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awilsondc
Scramblin' Fool



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awilsondc
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Scramblin' Fool
PostSat May 26, 2018 6:45 pm 
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I've had my eye on the Gardner's for a few years.  Trip reports always look appealing, and I hadn't visited any mountains that far east because it's a long drive for me.  Looking through trip reports, Memorial day weekend seems to be a popular time to do this trip.  I had a couple extra days off so I decided to take advantage of the good weather and head up before any potential holiday weekend crowds arrived.  I thought a lot about the potential ways to do this trip in two days, and I was really hoping to bivy up on point 8487 to catch the sunset and sunrise.  Calculating the time I'd need to make it up there, I set my alarm for 3:30 am and hit the road after getting ready.  After some early morning rush hour slow and go traffic I was able to make it to the trailhead and start hiking at 10:50.  I was the third to sign in this year.  Fay Pullen did Storey a few days prior and another guy went to the meadows.  It was looking like I'd have the whole place to myself.

Forest!
Forest!
Wolf Creek
Wolf Creek
wildflowers
wildflowers

The trail was super easy, light grade and mostly in the forest.  Bugs were out for the first three miles of the trip, enough for me to put on bug spray after a half a dozen bites in just a few minutes.  After about mile three there were no more mosquitoes which was nice.  Temperatures were great!  It felt like summer, unreal for May!  Wolf Creek was full and raging and occasionally got close enough to the trail for some views.  Very intermittent patchy snow started at about 4300 ft but the patches were few and far between.  Most of the trail was dry.  It was a long 10 miles up to Gardner Meadows, but as I arrived I could see what all the fuss is about.  This place is beautiful!

Gardner meadows 1
Gardner meadows 1
Gardner meadows 2
Gardner meadows 2
Gardner
Gardner

It was about 3:30 so I stopped at the first campsite with a nice bench to eat some food for the long uphill slog to point 8487.  As I sat there eating and resting, the camp site started to suck me in.  Like a siren at sea, the campsite lured me in with it's song.  "Stay with me Aaron"  "This is the prefect campsite Aaron"  ... "but, sunset and sunrise in the high country is gonna be awesome!" ... "no, taking the afternoon to relax is going to be awesome!  You can see sunset down here and reach 8487 in time for sunrise.  Just look how flat and soft the ground is here, don't you want to stay?"  I couldn't resist.  I gave in and set up my camp.  I was sick of carrying my overnight pack, snowshoes included (not needed by the way), and the opportunity to just chill for a few hours sounded really good.  Sunset was right behind Wolftit Peak (7978) and blocked most of the light, but Abernathy Ridge looked pretty good in the late evening light.

Camp
Camp
My water source for camp
My water source for camp
Evening in Gardner Meadows
Evening in Gardner Meadows
Evening light on Abernathy Ridge
Evening light on Abernathy Ridge

I turned in early, 8 something probably.  Calculating when I'd need to get up in order to make it to point 8487 for sunrise (projected to be 5:11 am) I cringed when I came up with the necessary time.  2:05 am.  Well you know the saying, 2:05 came awfully early but I was up and on my way by 2:30.  I made an amateur attempt to take some night shots on a camera not made for it.  Even on my Joby Gorillapod there was still a lot of motion on most of my shots, but I got a few that were... ok.

Gardner at night
Gardner at night
Abernathy Ridge at night
Abernathy Ridge at night
getting lighter...
getting lighter...

I started out on a rising traverse towards the gully below point 8487, only I did a little too much rising and not enough traversing.  I soon found myself at the base of the cliffs SW of Gardner Mountain and looking at my GPS I had run out of rise and had to traverse quite a bit across steep snow and scree.  It was not fun.  I had crampons on most of the time and the snow was too firm to do much more than steep ankle tweaking steps.  The scree wasn't much better and I could feel a blister forming under the ball on my downhill foot.  I was happy when I was finally able to go uphill again, but the last couple hundred feet up to point 8487 were rough.  I was happy to get to the summit with about 15 minutes to spare.  The sun was projected to rise right between North Gardner and Gardner from this vantage point which I thought would be pretty cool.  As far as sunrises go, this one was mediocre but it was nice to cook up some breakfast on the point with great views all around!  My only photo of the sunrise was a cell phone panorama.  It was too awkward to set up my tiny tripod and take a series of photos with my L16 to stitch later so I didn't bother.

