Green Mountain Lookout

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Glacier Peak in the distance

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Amazing for running!

Given the success of my hike the prior day, I figured I wanted one last easy alpine trip before calling it winter. Many of you know that when I first moved here and had no job and no friends and no family and nothing to do, I started hiking. That meant my hours of sitting were spend on WTA, learning everything I could about trails, discovering new areas, new views, new peaks (I didn’t know what Adams was!), new lakes (Lake Ingalls? Mind = blown), new adventures. So I started listing all of the hikes I wanted to do in a word doc. They were in order of driving distance, with notes like “this would be a good trail run” and “leave this for when you have more mountaineering experience” and “has lakes and rivers so good for cloudy days!” Many of them I have now knocked off as approaches to climbs, like Lake Ann or Heliotrope Ridge. But some are standalone hikes, and still deserve their own recognition. One of those on the list was Green Mountain Lookout. Finally hiked 10/29/2017!

  • Distance: 8.5 miles
  • Elevation: 3,300ft gain (6,500ft highest point)
  • Weather: 50’s and sunny
  • Commute from Seattle: 2:45 if you drive normally, 3:15 if you drive like a granny on gravel roads (me)
  • Did I Trip: Just a stubbed toe!
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Fat grouse. Come be my dinner

My original hiking partner’s social life got a little out of hand, so I found myself waking up at 5am to go hike solo, which was actually fine by me since I needed the head space anyway. Green Mountain it was! Basically I drove like 6+ hours round trip just to hike for 3 but whatever, gotta get out. The Suiattle River Road sounds nice, but is actually a million miles of terrible washboard gravel road and it was a relief to get onto the Green Mountain turnoff, where the road became just rocky and not washboard. My car is awesome, but washboard absolutely destroys me. Apparently the term is “crabbing” where the car just skids sideways and it feels like the entire frame is shaking violently and falling to pieces. Potholes, get at me, rocks, you are my bitches, snow, meet my European mountain-snow-rated tires. Washboard…. ah, crap.

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Let the foliage begin!!

After an eternity of skull-chattering road I parked next to the lone pickup at the trailhead, wolfed down a ton of peanuts, and started up. I had brought my hiking boots instead of trail runners expecting a bit of snow, and I wish I had brought trail runners. I did leave the axe and crampons in the car, so I didn’t look as foolish as the last trip.

The trail through the forest is a spectacularly smooth soft dirt trail and the elevation gain is quite mellow, or felt mellow compared to Sourdough the day before. The air smells wonderful, which I thought was a one-time thing when I was at Downey Creek back in June since it had been so long since I had been to mountains but I guess it’s just delicious regardless. And you aren’t even in the forest that long! After 1.5 miles you break out onto meadows slopes that dip in and out of trees, and I imagine they’re vividly green in the summer because the slopes were covered in ferns. But this time of year, it should be called Patchy-Red-And-Brown-Mountain, because there was no green to be seen.
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“Green Lake”

I trekked up through dead and dying ferns, with occasional bursts of yellow and red foliage. The first slopes you see are not the slopes to the summit, but a lower-lying winding ridge that you could follow to the top if you so desired. But there was no snow, so I stuck with the summer trail. It wound past a small lake that had started to freeze over, which is where you get your first views of the lookout. And – blueberries!! It’s the end of October and there are freaking blueberries! They were mostly overripe, but there were a few gems in there. I alternated snapping pictures and stuffing my face. Glacier Peak hovers over you to the east for the entire hike, and Sloan, Pugh, and White Chuck decorate the horizon south and west. Pretty cool being able to say you’ve been up those (with the exception of White Chuck).

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First glimpse of the lookout (center)

The trail traverses the slope beneath the lookout and then continues its switchback pattern beyond the basin, up and up to the ridge east of the lookout. You finally top out to spectacular views of the Downey Creek drainage, where my Patagonia jacket lies in a nest for whatever wild animal found it back in June. RIP. Dome looms massively one ridge over, and you can see all of the peaks of the Ptarmigan Traverse and the lesser known Buckindy Traverse (shh, don’t tell anyone about that one). The final hike to the lookout ends in what is remarkably similar to a sidewalk, except in the sky. It was windy, so I dropped my pack and huddled on the sheltered side of the lookout drinking in views of Snowking and Mt. Chaval, two peaks that are probably underrated just because you can’t see them from any major highways.

