Forum Index > Trip Reports > Sunrise bagging - West Granite Mountain 2/25/17
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awilsondc
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awilsondc
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PostSun Feb 26, 2017 11:00 am 
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Like a lot of others here, I was lured into the mountains by a promising forecast for Saturday.  My goal was to catch the sunrise from the summit of West Granite Mountain via the west ridge route.  I set my alarm for 1:06 am and was on the trail at 3:32am.

The trail was a firm boot pack and microspikes worked well for traction.  It took me awhile to dial in my layering.  Base layer + soft shell was too hot, base layer alone too cold... base layer and fleece mid layer was just right.  One of the neat things about hiking in the snow at night by headlamp is the snow glistens in the light, like a billion diamonds sparkling as you go.  Very magical.  I made it past the turnoff for Olallie Lake in good time and spotted a faint mostly covered trail heading up to the west ridge of West Granite which I followed for a short time after putting on my snowshoes.  The established track was too covered to be of any use so I was stuck breaking trail the rest of the way to the summit.  Oof.  Hard work.  It really slowed me down, obviously.  As I reached the ridge dawn was breaking and Kaleetan looked very impressive, like a shard cleaved from the belly of the earth, chiseled, magnificent, and strong.  Views back towards Olallie lake and Pratt Mountain were pretty good too.  These crappy cell phone photos don't do it justice.

Trail sign on the way in
Trail sign on the way in
Kaleetan at dawn from the ridge
Kaleetan at dawn from the ridge
Olallie Lake, Bandera, and Pratt at dawn
Olallie Lake, Bandera, and Pratt at dawn

My slow pace from breaking trail was putting me behind schedule and I was bummed I was going to be a few minutes late to the summit.  Looking around me though, I saw no signs of any dawn colors or sunrise and was a bit disappointed until... I reached a false summit and was able to see over the ridge to the east.

This looks promising!
This looks promising!
Excitement grows as I near the ridge crest
Excitement grows as I near the ridge crest

This really put some pep in my step!  There are only two things I can think of right now that will make me shout and whoop and verbally express my excitement about the moment.  Ripping fresh powder on my snowboard and sunrise in the mountains after a long hike.  And this sunrise was a beauty!

Exhilarating sunrise
Exhilarating sunrise
The payoff
The payoff

The photos don't quite do it justice, but there was a central vertical beam, a pillar of light rising straight to the heavens from the sunrise.  The was exhilarating, powerful, and spiritual.  In this shot, zoomed in, the sun actually looks like a traditional five pointed star half way above the horizon.

West Granite Sunrise
West Granite Sunrise

There was some decent alpenglow out towards Bandera and McClellan Butte too.

McClellan Butte Alpenglow
McClellan Butte Alpenglow
Alpenglow on Bandera
Alpenglow on Bandera

I made it to the summit about 10 minutes after sunrise, just soon enough to see some neat colors around Granite Mountain and the lookout.  10 minutes later it was gone.

Granite Mountain from West Granite
Granite Mountain from West Granite
Granite Mountain at sunrise
Granite Mountain at sunrise

I was really hoping to catch some alpenglow on Kaleetan and Chair, but it was not to be.

Kaleetan and Chair
Kaleetan and Chair

The sunrise only lasted about 20 minutes and then clouds rolled in and it started snowing.  The sun tried to burn through the clouds a couple times without much success.

Clouds trying to burn off over Granite Mountain
Clouds trying to burn off over Granite Mountain

I didn't linger too long.  It was cold up there and with diminishing views I headed back.  The descent was a pleasant combination of plunge stepping and snowshoe skiing which was really fun.

Bandera, Pratt, Defiance, and Olallie Lake
Bandera, Pratt, Defiance, and Olallie Lake
My snowshoe track on the way down
My snowshoe track on the way down

Total was 6 1/2 hours car to car. ~10 miles and 3800 ft elevation gain.
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meck
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meck
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PostSun Feb 26, 2017 11:04 am 
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Awesome sunrise pics awilsondc!  Definitely looks like it was worth the effort.

