Umtanum Ridge Hike and Scramble

Michael, the meetup organizer had chosen a hike in the Central Washington due to the rainy weather around Seattle. We gathered at Park and Ride and it was like a get together for the hikers since there were around 40 people for the hike. It was a long drive and the snow fall en-route, rains and standing waters on the road made it an exciting one. The sky started to clear up once we were close to Ellensburg. We started our hike to the ridge and except the last part which was very steep, it was a gradual ascent. the views en-route were spectacular and the barren terrain was very different from west Washington. We reached the ridge and had our lunch. Surabhi was there and she loved the Shavige uppitu I had prepared and was curious about my cooking skills. We then attempted to form the word ‘Meetup’ with our bodies which I think didn’t work out well. We then descended enjoying the amazing scenery ahead.  Since we had reached the trailhead quite early, we went scrambling on another hill. I thoroughly enjoyed scrambling the class 3/4 routes. There was a small cave which was quite interesting. I also liked the hanging bridge next to the parking lot. The sky was quite clear and the drive in the canyon alongside the Yakima river was scenic. It was nice to be on the sunny side of the state.

Activity Overview

Photos and Videos

smiley-write-nikhil-navali

Advertisements
Categories: Adventure, Outdoors, Seattle | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Burke Gilman Trail Ride to Log Boom Park

Ride length: 32.4 miles

Looking at the forecast, I hadn’t planned any outdoor activity today. But I could see blue sky in the morning and Shan, a recent acquaintance asked me if I was interested in a ride. He said 15 miles one way initially and I thought I wouldn’t be able to make that much and asked for 10 miles. But little did I know that I would be covering 32.4 miles (that too without major effort) in total. We decided to take the Burke Gilman trail. I had done only parts of it but only today did I realize the length and sheer beauty of it. We joined the trail after crossing the Freemont bridge. First few miles were in the city, then the trail bordered the University of Washington main campus and from then we kept hitting small parks while most of the trail itself was between trees. The weather was just right and I was thoroughly enjoying the diverse surroundings. I kind of felt that I was far from Seattle experiencing a new place. Shan and I stopped and discussed quite frequently about the ride further and since I wasn’t tired much I was ok moving on. A major reason for this was that the entire trail was kind of flat and this was my first long distance flat ride. Due to this, maybe I didn’t generate much heat and my toes were cold.  The trail bordered Lake Washington during the last miles. A row of posh houses separated the trail from the lake and I kept awing at the luxury of those houses. Many had their own boats, personal lake access and the living room had a lake view. Just short of the park, I felt a slight chest pain. I wanted to reach a scenic place for the turn around point and since Shan knew the route pretty well, he lead to the Log Boom Park. We stopped there, walked on the boardwalk and enjoyed the serene surroundings. This park is located in the northernmost tip of lake Washington. I did some stretches and had snacks with the hope of relieving myself from the chest pain and it did actually help. After 15 mins, we started with the return ride and except for the first gradual ascent I was hardly tired. Well not exactly, the last hill climb to my home is always tiring and given that I had ridden 50 kms before this hill climb, I took it slow today. I get tired everyday on this hill climb which is my daily commute. I am glad that I explored a new part of the city while doing one of my favorite activities.

Activity Overview

Photos

smiley-write-nikhil-navali

Categories: Outdoors, Seattle | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Snow Camping on frozen Colchuck Lake

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Distance: 16 miles roundtrip
Elevation: 3600 feet
Activity: Snowshoeing and Snow camping

During the Lake Ingalls outing, a fellow hiker had described the perks of camping in Washington and I was waiting for an opportunity ever since. I had bought a tent too and hadn’t used it yet. The meetup event for Colchuk lake and Sunny weather forecast coincided and I signed up for it. Also, I loved the view of Dragontail peak and the name Asgard pass which adorns the lake. I followed the checklist for snow camping and had the most of the gear except an extra pair of woolen socks. The gear including sleeping bag, mattress, tent, stove, layers, extra clothes, etc weighed around 30 pounds and I thought I would be okay with the weight. My main source of food was a rice dish which my flatmate and I had prepared the previous day and I complimented it with Phulkas, Oats, Eggs, Energy bars, Bananas, Dry fruits and Cocoa powder. Along the trip, I would mainly learn about the sacrifices one has to make for the snow camping.

