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kitya
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PostMon Nov 19, 2018 8:35 am 
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A few years ago I hiked/snowshoed up the nearby Huckleberry mountain (from Suiattle river road) and that was a very long and wet hike with no views. Unfortunately back than I didn’t know that beautiful Boulder Benchmark mountain was nearby, but hiking 14+ miles of Huckleberry mountain trail again just to reach there again would be too boring, so I never went again.

This year, in shocking plot twist, a shorter road access to Boulder just opened – a few days ago National Forest service completed repairs of the previously closed washed out road Tenas Creek Road (FS 2660). Our tax dollars at work! I must say this is really-really surprising. Usually I only hear about government constantly cutting forest recreation budget, roads and trails getting decommissioned (or just abandoned through neglect and disrepair) and something being actually repaired and re-opened is not at all common. I didn’t know what to expect. I guess I expected a perfectly graded new road with smooth surface, wide parking lot and a dozen of Priuses enjoying new found access to nature, but turns out the repair forest service made is very low key. Surgical in fact. They did repair the washout part. And nothing else. Even the sign at the turn off (“ROAD CLOSED DUE TO WASHOUT”) is not removed. A few feet of the road in place of old washout are just smooth and perfect. The rest is 4 miles of very bumpy forest road almost completely overtaken by brush and mud after 3 years of nobody ever driving there. It was doable but not pleasant. In areas it is hard to see where the road is (was). Scratchy. No other cars.

At about 3000 ft road ends in a large pool-out near Tenas creek. Everything is frost and ice covered, but sadly still no sign of snow. A faint trail goes quickly along Tenas creek to Boulder lake. First snow really didn’t start until 4000+ feet at the boulder field and even there snow is not very helpful – on one hand it is impossible to see where the trail is anymore, but on the other hand snow is not strong enough to protect you from falling through the boulders. Around the lake snow finally gets deeper. There is a lot of footprints. Some bear, lots of mountain goats. No humans. I put on snowshoes and started going up Boulder Benchmark. Most of the way to the summit the going was really easy and pleasant – rolling open terrain of cascade concrete. This is seriously not a proper November weather. The sun is out, the snow is baked, like as if it is summer. It gets cold really quickly in the shade too and so it doesn’t feel like any season I know. So weird.

Getting to the summit was hellish though. Maybe I didn’t find the right way. There is a nice low angle ridge leading to the summit, but it is knife-edge sharp with steep drop-off and huge cornices. I got to that ridge early, but couldn’t really follow it. Instead I dropped back down and tried getting back up through an avalanche chute closer to the summit. The problem is that after 6000ft the snow is covered in pure hard ice. Even Cookie cannot get a grip on it at all. I switched snowshoes to crampons and took my ice axe out, but even than the last few feet through the avalanche chute are super scary. Weirdly there is a quick transition from ice to soft wind blown snow right on top the ridge and there seems to be no way around it.

Looking from the summit I was so unhappy about the way I came up, that I decided to search for a different route down. I went around on the nice gentle ridge in the direction of Hurricane peak and traversed back from there keeping on the slopes above Pear lake. I don’t know if this was better. It was probably not. Long traverse on very steep ice above several avalanche chutes was not pleasant at all. Cookie was scared and we were moving a few steps at a time. I would move a little, secure myself with an ice axe, pull her leash a little bit, she will slide down and bump into me, repeat. At one point ice axe got out and went down quickly into the abyss. I.e. probably all the way into the Pear lake thousands of feet below. I couldn’t go and find it. Sorry. Bye-bye ice axe (on the way back I found some beer cans in the forest and took them out for recycling, so at least I also cleaned up something).

Finally, we managed to get back to more reasonable terrain and it was smooth sailing after that again. Beautiful place.

9.5 miles, 3600 ft

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3171057531

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zephyr
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PostMon Nov 19, 2018 6:44 pm 
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kitya wrote:
At one point ice axe got out and went down quickly into the abyss. I.e. probably all the way into the Pear lake thousands of feet below.

