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Ascent of Mount Pilchuck on 2012-05-26

Climber: Chad Straub

Others in Party:Maverick(k9)
Date:Saturday, May 26, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Pilchuck
    Location:USA-Washington
    Elevation:5340 ft / 1627 m

Ascent Trip Report

Mount Pilchuck road (or forest road 42, or 4220) starts about 9 miles east of I 5 of if the Mountain Loop Highway, just after entering mount baker national forest. the gravel section of this road currently in great condition and it is easily traveled by a passenger car. there is 1 tree down which I easily maneuvered with a large sedan. just after the second gate the pavement mysteriously reappears. The road ends just under 5 miles in at the Mount Pilchuck trailhead, the parking for the Heather Lake trail is at about halfway point.

As of today snow cover the road starting about a half mile from the trailhead, the parking lot had 3-4 feet of snow. Traction devices prove very useful today but I don't believe snowshoes would be necessary though I did see one couple using them. The first half of this hike follows what seems to be an old logging road turned trail, climbing at a fairly mellow pace and under almost constant canopy cover. Just after coming to a wide open vieW point to the north, the road hits a dead end and the trail turns south straight up a small leg of the mountains NW ridge. There are deep glissading trenches dug into this ridge from the countless others who have come before me this season.

At the top of the chutes the lookout tower comes into view and the trail heads east, a few hundred feet below the ridge, through a large open talus field that was covered in over 6 feet of snow today. This section of trail may likely have presented serious avalanche danger last week, but the snowpack was well packed and consolidated on my way up around 8 o'clock. The path climbs over the NW ridge where it meets the steep north face, continuing around and up the south slope to the summit, the top 20 feet of which was snow-free.

This lookout tower was restored in 1971 by the Everett Mountaineers for use as a hikers shelter. I spent at least 20 minutes reading the history and studying the surrounding peaks in this unique little museum. There were no clouds in sight and only a light haze to the south so St. Helens wasn't quite visible behind Rainier, but I have never seen Baker so close or so clear.

On my way down around 9 o'clock the top layer of snow had started to soften from the constant sun. At least 20 others were on their way up as I enjoyed some of the best glissading ever. Lots of skiers and snowboarders today and both sides of the road were packed with cars upon my return. About 5.5 miles round trip/ 2200 feet elevation gain.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:2440 ft / 744 m
    Distance:6.4 mi / 10.3 km
    Route:Snow Route
    Trailhead:1/2 mi. below TH  2900 ft / 883 m
    Grade/Class:Class 3
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Open Country, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Cool, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time Up:2 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time Down:1 Hours 30 Minutes



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