Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Olympic National Park Traverse DNF

Over the winter I again planned a few long routes I wanted to focus on for the summer, including an approximately 100-mile traverse of Olympic National Park. The idea was to complete a "Rainforest to Rainshadow" ecosystem tour, starting in the Hoh and ending in the Buckhorn Wilderness. I headed out to the peninsula last Saturday for a Sunday-Monday attempt and unfortunately was unable to finish.

I had an amazing run up the Hoh, over the High Divide/Seven Lakes Basin, down Bridge Creek/Sol Duc and then up to Appleton Pass, completeing ~25 miles and two of the four major climbs in exactly six hours elapsed. The descent down Boulder Creek is a little slow because of brush up top and technical trail lower, but the real killer section was the 12+ miles of road from Olympic Hot Springs to the Whiskey Bend-Elwha trail. A warm day and the monotonous roads (6 miles paved) really drained me. I still was feeling good when I started heading south down the Elwha but almost immediately got very sleepy at only 5pm and took a short nap. I continued for two hours, and then took another nap. An hour later I found myself laying down for a third nap in four hours. Ugh.

About 51 miles in with 44 to go, I realized I was most likely going to need to sleep for most of the night to feel truly awake again and with no real bail options ahead, continuing on seemed like an unwise choice. I reached out to my friends via my SPOT to alert them that I was changing plans and turned around for nine miles back down the Elwha trail. A huge thank you to Will, Erik and Ben for talking and coordinating to come get me in the middle of the night. I was planning on just crashing at the trailhead until morning and was surprised when I saw a headlamp coming toward me about 11:30pm that turned out to be Will.

Of course it's hard to admit (and accept) failure when I still had a long and interesting day in the mountains. But that's basically what it was and it does sting. I did get to see my first bobcat and on the way out a baby cougar ran in front of us on the Whiskey Bend Road, another first sighting for me. There was also one habituated ONP black bear up the Elwha who did not even bother looking at me when I was hooting and banging my poles together. It just ambled on, unbelievably slower than me.

Thanks to Will for hosting and driving me all over the place at all hours for the entire weekend; wouldn't have been possible without you!

I'd been on basically all of these trails before so I didn't take too many pictures.

Early morning on the Hoh River trail
On the climb up to Hoh Lake, through the old burn
Hoh Lake; I remember swimming here 20 years ago...
ONP is the only place I've ever seen pink and purple paintbrush (?)
Western side of Seven Lakes Basin
Obligatory Olympus from High Divide picture
Busy morning at Heart Lake
Small falls on the upper Sol Duc
Looking down south fork Boulder Creek drainage from Appleton Pass
Former Mills Reservoir and Glines Canyon Dam
Former Mills Reservoir
Elwha River below Glines Canyon
Who's horrible idea was it to include all this road...
Probably near where I turned around to trudge back down the Elwha

Monday, July 11, 2016

Polallie Ridge - PCT - Waptus River loop, Alpine Lakes Wilderness

A largely-pessimistic forecast and some last-minute plan changes put me out in the central Alpine Lakes Wilderness up the Salmon La Sac road. This loop (~27m, 6,200' gain), outside of the first climb, has a lot of runnable terrain and worked out as a good training run on a mediocre weather day when views were unlikely to be had in more ambitious locales.

  • Polallie Ridge: first 2.5m have been cleared. Beyond, there are intermittent blowdowns with the exception being .5m of solid blowdowns on the descent, northbound, down to Waptus Pass (photos below). 
  • PCT: four blowdowns and some light brush starting at 3700' (on descent).
  • Waptus River: handful of blowdowns, overall trail is in good shape if not a little rocky from horse wear. The ford is knee deep but slow and clear. 
Four different Wilderness areas the last four weekends
Columbine on Polallie Ridge
Diamond Lake
First meadow on Polallie Ridge, Hour Creek headwaters
Second meadow, unnamed creek headwaters
Polallie Ridge trail and former lookout site
Former lookout site
Beginning of blowdowns past the old lookout on descent to Waptus Pass
Oh yeah...
Frog in Quick Creek at Waptus Pass
Some backpacker is going to be upset
Waptus Lake from the PCT
PCT looking toward Mt. Daniel in the clouds
Spade Creek falls
Waptus River ford

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Sheep Mountain 8274', Pasayten Wilderness

Up until yesterday I'd never had that perfect Pasayten trip (snow in May, snow in June, record-setting heat in June, downpour in October, etc.). I remember planning the trip with Graham and Paul in 2014 and Graham remarking, "It's the Pasayten...something always happens."

With those experiences in mind, I planned to backpack out to Sheep Mountain and then stay in Whistler Basin, hiking out the following morning. I figured there would be hundreds of blowdowns and the other usual issues that create longer-than-planned trips. Unfortunately, things went a little too well and I summited Sheep in 6:35 from the car, arriving in Whistler Basin just before 5pm. With five hours of daylight left I had no idea what to do, so I just hiked out, finishing at 9:45pm, about two minutes shy of needing my headlamp. After being gone all last weekend, a certain kiddo was very happy to have me home earlier than planned.

Hiking 40 miles with a full backpacking set up that went unused felt pretty lame, but the day was truly amazing and I think this is my new favorite area in the Pasayten...

  • Billy Goat trail: cleared to Drake Creek.
  • Larch Creek - Larch Pass: one large microburst of trees passable off trail; ~100 (?) blowdowns w/the majority being step overs, some crawl unders and climb overs.
  • Northern trails (McCall Gulch, Whistler Basin, Peeve Pass): some patchy snow though none present any real difficulties; everything in great shape and very lush. 
Shout out to Gary and Otto; it was very nice chatting with you and I hope you had a good time on the rest of your trip!

Training weight...ugh...
Weekly dose of Wilderness
Many Trails Peak over Diamond Creek and Lost River
Go high for the first group and low for the second, which is a quite big grouping
Larch Creek drainage with Larch Pass

East Fork Pasayten River drainage; beetle kill?
McCall Gulch basin with Two Point Mountain
The northern Pasayten is in bloom
Corral Lake
First full view of Sheep Mountain, from above the Timber Wolf Creek drainage
Looking back toward the pass above McCall Gulch (where the previous photo was taken from)
South slopes of Sheep Mountain in bloom
South side of Sheep Mountain, from 7300'
Buck and doe on Sheep Mountain
Two bucks on Sheep Mountain
Upper slopes of Sheep Mountain, ~200' of easy talus
Looking east from Sheep Mountain: Cathedral Peak and Pass, Amphitheater Mountain, Windy Peak, Remmel Mountain
South (left) to west, from Sheep Mountain
Ramon Lakes on the north side of Sheep Mountain
Jack Mountain (r), Ptarmigan Peak (l)
Sheep Lake and the eastern Pasayten

Bear tracks at Peeve Pass
Sand Ridge, dividing Timber Wolf Creek and Mayo / Whistler Creek drainages
Whistler Basin
Whistler Basin and Ashnola Mountain
Trail to Whistler Pass
Glacier Lily
Whistler Basin
McCall Gulch basin, Larch Pass from Whistler Pass
Looking back at Whistler Pass over McCall Gulch
Setting sun from Billy Goat Pass, looking north
Just about back to the car; looking south from the Billy Goat Pass trail