Beautiful photos.  Such vivid blues.  You had a lot of challenges with the road and the terrain, but that never seems to stop you and Cookie.  Y'all tough.  'Sorry about the ice axe.  Yikes. That's painful.  Did you have a tether and wrist strap on it?  Some folks don't for various reasons, but I like keeping mine attached to me.  ~z
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kitya
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PostMon Nov 19, 2018 8:08 pm 
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zephyr wrote:
Beautiful photos.  Such vivid blues.  You had a lot of challenges with the road and the terrain, but that never seems to stop you and Cookie.  Y'all tough.  'Sorry about the ice axe.  Yikes. That's painful.  Did you have a tether and wrist strap on it?  Some folks don't for various reasons, but I like keeping mine attached to me.  ~z

Thank you kind hiker smile.gif Yeah, I had no tether. I'm cautious hiker and rarely venture into the terrain requiring ice axes, so I was trying not to spend extra money on getting a leash for it. My mistake. It was really sad for me to see it just go into the abyss. Thankfully by that time I mostly finished the scary traverse, otherwise I would probably ended up reuniting with my axe ice, but maybe not in one piece... I hope more snowy and less icy weather is coming soon. Any recommendation on new ice axe and tether model?
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JimK
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PostMon Nov 19, 2018 8:58 pm 
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Thanks for the report. I had heard the road would be opening soon. We were up there in the sunshine over Labor Day via the Suiattle and Huckleberry Mt. I like your snowy peak views very much.


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Riverside Laker
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PostMon Nov 19, 2018 9:49 pm 
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I use a piece of climbing webbing for a lanyard. Then loop it on my wrist and twist one or two or three times to make it tight. Only costs about a buck or so.
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zephyr
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PostMon Nov 19, 2018 11:05 pm 
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kitya wrote:
Any recommendation on new ice axe and tether model?

My ice axe is a Black Diamond Raven and the leash is Black Diamond as well.  The price of a leash is well worth not having to replace it.   Here's a link to their site but they are available many places--REI, Amazon, etc.   Best, ~z
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fourteen410
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PostMon Nov 19, 2018 11:35 pm 
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kitya wrote:
on one hand it is impossible to see where the trail is anymore, but on the other hand snow is not strong enough to protect you from falling through the boulders

I was thinking about heading up here recently, but had a feeling this is what conditions were like. Thanks for the report!
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kitya
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PostTue Nov 20, 2018 10:17 am 
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JimK wrote:
Thanks for the report. I had heard the road would be opening soon. We were up there in the sunshine over Labor Day via the Suiattle and Huckleberry Mt. I like your snowy peak views very much.

Thank you Jim! In fact it was your trip report that gave me the inspiration to check the area out. Remember, I asked you about the lakes in your trip report before smile.gif

Riverside Laker wrote:
I use a piece of climbing webbing for a lanyard. Then loop it on my wrist and twist one or two or three times to make it tight. Only costs about a buck or so.

This is a really good idea! I'll try doing that next time.

zephyr wrote:
My ice axe is a Black Diamond Raven and the leash is Black Diamond as well.  The price of a leash is well worth not having to replace it.  Here's a link to their site but they are available many places--REI, Amazon, etc.  Best, ~z

Thanks, my axe was black diamond raven pro, but it had no leash and now it is at the bottom of pear lake probably frown.gif I'll be smarter next time.

fourteen410 wrote:
I was thinking about heading up here recently, but had a feeling this is what conditions were like. Thanks for the report!

I don't want to sound like I'm complaining about conditions. Nothing is ever perfect-perfect. It is too hot in summer, it is too cold in winter. The fact that it is still possible to drive all the way to 3000ft in north cascades at the end of november is pretty crazy. Boulder field is a bit annoying with low snow cover, true, but on the other hand there is no avy danger yet. This valley has steep walls and once real snow starts, it can get both easier to go, but also more dangerous there. Once you get above the lake the snow coverage and conditions are perfect. Only the summit itself gave me a lot of trouble because of how crazy icy it was.
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iron
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PostTue Nov 20, 2018 9:50 pm 
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Riverside Laker wrote:
I use a piece of climbing webbing for a lanyard. Then loop it on my wrist and twist one or two or three times to make it tight. Only costs about a buck or so.

i clip mine to my chest strap. easier to transition hands that way and i think it would hold better in the event of a hand release during a slide. of course, it would whack you in the head a million times as you go down...

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Pyrites
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PostWed Nov 21, 2018 8:22 pm 
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kitya wrote:
.. I hope more snowy and less icy weather is coming soon.

I heard ‘We can expect more snow atop a layer of ice.’
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