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Ptarmigan Traverse peaks and Downey Creek drainage, RIP my jacket

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Baker, Chaval, Shuksan, Snowking (cut off)

I whipped out my peakfinder app to confirm it was Mt. Chaval, and it turned out I had cell service, so I made sure to whine to everyone in the city about how I had forgotten my peanut butter snack and was stuck with salami and cheese. A lone female trail runner caught up to me and took a break by the lookout just as I started to head down, and a few minutes later I ran past yet another solo female hiker on her way up. Ladies, represent!! I hear so many people panicking about women hiking alone, or being concerned that I’m hiking alone, or being surprised to see me on the trail hiking alone, I get pumped when I see others. It’s normal, guys. I used to be scared of people on the trails and on the forest roads leading to the trails but it turns out it’s just a bunch of other Eves. Get out and enjoy the world, there’s so much to see!

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Bad ass trail runner cresting the final ridge to the lookout

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Buckindy group beyond the first ridge

I was back at the car about an hour after leaving the top, which was almost a bummer because it was such a beautiful day. I always feel like I wasted a day if I’m back before te sun sets. Should have traversed the ridges, or chosen a longer hike. But it was awesome to finally get to see something that’s been on the list since 3 years ago when hikes like Snow Lake or Kendall Katwalk blew my mind. You need to get back to your roots and remember why you hike, or why you climb, and I’ve spent a few months doing exactly that. It’s been a long time since I was excited for every corner, for every switchback, for every patch of color and every view even if it’s a view I’ve seen a million times. And that’s how the past few trips have been.

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Looking back along the ridge from just below the lookout

Vesper Peak via Ragged Edge

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Sperry from the hike route on Vesper

Last minute plans are sometimes the best plans. On Friday night I was bitching about no one wanting to go on an alpine climb (we were going cragging at Index on Saturday) when JT suggested Robert and I go do Ragged Edge after cragging. I thought Ragged Edge was a 5.9 route, so I laughed and ignored the idea. Turns out, Ragged Edge is a 5.7, and lucky for me Robert brought all his overnight gear to Index. So when I said “hey, wanna drive to Vesper and hike up after this and do Ragged Edge in the morning?” the answer was uhhh, hell yeah! Climbed 8/5-8/6, in the midst of the near-apocalyptic smoke from the BC wildfires.

  • Distance: 8 miles
  • Elevation: 4200ft gain, 6200ft highest point
  • Weather: 90’s 70’s and smoky
  • Commute from Seattle: ~2:30, 2 hours flat if you drive like Robert
  • Did I Trip: No! Suckers
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Smoky pink sunrise over Morning Star

We got to the trailhead around 8 after a round of post-index burgers, and started up the trail at 8:30. The road is reported as closed, but it’s not. There was a sign but everyone was driving past it. Do so at your own risk. We settled on bringing hiking boots and rock shoes, and left traction and ice axes at the cars. The bright side of hiking up at night is that the heat doesn’t break down your mind and body and soul like it does from 11am-3pm, so we cruised up to the talus field below Headlee Pass without issue, minus some whining about the soft kitty litter scree on the trail. The cairns along the trail were actually helpful(!) and perfectly spaced out so that when I stood by one, my headlamp just barely illuminated the next. Headlee Pass itself was a series of surprisingly pleasant switchbacks in the dark. I reached the top, went to pee while Robert caught up, and then we took off across the talus traverse to the lake. We agreed to camp at the first damn spot we found, and that spot was a nice flat grassy clearing just above the outlet stream. We popped open some cider, talked about how incredible everything was, and spent the next 6 hours alternating between fighting off mice and dozing while the mice got back into our packs. Okay, my pack.

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Robert checking out the hazy sun over Sperry on the approach

I woke up to a mostly eaten doughnut (…dammit) and a partially consumed apple cup (DAMMIT). I did a bad job of defending my food. Apparently nudging it with your foot when you hear munching isn’t enough to get mice to run away. Plus now they’ve tasted the glory that is Sultan Bakery, and they’ll be hungry for more. We debated whether we should pack up the bivvies and stash them in bushes (risk an unsuspecting hiker carrying them down or back to town thinking we forgot them), or leave them there to be clear it was a campsite (risk them being stolen or eaten). We settled on the latter and headed off to the start of the route.