3 of us showed up at the Eastgate Park and Ride and we drove to the start of forest road near Leavenworth which was 4 miles away from the actual trailhead. We had to hike extra 8 miles in total due to the road closure. I left my ice axe to be frugal on weight, wore a beacon which the organizer gave and started with the microspikes at around 10:20 AM. I felt the weight pretty soon and within no time, I felt tightness on my chest due to the upper belt. I struggled but kept pushing myself. I had to frequently dust off snow sticking on my spikes, we hadn’t realized that it was snowshoe area until we saw other hikers marching fast with them. To distract myself from the agony, I kept counting 1-500 steps and repeated it multiple times and figured that 4-5 sets of 1-500 would make a mile. After taking many breaks initially, I actually did 1 mile without stopping following that method of distraction. Crossing on a narrow bridge later was quite interesting where we crossed it over even narrower snow deposits balancing with the help of poles on the railings. I had my lunch there and that would be the last big meal of my day. Even after 5.5 miles of hiking, we had only gained little over half the elevation of 3600 feet. So the rest came in final 2.5 miles and 1000 feet came in the last 1 mile which basically drained most of my energy. I was following a fellow hiker and he took frequent steep shortcuts which added to the struggle. Finally, we reached the frozen lake at around 4:30 PM. The blue sky, white blanket of snow with Dragon tail Peak, Asgard pass and Colchuk glacier on the other end of the lake looked soothingly beautiful and enjoying it, I kind of forgot the tiredness. But we had to set up camp soon. The snow on the lake was tested by early hikers as we saw them camped right in the middle of the lake. We chose a spot bit closer to the shore and started setting up the camp. I got the tips for camping and did my best to follow. First, I had to flatten/harden the floor by walking/stomping on a wide area where I would pitch my tent and cook. I pitched the tent, set the air mattress and sleeping bag quite efficiently while watching the Sun’s golden rays on the surroundings. Except my feet, I wasn’t that cold and didn’t even wear an extra layer of gloves. While digging, we hit the slush and wondered a bit if we should camp a bit higher. But since the water level was around 2 feet down, we stayed put. After setting up the camp, I melted the snow for hot water and made myself a cocoa drink. I didn’t feel like eating much for the night and I lay down in the tent for rest of the night. I had carried a 2 person tent and it was spacious. So I dumped most of the things I would need for the night in the tent. I was foolish not to wear down booties in the sleeping bag. Even though, my feet felt little better, they were no close to being warm and cozy. I was also foolish to leave my backpack totally outside which looked like it had weathered a snowstorm in the morning. I didn’t come out of the tent till morning except to pee once in the night and stars looked okay in the night sky. I knew I slept because of the dreams I remembered. Even though I was not that cold, I didn’t sleep quite well. I am not sure which reason contributed more to not enjoying the experience thoroughly – tiredness, thoughts or the cold. I just let it pass and spent the night alternating between sleeping on my back and side.

There was hardly any wind throughout the night but there were was a light snowfall in the morning. I was hoping for a colorful Sunrise, but clouds had other plans. So I came out of the tent much later (around 9 AM) and made myself a hot cocoa drink again. I couldn’t see the flames on the stove and I assumed something had gone wrong. After wasting 3 matchsticks, I realized that it was just that I couldn’t see it. My feet was very cold and they had lost hopes on me that I would take care. I wore a liner and hoped to feel better. I repeatedly kept moving my toes to ensure they hadn’t frozen completely. The gaiters had turned into a papad and also the shoes had stiffened since I had left them out too. I packed everything soon and I was ready with my backpack. Sun was out and I went to explore to be in motion and enjoy the surroundings. Dragontail peak looked like a towering Gopura in-front and the jagged peaks around looked stunning in the bright light. The organizer asked me to remove the liner for better circulation and the other hiker offered me a fresh pair of socks. Even though they felt similar to the one I was wearing, I took it mainly because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings and I didn’t want to look foolish if something went wrong. I actually felt better with my bare feet. We left the place around 12 PM and started our descent. The far surrounding mountains looked amazing and I felt the views were comparable to the ones I saw during Rupin pass. Again, I acknowledged and appreciated the fact that I am in Washington where the mountains are so close to the place where I live, that I was just hours away from the comfort of my bed. I hadn’t used around 40% of my gear and I didn’t feel that backpack’s weight had reduced. I was quite slow in the initial steep descent but after that I just stormed through the rest of the way. From 2.5 mile mark to the end(8 miles), I counted 14 sets of 1-500 steps which helped me keep my mind away from the tiredness. I thought I did fairly well for the first snow camping but I realized that my toes had sort of numbed and tingling sensation had developed by the time I reached home. Though it has reduced, I still have it even after 2 days at the time of writing. We stopped for food at Leavenworth and drove to Seattle to reach around 8:15 PM. I had realized about the daylight saving’s time late and was quite happy that I had to spend 1 less hour in the cold. It was a great experience with good learnings.

