Peakbagger.com

Ascent of Mount Pilchuck on 2012-12-30

Climber: Chad Straub

Others in Party:Automahn(k9)
Date:Sunday, December 30, 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

I have been thinking about an overnight trip to a fire lookout over the New Year since last July 4th. As the end of 2012 approached, Mount Pilchuck stood out among the possible options. I rarely re-visit summits, preferring instead to seek out new territory, but Pilchuck stood out due to it's massive prominence and proximity to the big city fireworks displays.

Due to a lack of available info on the road and trail conditions, and in order to insure access to the tower, I headed up on the 30th with Automahn to scout out the route to the summit. I found the Mountain Loop Highway and Mount Pilchuck Road to be free from snow up to the Heather Lake Trail Head where the gate was locked, a foot of solid snow beyond it.

The road had a well packed snowshoe trench, allowing me to boot it to the trailhead 5.6 miles from the lower gate. Someone built a short snow cave/igloo about 2 miles past the first gate. We reached the Mount Pilchuck Trailhead in under 2 hours, where we found another snowcave wisely located under a picnic table.

I was lucky to find a single pair of snowshoe tracks past the trailhead. They seemed to closely follow the buried trail to the top, which saved me the effort of route-finding. The 4-6 feet of snow on Pilchuck's north face was mostly powder and I was sinking a few inches even while staying firmly in the path, so I took care to spread my steps in order to create a more solid trench for the extra weight I would be carrying the next day.

The sky was clear above, making it extra cold in the shadow of the mountain. We rounded the Northwest ridge into the snowy basin where the summit first came into view. Although I have a clear memory of the tower's placement along the summit ridge, I could not distinguish it from the ice crusted rock.

After reaching the NW shoulder high clouds began to drop, revealing Mt Baker as the ascent became a bit more serious. From the shoulder we crossed several sections of 30+ degree slope where Automahn required some searious coaxing, digging in like a stubborn mule a few times. The clouds continued to lower and began to form a solid layer around 3000'.

The snow crusted trees on the South face were oddly beautiful. At times climbing between them was like traveling on another planet. I had been looking at the tower for a minute or two on the final approach before I finally recognized it under all that ice and snow.

At the summit we met Tim, the owner of the tracks had been following, and thanked him for breaking trail and navigating a safe and efficient route through the deep snow. Together we marveled in the alien landscape that surrounded us, equally surprised and satisfied by the complete lack of wind on such a lofty summit.

After reaching the NW shoulder high clouds began to drop, revealing Mt Baker as the ascent became a bit more serious. From the shoulder we crossed several sections of 30+ degree slope where Automahn required some searious coaxing, digging in like a stubborn mule a few times. The clouds continued to lower and began to form a solid layer around 3000'.

The snow crusted trees on the South face were oddly beautiful. At times climbing between them was like traveling on another planet. I had been looking at the tower for a minute or two on the final approach before I finally recognized it under all that ice and snow.

At the summit we met Tim, the owner of the tracks had been following, and thanked him for breaking trail and navigating a safe and efficient route through the deep snow. Together we marveled in the alien landscape that surrounded us, equally surprised and satisfied by the complete lack of wind on such a lofty summit.

It took nearly an hour to dig my way to the door, then another 10 minutes to open the frozen latch and force my way inside. The last folks to sign the log had spent the night exactly one month before us, although I'm sure dozens of others had visited the summit since then.

After latching the door we hurried down and back home to prepare for the next day. There were a few times along the descent where I began to seriously doubt that I would have the energy to repeat such a climb with an additional 10-15 pounds on my back. All this doubt faded away on the drive home though, as I reflected upon the many months I had spent hoping that such a trip might be possible, and when I remembered that we could make the trip sans tent now that I had guaranteed access into the tower.

full report and pics at http://jebtastic.blogspot.com/2013/01/new-years-overnight-at-mount-pilchuck.html
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:4079 ft / 1243 m
    Elevation Loss:4079 ft / 1243 m
    Distance:15.9 mi / 25.6 km
    Grade/Class:Class 3
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Open Country, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Snowshoes
    Weather:Cold, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:4079 ft / 1243 m
    Extra Loss:120 ft / 36 m
    Distance:8.2 mi / 13.2 km
    Trailhead:Heather Lake TH  1381 ft / 420 m
    Time Up:4 Hours 22 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:3959 ft / 1207 m
    Distance:7.7 mi / 12.4 km
    Trailhead:Heather Lake TH  1381 ft / 420 m
    Time Down:2 Hours 30 Minutes



This page has been served 154 times since 2005-01-15.




Questions/Comments/Corrections? See the Contact Page
Copyright © 1987-2014 by Peakbagger.com. All Rights Reserved.