Friday, January 25, 2008

South Mountain

Hike: H
Sunrise behind Rainier

Sunrise behind small trees

Snow free bottom gate

Animal tracks going up a hill

First test of my crampons

Glory Shot

West Summit View

Route to East Summit

Snow-bound Upper Gate

Old Sol Simpson Had a Farm E I E I Oooh
And on his farm he had a fellerbuncher E I E I Oooh
With a clear cut here, and a clear cut there, everywhere a clearcut...

South Mountain Jan '08

At 5:30 am my alarm clock woke me up, I felt like going back to sleep and thought about not going on my hike. I hit the snooze button but I got up before the alarm could go off again. I'm gaining weight and I need to go on a strenuous hike.

I stumbled around my house gathering up all my gear for the hike and making lunch. I made a thermos and a mug of tea. I needed to get an early start and hurry today so I could be back home by 2:00.

My hiking shoes have holes on the inside of both heels, I've hiked about 300 miles in these shoes and it is time to buy new ones. In order to avoid getting heel blisters from my worn out shoes I applied a bit of duct tape to both of my heels before I left the house. It took several minutes to defrost my vehicle; there was frost on both the inside and outside of my Jeep's windshield. Finally I was ready to leave! I drove about a block before realizing I had left my trekking poles behind. I knew I was going to need them today so back to the house I went.

I did not know if I would need snowshoes on the mountain top today. When I was standing on Grisdale Hill last Friday I could see a lot of snow on top of South Mountain. But I know that trucks drive up the road/trail in the winter. I would need some sort of traction if I was going to hike in tire tracks and my snowshoes have crampons but I really did not want to lug my snowshoes up the mountain. I took a risk and left the snowshoes behind and brought my un-tested crampons. If there was enough soft snow to warrant the use of snowshoes I would have no chance of making the summit anyway, I'm not in shape for an 8 mile snowshoe hike.

I won my crampons in a home made gear contest at the annual day zero pacific crest trail kick-off event in Lake Morena California. My entry was one of my home-made stoves with a home-made pot. The crampons are ultra-light and made to be used with running shoes instead of boots. Most long distance hikers do not wear boots. I'm not a long distance hiker but I don't own a pair of boots, I much prefer shoes.

I drove to the 820 road in the dark. I only shared the road with logging trucks, I was hiking in logging country today. I started my hike at 6:50 am, it was dark but the moon was big and I could have found my way without my headlamp but I wore it anyway. I followed my moon shadow up the road. Shortly the sun began to rise behind Mount Rainier. The valley below me was still dark and I could see the lights and hear the sounds of nearby logging operations.

About one mile up the road patchy snow started to appear there were two sets of tracks from hikers who had gone up the road probably sometime last week. Eventually the entire road was snow covered and I began to slip back a tiny bit with each step. It was time to test out my crampons at last. The crampons were not necessary but they did make my hike less strenuous and perhaps a bit safer. For the first two miles I kept a pace of 2 MPH but after that I slowed down a bit. The road is graded for logging trucks for all but the last .10 of a mile. The last .10, the final slog to the summit, is a bit steeper.

In the dark I could hear pebbles falling down every cliff I passed. I had to wonder if an animal such as a cougar was up on the hill above me. Was there a cougar up there pacing me and waiting for the perfect moment to strike from above and behind? Cougars are most active and dawn and dusk and they say that you should never hike alone. BAH! What silly thoughts, still I clanked my trekking poles together a few times just to be safe. Animals tend to run away when I hit my trekking poles against each other.

Just before the summit was a new gate with a high RF warning sign on it. I don't know if the RF up here is something I need to worry about or not. I spend so little time on the summit that I think not. The tracks of the two people who had hiked up here last week stopped shortly past the sign, maybe the sign frightened them. The gate was buried by snow and I walked over the top of it.

I reached the summit in full daylight at 9:15 and the first order of business was to pull on my rain pants, a sweater, a hat and my raincoat. It was cold up there and I wanted to stay warm long enough to enjoy the view. Next I set up my kitten stove and pot and started heating up water for my tea. The water that was left in my water bottle after I poured out what I needed for my tea started to freeze almost instantly. Finally it was time to take pictures, drink my tea and soak up the view. The summit was covered with fresh snow and blocks of ice that had fallen off the repeater tower. I picked up a block of ice to bring home to my oldest daughter who loves icicles. The repeater tower had a fence all around it. The tower was not fenced off the last time I was up there. There was a lot of pollution in the air and my view was not as good as the last time, I could not see Mnt. St. Helens this time. I could however see the cooling towers for the never completed nuclear plants outside of Montesano.

I stayed for 45 minutes and headed back down the road at 9:45, I had plenty of time to hike down, maybe even enough time to grab a geocache on the way out.

On the way down it was light enough for me to see that pebbles were falling off of every cut bank above the road. I think the freeze / thaw cycle was causing the banks to erode.

I made it back out to the road by 11:15 and I hid a geocache near the parking area. I have a geocache and a terracache on the summit of South Mountain and I'm trying to encourage people to go find them. South Mountain makes for a fine winter hike; it has a fabulous view and enough elevation gain to make for a strenuous hike when the high country proper is snowed in. By going up South Mountain a few times in the winter I can hopefully stay in shape and be ready for the big hikes in the spring and summer.

On the way home I passed on finding the nearby cache that is owned by someone else, I missed my turn and did not feel like going back. I was tired from my hike and ready to go home. I felt good when I made it to the summit so I know I am not as out of shape as I had feared. Once I got home I put the icicle in my freezer to surprise my daughter with when she gets home from school.

To reach South Mountain take highway 101 to the Shelton-Matlock exit and turn towards Matlock. Just past a large saw mill is the entrance to the Simpson 800 line (an old rail road line converted to road) take the 800 line to the side road labeled 820 and turn right. Park near the gate (don't block it) and start hiking up.

GPS Coordinates for start of hike:
N 47*17.397
W 123*22.736

** Up **
Average Speed: 1.8 mi/h
Total Time: 02:04:57

** Down **
Average Speed: 2.5 mi/h
Total Time: 01:33:14

Over all average speed 2.14 MPH

Miles 7.75 Elevation gain 2,400 feet


A constant slow landslide

A new sign on the new upper gate

The tower is fenced in now

Repeater control house

This box was humming

Track Log on Topo

Track Log on Google Earth

Elevation Profile Log

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