John Guilford's Hikes
Mt. Pilchuck on 1992-04-18
People: (including myself): Pam Becker
My Alt. Real Alt.
Start: 12:50 3100
Summit: 3:45 5324 (3 miles)
This is the first time that I've gone hiking with Pam (who hasn't hiked
much recently) so I wanted to go somewhere non-trivial but not too
difficult. I screwed up (but things went well anyway :-).
The weather was pretty good, but not great. A series of weather systems
had been moving through the area so that there was rain/snow the day and
night before the hike. It was supposed to clear up the day of the hike and
it did so down in Everett. As we drove up into the mountains, however, the
clouds accumulated. It was a light sprinkle when we started which ended up
mostly being drips from trees later on. I had expected nicer weather and
neglected to bring my New Jersey Bob hat, so I opted to just get a damp
head unless it got worse. I expected to find a muddy trail (which I wasn't
disappointed in) and a somewhat packed snow trail higher up (similar to
what I found at Lake 22 on 92-01-18). Just in case, and since I didn't
want to get my pants all muddy I put on gaiters at the trail head, though
Pam decided that she'd wait and put them on later if needed. The trail
head (if you want to call it that) is a very eroded gully. There was an
improved trail leading off on the right side near the beginning - this
turned out to merely lead to some picnic areas. Back on the main
trail/gully we continued up. The tree dripping wasn't bad and I didn't
regret not having my hat. The mud was thick in some spots (definitely not
sneaker conditions). Being a slob (and knowing that the boots would get
muddy anyway) I tended to just slog though the mud, whereas Pam, who had
nice clean, new boots tended to try and avoid the deeper mud, if possible.
Earlier Pam had lamented that she had missed out on any snow this winter.
Well, that problem sure got solved! About a mile in we started hitting
patchy snow. Soon we were in the real stuff. I'd guesstimate that the
temperature was 30's-40's and the sun was playing hide and seek in the
clouds (more hiding than showing). When the sun came out it was nice and
warm, but that didn't happen a good portion of the time. Occasionally we'd
get sleet sprinkles, but that wasn't as wet as the trees dripping. We soon
worked our way out of the trees into more open country. It was real pretty
(especially when the sun poked out) as everything was snow covered and the
trees had a 'dusting' (a pretty wet dusting, I might add) from the recent
snow. I was keeping pretty warm moving up and was down to a t-shirt and
Gore-Tex shell. There had been a number of people ahead of us on the
trail, but the trail was by no means packed down. The footsteps were easy
to follow, but we were definitely hiking in snow and kicking steps not
infrequently. Around this time, Pam decided that the gaiters sounded like
a good idea and put them on. The footsteps did a big switchback below some
cliffy rocky areas after which we came to a place where the footsteps
continued straight, but another set (coming down) crossed at a right angle.
I figured that the steps coming down were taking a short cut and being
bold, daring, and foolish I decided to go up the slope instead of
continuing on. It was relatively steep (maybe 60 deg) but only about 25
feet high and definitely required kicking steps in to get up. It turns out
it didn't save any time as another hiker who passed us about the time we
started up the slope passed us again just as we got to the top. Oh, well.
I thought the steeper slope was more fun anyway. The 'trail' went around
a small hill and then continued up a rock scramble to the summit. This was
the nastiest part. In the summer the rock scramble is rather fun (and it
was in some ways now, too) but it was more difficult and treacherous with
the rocks having an inch of snow over the tops. We just took our time and
ground our way up. Occasionally the footsteps led near to the drop off on
the north side. I found that to be really neat. I didn't want to get too
close to the edge (for fear of cornices or the snow breaking away), but
there were some really nice views. I got a bit concerned since the going
ended up being much rougher than I had intended and I was hoping that Pam
would still be speaking to me at the end of the trip. I've hiked in this
kind of stuff before and it doesn't bother me (in fact, I think its fun).
However, I didn't know about Pam. It turns out that it was just fine.