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Dying glacier, not sure if it has a name

Whatever directions you’ve heard about the approach, forget them. Just follow the regular trail towards the summit until you finally get above the last clump of trees (~5500ft) and cross slabby rock to the right. The notch is very, very obvious, with several cairns, and the route is so popular you’ll probably pass campsites the entire way. From the notch there’s a series of ledges you follow until you’re at the start of the route. There were two groups already there, one that was starting up the layback variation and one starting up the original. The guys on the layback were already climbing whereas the group on the original was still roping up, so we figured we’d follow the variation.

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Robert leading the second pitch

The first pitch of the variation starts with a sweet layback (that can also be climbed just as jugs besides the last move, which I forgot) and then follows basically some nontechnical terrain to the base of the second pitch, which honestly… we never really found it. I just sat in a comfy spot on some 2nd class ledges with only a horn slung as an anchor and belayed Robert up, who continued onto the second pitch. You can sling or thread an enormous boulder as well. Robert scrambled up a diagonal ledge behind me trending west, up and onto slabs, where he could clip bolts (turns out this route is half sport) and finally discovered the “faint white dyke” that supposedly marks the start of the pitch (lies, I tell you). From the slabs he traversed right and up a short gully to the bolted anchor. The slab traverse sucks, but if you go nearly to the top of the slab there’s a nice horizontal crack you can follow with your hands for a bit instead of just smearing sideways forever.

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Robert waiting at the second belay

I took the third pitch, which goes one step right and then up and left across (woohoo!) more slabs! Keep heading left until you reach the arete. I stayed just right of the arete, where there is a crack for gear, a bolt, and a fixed pin (I’m not confident in my pin-evaluating skills so I backed it up with a nut just in case). The mini arete takes you to a short ledge, where you traverse right for an awesome gear anchor in a corner crack below the blocky boulders of the fourth pitch. If there’s already a party in the right corner crack, then there’s another crack right above where you top out on the ledge just barely to the right of the arete. Coordinate with the other groups and make new friends, there’s plenty of space. This pitch was a blast, possibly my favorite of the whole climb. And it lends itself to awesome photos.

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Robert coming up the third pitch

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Robert leading the fourth pitch

Robert led the fourth pitch, which was blocky climbing to a variety of choose-your-own-adventure cracks to another bolted belay, where I followed after taking like 50 pics of the group below us. We swapped gear and I continued up onto the fifth pitch (can you tell how amazing swinging leads is from this), which I had read was exposed but honestly it’s not that bad. It follows thin cracks and edges (which might as well have been slabby feet with finger cracks, ugh) up and right to another bolted anchor on the arete. The first few steps were awkward, I remember being very aware of the exposure until Robert started singing Gaston (yes, from Beauty and the Beast) and naturally I joined in, clipping a cam while admiring how many eggs Gaston eats for breakfast. The pitch ended up being more traversing than up, yuck, but it was a fun one. At the chains I belayed Robert awkwardly (made the anchor a bit too long so it was hard to pull up slack quickly and he’s a damn fast climber) up and we decided I’d lead the last pitch too. Awesome. Nothing like topping out on the final pitch of a climb.

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Robert coming up the fifth pitch

I started up and it was all going smoothly until I dropped the entire carabiner of nuts on my feet. Well, my foot. Which was nicely jammed in a crack. How do you squat to pick shit up when you’re hanging in a crack with a hand jam and a foot jam? God dammit. How did I let this happen. I tossed in a cam and clipped into it just in case. And then I started the awkward process of collecting the various pieces, which miraculously hadn’t fallen off my foot. Don’t lean left, don’t lean right, don’t even breathe on them. It probably took me a solid 5 minutes to collect everything and get moving again. Apologies to the group behind us – we had always been stuck behind the group in front of us, but while I took my sweet ass time scattering gear like dandelion seeds the burden of slow-ass team was on me.

