Ascent of Round Mountain on 2013-02-02

Climber: James Barlow

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Saturday, February 2, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Round Mountain
    Elevation:5320 ft / 1621 m

Ascent Trip Report

So, the driving directions from summitpost are just fine, but when you get to the split in the road at 2.9 miles, you may as well park. I parked the Yaris here, surprised I could get it this high in February. The final 1 mile to the trailhead is no longer a viable option. Approximately 0.4 miles past the split, there is a cement berm blocking the bridge and it looks pretty permanent. Not too far below it, there are a few trees across the road, so the intersection is as good a place as any to park. I split up from the road at 0.75 miles from the car and the adventure began.

How not to climb Round:

The trip started off a bit ill-prepared. This was my first week (well 4 days anyway) of work since I arrived in Washington, so I turned my alarm off when it woke me up at 6am this fine Saturday morning. I went back to sleep, woke up later than expected, and hopped in the Yaris, not wanting to let the only sunny day this week go to waste. I had sort of pre-packed all of my stuff the night before. When I arrived at the trailhead, I realized that I did not have my preferred red pack and instead had my larger/heavier black pack that I generally use for backcountry skiing. Well, it will do. I loaded up and made my way up the road, turning off as indicated above. The first bit was nice, open forest and easy walking. The snow started around 2,300ft and I quickly switched to snowshoes. I followed the summitpost directions to a T, arriving at Point 4,360 pretty quickly, in spite of the steep terrain. The ridge does indeed flatten out pretty nicely around 4,000 ft.

Once on top of 4,360, I made my second (first yet to be discovered) mistake of the day. The snow here was incredibly firm, and I decided to take my snowshoes off since I have a steep slope to downclimb about 20 ft. Instead of putting them on my pack, I left them there, knowing I had to come back to this point later. I then headed north on the nearly flat ridge to the base of the north ridge of Round. I postholed the whole way, telling myself that I would not need snowshoes on the main ridge. When I arrived at the bottom of the main north ridge, I found the snow to be much softer than expected and I couldn't get more than 20 ft up. At this point, I contemplated my choices: I could go back and rack it up as a failure; I could try to continue upward; or I could go back for the snowshoes and come back to here. I chose to go all the way back to the snowshoes and bring them back here. All in all, it took me an hour to go to the base of the ridge, go back to the snowshoes, and then go back to the base of the ridge. Two of those three trips were postholing the whole way.

I arrived back at the base of the ridge with my snowshoes on my feet and began to head up. The going was good and I still wasn't sure about the rocky sections above. The route on summitpost indicates that you cross into the southeast bowl and climb up that. The southeast bowl was filled with recent avalanche activity and the possibility of wet slides was high, so I had no intention of venturing over there. I stuck to the ridge to the indicated crux point and once again pulled the snowshoes off. This time I put them on my pack for use above. There are two rock bands to get through. The first one is easy, I would call it class 3. The second one was a bit tougher. There are 3 spots that look like they go. I checked out all 3 and ended up using the one farthest to the left. It took a bit of rock climbing skill (on wet rock with big boots on) to get up it. I figured the descent would be easier since you could jump off the toughest move into the deep snow. At one point, I was kicking steps into nearly vertical snow and putting my axe over the top, almost climbing up a cornice. Once I got over this, the snowshoes went back on and I headed for the top.

About 300 horizontal feet from the top, the terrain steepened again and I ditched the snowshoes, this time, leaving them behind knowing I was so close to the top and I wouldn't need them (really this time!). I didn't waste much time on the summit and watched the beginning of sunset over the Olympics as I took my usual summit pictures. I fully intended to be back through the crux before the sun dipped behind the mountains. Luckily, this did happen, the last good luck of the day. At the bottom of the crux, I pulled the snowshoes back out to use for the descent and looked for my headlamp. After dumping everything out of my pack, it appeared that I had forgotten a headlamp. This was not good news at all. I panicked a bit and got all my crap back in the bag and moved quickly down the ridge towards Point 4,360. I made it here before it started getting dark, but as I headed into the trees to descend the 2,000+ feet to the road, it got really dark. I was in for a rough time.

Initially I could follow my uphill prints, but then it got too dark for that. I remembered that I had passed two cliff bands on the way up this ridge, nothing big, maybe 15 feet each, but enough to not want to go over the edge of them in the dark. The good news is that I remembered passing both on the climber's right, so I kept a little to skier's left of my uphill track on the GPS to avoid any surprises. In the steepest sections, I was forced to descend on my butt, ice axe securely planted for every agonizing move. I couldn't see a thing and I was on very steep terrain. After what seemed like hours, I hit the nice flat spot around 3,000 ft, now secure in the knowledge that I had bypassed both cliff sections. From here, the snow got even worse and I nearly lost control a few times until I finally took off the snowshoes and sat down again. I did not want to hit a tree in the dark. My GPS was invaluable for this section, keeping me on track. A few times on my descent, the idea of spending the night out here and waiting for first light to descend crossed my mind. It would be a crappy night as my boots and gloves were wet, but the weather was warm (40s) and it would be survivable. I got quite freaked out at descending this steep terrain alone in the dark.

Finally, around 2,400 ft, the terrain began to ease up in steepness and I was able to walk. This is also where the snow began to thin out, so the going was now even slower as the nice white ground that I could sort of see was now just a black mass. With a trekking pole in one hand, and the ice axe in the other hand (where it had been since my ascent), I slowly made my way the final 600 ft to the old logging road. I was extremely happy to finally see the road, which was the only snow-covered thing around at that low elevation. I didn't see it until I was 30 ft away or so. Once I was on the road, the going was easy, and I made a beeline for the car. Sitting right on the passenger seat when I arrived was my trusty Princeton Tec headlamp, right where I had left it...

Overall, this peak sucked and I am a dumbass on multiple levels: started too late, underestimated difficulty of climb, wasted an hour doing the snowshoe ditch/retrieval, didn't turn back at a reasonable turnaround time, and forgot a headlamp. Summit fever rarely gets the best of me, as my list of unsuccessful peaks on this very site will attest to, but for some reason I was unusually stupid today.


6.91 miles round trip (that's it?!)
Just under 11 hours total
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3760 ft / 1146 m
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Ski Poles, Snowshoes
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3760 ft / 1146 m
    Route:SE Ridge to S Ridge
    Start Trailhead:1560 ft / 475 m
Descent Statistics
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by James Barlow
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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. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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