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Ascent of Bigfoot Hill on 2016-07-30

Climber: Greg Slayden

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Saturday, July 30, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Bigfoot Hill
    Location:USA-Washington
    Elevation:3080 ft / 938 m

Ascent Trip Report

There is a huge isolated and forested massif east of Bellingham that holds several summits: Haner Mountain (aka Whacme), Stewart Mountain, and the bumps of “Big Foot Hill”. The massif as a whole does not appear to have a single accepted name, but “Stewart Mountain” is the name most often found on printed maps. The highest point of this huge feature has 2600 feet of prominence and a high ranking on Washington prominence -based lists.

The contenders for the high point are Haner/Whacme, with a 3087-foot spot elevation, and two summits of Big Foot Hill with 3080 foot closed 20’ contours (and therefore maybe as high as 3099 feet). I visited all three points on 7/30/2016 and took handheld GPS measurements—my results were inconclusive, with the GPS elevation range for each peak overlapping the others. Big Foot Hill (south summit) had the highest reading by a couple of feet, with Haner next and Big Foot NE last. But I would still say that all three points must be visited to claim this peak and its prominence.

Logistics:

Most die-hard peakbaggers that visit these hills do so in the winter, and do two trips, one for Haner and one for the Big Foot summits. These are considered “dumpster peaks” in logging country and not worthy of a wasted summer day, and snow makes the bushwhacking sections easier. But I opted for a summer trip by mountain bike, hoping to get all the peaks on a single trip, and it worked out well. The clear-cut areas provided nice views of Mount Baker, the Twin Sisters, and Lake Whatcom, and the bushwhacks were all short.

The mountain is owned by North Cascades Timberlands and managed by American Forest Management (AFM). A non-motorized permit for a year costs $40 –Click here for more info. I did not see or hear a single soul all day during my traverse of the massif.

My bike route was a 28-mile loop that got all 3 main summits. I started at the AFM road gate on Hillside Road, off of Potter Road east of Van Zandt. I first went up Big Foot, then over to Haner, and then down to Turkington Road east of Acme to the AFM gate there. It was 20 miles of dirt/gravel road biking gate to gate. Then I went out to Highway 9 and biked north to Van Zandt, Potter Road, and Hillside back to my car, 8 miles on pavement. Theoretically, I could have parked anywhere along this loop—The Turkington gate seemed like a good place, in deep forest, or perhaps at the Van Zandt store. The Hillside gate has an open dirt parking area across from a house, and I had no issues parking there.

I bike a lot, but I am a slow and causal cyclist and certainly not a serious mountain biker. I pushed my bike about half the time on the initial uphill to Big Foot, but after that the roads on the high ridge were fine, with minor ups and downs. This effort is a long day in the saddle, with about 3400 feet of gain, so you do want to be pretty comfortable on your bike.

I felt that doing Big Foot first allowed for a more gradual ascent, since the descent to Turkington Road seemed pretty steep to me. But that might be a biased perception. Don’t bother with Stewart Mountain, it’s a waste of time (see below). If you want to retrace my route, download my GPX file and it will serve as a good guide for navigating the logging road maze on the mountain—just ignore my Stewart branch.

My Trip

It took me two hours to bike up from the Hillside Gate to Big Foot Northeast. The lower part of the road was in forest, and the upper part in clear-cuts with nice views. The ascent is mostly done when the road slabs south of Big Foot Northeast, and if you are on foot it makes sense to bushwhack directly up steep slopes to the summit. With a bike, though, it definitely makes sense to ride the road that circles around from the north—it’s 0.9 miles each way from a sandy junction area to a point about 150 horizontal feet from the summit. I stashed my bike at loose gravel pit slope, climbed up it to the dense brush above, and encountered the worst bushwhacking of the trip. The trees were just the right height and age to be almost impenetrable—I thrashed around, found candidate high point stumps, and escaped back to the gravel pit. If the bushwhacking up from the main road is in terrain like that, the 1.8 mile road walk might be a better choice than 600 horizontal feet of that hell.