We finally got the to summit lookout. It was closed up, but the door
wasn't locked, so I went in and signed the register. The boardwalk around
the lookout was pretty wet from meltwater from the roof, so we went down
the south side a bit and found a vaguely flat rock to eat lunch on (I
brought my sit pad which worked real good for keeping our sitter-downers
dry and warm. It was nice in that I had just gotten the sit pad for the
climbing class and after getting it wondered why I never got one earlier).
Our hands were cold, however. I didn't expect the conditions to be what
they were, so I only brought my light polypropylene glove liners. They did
a pretty good job keeping my hands warm while climbing, but they quickly got
soaked. At lunch I took them off since it was warmer than the wet gloves
would be. I finally got a chance to pull out one of my disposable hand
warmer packets that I've carried around for years. We found that they work
well if you stick them into a pocket with your hand. The clouds were
sweeping around us so there wasn't much of any view, though a bit later the
sun poked through more and more and the warmth was much appreciated. The
sun also made the scenery much nicer. We had some apples, cheese, and
bread (thanks to Pam) and felt refreshed. Since we weren't moving, we had
to put on more clothes to keep warm.
We finally decided that it was time to head back down. Neither one of us
wanted to try going back down the rock scramble (which would have been even
uglier going down), so we went down the back way (which seems like the
normal route this day - most people seemed to come up the scramble and go
down the back). We made some good time plunge stepping our way down the
slope. We then traversed around and after a short climb rejoined our
earlier route just below where the scramble started. The next part down
was a real kick. We got to the top of the steep slope where we had to kick
step our way going up. This was an excellent slope for a sitting glissade!
A quick "Yee-haw" later, I was at the bottom. Pam seemed a bit concerned
about the prospect (she doesn't like roller coasters either) but came
blasting down anyway. Instead of taking the long switchback traverse we
did coming up, we just continued straight down doing a couple more neat
glissades. The only drawback was that my gluteus maximus got a bit cold
and wet, but it was fun!
Another problem that I had was that for some reason the strap on my gaiters
that runs under the boot kept sliding off the back and gaiter would ride up
and I'd get snow in my boot. I'll have to adjust it better the next time.
For some reason (probably that I'm not in that good of shape yet) I was a
bit hard on various pieces of my body. At least one place on the rock
scramble up my feet slipped and I put an sudden unexpected strain on my
arms and tweaked my right shoulder a bit. On the way down, once, my left
leg had a little cramp/spasm and later my right foot did, too.
Coming down I also had a little entertaining tumble. It was just coming
down the trail (off snow now) and it wasn't even particularly muddy. I
didn't really notice what caused it, but one of my feet slipped out from
under me and down I went. Instead of just landing in a heap, though, I
bounced/rolled a little bit down hill and popped back up to me feet (when
you do something like this, I at least try to salvage as much grace and
style as I can) with a look on my face like, "Thank you, thank you. I meant
to do that, and now on to my encore . . .".
The trip down through the trees was drier than the trip up, as the weather
had improved and there was less dripping.
As a further interesting story (which doesn't involve the hike, really),
after changing our boots (I really have to remember to bring clean socks
when I go hiking and bring a change of shoes) we were getting ready to head
out when we noticed a note stuck under the windshield wiper. It started
off 'Help . . .' and wasn't real clear but indicated there was a family
(with a 3 yr old kid) stuck in the mud above us (we had seen some people 4
wheeling it when we were up on the mountain, and I'm guessing one of them
got stuck). The note asked us to stop at one of the taverns in Granite
Falls to help them out. It didn't make too much sense in that if they were
down in Granite Falls (obviously getting a ride down with someone), why did
they want us to stop there? And if they were still up here, why should we
look for them in Granite Falls? Anyway, we drove to Granite Falls and
went in the the bar and didn't see anyone. Pam went up to the bartender
and asked if she knew the people in the note. The bartender read the note,
and called out to one of the guys in the bar, "Hey <name>, c'mere. This
is for you." From what I can gather, the people were still up on the
mountain with their truck, but had friends in Granite Falls that were
likely to hang out in the bar, and wanted us to pass the message along so
that the friend could come up and rescue them.
On the whole, even though the weather was sub-optimal, it was quite a fun
and enjoyable trip. I'm deciding that I really like spring hikes in the
Please send comments or corrections to
Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015