Ascent to Huckleberry Mountain-Pt 5484 on 2015-08-29

Climber: Ryan Kusche

Date:Saturday, August 29, 2015
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Point Reached:Huckleberry Mountain - Pt 5484
    Elevation:5483 ft / 1671 m
    Remaining Elevation:373 ft / 113 m (8% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

There are many Huckleberry Mountains in the PNW but this one seems to have found a special place on my list due to chance conditions. After a backpacking/scrambling outing in Olympic National Park to begin August I sort of took a few weekends off but spent them productively either catching up with friends or attending to tasks that had been neglected for the outdoors.

On 08-22 I made it a point to get back out somewhere. At this time massive wildfires were still raging east of the mountains but the day before the haze had been relatively tame. Not this day. Unknown to me a new smaller fire had begun off HWY 20 before Diablo Lake, impressively blocking all views on what would have been a 75 and clear sunny day. I decided to just see what happened.

Smoke was undeniably in the air and dimmed the sun. At first it was just distracting but the thickness increased with both elevation and time. I knew it wasn't healthy but didn't want to give up a peak (regardless of absent views) just yet. However, I was soon forced to breathe through a bandanna or my throat would get dry and irritated after a few minutes. I went to a certain time / elevation I had bargained with myself (1.5hrs / 3000ft) and realistically knew it would be much of the same if not worse and quite a ways to the ridge still. So I called it a day.

On 08-29 Kirah was in town and we said hey, why not go back and take care of unfinished business together. The drive out was mixed skies with some precipitation, but reasonable. This trail doesn't seem to be the most used or popular, probably because of the gain required to get to a smaller summit relative for the area. We were the only ones on these two days that I know of. The switchbacks weave through a forested slope that is somewhat overgrown with nettles and such on and off but is manageable. But the grade is pretty tame, which could be annoying depending on one's inclinations (I like steeper trails).

Eventually we were making progress past the previous weeks turnaround point, going higher into more sub-alpine type forest. But the higher we went the greater the rain and wind became. We encountered a few fresh blowdowns and watched the tree limbs carefully as gusts in the 30-40mph range whipped through. Then the rain really dumped. Right as we were making progress on the ridge through pesky blueberry bushes. We were soon quite wet despite rain gear. Is anything truly waterproof when tromping 3mph through head high brush? Kirah soon voiced her frustration but agreed to get to the second high point on the ridge. Which, in a way was its own reward as this is where the terrain finally opened up and the clouds just for a few moments enough to see across the Buck Creek Valley to Green Mt. I tried to sell the idea of the true Huckleberry summit to her but she called it. And I wasn't quite in the mood to jog 2 miles there and back while she sat growing cold on the ridge or walking down alone. So Huckleberry remained elusive once more. I've turned back from higher and trickier summits but this is the first time a peak has stumped me twice, and in such fashion. It is good to be humbled.

The way back down seemed even wetter with the foliage collecting its full capacity of rain. There is a nice camp spot at about ~400ft (?) that I hadn't seen on any map but there wasn't much cover. We trail-ran parts where possible, as is becoming our habit lately. Kept my eye out the entire time for a dry spot and finally found a cedar tree with a big enough trunk to sit under and change our socks.

Hard to believe that I will probably come back here a third time in the future to actually bag Huckleberry and hopefully the Boulder benchmark as well on a nice long clear sunny day.

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4483 ft / 1366 m
    Round-Trip Distance:12.1 mi / 19.4 km
    Trailhead:1000 ft / 304 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Raining, Cool, Windy, Low Clouds

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