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John Guilford's Hikes

Mt. Pilchuck on 1996-06-22

Date: 1996-06-22

Location: Mt. Pilchuck

People: (including myself): Pam

			My Alt.	Real Alt.
Start:		12:40	3140	3140
Rock:		2:00	4460
Summit:		3:40	5360	5324	(3 miles?)
Leave:		4:15	5340
Treeline:	5:15	4360
Out:		6:30
The road to the parking lot (7 miles) had lots of pot holes in the lower part.  This caused slow driving at times to avoid beating up the car too much.  The top two miles of the road are still paved and are in good condition (something I had forgotten). 

The weather wasn't the greatest.  The forecast called for partly sunny but the clouds were low and thick and never broke at all during the day.  When we arrived at the parking lot, there were lots of cars there (lower down, the Heather Lake parking lot was jammed with cars parked along the side of the road - maybe it was because it was the first weekend in summer) and a little drizzle was falling.  It was a bit cool.  I was wearing my sweatshirt, but figured that once I got hiking I wouldn't need it.  Instead (and partially due to the rain), I took off the sweatshirt (I'd never need to put it on again) and put my Gore-Tex shell over my T-shirt.  Due to the drizzle falling, I also got my New Jersey Bob hat on.  I wore the hat all the way to near the summit (when I took it off to make sure occasional wind gusts wouldn't carry it away), though the drizzle stopped soon after we started. 

The lower trail is wide and muddy in places.  If it weren't for a large rock, it looks drivable for a ways (I think I even saw tread marks, so I think someone found a way around the rock).  The trail then narrows and switchbacks up the hillside through forest with, among other trees, young Noble Fir (which I'm allergic to, it turns out).  After some forest hiking, the trail encounters a couple of large (4' diameter) trees that have blown down across the trail.  One can either climb over the tree (not easy) or take a short detour around the tree (easier, especially on the way up).  The trail skirts the edge of a clear cut and then heads more to the east through forest.  Some time before the fallen trees I got warm enough (and the drizzle had stopped) that I took off my shell and just wore the t-shirt. 

We hit patchy snow that soon turned relatively permanent at about 4460 feet.  This is about where the trees thin out and you start hiking mostly among rocks.  The trail mixes between dirt and low brush and travel on rock itself.  There were a fair number of people (and dogs) on the trail.  We were passed by people going up as well as coming down, but it didn't feel that crowded (to me).  The trail skirts around a bowl shaped area (that we really couldn't see due to the clouds) where we could hear waterfalls on the rocks.  Interestingly enough, a short distance further on the trail, the sound of the waterfall disappeared.  I think you might be able to see the summit cliffs from here, but with the clouds we sure couldn't. 

A ways further up we passed the junction in the trail where one can choose the north (ridge) route, or the south (trail) approach to the summit.  We took the ridge route, if, for no other reason, because it was on (mostly) bare rock.  I had my waterproof boots (along with my "good" gaiters which I'd finally managed to get tight enough to work without letting snow in), but Pam had her lighter, non-waterproof boots.  On the way up we'd tried to avoid most of the mud and snow to keep Pam's feet as dry as possible.  After moving off the trail onto the rock (there was also a snow trail the met up with the blazed ridge trail that most people seemed to be using) we paused for a sizable snack.  Pam is getting much better about realizing when she needs to snack.  A thought for future hikes is to bring along some gorp or trail mix.  I started getting cool and put my shell back on. 

We finished climbing up the ridge trail (which overlooks the north cliffs) to the lookout, which, surprisingly, had relatively few people there.  There was a couple of guys working field day on 2 meters (including an 11 element 2m beam) and a few others.  The shutters were open (not that there was any view) and it was relatively warm (almost hot) inside - pleasant t-shirt weather.  However, stepping outside put one into cool, breezy weather that felt down right cold compared to the inside.  We stayed up there for a while, eating our lunch.  I tried getting our field day people (NN7N) on the repeater.  I got the repeater good and strong, but no one was listening.  It was a bit amusing at one point when my HT picked up our repeater IDing itself.  The ham working field day got confused - he heard the radio (and thought it was one of his) but couldn't figure out which one it was.  He was taking a break and all of his were turned off.  I then told him that it was mine - not his that he had heard.  While we were there they got a contact with someone in Astoria OR, which isn't bad for 2m. 

After our lunch, we geared up to head down.  Having sat for a while, I found the outside cool and put on the shell for the trip down.  With all the travel we had on snow, I'd wished that I'd brought my ice axe (for balance/support).  We hadn't expected that much snow and had opted to leave them behind.  Going down was easier than coming up with a lot of standing glissading/sliding with our feet.  Pam tried to avoid that, initially, preferring to plant her feet for each step.  She was somewhat concerned about wet feet and somewhat worried about falling and getting her clothing all wet (and cold) not to mention plunging into a hole (there were more than a few places where people had found hollow parts in the snow and sunk deep) and hurting her leg.  Later on, after we passed the turn off for the ridge route (we came down the south trail route), Pam got more comfortable with the sliding-step approach and even had some fun during the decent. 

Just below the snow line, when we were above the bowl that had several small waterfalls, we paused to do some viewing.  The clouds were slowing rising and at times we could see into the bowl.  Around the corner from this, we stopped for an Orienteering lesson for Pam.  We still couldn't see the summit, but we could see down into the valley and we pulled out the compass to try to find out our location on the map.  Down below us we saw what looked like a big sand pit.  Thinking that that might be the quarry marked on the map, we took a sight and decided that it couldn't be - that sighting put us way off the trail.  We next tried a sighting off of the river, estimating the stretch of river that we could see.  That located us at a certain point in the trail that agreed well with my altimeter and with general topological arguments.  The final conclusive evidence was that according to the map, there should be a small lake/pond just below us over the edge of the trail.  Hiking ten feet over and looking down showed exactly that! That was kind of spiff being able to show Pam that this stuff really did work.  The large sand pit we'd seen was an area just south of the parking area that some people use to go 4 wheeling in.  After recognizing that, we recognized the parking lot down below. 

Going up the trail I had a problem with a runny nose passing through a stand of Noble Fir.  I went without taking another antihistamine and my nose cleared up at the summit.  On the way back down, just after we'd passed the large fallen tree, we were going through another stand of Noble Fir and Pam made a comment to that effect.  With in about ten seconds, I sneezed a couple times and my nose started running.  "Thanks, Pam!" I said. 

Down at the base we changed shoes (quickly - as usual there were quite a few mosquitos down in the parking lot).  The drive down was faster than the drive up, though I still had to be careful of the pot holes.  At one location, there was a small orange marker in the middle of the road.  That surprised us going up as it didn't seem to be marking a large pot hole or anything.  I got a better look on the way back down and discovered that it marked a hole in the old pavement.  Apparently there was still a chunk of all pavement under the dirt and it got undermined a bit and developed a hole in the pavement.  The bottom of the cone stuck through the hole for who know how far. 

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