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Forum Index -> Trip Reports -> Palmer Mtn (USGS Grotto), 2/5/11
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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot



Joined: 30 Jan 2007
Posts: 3600 | TRs | Pics
Location: Shoreline
Post Sun Feb 06, 2011 11:54 pm   
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Date: 2/5/11
Destination: Palmer Mtn 5043 (USGS Grotto), via East Ridge
Party: Martin Shetter, Dave Creeden, Dicey, Matt

I had tried this peak in 1994, when we stopped 250 feet below the summit, because steep snow on the final traverse might have been unstable.  Back then, we followed a convoluted route trying to stay on logging roads.  This time we used a simpler route - just go uphill and stay on the ridge crest.

For today's weather, Martin interpreted the arcane postulations of MM5 to conclude that it wouldn't rain till after 5pm.  He was right. 
He also suggested that the clouds would top out at about 5000 feet.  He was partially right.


We drove FR 6030 to its major washout at Lowe Creek, 880 feet.  Along the way, we also crossed a lesser washout and drove for about a tenth of a mile through shallow water where the road had become a stream.

At the creek, I found a spot where I could jump across from one large rock to a lower large rock.  Almost.    I didn't quite stick the landing, and flopped onto the lower rock with one foot briefly flailing in the water.   Martin also made the jump, but Dicey fell short and ended up half in the stream hanging onto a pole as Martin pulled her out.  She lost one pole in the process, and later her camera died from the immersion.  So that probably wasn't a good plan.  Meanwhile Dave had worked his way downstream through the brush and found a log he could walk across dry-shod.  That was probably a better plan.  (At the end of the day, we all used a different plan.)


We walked the road about 0.2 miles past Lowe Creek, where a forested nose comes down near the road, and headed uphill.  From there on, we just followed the crest upward.  Most places weren't too brushy, just steep hillsides with mossy logs and sword ferns.  We crossed a couple road switchbacks, most noticeably one with an old hunter's platform in a tree circa 1250 feet.  There were a few narrow spots to get around rock outcrops, but nothing that required more than easy scrambling.


At 2600 feet, we hit the main abandoned road again.  Here we did need to take the road, moving right a few hundred yards to get north of an old quarry.  The quarry forms quite a cliff blasted into the mountainside.  To the right of the quarry, we got onto the narrow rib of the ridge and continued up.  By 3500 feet we had solid snow underfoot, and classic misty winter woods for hiking.


When we reached the base of the false summit, we traversed around the south side circa 4800 feet, so that we could bypass steep rocks on the main summit.  The snow became quite hard and steep as we proceeded, so we had to pause in a tree clump to don crampons.  A bit past the summit, we found a gully that took us to the top, though the snow covering the rocks was a bit thin in spots.


At the summit, the sun actually came out and shone on us for at least a full minute.  A few gaps in the clouds gave us glimpses of Crosby across the valley.


Then it was back down, delaying occasionally for photos.

I really like the feel of the cloudy winter woods. with the mist glowing slightly above the snowy ground, and the moss-bearded trunks fading into soft shadows.  It has sort of a gentle mystical feel to it, with all the edges softened and the light diffused by the misty air.


Lower down, an outlook from atop the quarry cliff gave a view of Grotto's Radenska Ridge.
Buried under a mossy log, Dicey found a balloon to honor her birthday, which was yesterday.
At the bottom, we went a bit too far right, where the woods were flatter and junkier, but also greener.


At Lowe Creek, with the car in sight on the other side, we chose the simplest crossing method - just walk across the wider shallower part, which was at most 12-15 inches deep.  My feet would barely have gotten wet, except that I stopped to take photos of the water running over my boots.


Stats: Round trip 5.5 miles, 4200 gain, 7:15 hours

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“As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
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Matt Lemke
High on the Outdoors



Joined: 15 Jul 2010
Posts: 1501 | TRs | Pics
Location: Red Lodge, MT
Post Sun Feb 06, 2011 11:58 pm   
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Looks like a great way to spend your Sunday  smile.gif
Nice TR

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The Pacific coast to the Great Plains = my playground!!!
SummitPost username is Matt Lemke
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iron
sailing along



Joined: 10 Aug 2008
Posts: 4160 | TRs | Pics
Location: seattle
Post Mon Feb 07, 2011 12:25 am   
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yep, should've joined. i thought it'd take longer.

how was the snow in the finally gully?