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Robert coming up the last pitch, Copper Lake and Big Four in the background

Past that I cruised up the arete (which must be the only “ragged edge” of this climb) overanalyzing gear placements and one-inch heather ledges until I was at the top, where I whooped and slung a fat horn. That’s an easy anchor right there. Robert asked me if I had built anything. Don’t trust the horn? I threw two cams in a crack too and brought him on up where we raved about how amazing alpine climbing was and how cool it was even with the smoke and how it was addicting and why would you ever go cragging and I can’t wait until next weekend. We finally took off our rock shoes and put on the hiking boots we had carried on our harnesses (hahaha… ahaha… ah… bring trail runners), downed some snacks, and headed back to see just how much of our gear the mice had eaten.

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Summit!!

You can avoid the snow on the way down if you want to, but it’s not bad. The slabs are quick moving, and we were back at camp to rescue our gear from the vermin. I filled up my water bladder at the outlet stream as a guy jumped in for a swim right upstream of me. Now I have all your slick sweaty body grease in my water source you jerk. Robert didn’t fill up (I offered him my iodine tablets, to which he responded “yeah but I want to be able to DRINK the water” – iodine tablets taste like dump), but requested my “giardia water” several times on the way down. I haven’t been sick out both ends yet, so I think we avoided the giardia. Knock wood.

We were back at the trailhead around 3. My legs were surprisingly tired. Robert had mentioned chicken bacon ranch sandwiches on the way down, and I had not been able to get the image out of my head for hours. We needed to know where the closest Subway was. We didn’t have cell service. Okay, whoever gets service first googles the closest Subway and tells the other. Robert took off, passing two other cars on a gravel stretch while I laughed in my car because I knew I had no chance of passing them. I might have made it past them like 35 minutes later in an actual passing zone, but by then Robert was way ahead.
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Rolling down easy slabs with Morning Star, Del Campo, and Gothic in the back

We rolled into Subway basically drooling. Robert drank a gatorade before even reaching the counter. The cashier laughed as we lit up over sandwich ingredients, and apologized when she saw Robert had taken an empty beverage from the fridge (“he drank it he didn’t find it!!!”). That sandwich was one of the best things I had ever eaten. And it was still sunny out. I was home at a reasonable hour, in bed at a reasonable hour, crazy shit was happening. It was amazingly nice to have a whole weekend go that smoothly, that successfully. Ragged edge is a sweet route, probably a softer 5.7 in my opinion, and somewhat crowded. But if you’re the type to complain about crowds, you shouldn’t be on that route. Oh, and I strongly recommend bivvying, because it makes everything that much more pleasant.

 

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Sweet silhouette pic on the approach

Three Fingers via Bushwack & Meadow Mountain

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Three Fingers from Tin Can Gap

Well you know Murphy’s law. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. We came out of it alive, but this was certainly a casual-hike-with-a-bonus-rock-climb-turned-epic-mountaineering-objective due to our unfamiliarity with the route. We improvised where it might have been faster to be normal, and we tried for normal when it might have been faster to improvise. Whoops! I swear not all trips are like that. And it wasn’t a shitshow, just longer than we expected. Hiked 7/15-7/16, here is the Three Fingers Lookout!

  • Distance: Roughly 18 miles. 7 up, 11 down.
  • Elevation: ~4800ft gain, 6,854ft highest point
  • Weather: 50’s and sunny, 40’s and misty
  • Commute from Seattle: 2 hours without traffic (but there was traffic)
  • Did I trip: Yes, mostly I fell uphill on the damn bushwack in the night
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I’m a spooky ghost (selfie credit: Haley)

We started up around 8:30pm on Friday, which was 11:30pm for the visiting Floridian (Haley). She was tan at least, so she had that going for her. Convinced I’d be last to the party, I went straight to the trailhead, where I met Calvin, Tricia, and Florida after getting myself lost on a gated forest road. Nailed it. The road to Three Fingers is truly blocked now, with enormous boulders buried in dirt so no one can tow them off like last summer. They really don’t want people driving down that road. There’s also an enormous cedar tree down across the road maybe a mile past the boulders, and I have no idea what’s past that besides an enormous washout ~2mi from the true trailhead. Probably more terrible things waiting to destroy your car.

