Date: March 7, 2012
Destination:GoatMountain 4778 (USGS Grandy)
Party: Yana, Matt
The forecast was sunny. We decided to pick a sunset summit.
Options were limited by avalanche danger and snowy roads. GoatMtn was a somewhat boring but safe destination.
The route was mostly roads. Skies were mostly cloudy. Peaks were mostly hidden. Prospects seemed dim.
The summit had better views. The clouds were breaking up. The stove made hot tea. We decided it was worth waiting to see what sunset might offer.
For a few brief moments, the sunset turned the summit into a special pastel pink-and-blue world.
From Grandy Lake, follow roads NW till you’re across Grandy Creek, then north till you’re ESE of the summit ridge, then follow ridge WNW to the summit. A more detailed version of the route is at the end of this report.
Up the Roads, Roads, Roads (11:30am – 4:15pm)
We parked just outside the gate for the Grandy Creek road, where a sign prohibited vehicles to enter without permission. There was also active logging occurring on Red Rock Mountain, which could have meant unpleasant encounters with logging trucks. Plus the gate would be locked before we returned after dark.
The road had been plowed and was bare for 1.5 miles up to the first junction. Then it was soft snow or breakable crust, so we used snowshoes the rest of the day. Circa 1873 feet we cut off a loop of road by going cross-country uphill, but the shortcut included some brushy clearcuts and a steeper section.
Then it was more road walking. Many, many miles of road walking. Well, it actually was only few miles, but it seemed like more. I figured I should take a photo of Yana on the road to document this part of the trip, but then decided I’d do it on the way back. Later, on the way back after sunset, I realized that there was a fundamental logical error in this plan. Darkness reigned.
The weather was supposed to be sunny. It wasn’t. Not even partly sunny. Instead we had both high overcast and low bands of clouds.
But in between there were hints of space for some views. South of us, the pointier peaks of the Mountain Loop occasionally came out. Out east, we could sometimes see bright white tips of something above the clouds. Obviously some peaks were getting sunlight, but would we get visibility?
On the ridge to the summit, Baker appeared in a weird way. Just the very flat top of the peak hovered above the cloud line, looking like it was right next door behind the the clouds and stalking us. It felt sort of disturbing to have that giant thing peering over the edge of the clouds at us.
GoatMountain Summit 4778 (4:15-6:15pm)
Up on top, the lower cloud band gradually broke up and gave us views of some more peaks.
Altogether a long line of peaks was visible, but never all at the same time. Where peaks were layered in the distance, the light and shadow worked to selectively reveal or conceal different groups at different times, almost like stage lighting selecting which layer of the scene would be visible.
For example, when we first arrived, the Blum/Hagan/Bacon line was lit up, but then went dark. Later I looked in the same direction and saw the Pickets lit up brightly, and I wondered where they had been before. Closer study revealed that they were right in line with Blum & Hagan, which had become shadowed and almost invisible themselves. Later they switched lighting again and accented the Blum line while shadowing the Pickets. A similar effect happened between the Bacon Creek Buttes (Electric/Logger/Diobsud) and the Snowfield Group. The Buttes line was right in front of the Snowfield line, but they only stood out at alternate times, when the light hit either the nearer or farther group.
With two hours to wait for sunset, we were glad we’d brought a stove to make warm food. I went through several cups of tea, a bowl of soup, and a freeze-dried meal, while Yana filled up with chai and ramens. However, I was disappointed in the performance of my Reactor stove. The cold partially-empty fuel canister needed frequent shaking to keep the stove hot.
Later in the afternoon, there was some warmer local light on the field of rime sentinels north of the summit ridge.
As the sun descended, it dropped behind stacked bands of clouds near the horizon. Below the final band, however, there was a hazy open gap. We hoped it would give us a bit of alpenglow just before the end.
The Pastel World (5:58-6:04pm)
The local alpenglow was faint and brief, but beautiful in its own special way. Lucky we were ready, because it was only a six-minute period while the sun hung in the hazily clear band. The first pink hints appeared at 5:58, and the last glimmer faded out by 6:04.
In between was a subtle pastel world. No bright primary colors or stark black-and-white contrasts tonight. Just two muted complementary colors – soft pink highlights and dim blue-gray shadows.
Down the Roads, Roads, Roads (6:15-9:00pm)
As we descended the summit ridge, color disappeared from the horizon, and then distant lights appeared far below in the valley. Clouds hid the moonrise, but higher up it emerged and gradually came completely clear.
Back on the roads, the full moon was so bright that it cast stronger shadows than we had ever seen while walking up. Anyway it gave good light for the walking, walking, walking. On the way down, we skipped the lower steeper shortcut and followed the longer bend of the road. The gate was locked as expected when we made it back to the cars.
Round trip stats: 10.37 miles, 3915 gain. Up 4:45, summit 2:00, down 2:45
More detailed route info:
860 feet, park outside of gate across from Grandy Lake picnic area.
860-1588 feet, follow plowed road northwest to junction, 1.58 miles.
1588-1873 feet, take left fork across Grandy Creek and then westward, 0.40 miles.
1873 -2457 feet, we took a shortcut north uphill to avoid a long loop of road. This shortcut had some annoying clearcut brush and a steep section, so we used the road on our way down. Shortcut 0.43 miles versus road 1.17 miles.
2457-3501 feet, follow road north, avoiding any branches east or west, 1.41 miles.
3501—3863 feet, shortcut west through nicely spaced small trees to avoid a very long loop of road, 0.21 miles.
3863-3968 feet, back on road briefly, 0.12 miles
3968-4778 feet, get onto ridge left of road and follow it WNW to the summit, 0.64 miles
Recommendation: Ski this trip.
I’m surprised that this peak isn’t popular as a cross country ski trip. On snowshoes, it’s a good view, but an excessive amount of road walking. However, it would make a great moderate-level ski trip, because it’s all on roads or moderate angled slopes.
You could also make a fine extended loop by continuing over GoatMountain to the col about a mile north, and following roads southward over Red Rock Mountain on the opposite side of Grandy Creek.
-------------- “As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
Thanks for the report and the beautiful photos, Matt. The pink rime came out really well. I don't think I got anything nearly as good, but I'll try to add the exciting road walking photos that you are missing.
This was yet another trip where I was having very angry thoughts about the National Weather Service. The forecast said "sunny" - not partly sunny, not mostly sunny, not sunny only right at sunset. Oh well, at least it did clear up at the end, though there were just enough clouds at the horizon to ruin what would have been an absolutely epic photo of the full moon rising above the mountains.
The summit was a lot less flat and rounded than I expected looking at the satellite images. Like Matt, I'm really surprised it doesn't see more visitation, especially since the views are quite nice (if you don't mind Mt. Baker stalking you).
Another nice thing was being able to make most of the return trip without using a headlamp because we were on a wide enough road to let ample moonlight through. I did nearly walk into the gate because there was no headlamp beam to light up the reflective bits and I was looking at my feet.
Edited to add photos. Not sure why they are so shrunken.
Excellent account and pictures, Matt. I almost didn't recognize your pictures while remembering my own visit a couple of years ago. What a difference between March and May!
I found the summit much more difficult, and had to go back and review my own trip report, where I noted:
"I could not find a way to negotiate the cornice to descend to the notch for the final summit push. So I spent a short time on the false summit peering the remaining 75' up to the true summit while wondering if it would go anyway. It was corniced as well with considerable exposure on both sides of the ridge route."
Needless to say, I didn't make it.
Congratulations on a fine summit and excellent views, even if you didn't get the light you were hoping for. Your pictures are nice.
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