trail is not what I expected. I thought it was going to be a gradual elevation hike to the Bandera/Mason Lake junction, was I wrong! It starts climbing from the start relentlessly all the way to the junction. The views are amazing as you go higher and Mount Rainier was trying to show all its glory, but clouds covered the top.
On the way up we heard morons firing guns down below. At one time we heard about 20 gunshots within 10 minutes. I was sure on the way in “No Shooting” signs were visibly displayed. Of course there is also the steady stream of people going up along with the trail runners. As much as they like to yell out “on your right” so that you get out of their way, they kept yelling out their dogs’ names over and over as they ran up and down the trail with no leash and out of the sight of their owners (and they wonder why their pets get attacked by mountain lions and bears). I love dogs(I want a corgi so bad and already have a name for him for when I get him... someday), but sheesh, leash your dogs people!
After leaving the herds of people behind as we headed over to Mason Lake, the trail goes down and you lose some of the elevation you gain. Here you’ll start seeing spotty snow. The Lake is beautiful and covered in ice with a soft blue hue. There are plenty of spots to pitch a tent despite the snow and this is probably the best time to do it if you don’t want the crowds that go to the lake in the summer.
Leaving Mason Lake and heading over towards Lake Kulla Kulla and Mount Defiance, the patchy snow becomes more abundant and icier. You can spot Lake Kulla Kulla below (I wonder if there are camping spots there considering there is no trail to the lake, anyone knows?) and then you come to the ridge of Mount Defiance.
Here it is all snow and you just follow the steps cut into the icy snow. Going up the ridge was easy, then you get to the rocky outcrop that tricks you into thinking it’s its summit. Here a bit of that uneasiness crept into my head, but Mount Defiance's futile attempt to keep me off the summit didn’t work and I went up the class 2 scramble with a little help from Trailblazing Todd. Once up that I looked back and ask myself what was all the fuzz about in my head. Then surprise; I wasn’t at the summit, I was right below it! So up the last 75’ or so to the summit on the snowfield and I was on the summit!
What views! Lakes, river valleys, mountains, everything– except Mount Rainier! It decided it was going to go hide in the clouds so along with that, it meant no views of Mount Adams, Mount Hood, Mount Saint Helens, Mount Baker, and Glacier Peak. Oh well, at least I could see Mount Stewart and off to the east. There were at least 8 others that were on the summit or leaving it.
Then came the descend part. I wasn’t thrilled with it as I had this irrational fear that I was going to slide off the mountain side (I swear it felt like I had lost the almighty). We took a side path around the rocky outcrop and most got past it fine. Now I have never dealt with this before so it took some coaching and encouragement from Trailblazing Todd to get me off. Later after falling way behind Jeff came over and ran, jumped, and danced on the snow to prove to me that the snow was not going to give and send me to my death off the side of the mountain, but would stop me. Then the fear went away and like a bunny I hopped off the steep mountain side back to the tree line and forest just as Bill came back to make sure everything was fine. We made it back to the rest of the group at Mason Lake waiting for us and after a short break back down the trail we went.
On the way down after spotting a cute pika we notice a placard in memory of Ira Spring facing out towards I-90.
Then I noticed a waterfall going down Harris Creek (about 100’ tall).
On the way down once again we heard the constant sound guns being fired. Made a quick stop at Ira Spring Falls (pretty tall waterfall if you look past the trees) and then finally made it to the car.
I had finally finished my first major summit since Three Fingers (Tiger Mountain and its summits don’t count, those are hills in my opinion!) and to my surprise, my legs were fine. In fact I kind of had the urge to go up Bandera Mountain with Todd on the way down. The only thing that was sore was my arms (along with this intense itch and rash from the sunscreen, I guess it’s time to find a new one!), being a goalie playing hockey has sure kept my legs in shape!
Thank you to Trailblazing Todd’s mom for organizing this and to Todd and Jeff for their help and patience. This was fun and can’t wait for Mount Adams!
Just an idea for all the people who go up Defiance and then just go home: If you continue W on the main Trail 1009 past the spur up to the top of Defiance, on down to the back (N) side of the ridge, there are some nice little meadow patches back there that I think few people ever see.
Seems we had a little of everything on this one. What fun! Sounds like I want to go back when the flowers are blooming.
The best part for me may be that my knee was fine. I thought the old ACL was going to complain badly (not to mention the arthritis), but my brace did the trick!
This was more or less a trial to see how I was going to do on Mt Adams, and now I'm confident the knee will hold. Yay!
Thanks guys! That was a fun trip! I do have a question and wonder if any of you know... Do Kulla Kulla and Blazer Lakes have any camping spots? I know they have no trails to them, but they sure seem easy to get to, specially Kulla Kulla.
When I go there every year I camp out at Island Lake since there usually is no one to bug me and it's the prettiest lake in my opinion there, but I kind of want to branch out. Anybody know?
Just FYI - once when I was up there somebody told me the gunfire sounds that you hear on that trail come from a law enforcement training facility in the valley on the other side of the freeway. Perhaps somebody can confirm or deny?
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