Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mount Ellinor Attempt II

A local hiker said that he was going to try a solo attempt on Ellinor and then invited some folks to join him. 

 I could not join at the pre-arraigned starting time due to child-care issues.  I left the house at 8:20 and headed for the trail head in my Jeep that I paid $1,400 for about 5 years ago.  The snow started before the lower trailhead so I knew that I would not be driving to the upper trail head.  Just as it started to get icy and slick I saw the other hikers truck parked on the side of the road next to an alternative trail head.  I was glad to see his truck there as I was expecting a white knuckle drive in the snow. 

At 9:38 I started walking up the alternate trail head at about 3,300 feet in elevation.  I had seen this boot path many times and always assumed it was a way path that intersected the lower trail.  Since I thought this was a boot path I was surprised to see a nice little wooden bridge at the start of it.  Slowly I realized this trail did not connect with the lower trail at all.  The only purpose of this trail is to cut off a huge switchback in the road. 

The trail traverses a ridge has been clear cut by a corporation that was allowed onto our public land.  Old growth hemlock was cut and left to rot since this corporation was only set up to mill Douglas-fir.  What a terrible waste! 

This is what happens when corporations are allowed
to run amok in our public lands

The trail came out in the parking lot to the upper trail head but on the opposite side of the trail head sign. As usual I hiked very slow at first and then got my second wind after a bit. I don’t know why I struggle so much in the mornings but I do and I just can’t hike up hill very fast. I don’t know if there is much I can do about that other than keep taking iron.

There was one set of monster truck tracks in the snow covered parking lot.  There was a sign on the trail head that demanded hikers to read all signs before hiking.  I did not read any of the signs, nothing new there for me other than the sign demanding that I read the signs.

Upper trail head (click to enlarge)
When I reached the dividing point for the summer and winter routes I had a decision to make.  The other hikers did not leave a mark to tell me what route they took and tree bombs had obliterated all the recent foot prints.  I opted to head up the scary winter route but when I got a little ways down the route it came to a place where it looked like it was going to dead end. 

needless wandering between the summer
and winter routes

When I looked up at the climbing route I could not see the other hikers in the chute.  They should have been in the chute by then!  So I turned around and headed up the summer route, losing time and energy.  I followed the summer route about ¼ of a mile and gained 100-200 feet in elevation only to find the path in the snow suddenly ended.  Great!  So the other hikers were on the winter route after all and I had wasted so much time going back and forth that I knew I would not have time to summit. 
three other hikers in the chute
So back up the winter route I headed without much thought of reaching the summit.  I decided I would go up the snow chute far enough get a good view and take some nice pictures. 

Just as I reached the area where I had turned back before, I saw three other hikers in the snow chute on the climbing route.  I called to them and they turned around and looked but they could not see me and they continued up the chute.  I felt better knowing that the other hikers actually were on the mountain!
I headed up the scary snow chute.  The last time I did Ellinor in the winter I thought I was going to die.  So I needed to do this hike to try to get over some of my fear of this mountain.  Near the base of the chute I put my snow shoes on as the snow was getting steep and deep.

 When I was about half way up the snow chute I saw a hat that I recognized laying in the chute and then I heard another hiker let out a holler.  That holler told me that he was doing the glissade and I needed to get out of the way.  So I moved over as best I could, but I really did not need to because the glissade was very slow. The hiker was Marcus and he was happy to see me.  He had no idea that I was on the mountain, so that explains why a mark was not left for me at the fork in the trail. 
Marcus told me that they had not reached the summit due to ice.  He was hoping that I had crampons, but I did not.  I was wearing my snowshoes because they have crampons on them but I did not have actual crampons. 

Marcus offered to go back up with me while his friends headed down.  So we went up to about 20 feet below the top of the chute and then I got scared.  I knew it was silly to be so scared; the other hikers were wearing only boots when they went up the chute and I had my crampon snow shoes and an ice axe.  But I feall and I was shaking bad enough that I was afraid that my shaking would make me fall.  Marcus kicked out a bench of snow for us to sit on about ten feet up the trail but I was too scared to even make it that far so he came down to my level and kicked out another bench.


The view from the bench was good.  Clouds covered the Hood canal, the Lake and the ugly cities and clear cuts below.  All we could see were the tips of the volcanoes and our route back down Ellinor.  I got a little dizzy sitting up there and I was worried about the glissade back down, but I still enjoyed the view.

I tested out my new cook system in the snow and it failed miserably.  With the new system the pot sits right on the hot stove.  The weight of the pot on the hot stove made the stove readily sink into the snow in spite of the ground screen.  The set up tipped over twice and the plastic coating I put on my titanium mug melted into the stove and got stuck to it.  I used up all my fuel and managed to make a luke warm cup of chocolate.  I’m probably going to go back to using my tried and true set up that consists of a modified cat stove and a larger Evernew titanium pot that is supported by hardware cloth.  That set up has never melted down into the snow.

on the bench, failed GPS and cook stove, but the cup was great

The glissade down Ellinor was very, very slow, just the way I like it.  Maybe I’ll go a little faster next time as my confidence builds up.  I think with enough practice with my ice axe I’ll be able to do that glissade both safely, quickly and without being terrified.  I had a good scare up there once, here is my blog post from that hike http://mosswalks.blogspot.com/2006/06/mount-ellinor-glissade-sorta_18.html

 We made it back down to my Jeep at about 3:30 and drove Marcus home and I made it back home myself before dark.  All in all a fun day in the mountains.  It was great to get up into the sunshine on a December day when all the towns were stuck under the cloudy marine layer.

So good to be above the marine layer of clouds!

When I got home my new refurbished GPS (r) malfunctioned and would not communicate with my computer.  It is working again now, if this happens again I'm going to call Garmin and have them send me another refurbished unit.  I wish I could have gotten them to refurbish my old unit, but instead they made my swap out my old unit for a differened refurbished unit.  The GPS seems to have a lot of barometer issues on this hike too.

My feet stayed nice and dry in my gortex boots.  When I got home my new 1/2 price eVent jacket had arrived along with a package of goodies from Sistema that I will review later.

3.9 miles  (round trip!) with 2,400 feet total ascent
6.2 kilometers

Meeting up with other hikers

with the short days and the sun so low I could take "sunrise" pictures all day long

Lunch time


Jake Morrison said...

Sweet ice and snowball shots.

Marcus Hampton said...

That's cool. You pushed yourself until you were a bit uncomfortable and it obviously made you a stronger person.

justin Garin said...

Awesome adventure! Is there a website as to where you meet others to hike with? I'm very interested in meeting new people and sharing new adventures!

justin Garin said...

Amazing adventure! Where do you meet these people? Is it on a website for hiking?