3.5 miles of hiking • 2500' elevation gain •
This was a Mazama's climb led by my former BCEP instructor from last year, George Shay, with Dirk Lakeman assisting. I was happy to see another familiar face on the climb team, with one of my assistants from BCEP Guy also on the climb. The rest of the team was very friendly, and many recent BCEP grads themselves.
We took the heavily pot holed dirt road up to the upper trailhead in the afternoon on Saturday, setting up camp in the parking lot around 6 pm for an early am start. We watched as cars came and went, with some folks getting a late start up the trail. We grew concerned as it got dark and a few people still hadn't made it back to the parking lot. At one point, a sheriff came to the parking lot, concerned by a 911 call where someone reported they had heard a whistle call for help.
Eventually, two hikers came down by headlamp after I had turned in, but one car still remained that wasn't part of our group by morning. My sleep was a little uneasy, a few random trucks had pulled in the parking lot in the middle of the night and then pulled away, and I also heard someone making camp/talking loudly way down in the valley chopping wood into the night. I can only assume it was holiday campers, celebrating into the wee hours by campfire. Maybe I should start sleeping with ear plugs.
In the morning we quickly tore down camp, and we were off for our short but steep ascent. Crampons, ice axe, and trekking poles were all used. The snow conditions are deteriorating - many snow bridges collapsing with running water underneath. Some tricky spots that proved harder to come down than go up.
We arrived at the top to a beautiful view, 4 major peaks making an appearance. (Rainier, Helens, Adams, and even Baker). A couple of mountain goats were spotted, but thankfully they kept their distance. It was nice to have such a spectacular payoff for a relatively easy achievable climb.
As we descended the snow became very slushy, wish made one steep section a little sketchy for me, but George was very patient and let me take my time as I descended. I did have to dodge one fall from another climber - conditions got very slippery and crampons weren't really helpful in the conditions. Glissading was not a safe option - many hazards/boulders uncovered and holes to fall into and just wasn't worth the risk.
I did ungracefully fall through the snow once unexpectedly and left behind a big hole where my leg went through. Let's hope no one saw that. Just a bit of a scratch on my finger and a nice bruise on my arm, but otherwise it was a wonderful day.
I do want to note, while we never saw the car that was left in the parking lots occupants return, we did spot a tent set up near the summit. I assume this was the car we saw - and that no-one was ever in any trouble.