A last minute decision to visit Goat lake turned out to be a fantastic one. Along with visiting a beautiful lake, we also got to explore ice caves. Sai and I planned to visit San Juan islands initially but on the morning of the trip, Sai told me that he hadn’t booked the ferry and we were left with ferry availability on odd schedules. So Sai decided on Goat Lake instead and I agreed since I hadn’t visited it. Sai, his friend and I drove to Goat Lake trailhead via Mountain Loop Highway. It was a clear day and we enjoyed the views en-route. We parked at the crowded trailhead and started our hike at 10 AM.
The 5 mile trail to the lake goes beside gushing Elliot Creek, through lush green forest and some amazing waterfalls. The trail has most of the steep sections only in the end but other than that it was gentle and easy with most of it in shade. I wasn’t exactly in my hiking attire which caused a little discomfort. Snohomish County Hiking Meetup group organizer, Mathew was leading a group and I was surprised that he remembered seeing me somewhere. I had been on his Mt Pilchuk hike last year. We reached lake to witness some spectacular beauty and spent some time snacking and exploring. Many had camped the previous night yet it didn’t feel crowded. It was a very pleasant atmosphere under the shade overlooking snow covered mountain. Some jumped in the cold waters too but I didn’t even wet my feet. We took some pictures and left the lake. We covered the return journey with a much faster pace and lesser breaks.
Goat Lake Route Overview
Morning, I had seen Big Four Mountain en-route and I wanted to have a clearer view of it. So I stopped at a picnic spot near the mountain. Apparently, it was trailhead for Big Four Ice caves which was only a mile away. I had forgotten about these caves after researching about it months back. We asked people who were coming back and they shared the exact location of big caves which encouraged us to go visit even though we had just returned from a 10.4 mile hike. The trail had gentle slope and the views got better as we approached the base of the mountain. The melting snow on the huge mountain created multiple cascades of waterfalls – I counted 10 – which looked breathtaking.
There were many signs on the trail depicting of avalanche and falling ice risks. Some people have died in the caves too. The trail ended and we could see some caves around. We continued further looking for bigger ones. The 2 big caves was formed below waterfalls and there were less people. We started with the first one which was around 5 feet tall and 10 feet wide. I went inside the cold dripping cave and was very excited to have been there. I went only a bit further since I was scared of falling ice. The suns rays pierced through ice and some part of the inside was bluish green. It was an awesome experience, outside it was quite hot, but inside, the cold air and dripping water created a refrigerator like atmosphere. Also a fun incident happened. Sai’s friend and I had come early and we were in the cave. He was searching for us but we could see him clearly from inside the cave. The confused look on his face when I shouted for him was funny to see.
Best viewed in 480p and above
We went to the next cave and it was much taller and wider. I hesitated to go inside as it was formed under a thick sheet of ice. We returned to the trailhead recalling the experience. Washington has so much stuff to keep me hooked to nature and I only crave for more. We drove back to Seattle and had dinner at an Indian restaurant before making it to home. It was a fun day with Sai and his friend.
Big Four Ice Caves Route Overview
- With graduate classmates
- During Perseid Meteor shower
- Office team hike
Rattlesnake ledge blows me away with its views. A perfect setting with mountains on three sides and plains in between with lake right below the ledge. For such a short hike, the views are spectacular.
This was my first sweet and short obstacle course race. I had witnessed such action only in the tv and since I love adventures and rugged paths, I dreamt of taking part in it someday. I had somehow missed these races last 2 years in Seattle. I came to know about Rugged Maniac event and since I thought going alone wouldn’t be great, I chose to volunteer and then decide if I wanted to race. I kept checking for open volunteer spots and finally signed up the day before the event.