North Gardner just before sunrise
North Gardner just before sunrise
Sunrise from point 8487
Sunrise from point 8487
Point 8487 panorama towards Silver Star
Point 8487 panorama towards Silver Star
Point 8487 panorama towards the meadow
Point 8487 panorama towards the meadow

After a hot breakfast of oatmeal and a couple social media posts I headed off to North Gardner, reaching the summit around 6:10.  I was the first one to sign the register this year.

North Gardner summit selfie
North Gardner summit selfie
North Gardner summit panorama
North Gardner summit panorama
Looking down on Pt 8487 from North Gardner
Looking down on Pt 8487 from North Gardner
Gardner Traverse
Gardner Traverse

At this point I was getting pretty tired and thought about skipping Gardner all together.  The idea of dropping down to 7600 and traversing across that crap again, only to have another ~1400 gain to the summit did not sound appealing.  I almost tossed in the towel right there until I looked over at the Gardner traverse.  Not much snow... in fact, that looks kinda easy!  I bet I can make it go!  Fortunately there was perfect 4G up there and I read up on the traverse.  After reading it's only class 3 it was an easy decision.  I was going to do the traverse.  I re-gained point 8487, melted some snow for water, had another snack, and headed off for the traverse.  At the first big gendarme I dropped down following a way trail at the base of the gendarme.  From there I just traversed at the base of any cliffs, or followed ledges, which ever seemed appropriate.  There was a significant amount of route finding involved.  I could see how it could give some people trouble, but every way that looked like it would go went and I was on the summit by 8:20.

North Gardner from the Gardner traverse
North Gardner from the Gardner traverse
Gardner Mountain summit selfie
Gardner Mountain summit selfie
Gardner Survey Marker
Gardner Survey Marker
Gardner Mountain summit panorama
Gardner Mountain summit panorama

I was pretty happy to be done with the bulk of the gain for the trip!  I took in the views and fueled up before the descent back to camp.  The snow hadn't quite softened up yet, so I did some heavenly plunge stepping down scree for several hundred feet until the scree ran out.  From there I transitioned to snow.  You've heard the term survival skiing, right?  Well I did some survival boot glissading for a few hundred feet.  Basically I had to tense all my muscles and angle my boots perfectly to avoid gaining too much speed and losing control which I did three times and had to self arrest.  It worked out though.  As I got lower and the sun got warmer, the snow softened up and I could plunge step almost the rest of the way to the meadows.  The views were great on descent!

Great views the whole way down
Great views the whole way down
One of many streams near the meadow
One of many streams near the meadow

After packing up camp and having a freeze dried lunch I was back on the trail for the long slog out by 11:30.  I kept telling myself it's only 4 hours.  Buckle up and knock 'er out.  I end a lot of trip reports saying the way out was uneventful, but this time it was very eventful.  Going through the snow patches I triggered a booby trap.  You know how branches or small trees get trapped in the snow and release and spring up when the snow melts or you disturb their delicate snow cover?  I'm sure it's happened to you before, but I triggered the biggest tree trap I've ever sprung.  There was a log under the snow, and my foot post holed just to the left of the log and sprung the trap.  The tree whacked me on the left side of my face and sent my hat and glasses flying.  It felt like a solid punch in the face.  I found my hat right away, but despite looking for my glasses for 10 minutes they were nowhere to be found.  When I looked back at the tree that got me, the thing was a good 12 feet above the trail!!!  eek.gif

The tree that got me
The tree that got me

I felt like Tommy Boy in this scene.   The second eventful happening was that I ran into rubywrangler about 3 miles from the car!  She had seen my Instagram post earlier this morning and was hoping I could provide some beta on conditions, which I provided.  It was so cool to meet her!  I've admired her trip reports for some time.  I just love meeting NWHikers in the wild!  If you happen to see me on the trail, say hi!

