5050 Pass Scramble, and Where does the time go?

A LITTLE CATCH UP

Once again, it’s been a while since writing. That can only mean I’ve been busy, or lazy, or both. The truth is that I have been busy, and when I get down time, I’m resting. Balancing lots of interests too. Photography, the winter snow season with snowshoeing, hiking, some family things, and the glue that holds it all together – work and a paycheck 🙂

Photography

I’ve been enjoying my new Canon mirrorless camera and long lens. It kept me occupied shooting birds during the late fall and early winter. It was fun shooting only a short walk from home in the snow and then the chance of capturing a Red Shouldered Hawk. I spent a few days trying to get more shots of the Hawk, but it was always elusive. If it were easy, it probably wouldn’t have as much meaning and thrill to capture. I love capturing the gestures of animals and birds, such as the Finch below.

Snowshoeing

I had been looking forward to lots of snowshoeing and snow camping again this year. It was looking promising. Washington State, and the Cascade range got a good dump of snow over December. Things were looking great. In fact we got a lot of snow. But then January was more or less dry. We didn’t lose too much pack, but did lose some. There has been snow since, but I actually haven’t followed the snowpack that closely so not sure where it sits at Mount Rainier. And as luck would have it, just like last year, the conditions when we’re free didn’t line up. In other words, a free weekend was met with storms, or the weekend with no storm and acceptable avalanche conditions already came with commitments. We were able to help with the Mountaineers basic snowshoe class in January as an instructor. I led one basic snowshoe trip for the club, but the weather forecast was so iffy that all the students backed out. In prep for that trip we got in a crazy snow shoe that had us going up a pretty steep and arduous slope to a location on Mazama Ridge called Far Away Rock. The reward was worth it. As for the club trip, everyone bailed but one, but that’s okay. We had a great trip and did the High Lakes Route which is Paradise, Mazama Ridge, Reflection Lake to above Narada Falls and back up to Paradise. We also got in a couple other trips at Mount Rainier and got some good work outs in.

The Castle (left) and Pinnacle Peak (right)
White Pass Nordic Center
White Pass Nordic Center – A short jaunt on the groomers
White Pass Nordic Center – headed around the Leech Lake
Leech Lake – White Pass Nordic Center
The Espresso Group – White Pass Nordic Center

Scrambling and Hiking

And what better way to derail one goal (a desire to do more snowshoeing and snow camping) than to take on yet another activity, such as joining the Mountaineers Alpine Scrambling Class. I’ve been bouncing around the idea for a couple years now, and decided now was the time. I almost joined it last year, but it filled up before I pulled the trigger. This year, I was on top of it. It would give me one more option for outings with the club, and I’d gain a couple skills where I was weak, such as ice-ax self-arrest, and using ropes for scrambling. The class is quite spread out with the first lecture in February and then not much until April, eventually finishing with the last field trip in June. In between those times is a lot of conditioning, which is basically spending time with some weight in a pack going uphill. The course also has some pre-requisites and co-requisites. I literally had to take the most basic of classes (Wilderness Skills), even though I’ve been a life-long outdoors person. It was fine. It’s a good way to meet people. And then my partner and I took Wilderness First Aid (WFA) in November.

We got our “conditioner” hike done early on what was offered as a pre-conditioner hike. Everyone has to complete a hike up Mount Si in 2hr-39min with 25lbs in mountaineering boots. On our trip in January, we both completed it with plenty of time to spare. And since, we’ve done more trips up Si, Mount Rose, and one up Mailbox Peak. Many of these are worthy of their own blog post so I won’t go into too much detail.

The impetus to get my fingers tapping the lettered keys was a scramble up to 5050 Pass via Tunnel Creek trail off of the Dosewallips. I wiggled my way onto an official Mountaineers scramble trip which was led by a Seattle leader.

Tunnel Creek – 5050 Pass – Valhalla Peak

For the uninitiated, Tunnel Creek is a brute of a hike/scramble. On the Mountaineers website, it’s listed as the second hardest hike in the Olympics, second only to Lake Constance just a little to the west. Tunnel Creek climbs roughly 4,500′ in 3.6 miles.

The access is up the Dosewallips Road from Brinnon. The road terminates where it washed out many years ago. There is about 2-3 miles of pot-holed gravel. Then a makeshift parking area. The trailhead is not well marked. It’s about ½ mile hike up the old roadbed. There is a post, but the sign is gone. From there, the trail just goes up. I mean up! The winter storms of snow and wind in December 2021 caused significant blowdown. Fortunately someone has cut the big trees that fell onto the road. And some work along the abandoned road. It’s no longer maintained by the forest service, and trail crews have not made their way to the area in force yet. The trail itself has some blowdown that forces hikers off trail for short sections, but in my opinion, they aren’t that bad. The trip was quick to get underway, and then it is relentlessly steep, so I never got photos at the start or down low. We almost made the official 5050 Pass summit. Maybe 15 minutes away. We got to 4,980′, but had a 1PM turnaround so we stuck to our rule.

The spot where we donned micro spikes and not long after, one member turned back with the leader.
The trail gets into serious side slope with some areas clearly avalanche possible. The conditions on this day were fine.
Snow getting just that little bit deeper
Some quite steep ramps and intermittent post holing.
Make your own trail
It’s getting harder without snow shoes
More ramps and post holing
I was putting on show shoes at this point. Others followed shortly after
The worst section of debris on the trail where a slide had occured.

A commitment to myself to keep this blog more active

Next up I plan to write about our trip up Mailbox Peak a couple months ago. The day someone launched off the summit in their para-wing. What a sight! And most certainly, new adventures 🙂

What’s your secret to keeping an active blog?

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