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John Guilford's Hikes

Whitehorse Mountain on 1991-07-20

Date: 1991-07-20

Location: Whitehorse Mountain

People: (including myself): Gene Obie

			My Alt.	Real Alt.
Start:		 8:37	700	900
patchy snow:	10:29	3700
knoll:		10:50	4100	4000?
leave knoll:	11:20
Lone Tree Pass:	12:00	4900	4720
High Pass:	 2:00	6100	6032
leave High Pass:	 2:15
Summit:		 3:05	6900	6852
Off rocks:	 3:45
High Pass:	 4:00	6000	6032
Lone Tree Pass:	 5:30	5400??	4720
Knoll:		 6:00	4000
Down:		 8:35	900	900
Well, I finally made it.  We started off fairly early in the morning (though it was still much after dawn, which was around 5:30).  The weather lately has been morning high clouds turning to clear afternoons.  This is what we were expecting.  When we got to the Whitehorse Store, I could see clouds around the peak.  I expected that these would burn off by the time we were up there.  We stopped at the store so that Gene could pick up a pair of clip-on sunglasses, as he didn't bother putting in his contacts this morning, and didn't have any prescription sunglasses.  The dirt road into the trailhead was in worse shape than I remembered it.  At one point I had to stop and slowly inch uphill through a large pothole.  Trying to go slow, uphill in a manual transmission is hard - I think I heated up my clutch pretty good doing that.  Later I scrapped the bottom of the car going through another pothole.  We should have taken a truck.  So far, all the hikes this year seem to have poorer roads than I remember.  I should plan on it in the future.  We were surprised to see several other cars at the trailhead - I didn't think anybody else did Whitehorse

Gene didn't bother getting an ice-axe, thinking that there wouldn't be much snow up there (which was the wrong choice).  He would regret this later.  I didn't bring a rope this time (I was too lazy to carry it up like I did last time), although I did bring more food and water than usual. 

The first part of the trail is in good shape, though cruelly steep.  You immediately start grinding out elevation gain (gaining 1000 feet in the first half hour).  The day was relatively cool, especially in the trees with the clouds.  As you get higher, the trail gets poorer and steeper.  You finally get to the point where it flattens out a bit and you come to what I call the Knoll.  This is a high chunk of land that sticks out from the mountain side a bit.  It (usually) gives pretty good views and is a good place to stop to lunch.  We stopped here for about 1/2 hour for lunch number 1 (where I ate one of my two sandwiches).  The mosquitos were out a bit here (not very annoying, but biting somewhat) so we put on some DEET.  Gene have a "OFF" brand bottle that was a little pump sprayer.  It tended to squirt more than pump, but it was more convenient than my bottle as you didn't have to get it all over your fingers putting it on.  From just below the knoll we started hitting patchy snow.  From the knoll we could see several good sized snow fields leading up to Lone Tree pass.  This was when Gene started regretting his not having an axe.  We occasionally heard some voices below us, and a bit later a party of four hikers caught up to us.  There were 3 guys and a girl.  It turns out that the girl had sore ankles and was debating how much further she was going to go.  When they heard that we had been up here before, they asked us what the rest of the trip would be like. 

We all started off at about the same time from the knoll.  Gene wasn't real comfortable on the snow w/out an axe and went somewhat slowly and carefully.  There was at least one person in front of us, and I used his foot steps to my advantage (it saved me some work in kicking steps into the snow).  The path up to the pass gets quite steep near the top.  The snow petered out before the top and climbing the mud/dirt/grass/brush was a bit harder than climbing the snow.  It was a minor victory reaching the pass, and we rested a bit.  At this point a took one of my two water bottles and stashed it off the trail.  That way, I wouldn't have to carry the extra weight up to the summit, but I'd have the water for the trip down. 

The girl had turned back, so there was only the three guys and the two of us.  We formed an informal group of five and continued on.  We had some trouble finding the trail, but continued along the ridge until we found some blazes of orange ribbon.  All in all, the trail was better marked than 2 years ago when I was here before.  Unlike last time, I wasn't too concerned over not finding the trail at all times.  We looked for the blazes, but followed the general guideline of traversing west while staying as high as practical.  Just before we had to leave the ridge line we came across a small flat meadow (snow covered) that gave some nice views of the summit and the valley.  I don't think we saw this last time I was here.  We hit the cliff that made us descend a couple hundred feet and then entered the first meadow.  This was snow covered.  By this time Gene was really wishing he had brought an axe (although it turns out that he would have had a hard time finding one - the guys we were with said that the Swallow's Nest was out, and that they got the last ones out of REI - it must have been a good ice-axe weekend :-) We crossed that and another band of trees. 

After a couple of these, we ended up on the meadow leading up to the gully leading to High Pass.  I didn't want to loose an altitude I didn't have to and stayed high on the snow slope (which was a pain - after walking for a while on a slope, the uphill side of each foot starts claiming foot abuse - and it is somewhat tiring having to kick a step with every step).  Gene opted to drop down to where the slope was flatter and there were more grassy patches.  It turns out that Gene had the right idea as he made better time and ended up ahead of the rest of us.  The grass had just started growing from the winter and didn't cover the ground as of yet.  From here we could see two climbers ahead of us. 

