Hike to Silver Bowl

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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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Hike to Pinnacle Lake

Probably the first hike which I didn’t enjoy. We started from Lake 22 trailhead and after some crazy bushwacking, we reached Bear lake trailhead and then made our way to pinnacle lake. The plan was to reach Herman peak from there but the conditions and time was not in our favor. So we went around the frozen Pinnacle lake which was quite beautiful and Herman Peak looked great. For lunch, I had taken Chapatis and Greengrams mixed with salt and chilli-powder which wasn’t a great combination. Bushwacking was the part which I disliked. I am all in for offbeat path, rugged adventures but not at the cost of spoiling the flora. Also it didn’t seem fun as I was constantly bombarded with branches and leaves and it was almost like performing Karate on them. Some went into my mouth and I also accidentally stabbed myself in the stomach. It wasn’t a great experience and I might avoid bushwacking hikes henceforth.

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Hike to Mt Ellinor

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This hike was rescheduled multiple times considering the forecast and finally we went today even though the forecast wasn’t great. Winds of 10 mph in the AM and 25 mph in the PM was predicted. Fortunately weather was kind to us and we had some spectacular scenery on the hike.

We took a ferry to reach Olympic peninsula and we had great views of Mt Rainier and Olympic mountains in the early morning ferry. There was snow right from the trailhead and I wore microspikes all the way to the summit. First half of the route was usual snow hike but then came something called Avalanche chute.

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It’s a steep avalanche prone section of 1200 feet. The snow was pretty thick and slippery. Actually avalanche debris helped us climb this section for some part and few people had already broken the trail which helped a lot. We could see more and more of lake Cushman as ascended and the steep trail along with beautiful surroundings encouraged the climb. We reached a flat spot where we spent some time for funny photos. It was also very exciting to see Mt Rainier, Adams and St Helens in the horizon. We left for summit after spending some quality fun time there. I could see other mountains from the Olympic national park and they looked stunning. One side there was beautiful snow covered mountains and other side was lake Cushman, Hood canal and greenery. The clouds were above us which didn’t obstruct any views. The winds started when we started to descend and it started snowing too. We started glissading on various sections. Ice was hard, bumpy and I went very fast in one of them and had a jerk on my right hip when my leg got stuck in the snow after which I was hesitant to glissade for the day. Coming down the avalanche chute was better than I expected. The snow had turned little soft in the afternoon and some sections had pretty nice steps. There were few seconds were the wind blow like crazy and snow was hitting us but it didn’t get worse. At few places, I descended with leg forward and facing mountain (I usually prefer other way around). While waiting for others we had created a pretty smooth short glissade where we tried all sorts of postures. I loved the head first and face up a lot and Rob the organizer tried coming down standing on the shovel which was fun to watch. We then took the trail to lower trailhead during which I felt glad hiking on the mud after a long time. We took our cars first to a winery shop where few people tasted wine and bought and then we had dinner at Robinhood restaurant. It was quite late and the next ferry was at 11, so we chose to drive to Seattle and it was over 10.30 PM by the time I reached home.

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Hike to Red Mountain

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Days like this make me realize that the journey of life is an adventure and a gift. Life is but a beautiful string full of moments, experiences and joys. A hell of an adventure on Red Mountain in White Snow under blue sky amidst green trees. Mother nature was at her best and supported our hike throughout with no rains, hardly any wind and awesome 360° views. The previous Red Mountain adventure was a scramble and this time it was steep hike, glissade, ice axe terrain, ridge walk, cornices and mind blowing views.

The first 1.5 miles of the hike was on a near flat surface on snowmobiles track. Then we took the Red Mountain trail and it was almost straight up and down from there. Derek, the meetup organizer usually prefers shortcuts and cuts through the trail and it was no different here.  Trail was covered with snow with varied levels of hardness. There was a place where Gaurav was stuck in snow at waist length and we had to dig him out. I was wearing microspikes and wore it until we changed to snowshoes when trees started opening up. We were rewarded with the views of amazing snow covered mountains as we descended higher. Especially, the cascade range looked stunning with pointed snow covered summits. We had lunch at a point below one of the summits of Red Mountain. We left our bags there and just with ice axe and snowshoes we went to explore the narrow ridge with steep sides which connected summits of Red Mountain. I had snowmobiled in this area before and I could see tiny snowmobiles on the other side of the ridge. Cornices were all over the place. We chose to stay in our limits and didn’t take risks in exploring sketchy sections. We went back, took our backpacks and started the descent. There was soft pure white snow and we glissaded 3 times covering more than 500 feet in total. The rest of the hike was descend on steep sections which was steeper than the route we took to ascend. Last 1.5 miles on the flat surface was ok. I was glad that we all made it out safe from an adventurous hike.

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Snowshoeing to Fool’s Day Peak

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An outing to Fool’s Day Peak on Fool’s day(April 1st) was too tempting to resist. The forecast was ok and somehow the description from the meetup organizer sounded that we wouldn’t expect great views. But we were fooled, we had fantastic views and beautiful sunny weather for half the hike. Also, I rented a Subaru Crosstrek intended for a thorough test drive but unfortunately there was no snow on the roads till the trailhead.

The snow was slushy and we started snowshoeing from early on. Since this was not a beated trail, our team broke it and it was only our group on the peak for the day. Snowshoes really helped and I was wearing my new Quechua shoes which I was very happy with. We started in a overcast weather and there were partial views of Cle Elum lake and mountains along the trail. The last part was steep where we gained around 2000 ft in 1.5 miles. We were welcomed at the peak with an interesting ridge with safe cornices alongside and great views all around. It was windy and quite cold, so we found warmer places beside trees and sat down for lunch. This is where the fun started. People started wearing funny hats and there was music, potluck styled food and wine. We were having gala time and then the Sun joined the party. I was dancing around with happiness and told my friends that I don’t need alcohol to get ‘high’, I just need to be on a ‘high’ mountain. We could see more sky when we were leaving and most of rest of the hike was in bright light. As usual, I felt good thrusting my snowshoes in the soft slushy snow and I avoided taking the beated trail since it felt hard on the sole. Due to this, 2 times I got one of my foot stuck in the deep snow and I had to dig myself out of this which was a new experience to me. We had to pass the steep sections and it was a dramatic scene wherein everyone started taking their own comfortable routes down between the trees. I did something different and started to descend rapidly mimicking mini zigzag ski descent. It felt awesome and I throughly enjoyed it. Cle Elum lake and surroundings was wonderful and we completed the hike taking in rest of the beauty. Lost my sunglasses somewhere during the descent, so the next sunglasses I will be buying will be with straps.

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