martin needs to teach us all how to use MM5 and dicey needs longer legs chickenleg.gif

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"the trouble with quotes on the internet is that it's hard to determine whether or not they're genuine." - abraham lincoln
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puzzlr
Mid Fork Rocks



Joined: 13 Feb 2007
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Location: Stuck in the middle
Post Mon Feb 07, 2011 1:08 am   
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Great TR. Glad things worked out after a "dicey" start. I looked at the map first and it didn't look so far, then I was surprised by the 4200' and 7+ hours. Nice work.
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Sky Hiker
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Post Mon Feb 07, 2011 6:17 am   
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Nice report!! Been there done that except the part of falling in the drink lol.gif
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Redwic
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Joined: 23 Feb 2009
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Location: Taking A Hobo Shower At Walmart
Post Mon Feb 07, 2011 6:27 am   
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Great report! I considered attempting Palmer this weekend, but then I figured the conditions would be too sketchy. Good job!

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"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it." -Atticus Finch
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Snowdog
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Post Mon Feb 07, 2011 9:41 am   
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Quote:
I really like the feel of the cloudy winter woods. with the mist glowing slightly above the snowy ground, and the moss-bearded trunks fading into soft shadows.  It has sort of a gentle mystical feel to it, with all the edges softened and the light diffused by the misty air.

Couldn't have said it better myself.  up.gif

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'we don't have time for a shortcut'
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dicey
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Joined: 11 May 2004
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Location: giving cornices a wider berth
Post Mon Feb 07, 2011 9:52 am   
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iron wrote:

how was the snow in the finally gully?
martin needs to teach us all how to use MM5 and dicey needs longer legs chickenleg.gif

Snow in the final gully was thin and a little icy.  Martin was able to kick good steps and we all wore crampons up and down (facing in) this gully.

Longer legs would really be useful for a lot of reasons!

Being wet all day wasn't that comfortable, luckily the temps were mild.

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I'm not always sure I like being older but being less stupid has advantages.
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Martin S
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Post Mon Feb 07, 2011 2:44 pm   
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Palmer turned out to be a really nice trip.  It was much less brushy than I had feared, and it was great to be able to drive all the way to Lowe Creek.  I would recommend a high clearance vehicle for that road, though.  It's got some rough spots.  I would also recommend not trying to walk the old road shown on the topo since it's badly overgrown.  Just stick to the crown of the ridge like Matt drew on the map above and you'll find some bits of game/climber trails to help out.  They really should make all the deer wear little backpacks with ice axes sticking up so they can't make trails that duck under branches where us climbers get all hung up.

Here's a picture of the final bit of rock to the summit, taken in the spring a few years ago:


The east ridge we came up is at the right, and we went up the gully with the tiny snow patch in it just a little left of the summit.  It's not as steep as you might guess from the picture, but it's not a place you'd want to be if the avalanche danger was high.

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Your head is there to move you around
- REM, "Stand"
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MtnGoat
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Joined: 17 Dec 2001
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Location: Lyle, WA
Post Mon Feb 07, 2011 3:00 pm   
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I've always been fascinated by that area, partly due to it's little traveled nature, partly due to the lure of the limestone deposits up there. Several sources (including Caves of WA if I remember correctly) discuss karst and sink topography in isolated patches up there, and one report discussed a fissure with open space behind it in one of the limestone outcrops. There could well be undiscovered caves up there, and it would rank as one of the very few cave bearing limestone units in WA. (Cave Ridge (Snoqualmie), Dock Butte, Metaline Falls, Cave Ridge (Okanogan), San Juans).

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Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock. - Will Rogers
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cartman
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Post Mon Feb 07, 2011 10:02 pm   
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Interesting conditions.  Not really remembering the route we did, but maybe Randy, don b, or Justus would.  Wonder if that's the same gully we bypassed and went up to the right of, perhaps due to hard snow.  We did it in Feb too.
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BigSteve
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Post Tue Feb 08, 2011 8:35 am   
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up.gif
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the Zachster
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Post Tue Feb 08, 2011 9:48 am   
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Interesting creek crossing eek.gif ...sorry it didn't end so well for everyone! Thanks for a great TR to a lesser known destination. And even though I prefer crisp white snow against a bright blue sky...those misty forest scenes are certainly delightful as well! agree.gif  up.gif

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"May I always be the kind of person my dog thinks I am"
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