Sunday, October 11, 2015

Burch Mountain-South Fool Hen peaks loop, Pasayten Wilderness

Although requiring a hefty commute, the Pasayten Wilderness is one of my favorite areas to visit. Even with my checkered record there (ash-whacking the 30-mile burn with my brother in 2003, glorious Devil's Dome loop in 2013June snow in 2014 and record-breaking heat in June 2015) I don't hesitate at an opportunity to spend time in the Pasayten's vast solitude.

Unfortunately, I can now add "white-out rainstorm" to my list of Pasayten experiences (weather stations in the area recorded .7"-1.5"of precipitation).

Raising3hikers and I set out to do a lollipop from the Billy Goat trailhead to Billy Goat Pass, taking the Burch Mountain trail up to summit Peak 7697' and Burch Mountain 7782', then doing a sweeping ridge traverse all the way out to Little Fool Hen 7857', South Fool Hen 8055' and Fool Hen 8168' before descending south into the Drake Creek drainage to pick up the trail back over Billy Goat Pass.

After enjoying a relatively calm (just light rain) morning, by the time we reached the point near where we would head north to Fool Hen the rain and winds increased and we'd spent the last hour or so in a complete cloud whiteout. With the forecast predicting possible snow overnight the temperatures were decreasing. Turning around early was the right call, especially with limited-to-no visibility on the ridge.

Definitely another area that I will be going back to...

Past-prime larches and Burch Mountain, from the way up to Peak 7697'
Looking north from the summit of 7697'; we wanted to go all the way to the summit just left of R3H, but turned around at the point just right of him
Very moody morning weather looking south down the Eight Mile Creek drainage
North Craggy, Big Craggy and Eightmile Peak
We traversed this entire ridge and then dropped south into the drainage at the end; R to L: Burch Mountain, Little Fool Hen, South Fool Hen 
Yellow carpets of larch needles on the way to Burch Mountain
Descending off the summit of Burch in increasing weather
Descending South Fool Hen on time-consuming slippery lichen talus
Basin we descended into to drop down to Drake Creek, the valley in the background

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