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Bivvy morning (photo credit: Haley)

We took what we thought would be a shortcut up a ridge pretty much straight from the road closure to Goat Flats. Unfortunately, in the dark, that “shortcut” was more like “a five hour long epic” that didn’t quite get us to the flats because around 2am we decided we were just going to camp at the next flat spot we saw. The shortcut was steep, brushy, had some nice 3rd class scramble moves through the forest, a bleached goat skull (“a human skull?! I’m fucking bailing if it’s a human skull that’s just too creepy I hate the forest”) placed a little too perfectly on a rock, sticky green seeds from bushes that clung to my leggings like velcro, a plethora of spiderwebs, probably bears, and the echoing of gunshots from the rednecks on the forest road below (no offense guys, but between the guns and the thumping base at 1am you aren’t exactly making a great first impression). Haley and I apparently don’t like the dark or bumps in the night, Calvin and Tricia were way behind, and I can’t see shit in the dark, so that left Haley to be the brave one and scout out the flagging tape. We started classifying spiderwebs. Class 1 was a strand of cobweb. Class 2 was a legit cluster. Class 3 was a full formed web. Class 4 was a huge fucking fully formed web with the spider inside of it and I don’t want to know what class 5 would be and 5.12a would probably be enough to send me into cardiac arrest and flee this world for a better one. I had my usual “what are we doing here” moment around 12:30am when Haley took a bathroom break and I stood in the dark waiting for Calvin and Tricia. Why do we do this? Haley had hers an hour later when she bitched out a pinecone. You show that pinecone who’s boss, Florida.

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Cal enjoying the views from Goat Flats

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Goat Flats Throne

I was happy to snuggle down into my bivvy when we decided to call it before Goat Flats. I brought twice as much food as Calvin, Haley, and Tricia combined, which ended up being a good thing a day and a half later. They let me stuff it in their bear bags, which they hung off a tree. We slept for 5 hours and then had a lazy wakeup with breakfast, coffee, the works. And we started up to Goat Flats, which we reached after an hour of mellow hiking, barely even bushwacking.

I was told there was a toilet, and given my self admitted obsession with alpine toilets I decided I’d find it. I jogged in circles around the goat paths until I saw a sign. “TOILET” with an arrow. Ooh! It’s like a scavenger hunt. I jogged in that direction, looking for the throne. Another sign. “TOILET” with another arrow. Bust through those trees, jog in that direction, check every cluster of trees for a hidden shitter. Finally found it, surrounded by trees, maximum alpine privacy. That’s bullshit. I want views. I have no idea why they didn’t perch it on the slope 50ft away so you could enjoy looking at the lookout, which was way too far away for us to get excited. I’m not sure this one will make it to the 50 Classic Craps of Washington. Maybe because of the location and not the views.
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Summer trail with patchy snow

We packed up our snacks and started down the summer trail to the lookout. Through the forest it was melted out, but when we popped out on the south side of the ridge it was snow covered. We kicked steps across mellow slopes up to Tin Can Gap, which was partially melted out, enough for wildflowers! At Tin Can Gap we got our first real look at the lookout, perched atop the south summit. Sweet! We weren’t making great time, so we ditched our original plan of traversing the three summits. Oh well. The ropes and cams were relegated to training weight. God dammit.

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Tricia pulling some nifty moves in the moat

Rather than drop onto the glacier, we stuck with the summer trail. That was our mistake. We expected it to be more melted out, or more snow covered, not the awkward in between we ran into. Decent moats to negotiate, one of which involved a rock that slashed my thumb. It probably needed stitches, it still hasn’t healed, and I’m not sure my thumb will ever be the same shape again. Some steep snow to traverse. Some downclimbing third class scrambles, occasionally with crampons (the worst). Some goats, completely uninterested in us but making us look like slow bumbling fools while they dashed down the fields. And finally, a somewhat melted out trail, surrounded by wildflowers, switchbacking on top of the world. Yes. This is why I was here. I hadn’t been expecting wildflowers! We finally hit a snowfield that took us to the final scramble to the lookout. We had no idea where the ladders were, so we each scrambled a separate path to the top.

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Calvin, Tricia, and Haley on moderate snow

I heard Calvin drop one of his classic F bombs. Shit, this wasn’t the top. There was a huge gulley. The good news was he could see the ladders, and we’re idiots, they were right around the corner. I was stuck on a downclimb, I went a little too far with an overnight pack and realized I was not going to be able to scramble down that I just did. Cal tossed me a rope (“what do you need?” “a #1 cam please!” “no, but here’s a few feet of rope”) which I looped around a small horn to fake-rap myself back to safety. Damn downclimbs.

