Jul 17, 2009

Granite Mountain Lookout

I've been told by a friend that Granite Mountain is the pinnacle of summits in the Snoqualmie region. I now believe him.

Peaking at 5600 feet, Granite Mountain even has a lookout tower still standing at the top. It offers amazing panoramic views, and one can see Rainier, Adams, Baker, and Glacier Peak from the summit. Not to mention numerous peaks and ridges throughout the Cascades. Simply awesome.

To get there, take I-90 to exit 47, go north, and head left at the first intersection. In a quarter mile you will reach the trailhead for Pratt Lake Trail. Elevation here is 1800 feet. From here it's a four mile, 3800 foot elevation gain hike to the summit. 500 feet up the trail splits to take backpackers to Pratt Lake. Stay right to continue on to the Granite Mountain summit.

The trail starts off in the woods, fairly steep through the first half of the hike. At about 4200 feet the trail levels off and moves into open meadows on the southeast side of the mountain. The trail continues in the open for another mile and a half, meaning it will be a killer on hot, sunny, days. I did this hike in the morning, but even then the sun beating down on you wore you down.

At 4300 feet Mount Rainier peeks over the top of Humpback Mountain, and the trail out in the open leaves phenomenal views of the Snoqualmie Valley and Snoqualmie Pass. Eventually the trail turns back to the northeast, and you'll spot the lookout tower at the summit. At 5000 feet the hiker has a choice - continue on the trail around the backside of the summit and come up the north side, or head straight up for the next 600 feet, .4 miles through a rock scramble. I opted for the trail, and found it to be easy and quick. Lots of snow still on Granite Mountain, but passable without snowshoes. Feel free to take in the views of the North Cascades, Geyser Peak, and Mount Baker.

Finally, at 5400 feet the trail heads back south for a quick but steep summit climb, dropping the hiker off at the base of the tower. It wasn't open today (not sure if it ever is), but I used it as shade to cool down on this 80 degree day. Took me 2.5 hours to hit the summit.

I also opted for the hiking trail back down, which was definitely quicker than rock hopping down. Took just under two hours to hit the parking lot.

Unfortunately my camera wasn't too cooperative today (or the photographer didn't bring his A game), and the pics don't do the vistas justice.

Looking toward the pass from the summit.

Glacier Peak peeking behind Kaleetan Peak.

Jul 10, 2009

Mount Teneriffe

Mount Teneriffe is the tall peak to the northeast of Mount Si, or the "next one" along the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River (there are a couple taller peaks just north of Mount Si; I'm not sure what they are). It stands 4800 feet tall, although its generally obstructed by Mount Si if you're west of it and Mailbox Peak if you're east of it.

There's a couple reasons Teneriffe is not as well known, or hiked, as others in the area. There isn't a good official trail for Teneriffe. The official trail takes you through 7 miles of logging roads, and the unofficial trail takes you on a 3 mile steep hike - so steep that they are currently building an alternate route. And there just isn't good parking. A few cars can fit at the trailhead - but during school days parking is not allowed as this is used as a school bus turnaround.

But that doesn't mean Teneriffe isn't worth doing. The peak is flat, giving a phenomenal 360 degree view of Rainier, Rattlesnake, Mount Si, Adams, the Middle Fork, the upper Snoqualmie Valley, Seattle, the Olympics, and even Bellevue and Tacoma. The views are easily equal those of Mount Washington, possibly better.

I took the Kamikaze trail today, and it was a killer. Similar to Mailbox Peak, its steep and doesn't let up until you get to the top. By my estimates it climbs 3000 feet in about 3 miles. So not as steep as Mailbox, but that didn't make it seem less challenging today.

The trailhead is located a mile past the Mount Si trailhead. Take I-90 to exit 32, head north, then left on North Bend Way. In less than half a mile you'll see the turnoff for Mount Si Road on the right. Follow the road for about 3 miles, you'll see the school bus turnaround on your left. Park your car and head up the logging road.

There are two ways to get to the Kamikaze Trail. About 3/4 mile along the logging road you'll see a trail off to your right. From here it's a 3/4 mile gradual incline before the steep part starts. The second way is to continue along the logging road another 1/4 mile, and off to the right you'll see a path heading up, right along a stream. This stream is fed by Kamikaze Falls. This second way is shorter, but steeper. Both join up just south of the Falls.

