Ascent of Red Mountain on 2010-06-05

Climber: Edward Earl

Date:Saturday, June 5, 2010
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Red Mountain
    Elevation:5880 ft / 1792 m

Ascent Trip Report

From I-90, I took exit 80 and followed signs to Roslyn. From the center of town (1st & Pennsylvania), I continued ~12 miles on the same road (which starts out as WA-903), occasionally following signs to Salmon La Sac, until I passed Cle Elum River Campground on the L. ¼ mile past the CG, I turned L on a gravel road where a sign indicated French Cabin Creek. Call this point mile 0.0. At 0.1 miles the road crosses the Cle Elum River. At 0.2 miles I stayed straight at a 4-way intersection. At 0.6 miles I went L at a junction. The road then climbs steeply with several switchbacks until mile 3.2, where I turned R at a junction. At 3.5 miles I stayed straight where a side road switches back sharply to the L. At 4.6 miles is an abandoned side road on the R, with a gravel pullout on the L. I parked here. Any street legal vehicle should have no problem getting to this point.

A short distance down the abandoned road is a gate, with a collapsed sign saying "bridge out". I changed into my flip-flops for the cold and swift crossing of Thorpe Creek. A short distance after the crossing I turned R at a junction, following a sign to Little Joe Lake. After a few more minutes hiking on the road, I changed from my stream crossing flip-flops back into my hiking boots. That turned out to be a bad decision, because a few minutes after that I encountered another steam crossing, this time of the one coming from Little Joe Lake. So - I changed into my flip-flops a second time for this crossing (somewhat easier that the first crossing). My advice to future climbers on this route is not to bother changing footwear in between the two crossings - whatever you wear for the crossings you can wear on the 8 minute hike between them.

Shortly after the second crossing, the road ends and a trail turns L and heads uphill, soon entering a forest. It climbs steeply. At ~4000' elevation, patches of snow began to appear. I soon lost the trail after that. The going was slow and dangerous because of frequent deadfall partly buried under the snow, with lots of air hidden under and around the fallen logs. I stayed on the R side of the creek coming from Little Joe Lake, even though the topo map showed the now buried trail crossing to the L side for a time. If the trail were followable, it might make for yet another pair of stream crossings.

When I got a tree-broken view of Little Joe Lake, which was still covered with snow and ice, I began to veer uphill to the R. Deadfall continued though it was not as bad as it had been below. The hill steepened, and at one point I climbed dry grass and rocks in a steep open clearing where the sun had melted the snow. At ~5400', I reached the top of a ridge and turned L to head N up its crest. At first I thought it was the S ridge of point 5722, but I later realized that since there was no saddle below me to the S, it had to be the ridge that lies just ¼ mile NE of Little Joe Lake. After gaining a few hundred feet elevation, I reached the ridge that extends W from point 5722 and followed it E. Upon reaching the unnamed peaklet at the word "Red" on the 7.5' topo map, I turned N toward the summit of Red Mtn.

The ridge hike had been mostly snow to this point, but because of the thinning trees, some of the snow had melted and the ridge had become a partial rock scramble. However the snow that remained hampered the effort, because it kept my boots wet, and the rock was often covered with moss, lichens, or mud that became very slick when wet. The short class 3 crux, which would have been very simple in dry conditions, became much more difficult because of my wet, snow-slickened boots. Eventually, I reached the southern of the two 5880' contours. The northern contour looked lower, but I decided to tag it anyway. Sighting between the two summits in both directions, and comparison of both summits to the horizon beyond, confirmed my belief that the S summit is higher. I'm willing to credit anyone who reaches the S summit as having successfully climbed Red Mtn.

I took a slightly different route down. Instead of heading down the W ridge of point 5722, I descended the basin to its S. This was the only time all day when the snow helped more than it interfered, as I glissaded 500' down in a matter of minutes. Eventually, however, I reached the area I dreaded most: the dangerous, partly buried deadfall below Little Joe Lake. I repeated the arduous and dangerous task of negotiating it until dry ground began to appear, at which time I located the trail and followed back to the stream crossings where I began my hike. I decided not to change footware for the crossings, since it was just a few minutes back to my truck, my flip-flops had dried out during the climb, and it would be good to keep them dry for the drive home.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:2380 ft / 726 m
    Distance:8 mi / 12.9 km
    Route:Little Joe Lake
    Trailhead:Thorpe Creek  3500 ft / 1066 m
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Open Country, Stream Ford, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
Ascent Statistics
    Time Up:2 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time Down:2 Hours 

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