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Florida downclimbing in crampons…yay!

We scurried around the corner and bam, there were the ladders. Woo! But don’t be deceived, they’re crooked and squeaky with one or two rungs that feel like they’re toast any day now. And the airy step to the third ladder makes you pause for a split second. But once you’re up the third ladder, you’re at the lookout, and it’s time to relax.

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Summer trail!!

The clouds moved in quickly, and we were soon socked in by fog. Total bummer, but hey it makes the lookout more cozy. We hoped it’d clear up in the morning, but until then it was dinner, hot chocolate, alpine cider, mountain trivia (there’s a mountain trivia book up there!) and Haley (still on east coast time) was snoring soundly within 30 minutes.

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“do any of these go” (photo credit: Haley)

The recommended waste disposal at the lookout is literally chuck-a-dook. I explained this in a blog post years ago. It’s the most hilarious method, and more convenient for everyone (besides the environment) than blue bagging. Elegantly explained by a piece of paper pinned to the wall of the lookout, you find a nice flat rock, shit on it, and toss it off into the distance, out yonder over the cliffs where the Glacier Waste Treatment Plant takes care of it (aka the Queest Alb Glacier will hide it until it melts out in 100 years, and then there will be slabby boulders scattered with turds).

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Ladders! Yay!

The lookout had some old fire-spotting tools, emergency water in the “attic,” a bottle of bottom shelf tequila, some old first aid supplies, and summit registers/log books going back to the 70’s. The approach to this peak used to be via the Boulder River Trail, which I think is so freaking cool. It took you to Tupso Pass, then followed the “current” trail to the lookout. Then FR 41 to Tupso Pass was built, and suddenly the hike was only 16 miles round trip, and it became swamped with traffic. Even last year when someone towed the boulders off the road (hence the newly piled dirt on top of the boulders this year) the lookout saw a huge spike in hikers, which was painfully obvious on the WHC Facebook group and quite evident in the summit register when we flipped through it. The huge washout is only 2 miles from the trailhead, but the boulders and dirt block the road 8 or 9 miles back, effectively doubling the distance of the hike A few guys tried the old Boulder River approach, which I’d love to attempt someday when I have a week to dedicate to brutal North Cascades bushwacking. Yuck. There used to be cabins where Gerkman Creek joins Boulder River, so you could hike a ways in and stay in a shelter before continuing on to Tupso Pass and the eventual lookout. The trail was ravaged by logging and now has several decades of Devil’s Club and brush growth, and it sounds like there isn’t much left. I have to wonder if it would be a more interesting hike than walking/biking FR41 if someone were to blaze it and get some foot traffic started up again. Here is a map that shows the old trail to Tupso Pass (where FR41 currently ends).

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Coming up the last stretch to the lookout (photo credit: Haley)

We enjoyed out night of sleep in the lookout, and didn’t even get to meet Alpine Andy, the resident rat. He might be dead, cause I think his legacy started in the 70’s (he was there first!) and I doubt rats live for 40+ years. But we left some crumbs as a sacrifice to Alpine Andy and the mountain gods to forgive us for chucking our dookies onto the glacier.

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View of the North peak in the clouds

In the morning we had another lazy start. I had coffee and felt absolutely amazing 30 minutes later. Is this what I’ve been missing my whole life?! Maybe I should start drinking it. We lit the sparklers Tricia brought that we had forgotten to use the previous night, and started down the ladders in the fog. They’re worse when they’re soaking wet, and the scrambley moves are that much more awkward. Haley wore all gray, which sucked for photos. Come on Haley. Florida is no excuse for all gray.

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Ladders aren’t always easy

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Ask her why she wore gray

We dropped down the snowfield quickly, and found the huge boulder we had scouted out the day before. We figured we could rap down to the glacier and walk across that instead of following the summer trail, which had been a pain in the ass. Cal and I set up a nice double rope rappel, Haley and I went down first to counter balance each other (one on each strand), and Cal and Tricia came next. We pulled the ropes, set up two teams of two, and started across the glacier. Honestly we probably could have downclimbed the talus field, but it was loose and crappy and we had 7 ACLs for 4 people so rapping was easier.

