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John Guilford's Hikes

Mt. Pilchuck on 2000-05-29

Date: 2000-05-29

Location: Mt. Pilchuck

People: (including myself): Glenn Engel, Harry Plate, Rick Van Ness

			My Alt.	Real Alt.	Miles
Start:		9:45	3160	3140	
Clearing:	10:05	3580
Below sub-peak:	10:55	4360
Ridge:		11:20	4780
Lookout:	12:00	5360	5324		3
Leave:		12:25	5360
Ridge:		12:50	4760
Clearing:	1:05	3640
Out:		1:20	3200
"This doesn't bode well" I thought as I awoke to the sound of rain hitting my bedroom's skylight.  The forecast called for sun breaks down on the flats in the afternoon, but up in the mountains it called for cloudy with showers in the morning.  However, since I'd planned to attempt Mt. Rainier in July, I needed these training hikes, so I got ready to go prepared for wet weather.  By the time I met up with the rest of the guys at Granite Falls, the sky had turned to high clouds with occasional sun breaks.  Despite my early morning misgivings, the weather turned out to be not too bad.  It was cloudy/foggy most of the time with occasional sun breaks (not quite enough to make me wish that I'd brought my sunglasses, which I hadn't).  Since my pack the previous week didn't seem so bad, this time I loaded up with four gallons of water.  I didn't have the guts to weigh it before the hike, but I did afterwards.  Depending on how full my water bottles were, etc., the pack weighed between 50-55 pounds, which was a pretty good load. 

On the drive up the Mt. Pilchuck road, we were fortunate enough to see a deer crossing the road. 

The snow had melted back a ways from the previous weekend.  The road was clear all the way to the parking lot, though the drift that blocked the road the previous weekend was apparent along the side of the road.  There was more dirt on the first part of the trail, but it soon turned completely to snow.  The day was reasonably warm and very humid.  I soon had stripped down to my t-shirt.  Not surprisingly, with my pack I was moving slower than the rest of the guys and they soon out distanced me. 

Just past where we had seen the snow boarders building a jump the previous week, the trail climb a short steep hill and emptied out onto a more major trail (the same path we'd followed last time). 

[ PIX3 ] At the clearing where the trail turns right up the hill side, I stopped and exchanged my ski poles for my ice axe.  Remembering my thoughts from the previous weekend I made sure to bring it this time.  For travel on the steeper terrain, it was more convenient than the poles.  The hill side was somewhat more melted out than before.  It was still snow covered, but there was more green visible as more of the trees were melting out. 

It wasn't as breezy as it had been the week before.  It wasn't until I reached the ridge that I felt a cool breeze.  There I changed back into my flannel shirt and Gore-Tex, but that proved to be unnecessary.  As soon as I continued on the trail onto the south side of the peak, the wind stopped and I was again too warm. 

The rocks around the lookout were more exposed than the previous week.  Whereas snow used to lead to the base of the ladder, now there was about ten feet of rocks to cross. 

The rest of the guys had gotten up there about a half hour (?) before me and a couple had hiked down along the ridge.  After a short break to snack on a bagel, we headed down.  I wasn't sure whether I'd want to carry all the water back down as my gluteus medius were getting sore from the load.  They bothered me a bit going down the south slope from the lookout, but after the ridge they didn't bother me much at all. 

[ PIX1 ] I had some company on the descent from the lookout to the ridge, where Rick accompanied me.  Glenn and Harry noticed some climbers ascending the north face of Pilchuck and watched them for a while.  [ PIX2 ] We all got together at the ridge and then the three of them started glissading down while I plunge stepped down.  The snow was somewhat more consolidated than before and I didn't sink in as much (except once when I fell through to my thigh in a tree well).  To my surprise, though they waited a little for me, I pretty much kept up with the guys on the way down. 

At the clearing, Harry and Rick continued straight while Glenn and I turned left back the way we came.  Harry and Rick say that you can continue straight for a ways and then you end up meeting up with the main trail, though it isn't clear to me how that can be.  The main trail must curve around a bit.  When we got to the place where we first joined the main trail on the way up, we elected to stay on the main trail instead of descending the smaller trail we'd come up on.  We'd done this (I thought) the previous hike and it worked out just fine.  This time the trail seemed to somewhat peter out.  We were paralleling the path we'd come in on.  Eventually we crossed to the left and rejoined the initial trail and hiked out to the parking lot. 

Again my boots worked just great.  I am beginning to really like them for snow travel.  I think it may take some tightening to get them tight enough.  This time I tightened them when I first put them on.  I later tightened them while waiting for the guys at Granite Falls.  They still felt loose on my ascent, and I tightened them some more at the lookout.  They felt better on the way down.  Perhaps as my foot settles into the shoe, it leaves a bit more room that has to be taken out in the laces.  I used my large gaiters this time and they seem the perfect size for these boots.  There was just a smidgen of snow between the boot and the gaiters.  When I got home, there was a distinct demarcation line between the damp leather and the dry leather right where the gaiter reached to. 

All in all, I'd say that the weather was a tad nicer than the previous week, though there were still minimal views.  By the time I'd gotten home, the flats were sunny, though looking back it looked like Pilchuck was still cloudy. 


[ PIX1 ] John, below summit on the way back down. 

[ PIX2 ] John, at the ridge, with summit in background. 

[ PIX3 ] Hillside, viewed from the bottom. 

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