I then biked back down the 0.9 mile road to the sandy junction and then biked up the gentle road slopes to a spur road, also bikeable, to near the main Big Foot summit. Again, I stashed my bike, and found the short hike to the summit the most pleasant of the trip—the logging here was more recent and low ferns covered most the ground. I tagged candidate stumps in the area, and took a short rest. On the way back to my bike I found what almost seemed like a trail that avoided logging slash piles.

My next goal was the 3040-foot Stewart Mountain—theoretically not a high point contender, and having less than 300 feet of prominence, but the online aerial photos suggested there was a road that went right by the summit, so I thought I’d check it out.

Some advice: Don’t bother with Stewart at all. It really sucked, big time. I biked south from Big Foot, the road pleasant cycling downhill through deep forest, a welcome change from ugly clear cuts. After a bit I checked my GPS and discovered that I missed the turnoff to Stewart, so I backtracked 0.6 miles and saw how I missed it—the road was badly overgrown. This was my plotted route to Haner, so I started pushing my bike up this very faint road, and had to lift it over some blowdown. Eventually things got really bad, with the road completely blocked by thick vegetation. I checked by GPS and saw that I could get to Haner by staying on the pleasant forest road. But I was close to Stewart anyway at this point, so I stashed my bike and went ahead on foot to tag it.

Big mistake. The vegetation blocking the road included blackberry thorn bushes, and then the road ended in a massive, ugly slope of terrible logging slash and debris. It was brutal going on old logs jack-strawed every which way and piles of junky branches. The summit of Stewart was at the edge of the clear-cut, with some red marks on nearby trees. My GPS indicated an elevation of only about 3010 feet, so it’s definitely not a high point contender. I carefully downclimbed the ugly slope and bashed back to my bike, happy to away from that useless bump, and then I pushed and carried by bike back to the main road.

From there it was a 5.5 miles to Haner (7 miles total from Big Foot to Haner). The road was in nice forest for the first few miles and then in clear-cut areas as it went up and down several times, rarely steeply. I carefully checked my GPS at every intersection. I was getting tired and did push my bike once briefly near the top of Haner.

At the road’s high point a short bikeable spur road led to a point about 100 horizontal feet north of the Haner summit, and the bushwhacking to get there was intermediate between the hell of Big Foot Northeast and the easy stroll of main Big Foot. A path of sorts led into the Christmas trees, and once again I sought out likely high stumps. At one a small debris pile announced the presence of a former register—pages of paper, pens, and plastic toys were scattered about. Some animal might have trashed it. I took a rest here before heading back to my bike.

I coasted down the short spur road and then down the steep, rocky road heading south towards the power lines. For the next 6 miles I pretty much just held on to my brakes with a death grip, needing rests only to give my poor hands some down time. There was a flat stretch for a while that was nice, but the final downhill was several miles of unrelenting switchbacks. Still, it went fast. Only at the very bottom did I find the road too steep to safely bike down, so I stopped and pushed my bike down as the road passed an old water tower. Shortly after this I was at the AFM gate and the paved Turkington Road.

Now came the most dangerous part of the entire day—biking for several miles north on the very narrow shoulder of busy Highway 9 from Acme to Van Zandt as cars and trucks whooshed by. The bridge over the South Fork of the Nooksack is a popular tubing spot and many cars were parked along the road there. I was out of water and thirsty, so I stopped at the old-time Van Zandt general store for some water (and an ice cream) before continuing west for 1.6 miles to my car on Hillside Road.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:180 ft / 55 m
    Elevation Loss:330 ft / 100 m
    Distance:2.9 mi / 4.6 km
    Quality:3 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Bushwhack
    Gear Used:
Bicycle
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:180 ft / 55 m
    Distance:0.7 mi / 1.2 km
    Trailhead:Sandy Corner  2900 ft / 883 m
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:330 ft / 100 m
    Distance:2.1 mi / 3.4 km
    Trailhead:2750 ft / 838 m
Ascent Part of Trip: 2016 - Bigfoot/Haner

Complete Trip Sequence:
OrderPeak/PointDate
1Bigfoot Hill-Northeast Peak2016-07-30 a
2Bigfoot Hill2016-07-30 b
3Stewart Mountain2016-07-30 c
4Haner Mountain2016-07-30 d
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file




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