I took the longer route. The first major stop along the trail is Kamikaze falls at 2300 feet, about 1/4 mile along the steep part of the trail. When you first see Kamikaze Falls, its impressive enough. But, continue up the trail (literally), and it takes you up the falls to a viewpoint that's basically looking straight up at the falls about 300 feet above you. Today the flow was light, but I imagine in spring you would get drenched.

Once you're done taking in the falls, you still have 2500 feet to go in about 1.5 miles. This stretch rivals Mailbox Peak, although certainly not as long as it. At 2900 feet you will reach a ridge that provides nice views of Snoqualmie Valley, but doesn't let up until you get to the top. The last 100 feet is almost a scramble, but so worth it for the views from the top. Teneriffe peaks at 4800 feet, 500 feet higher than Mount Si's haystack or Mount Washington.

Today was a beautiful day, and I was surprised I could see all the way to Tacoma. Also, I spotted both Seattle and Bellevue, surprising as I expected Mount Si to block the view.

I've read many people take the logging road back down. Given that it was 7 miles, I took my chances on the steep descent. It was tiring, but not as dangerous or risky as I expected.

It took me 3 hours to get to the top, and another 2 hours to get down, so a 5 hour hike with 4000 feet of elevation gain and six miles of hiking round trip. I only saw 5 other people today on the trail. Just the way I like it.

Kamikaze Falls. I am shooting almost straight up on this shot.

Snoqualmie Valley / South Fork / I-90. Mailbox Peak is on the left, Mount Washington lies there just "below" Rainier.

Seattle, just above Mount Si

Obligatory Rainier shot, with Mount Washington in the foreground.

Jul 4, 2009

Ira Spring Trail, Pratt and Ollalie lake trailhead, and USFS 9030 and 9031

Just a quick forest road note: USFS 9030 is closed, preventing access to the Ollalie and Pratt Trail (I think that's trail 1039... might be 1038). And, USFS 9031 is in really bad shape. I got my little Audi through a couple areas due to the narrow width of my car, but had to turn back due to lack of clearance once I got close to the Ira Spring Trailhead. Not saying its impassable, but I certainly couldn't get through.

Jun 26, 2009

Mailbox Peak

Just east of Mount Teneriffe and across the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River lies a mountain range that takes you near Snoqualmie Pass. The westernmost peak of this range is Mailbox Peak. It's easy to spot from I-90 as you head east.

Mailbox Peak is known for its steepness. As Harvey Manning quotes Ira Spring in 55 Hikes Around Snoqualmie Pass, "it varies from steep to very steep to awful step." She ain't kidding.

I've been told Mailbox Peak separates real hikers from the wannabees, and I believe it. To get there, take I-90 to exit 34 and go north about a quarter mile to Middle Fork Road. About three miles down the road you will see a gate off to the right with parking to your left. This is the trailhead for Mailbox Peak.

The first stretch is a simple half mile hike up an old road to the actual trail. Signs at the trailhead warn that this is a steep trail, gaining 4000 feet in 2.5 miles. Yep, that's 25% higher than Mount Si, and twice as steep. Ouch.

The first 1000 feet of elevation gain is really not that bad. And you're lulled into a sense of "this is not a problem." And then it gets steeper, and steeper, and steeper. It's a killer.

After 2000 feet of elevation gain (halfway there) is a stretch of about 1000 feet that just isn't forgiving. Awfully steep is an understatement, and I found myself resting every 100 feet or so. From there you will get small increments of leveling off, never more than 50 feet or so. At 3600 feet up you open up to some nice views of Mount Washington and McClellan Butte. At 4200 feet I felt some relief knowing I was nearing the top. The trail emerges from the forest at this point and reveals something of a rock scramble up another 600 feet. And the peak looks farther than that at this point. This last stretch is a killer and took me a half hour to navigate it. I need to get in better shape.

300 feet from the top you can see a mailbox protruding upward from the peak with an American flag sticking up. A pretty cool site. I hit the top at 11am, exactly three hours from my start 4000 feet below. I was the first one up on this day, and I soundly beat the group of six that started out at the same time as me.

The trail is marked by white diamond reflectors the entire way up. I presume that's to help hikers trying this when there is snow, but I found them valuable. I few times I lost the trail. Or more accurately, I found multiple trails. Apparently if its going to be steep, there's no downside to carving your own path.

