Before I get to the main trip, I need to take a side trail. Recently, WordPress launched daily writing prompts. Technically it was over a year ago, but somehow I only recently noticed them. Probably because I’m not a very reliable blogger 🙂 I’m not the only one to miss the announcement, however. One of the blogs I follow, The Dihedral, which is all about climbing, but with a creative twist, also just wrote about the prompts. One of the primary bloggers for that site, Carrot, is someone I enjoy reading. A philosophy professor with what seems like touch of “dirt bag”, I find his writing witty, sometimes a bit out there, often I learn something obscure. Carrot recently wrote about the prompts and folded five of them into Dihedral relevant stories. Today’s prompt is “where would you go on a shopping spree?”. More on that later.
“Change” of Plans
Last week I reached out to the leader of a trip I was signed up for to Sourdough Peak, which is at least a 3-½ hour drive north from Olympia into the north cascades on highway 20. It was a 9 mile 5,000′ foot gain winter scramble with a leader I’ve been with a few times. But the ankle injury I sustained in January has kept me off the more aggressive big winter scrambles, and either doing 3000′ conditioners by myself or somewhat shorter or lower gain trips. As a result, I didn’t want to be burden. Much more of a fitness issue than ankle issue, so didn’t feel up for it. Moreover it was going to be a long drive which I didn’t want to attempt as a day trip. The leader cancelled me off just before I got to it. Then the venue changed, which piqued my interest, I figured it was more manageable for me but I think the leader was too uncertain with my ankle and suggested I continue to heal.
On Wednesday, I noticed a last minute intermediate snowshoe trip that posted by another long-time Mountaineer leader I’ve scrambled with a couple times. The trip was to summit Mount Washington and Change Peak. It looked interesting, so I signed up. At 10 miles and 3,200′ gain, and about 90 minute drive just past North Bend, it seemed like a great trip. And it was!!
It was sort of like trading a dollar bill for some change.
The trip began at the Mount Washington trailhead off of I-90. Meet time 7:30. We were a group of seven. After the pre-trip meeting, we started the hike up. We carried microspikes and snowshoes. The trail gets right to it with a steep start, transitions to an old railroad grade for a short stint then continues up. Another small group and a solo were ahead of us so even after getting to the snow line (guessing 2000′) we continued to boot up to around 3,500′ or so where we put on snowshoes and passed those in front of us. We kept snowshoes on for the remainder of the trip until getting back down to below 3,000′ on our descent.
Our group moved well together at a brisk pace. We made the Mount Washington summit in about 2 hours 50 minutes. We had a very short snack break and then descended a bit around the south side of Washington to gain an old road over to Change Peak. It doesn’t descent too far, and climbs about 200′ to the summit of Change. From that summit we took a ridge line north down through the trees, being careful to not go too far left or right to stay out of the danger zone. Eventually we connected back to the trail where we removed snowshoes and booted downhill.
Images below include views from the summit of Change Peak and starting down the ridge. The ridge walk down required picking the right line through thick trees and making sure to avoid getting too far left or right into steep terrain or a cornice or snow pillow on top of a cliff. As a result I didn’t get photos that really showed the terrain. At times the slope was steep with sugar snow on a layer of ice. At one point the leader and another member were studying the best option down. I took liberty of adding some humor to that image. The ice buildup on the lower slopes of the trail were incredible!
The download from my Garmin Fenix 6, which was fairly consistent with my Gaia track, showed a little over 10 miles, 3,250′ gain, 5 hours moving time and a about 6 hours 20 minutes total time. I started my drive home a little before 2PM which felt strange since most winter trips seem to end as the sun is setting or even after it set. Bonus time. Maybe enough time to swing by the Tacoma REI on the way home for a shopping spree!
Since I was headed home by 2PM, I figured I had time to stop by the Tacoma REI. I like to check out the Re-Supply areas in REI, and the one in Olympia pales by comparison. I have quite a few “Washingtons”, in the form of REI dividend waiting to be used as well. It turned out to be a good time to stop, because I’d been up since 4:30AM and getting a bit tired. It was good to stretch the legs after driving for an hour. And I needed to go (see video above). I looked a lot of things I didn’t need. The Re-Supply was off the charts with so much used stuff and returns, but nothing I couldn’t live without. I guess it was a special weekend event for the Re-Supply. And talking with one of the associates, he said they have a couple shipping containers stuffed full of gear. He also shared REI recently sent out a guide for pricing so that’s why some of the prices don’t look as appealing as they may have previously. But he also shared they sometimes really discount when gear isn’t moving. As I know, timing is everything.
I ended up trying out a zero degree bag, that intrigued me. And good thing I tried it out. It was actually too snug for my build. And it’s not a like I’m that big. I needed more room in the shoulders. It was an interesting Mountain Hardware with a goretex shell. Luckily it didn’t fit, so I saved my REI dividend Washingtons. I did end up spending some change (non-dividend), but in the form of Washingtons.
My first aid kit is more minimalist than it probably should be for winter scrambles with an ice ax. So I picked up an overpriced, but convenient item – a Trauma Pack for severe bleeding. I also found a Pataguchi sweater I liked so grabbed it also. It will replace one that is looking a bit ratty for “nice” wear.