Friday, August 7, 2009

More Speed Scramblin'

I've just been craving time in the mountains lately, and today was no different. I had the day off, so I decided I'd make the most of it by heading to the east slope of the Cascades. The objective of the day was to climb Mt. Daniel, a peak that I've wanted to get up for some time, and to do it as quickly as possible.

I was up by 4:30am, but everything seemed to take much longer than it should have, and I didn't get on the road until 5:30 or so. I arrived at the Tucquala Meadows trailhead at around 8am. Not really knowing how long the climb would take, I wasted no time getting started. I was solo today, so I slung my pack on and cranked up the tunes as I briskly started up the trail.

Unlike Sloan Peak, I was on a well established trail for the first 5 miles of the climb. Jim Nelson's book said that it should take about 3 hours to reach Peggy's Pond. From there the route was all off trail. Given that I was setting out to do this climb quickly, I knew that it wouldn't possibly take 3 hours to get to Peggy's Pond. I have run from this same trailhead a handful of times, so I was somewhat familiar with the terrain. Of course, I was carrying a little bit more gear than I would for just a run. After one brief wrong turn, I arrived at the end of the trail in less than an hour and a half.

The temperature was actually quite cool and there were some foggy clouds shrouding the view of most everything above. However, it seemed to be a very thin layer, and it was only a matter of minutes before everything was bright blue and sunny. The route up Mt. Daniel is really straightforward, and there are few technical difficulties. In uneventful fashion, I reached the summit in 3:02 from the car.

Although it was clear and sunny, the wind was howling up high, so I didn't get to savor much downtime on the summit proper. I wrote an entry in the summit log, ate a bar, refilled my water, and made my way back down to a more protected position. The descent was simply a return down the same route. However, it was a little more eventful than the ascent.

There was one section of the ascent that was a little dicey. For those of you that have climbed or do climb, you probably realize that downclimbing is significantly trickier than ascending. I thought that I could take a more direct line down the mountain and avoid downclimbing some semi-technical terrain. Unfortunately my plan backfired. 100 feet or so above the last snowfield, I came head to head with some pretty sketchy terrain. All of a sudden the rock became quite rotten and loose. The pitch was steep enough that if I were to slip, I probably wouldn't be able to stop until I reached the snowfield. It wouldn't have been a fall off a sheer cliff, but I didn't want to find out what damage could be sustained by such a tumble. I climbed part way back up the face and traversed toward the direction I had originally come up. In hindsight, I should have just climbed all the way back up and descended the exact route of the ascent, but I was being stubborn and just wanted to get onto the snowfield as quickly as possible. There was another line with some more solid looking rock that I had picked out from a distance. Following that path to it's terminus I was now only 50 feet above the snowfield. Again I traversed across the fall line to another promising looking rib of solid rock. This one looked like it led down all the way to the snowfield, but it was really steep. Rather than face the down sloping angle, I spun 180 degrees and began to very carefully downclimb. Every hold that I grabbed hold of or stepped on had to be carefully inspected for structural integrity. Many of the solid looking hand and footholds broke off without so much as a good tug. With about 20 feet left to descend to the snow, I spun back around and sat on my butt. There were no solid holds left to downclimb. Everything that I put any weight on was just crumbling and sliding down onto the snow. At least at this point, I knew that a fall would not be costly. If I did start to go, I may even have been able to run it out onto the snow. Thankfully I didn't have to find out. Without losing control, I was able to negotiate the final 2o feet and exit onto the snow.

The rest of the trip was without incident, and I arrived back at the car in 5:32. It was another fantastic day in the mountains. In the last few weeks, I've been able to get out to climb two peaks that I have wanted to do for some time. Now let's see what kind of shape this climbing has me in when I race Waldo in two weeks.

1 comment:

solarweasel said...

wow! gorgeous photographs -- looks like it was quite the day!