All week I was thinking of trying Arrowhead. I must be the only one here who has not stood on that top. So yesterday I printed out the map. Hmmm, that didn't look all that interesting. So I printed out one of Jolly and Sasse Mountains, my plan B. Better, but I was just there last week. I was, not for the first time, lost in playing with Topo. Somehow I ended up along 410 and Mutton Mountain came into view. After looking up some TRs, I was getting enthusiastic. The forecast called for 60% chance of snow with clouds. Well, that's what it said last week when I went to Hex, and it was sunny all day. Let's take a chance. What could possibly go wrong?
Thanks to Ragman's TR, I found the trailhead without any problems. I did not use the snooze today and arrived at 8:40. 5 minutes of getting ready and I was on my way. There was no snow to be seen, which made me feel a lot better about my decision. If there was fresh snow all the way up from the trailhead, I don't think I'd be able to make it. Some dusting - looked like Styrofoam - started around 3600ft.
Quite some blowovers though. Lots of small ones that I tried to move to the side from time to time. Huge ones that completely block the trail. Some can be manoeuvred around, other stepped over or under. And then there are the ones high up on the ridge. They made the trail disappear completely and I just stayed as high on the ridge as I could.
The snow started to become a dusting on top of an icy layer. Although the layer was lumpy, I didn't need snowshoes or spikes. When I came out of the forest and started up to the north-south ridge, the snow became deeper and I donned my shoes. Still not very deep, but shoes made progress easier. I had seen on the way up that the prevailing winds were west to east, so I didn't get too close to the edge. Finally I got a view of my destination.
Now it was just a little bit down and the final ridge up. The snow in the saddle was completely windswept and hard as rocks.
What a wonderful day!
Because the snow was so easy, I was an hour earlier on the summit than I had expected. And my legs were still feeling good. Hmmm, Sadie's Driver's TR had mentioned Noble Knob, and it was on my map. Just follow the ridge and I'll get there, right? The map showed the real trail to traverse west of the ridge. That looked too steep for me and I decided to explore the ridge instead. Besides, my map showed an area of the ridge that was actually higher than either Mutton or Noble. Can't skip that!
On my way back from where I came I finally saw another hiker. She was very happy with my trail. She was going to make it into a loop by going down the Corral Pass roads. I had considered that, but last weeks loop experience held me back. Going up the 6176 point presented no problems, just stay to the west of the ridge to avoid the cornices.
After 6176 the going became a lot harder. Sheer drop off on the east, steep forest on the west. And going north was blocked because I couldn't tell if there were cornices. I slowly traversed down the west side to a flatter area along the ridge, south of Noble. This took quite some time, for I wanted to find a good way I could go back up when I was done with Noble.
Going up Noble was interesting. The south face hardly had any snow on it, so it was searching for the right route. Once I got to the summit the clouds had come in and the temperature had dropped significantly. And the wind had increased. So we only stayed for the shortest moment.
Going back was tiresome. I needed to regain quite some elevation. Traversing the hill side still didn't look like a good option and I didn't want to try to find my trail back later. So I just retraced my steps.
A lot of the earlier dusting of snow had disappeared during the day. Other than slipping a couple of times, the way down was uneventful. Zoey quickly took a bath in the creek and was happy to fall asleep in the car. Only then did I realize I hadn't applied sunscreen and my cheeks were nice and warm.
7 and a half hours of hiking. No clue about the distance or total elevation gain. A lot, according to my legs.
Ahh yes, the MUTT-ON-MOUNTAIN trip! Fabulous. Good for you. A few years ago, Jim K, Gary W and I did Noble in early March - almost no snow anywhere, in the '60s and short sleeve weather! That's such a fun area. Try Norse Peak - another fun trip. No worries - you'll be on Rainier soon enough, I'm sure.
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