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Wildflowers in the mist

That’s what we should have done on the way up. Take the glacier, not the freaking summer trail. It was an easy walk with some stretches of steep snow, but we kicked a sidewalk for everyone and even found a rogue water bottle from a previous party (which, in hindsight, I think we forgot to pick up. Shit). We were back at Tin Can Gap within a few hours, and carried on to Goat Flats. From there, instead of taking our shortcut back down, we took the Meadow Mountain trail. Tricia is just a few months off ACL surgery, and going down that steep ass shortcut probably would have sent her back to the table. The Meadow Mountain trail wasn’t bad to Saddle Lake, where it got a bit brushy for about an hour. The trail appears to bypass the true summit of Meadow Mountain, but it’s honestly not in terrible shape. I started fighting foot fatigue, and finally Haley and I ditched Calvin and Tricia and said we’d meet them back at the car. 20 minutes after we split up I realized I had just told Tricia to eat her last Gu because I had a bunch she could have (I knew Cal was out), and then I took off leaving them with nothing. So I found a nice log that had fallen across the trail, and left several Gus, some shot blocks, and a packet of advil for whatever pains I imagined they were enduring. “It’ll be like a mile to the road” Calvin had said, which had made me laugh. “A mile and 2500ft of elevation loss, right.”

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Florida remembering how to walk on snow (taking the glacier back to Tin Can Gap)

It was several hours, with a gnarly blowdown that threw all of us off the trail. Haley and I found the shortcut relatively quickly since there’s a strip through the brush leading down to the next switchback (“nothing leaves traces that obvious except for people… it must be to the trail”) but Calvin and Tricia weren’t so lucky. It had occurred to me to maybe leave a rock arrow on the trail or some sign to turn off there to avoid the blowdown, but I’m a lazy asshole.

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Calvin jogging across Goat Flats to get water

“I see the road!!” Haley sounded excited. Meadow Mountain would drop us off on the old road about two miles from our cars, so we wanted to reach the road by dark. But the “road” she saw was a log. Come on, Florida, you’re the one with the good eyesight. Finally she saw the road for real (“shut up I’m not listening until OH MY GOD IT IS THE ROAD!!!”) and we hustled down to it, only to begin the real slog. My feet were killing me in my damn mountaineering boots, and we had a forest road to walk. The cedar tree was the real relief, because it was so freaking cool. I started counting the rings but lost interest at ring #150, which was like 1/3-1/4 of the way across the log, so we lowballed the age at 550 years.  EDIT: Another guy counted the rings and got 745!! A tree that was 745 years old! Hoooooolyyyy Shiiiit. Insane seeing something that massive. I want to cut a slice and make a table out of it.

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Holy shit!! It IS the road!

We got back to the car just before dark, where I pulled out my car camping stuff and we sat down and destroyed a box of cheez its. We placed bets on when Tricia and Calvin would be back. I nailed it with a guess of 10:45. They got back to us and it turned out they had tried to radio and text and everything telling us to just go home, but we hadn’t gotten any of the communication. Oh well, it’s 11pm on a Sunday and I’m lying on a forest road looking at the stars, it could be worse.

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745 years old!! Me for scale (photo credit: Haley)

I bailed pretty quickly. The drive out felt like it took forever. I passed a guy in a flannel on the side of the road just staring off into the dark. People are fucking terrifying. But hey, the trip was awesome, despite the surprisingly long days and abject lack of views at the lookout. There’s a fair bit of history up there, and now that I know the route (aka drop to the glacier if it’s early season or very snowy, it’ll save you SO much time) it’ll be faster next time. I’d love to see how much Goat Flats has been restored since the road closure. I am under the impression it used to be insanely popular, and the goat herds had actually migrated and are just recently returning to the area. It’s amazing that the lookout is kept in such good shape by volunteers, and I love that that’s the case. It’s too bad more lookouts like that one weren’t preserved.

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Tough to be unhappy in such a spectacular place!

So if you have a two day weekend, it’s definitely worth checking out, especially as the trail melts out. The glacier would be a great ski too if it’s early season, and snow might make the approach through the woods easier (if it’s consolidated – powder would be a bitch). There is a limited supply of flat rocks up there for chuckadook though, so get up there while supplies last!