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Yana
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Yana
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PostSun Feb 26, 2017 1:01 pm 
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Wonderful! Love the bright colors. And you got a "god ray" - those are amazing and pretty rare.

I attempted to do something similar, but further north near Mt. Baker. I was rewarded with... clouds. Oh well, them's the breaks.

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Snidely Whiplash
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PostSun Feb 26, 2017 1:08 pm 
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Hey, those are really pretty photos, in spite of using the cell phone. The sunrise and alpenglow ones in particular.
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RichP
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RichP
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PostSun Feb 26, 2017 1:10 pm 
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Whoa! You got the goods.
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awilsondc
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awilsondc
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PostSun Feb 26, 2017 1:25 pm 
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Yana wrote:
you got a "god ray" - those are amazing and pretty rare

Yeah, it was impressive that's for sure.  Something I won't soon forget!

Snidely Whiplash wrote:
Hey, those are really pretty photos, in spite of using the cell phone. The sunrise and alpenglow ones in particular.

Only the first three and last two were from my cell phone, the good ones in the middle were from my point and shoot.  And hey, I recognize you from SP (or at least same screen name) what's up!   smile.gif
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Snuffy
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PostSun Feb 26, 2017 1:42 pm 
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Gorgeous! It pays to get up early!  smile.gif

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You don't find yourself standing at the top of a mountain without having started out in the valley.
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GaliWalker
Have camera will use



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GaliWalker
Have camera will use
PostSun Feb 26, 2017 2:39 pm 
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awilsondc wrote:

Excellent!  up.gif I'm predicting now, that this is going to make next year's calendar. smile.gif

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iron
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iron
getting old
PostSun Feb 26, 2017 3:22 pm 
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up.gif  up.gif

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man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?

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Just_Some_Hiker
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PostSun Feb 26, 2017 4:08 pm 
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I'm not familiar with the west summit route, but it seems like a lot more miles than the standard east summit winter route. Wouldn't it make sense to go to the east summit and then traverse over? Especially with skis, one could just coast over in 5 minutes. Maybe I'm missing something here.

Nice pics BTW.
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awilsondc
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awilsondc
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PostSun Feb 26, 2017 4:56 pm 
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Just_Some_Hiker wrote:
I'm not familiar with the west summit route, but it seems like a lot more miles than the standard east summit winter route. Wouldn't it make sense to go to the east summit and then traverse over? Especially with skis, one could just coast over in 5 minutes. Maybe I'm missing something here.

You're totally right, that route would be quicker as would be the more direct route up the south side as outlined here by b00:

b00 wrote:

I took the longer west ridge for a couple reasons.  One I'm a winter backcountry novice traveling solo in the middle of the night so I wanted to take the safest route in terms of avalanche risk.  The NWAC forecast looked like the south route would have been fine that day and I might have taken it had I seen an established path up along the way which I did not.  Which leads me to the other reason, which was I was hoping for a boot / snowshoe track to follow all the way up.  I know others had been up this recently so I was hoping their tracks were still fresh.  They were not.  Oh well, it was great exercise!
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PaleoCook
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PaleoCook
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PostSun Feb 26, 2017 5:03 pm 
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Thanks for the report and wonderful pics. I'll have to give this one a go while we still have some snow if the weather permits soon.

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Snidely Whiplash
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Snidely Whiplash
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PostSun Feb 26, 2017 5:36 pm 
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awilsondc wrote:
Only the first three and last two were from my cell phone, the good ones in the middle were from my point and shoot.  And hey, I recognize you from SP (or at least same screen name) what's up!  smile.gif

Yeah, it's me. I've lurked here a number of years but never really posted. Just took gratuitous information without contributing. I knew it was you. How many "awilsondc"'s are there? I see gimpilator on here a lot too. You should post those alpenglow and sunrise pictures to the West Granite (Tusk O' Granite) page. It's my page, and I'd feature a least a couple of them.
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