The race was staged at Remlinger Farms, 1 hour drive from Seattle and I reached there by 8 AM. I checked in at the volunteer section and two others and I were assigned to man the Water Station 1 at Mile 1. We reached the water station and waited for more than an hour before the first wave of people came in. Meanwhile we were getting to know each other and exploring the surrounding obstacles. I tried to power the generator for speaker and ended up pulling the generator on my leg hurting myself. Funny thing was that was one of the biggest injury of my day. It got interesting once the runners started passing by our tent. We were very efficient in filling the cups and handing them. There was a girl in our team and she was very proactive in handing the cups – she danced and made expressions – which I think pulled in more people towards water. I was standing behind her and very few people came to me. The loud music was energetic and I too added some dance moves. It was fun watching the racers and comments regarding them wanting beer instead. We spent 3 hours volunteering and then headed to volunteer section. By then I had decided that I would take part in the race later in the day. All volunteers got free passes to run and we chose to run on 1:30 PM slot.
I changed and got ready with my old shoes for the run. Very excited, I stood behind the Start position and waited for the signal. It was finally time and we started with the 5km obstacle race. I initially chose to run with my volunteer-mates, but later decided to take off. The first mile and half was pretty basic with water crossing, ladders and sling shot. Then some really rugged stuff started. For the barbed wire, I copied a guy’s technique and rolled under it which looked like ಉರುಳು ಸೇವೆ. I was actually following two people ahead of me and kinda kept them as my reference. Then there was one of my favorite obstacle called Tipping Point which basically was a see saw plank and we had to walk from one side to other. Few of the obstacles including Ringer was closed. The next set of obstacles included crossing pool of water on floating boards, jumping on fire and then crossing the messy puddle under the barbed wire. By then I was almost completely drenched in slushy mud.
The obstacles are summarized in the video:
The last part was getting on top of warped wall and then coming down on a water slide. There were people helping to get on the warped wall and I started with my run up to get on the wall. I was careful not to slide on the wall and just caught a person’s hand. Then he helped climbed the wall and I returned the favor by pulling the next racer. This was very beautiful – though we were in the race, we helped each other finish it. Water slide was adrenaline filled fantastic experience which reminded me of the slides I enjoyed during childhood. I crossed the finish line after that and checked the timings. I had taken 46 minutes to complete the 5km course with around 20 obstacles. I was pretty happy with my timing. Here is the official winners timings. It was a fantastic first run which gave me a taste of OCRs. I will definitely look for future events and take part in them actively. Elated with the finishers medal, I spent some more at the area before driving back home.
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This was a hardcore adventurous 18 hours, 6700 ft, 10 mile roundtrip hike which also included walking over something called knife edge. I was waitlisted for the event and Michael – meetup organizer – messaged me saying that he would move me to confirmed list since he believed that I could make this hike. Almost the entire team got together for training at Silver Bowl and I eventually got ready with all the required gear before the hike. 2 others and I started from Seattle the Friday evening and reached a campground near to trailhead by 8 PM. Most had set up their tent and I slept in the car. I think I slept only for 2 hours and by 2 AM we were awake and getting ready.
It was around 30 people group and we were broken into 3 teams and then again into rope teams. I had named by rope team Chaku (Knife in kannada) due to the knife edge. We started hiking at 3 AM and after initial creek crossing over logs it was a steep traverse till Boulder field. It was daylight by then and snow started appearing soon after. The view towards Cascade pass was amazing. I took the responsibility to carry the rope which was very heavy and I struggled a lot for that hour before I handed to other person. We wore crampons after the boulder field and then roped up soon after with me being in the 3rd position in a 4 member team. We were getting into the clouds and within no time we were in whiteout conditions. I met Gaurav and asked him ‘Yeh sab kyun kar rahe hai hum’ (Why are we doing all this?), I was unhappy that I couldn’t see any views. We reached high camp and by then I could see patches of sky which gave me some hope. Soon clouds started clearing slowly and I could see more and more views which encouraged me a lot. From there on, we went to the base of most-awaited knife edge.
Knife edge is an extremely narrow path with sheer drop on either sides. Actually, the narrowness depends on the snow levels and season. For us, it was pretty narrow with only enough space to keep both the feet beside each other. The summit block is located right above the knife edge. It looked pretty scary to me and I was not wrong. We waited for an hour till the knife edge was clear and started our adventure. I was confident about my balance but not my ability to manage so many gears and ropes attached to me. For safety, there were pickets placed in between and we had to clip/unclip from them. I kept looking at either side since I wanted the adrenaline rush looking at the deadly cliffs below. It was scary, but a lifetime experience walking on the edge. We spent sometime on the summit and got down with utmost care.