I got back to my car about 4:00 pm and after a burger break in Winthrop, managed to make it home by 10:15.  I had felt pretty good that night, but started coming down with something the next day.  It's been a bad year for me in that regard. Still it was a great trip.  Glad I was able to bag a couple big ones!
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mbravenboer
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PostSat May 26, 2018 9:45 pm 
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up.gif Very pretty. Really need to start considering Methow hikes!
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gray matter
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PostSat May 26, 2018 10:14 pm 
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Great effort!  That's beautiful country in there.
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wildernessed
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PostSun May 27, 2018 4:44 am 
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up.gif Looking good up there I recently came back with maybe several dozen bites. Was the North Fork of Wolf Creek high ?

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Living in the Anthropocene
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Bootpathguy
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PostSun May 27, 2018 7:49 am 
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up.gif  up.gif

hockeygrin.gif Several times I've straddled those "springers" praying that this is not the second it decides to let loose. I'm happy to hear that you had no serious injuries. Could have absolutely been one of those freak accidents requiring S&R

Also, best sunrises and sunsets need the cooperation of clouds in my opinion

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Experience is what'cha get, when you get what'cha don't want
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Jeff
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PostSun May 27, 2018 5:59 pm 
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I did that for memorial day in 2012 and we hit snow at the first major creek crossing. I've been meaning to take my skis back there but it looks like I should go earlier!
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ozzy
The hard way



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ozzy
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The hard way
PostSun May 27, 2018 7:43 pm 
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Sick trip man, i was eyeing the gardeners from the summit of robinson on saturday! I need to get up in there!

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Milk is for babies. When you grow up you have to drink beer. -Arnold
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Brushbuffalo
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PostSun May 27, 2018 8:23 pm 
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Good TR, Aaron.
awilsondc wrote:
Bugs were out for the first three miles of the trip, enough for me to put on bug spray after a half a dozen bites in just a few minutes.  After about mile three there were no more mosquitoes which was nice. 

When I went in there at almost  the same time last year, that was the exact same experience I had with the skeeters.

awilsondc wrote:
was about 3:30 so I stopped at the first campsite with a nice bench to eat some food for the long uphill slog to point 8487.  As I sat there eating and resting, the camp site started to suck me in.  Like a siren at sea, the campsite lured me in with it's song.  "Stay with me Aaron"  "This is the prefect campsite

Just change the name to Doug,  and Point 8487 to the summit, and this is also the same thing that happened to me on my hike there!

Did you happen to notice this tough little whitebark pine, at 8840' on N. Gardner?

Is this the highest tree in Washington?
Is this the highest tree in Washington?
8840'
8840'

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Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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Justus S.
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PostSun May 27, 2018 10:56 pm 
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Very nice! It's a great time to be going up those.
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awilsondc
Scramblin' Fool



Joined: 03 Apr 2016
Posts: 715 | TRs

awilsondc
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Scramblin' Fool
PostMon May 28, 2018 8:59 am 
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wildernessed wrote:
Was the North Fork of Wolf Creek high ?

I didn't get a good look at it I don't believe.  Everything was flowing pretty high though.  It's probably safe to say it was on the high side of it's seasonal flow.

Bootpathguy wrote:
best sunrises and sunsets need the cooperation of clouds in my opinion

For sure.  NOAA projected ~30% cloud cover so I thought I'd have some interesting clouds but it was not to be.  They can't all be epic!

Brushbuffalo wrote:
Did you happen to notice this tough little whitebark pine, at 8840' on N. Gardner?

I didn't even think to look for it, although I remember reading about it in your report.  It's got to be one of if not the highest trees in the state!
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