A lot of people must not finish this hike, as most of the people I passed on the way down asked me if I made it to the top. Speaking of people, I was very surprised the parking lot was full on a Friday (and not the best weather Friday to boot). In the past when I've driven past the trailhead there have been few cars there. Apparently people are moving on from Mount Si and tackling other mountains in the area.

I think I found my training ground for Mount Rainier. Screw Mount Si. :)

May 24, 2009

Mount Washington

The third time was a charm today. After two previous attempts were aborted due to lack of daylight and weather, I finally made it to the summit of Mount Washington. Better yet, I was able to traverse two different paths today which will help me on future visits to the area.

The peak of Mount Washington stands 4433 feet high according to my GPS receiver (my Green Trails map doesn't list the elevation on it). The trailhead is located off I-90 exit 38 at 1275 feet, making this a nice 3200 foot climb. The most direct trail is about 4 miles; the longer route will take a full six.

From the trailhead, climb up to the John Wayne Trail and head west about 500 feet. There is an unmarked trailhead on the left to start your ascent. At about two miles and 2800 feet elevation you will reach Susan's Owl Hike Spot. Not sure why it's named this but that will make for a good Google exercise someday.

About a third of a mile past Susan's Owl Hike Spot you will reach a junction. This is where you choose how you want to ascend Mount Washington. Going left will take you to the summit via the Great Wall Traill, which takes you up through logging roads, around the east side of the eastern summit (part of Mount Washington but not considered "the peak"), along the Great Wall, along the Cedar River Watershed, and finally to the final ascent to the Mount Washington summit. I estimate its about 3.5 miles from this point to the summit. Staying right will take a more direct, but steeper, ascent, over a mile and half or so. This is the way I took. This part of the trail is not entirely listed on the trail maps, but you can tell where its taking you if you look at your map closely.

This new trail connects up to an older trail, then, at about 3600 feet elevation, starts you up a steep 800 foot trail to the west summit. Along this route you are treated with continuous views of the eastern summit, Mailbox Peak, Mount Si, and down the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River.

On this particular day, I encountered snow starting at about 3200 feet, and was able to ascend without snowshoes or metal cleats. It made the views more beautiful and the physical workout that much more challenging!

At the top you are treated to views of Mount Rainier, Chester Morse Lake, Bellevue, Mount Si, Mailbox Peak, McClellan Butte, and a wonderful view of the cascades between the South Ridge of the I-90 corridor and Mount Rainier.

To make the descent I chose the Great Wall Trail. On the ascent I saw the Great Wall, and just had to traverse it. Again, it was entirely snow covered, and it certainly was a long descent - took a full three hours to get down this way.

That straight line is the "Great Wall"; the east summit of Mount Washington is on the left. McClellan Butte is in the background.

Beautiful shot of Mount Rainier on this beautiful day.

Chester Morse Lake in the foreground.

Feb 14, 2009

Mt Si

Nothing to add to my previous post on Mt Si, but thought I would add some pictures from my hike last weekend.

Feb 1, 2009

West Tiger One from Preston

Perhaps the coolest thing about Tiger Mountain is the wide variety of trailheads that get you to the four peaks that comprise Tiger Mountain (three West Tiger peaks and the Main Tiger peak or East Tiger). Today I parked at a little used trailhead off I-90 exit 23. Called the "WSDOT" or "SE Preston Way" trailhead on all the trail signs, this trailhead starts you off north and a little east of West Tiger One. From there, it is a 3.8 mile, 2500 foot elevation gain hike to make it to one of the West Tiger One viewpoints (either West Tiger One summit or Hiker's Hut).

The trail from here starts as a pretty boring half mile walk along a power line trail. Watch for the Preston Trail sign, and that will start your ascent into the thick firs of Tiger Mountain. From there you will run across Dwight's Way (trail), the Bootleg Trail, West Tiger Railroad Grade, and Pop Top trail. Signs along the way will keep you on track for West Tiger One, although you can get there from a variety of trails and distances.

I took the straight shot this morning, and ran into snow about 2200 feet. No more than a couple of inches, completely passable, although slippery in spots on the way down.

At the top of West Tiger One you'll want to head to Hiker's Hut Viewpoint, on the west side of West Tiger One. From here you'll be treated to a spectacular view of Mount Rainier, and you can see Seattle on a clear day.