The sky started getting clearer and I was treated with more magnificent views. The partly frozen lake below, passes, valleys, mountains, everything looked majestic and I was so glad to be witnessing that. I volunteered to carry the ropes again and coming down the boulder field was pretty hard. Also the increased weight got hard on my knees and I was damn slow while coming down the last steep section. It was around 8 PM by the time we reached trailhead. I had spent 18 hours on the trail. I slept in the car waiting for another hiker to finish. Then drove to Seattle to reach home around 2 AM.
It was a fantastic team effort with various people helping each other. SOA meetup group is simply awesome and I love hiking with them. Its been 4 years since I did my first snow trek in Himalayas and I am glad I have continued hiking since which has been one of my biggest passions in life.
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Micheal (meetup organizer) added me involuntarily to this training hike since I am on his climb for Eldorado. I didn’t have all the technical gear yet and when I asked Micheal about this, he generously offered to use his. I thought it was an usual practice hike and didn’t expect much other than the training part but like the most of the winter hikes this year, I was surprised and had amazing fun.
I took my car to the trailhead for the first time and it was full car with filled trunk for the first time. I think I felt the drag due to heavy load a bit while driving. The group had more than 25 people and we all started hiking and reached Annette lake without major breaks. My backpack was heavy and felt it throughout. The Sun broke out few times and the frozen lake looked beautiful amidst the mountains. After some snacking, we started for the ridge below the Silver Peak. It was almost 1500 feet of snowfield with an average of 30 deg+ slope. I broke the trail for sometime and the line of people on the snowfield looked soothing. I somehow like that sight a lot and the beautiful scenery behind me only encouraged the hike. I was excited at the thought of glissading while returning. Clouds were kind to us and blocked most of the sunlight on this section. Steadily, we reached the ridge and we were treated with breathtaking panoramic beauty for 270 deg and Silver peak’s ridge for the rest. My first meetup hike in Seattle was to Silver Peak and it was from south side. There was a bowl like shaped snowfield ahead of us and it looked perfect for snow travel training. There were some daring snowmobilers too going up and down the bowl.
We broke across rope teams and I had named our team Chaku (Knife = ಚಾಕು in kannada) because of the knife edge on Eldorado. We took some time gearing up and entered the bowl with 4 of us tied to a rope. While coming up we trained for falls and ice axe arrest and I called out multiple falls. Sometimes I simulated falling by tightening the rope without calling hoping that my team is ready for the arrest even without hearing sounds. It was a fun training exercise and my respect for Micheal and SOA meetup group only increased. Clouds were clearing up gradually and we could see most of the distant peaks, Kaleetan was obvious and famous one. The next part was the glissade and Micheal and others gave some very useful tips for a safe glissade. He also spoke about the snow conditions – the glissade section facing west was exposed to Sun and that made the snow slushy which aids in speed control on the way down. Due to a bad glissade on Mt Ellinor few weeks back I was scared but nonetheless I wanted to try. Multiple chutes were made to avoid exposing rocks and tailbone injury. The left most chute took the steepest route and with my new rain paints I went for it. I remembered Micheal’s words to use ice axe’s shaft as rudder and kept saying myself push, push in an effort to thrust the shaft into the snow to avoid speeding up. I looked at the mountains and Annette lake while glissading and it felt fantastic. The slushy snow really helped and it was safe to arrest in the end. We glissaded multiple times and there was one section where the chute went between two trees which was scary. We ended up glissading around 1400 feet and I think this was my longest glissade. From there on it was a normal hike to trailhead. Then we had dinner at Rajadhani. I had forgotten that Kaka was not a veggie eater and poor she couldn’t make the most of the buffet.
Never in my wildest dreams I thought of doing the stuff I am in PNW. From just jumping from the trees/roof, crossing streams and adventure rides to mountaineering is a big and proud development. I never thought I would spend my time with such amazing able people and would have fun alongside them. It certainly feels great and am just plain happy to be doing such stuff.
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A video from fellow hiker