I caught up with Gene going up the gully.  I asked him about his clip-on sun glasses and he said they weren't real good, but they were better than nothing.  The clouds were playing hide-and-seek with the sun.  When the sun was out, it felt like you were in a reflector oven.  Gene said that bad as they were, he'd be blind with out them.  Around here Gene mentioned that his knees were beginning to get sore.  Going up the gully to High Pass was easier on the snow that it was on the rocks.  Coming this early in the year was definitely the correct choice.  The snow didn't go all the way to the top of the gully.  Thus we still had to climb the top part on the loose rocks (which reminded me how much of a pain it was last time).  It was time for another minor celebration at the top.  This was lunch II, and I ate my second sandwich.  Here I managed to give away some of the raspberries I took with me, but I was beginning to realize that there was no way I'd eat/give away all of them, so I'd be bringing some beat up old berries back home.  One of the other guys gave up just below the gully, so there were only four of us now. 

After a brief rest, we headed out across the glacier to the summit.  Gene's knees were really bothering him by now.  He told me that he might just wait down below.  He took a couple aspirin and kept on going, though.  The snow started off flat, but then steepened up to a ridge that was flat on top, but dropped off on both sides.  This continued on to another snow field that led up to the summit rocks.  At the top of this, it was pretty steep (45-50 degrees).  There was about a 2-3 foot moat between the snow and the rock wall.  Getting to the summit definitely involved a rock climb (probably class 3-4).  Near the ground I wouldn't worry too much.  However, it you did slip here, you'd land on the snow and fall quite a ways.  That, coupled with the necessity of walking out afterwards, added some amount of concern to the climb.  Part way up, Gene asked me how we were going to climb down.  I told him that I wasn't worrying about that then. 

As I was going up the glacier I heard a "pop".  I had heard this a number of times before, but hadn't been able to figure out what it was.  This time, it was distinctive enough so I recognized it.  It was my plastic container.  As I climbed, the pressure dropped, so the pressure difference between the inside and the outside increased until the lid popped off.  I had noticed some pink stains on my maps and had assumed that my Gatoraid bottle had leaked.  Now I think it was the raspberry container. 

We met the other two climbers on top.  The sun was still playing hide and seek.  Sometimes I wanted my sweatshirt on, sometimes I didn't.  We spent about 15 minutes on top, taking some pictures and resting.  One of the guys we climbed up with had brought a rope.  Judging from the number of slings left on top, a number of people rappel off the top.  We down climbed about 1/3 of the way (to a good sized ledge) and then decided that we'd rather rappel down the rest of the way.  One of the two climbers who were already on top elected to down climb, while the other five of us rappeled.  I had never down a body rappel before.  I wasn't looking forward to it, but I dreaded the down climb more.  After putting on my sweatshirt and Gore-Tex I went down.  It wasn't as bad as I had expected - it wasn't as comfortable as with a harness and a figure-8, but is wasn't painful either.  I was the second to last to go, and I went down rather slowly.  I tried not to hang on to the rope with my non-brake hand, but wasn't terribly successful.  At the snow, I got out of the rope and did a sitting glissade down to where the other people were waiting.  The slide was faster than I felt comfortable with (I feared that my feet would stick it and catapult me into the air), and I was glad I had my ice axe to dig in to control the speed with - although I'll admit that I came down with less control that I would have wished.  While waiting to rappel down, I heard Gene yell "Oh shit!" as he slid down.  I thought that was maybe because he got going too fast.  I now learned that he hadn't intended to slide down, he slipped and unintentionally slid down. 

By now our journey was half done - but we still had to get down.  I was feeling pretty good, but Gene's knees were quite sore.  This hindered him quite a bit on the way down.  I felt comfortable post-holing and/or doing standing glissades down the snow.  I ended up loosing altitude quickly and then waiting for Gene to catch up (having had sore knees the last time I came up here, I could sympathize with what Gene was going through).  Gene was also further hampered by his lack of an ice axe.  Part way down I gave him mine and that helped.  The snow definitely made it easier to come down than trudging down the rock/grass slopes.  The other four guys made good time and were soon lost to view. 

We noticed this time (like last time) that it was easier to find the official "trail" on the way down than it was on the way up.  I think it is easier to see the trail when looking down from above than it is looking up from the bottom.  On the way down, it started clouding up significantly (not just high clouds).  It took longer to get to Lone Tree Pass than I expected.  At the flat meadow we passed a couple guys in a tent who were going to summit tomorrow.  As we went down the ridge line, I kept seeing little passes that I thought must be Lone Tree, but when I took a look, they were not.  We finally got to Lone Tree Pass, I retrieved my water bottle (which worked out pretty good as I had just recently finished the water bottle in my pack).  In a similar fashion we went down the last snow fields to the Knoll.  It was a little harder for me to keep my balance with out the ice axe, which ended up with me plunging my hand into the snow occasionally, but it made it much easier on Gene

At the Knoll we passed a good number of tents for the Oregon mountain club who came up to climb Whitehorse.  The mountain sure was crowded (for this mountain).  The skies were grey and it began sprinkling.  I was glad I wasn't camping out tonight.  The sprinkling didn't last very long.  The trip down from the Knoll wasn't very eventful.  Gene ended up taking about 8 aspirin for his knees, but I (fortunately) did fine.  It doesn't seem like that bad of a hike down when you are not in pain.  We got down with plenty of light left. 

The weather wasn't optimal, but all in all it was a rather successful hike. 

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Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015