Tips:

  • Be very serious about the gear. Snow camping can be dangerous if un-prepared.
  • Rice worked well for 1 day camping. Carry some cocoa powder, etc for tasty hot drink.
  • I had this stove and it was very easy to manage.
  • Shoes and socks are super important and make sure you have extra sock and comfortable shoes.
  • Dumping all the heavy stuff in the bottom of the backpack might help shift the load from shoulders to hips.

Activity Overview

GPS video

Photos and Videos

smiley-write-nikhil-navali

Categories: Adventure, Outdoors, Seattle, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

McClellan Butte summit attempt – meters away from an Avalanche

What started out as a clear beautiful morning in Seattle winter turned into a life lesson which I will remember for a long time – I witnessed an avalanche and I was just a stone’s throw from it. This was during a meetup hike. I wanted to give this hike a try since it was in my bucket list since long and to be honest, the avalanche conditions kind of intrigued me. Even though I had reservations to go, I committed since I trusted the meetup organizer’s judgement.

I got up early in the morning which is usual during hike days and the sky looked pretty clear from my bedroom window. The forecast was partly cloudy for the day, but there was very less traces of cloud when I started out which brought Mt Rainier and the surroundings out in all its glory. Except for the mist near the Eastgate Park and Ride, we had clear sky for most of the day. The road to the trailhead after the exit from I-90 was icy and closed. My shotgun passenger gave me tips to maneuver the car safely out of slippery ice and I thought I learnt something new today. But little did I know that it was just the beginning. The pointy McClellan butte looked stunning in the bright sunlight and I was happy that the weather was good and not like the day when we attempted P3 – which is right across it.

But I was aware of the accidents on good bright days during last month due to Sun brining the ice melts and increasing avalanche conditions. For the hike, the organizer was adamant about few things like him leading and being swift and given the conditions, he was rightful. We started on with the microspikes and then onto snowshoes. The views came in late with beautiful vista of surrounding snow covered mountains.

The terrain was really steep but except few snow bombarding from tree branches above us, we made it safely to avalanche chute areas.

Avalanche and Rescue attempt

We were over 3 miles into the hike and the organizer instructed us to cross in small numbers at the places where there were no trees. We safely crossed the initial two chutes. Then we stopped hiking suddenly and I could see why. I was around 10 meters away still in tree cover from what looked like a river of snow. It was wider than 20 meters and at an angle of 30+ degrees and moving down swiftly and continued for at-least half a minute. The avalanche had indeed happened and was in our way now. A fellow hiker recorded this:

Better quality: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bf4PY5RhxVI/

Apparently, there were 2 people in-front of us and the organizer noticed that their tracks had disappeared from the chute. So he crossed the chute on the the debris to look for the tracks. He then instructed us all to cross one at a time while he kept a watch. I held my heart, crossed and I looked up to see why the avalanche was obvious in that area. I could see all the way to the summit and near vertical cliffs facing the Sun. It was a clear path for the slabs of ice to collapse and flow down. Well, I assume the path was made by the falling snow over the years.

I was still looking up and I called out immediately after I saw more ice falling which could trigger another avalanche. I still remember that sight. It was called ‘Release’ and we kept calling out if ever we found ice falling above us. I came up a bit and then I saw another avalanche and I could record clearly this time in the following video.

If you observed the video, on a closer look you can see how destructive mother nature can be but in the far, she looks soothing and beautiful. We had left the plans of summit attempt and began looking for the hikers ahead of us. We couldn’t find them or the tracks, so we got the beacons out to check for any signals. One beacon picked up a signal and that started a search to find the possibly buried people. Some did a circle search for the tracks and some went on the debris with the beacons and probes. I saw almost a 2 meter probe go into the snow completely. We kept a constant watch on the falling snow and coordinated with others for the search. It was heart warming to see people looking out for someone whom we didn’t even know. After more than an hour of search, we stopped looking and called the 911 for the rescue operations. We divided into 2 groups, the first which included me planned to reach the trailhead soon and inform the SAR(Search and Rescue) team about the vehicle they came in which would be helpful in identifying the people and locating their cellphones. We descended quickly while one of my fellow hiker was in touch with the other group. We saw a fresh tire mark when we crossed the service road and wondered if it was an emergency vehicle.

This video shows exactly what happened. Watching it in 0.25x speed will be helpful.

Kou was the person who we were looking for. We had reached around 13 minutes after he had glissaded down that chute. I was in the first group who left for trailhead and others came later. A fellow hiker shared this video and its interesting to see what happened. Here is the Strava link for the same.

We reached the trailhead around 2:30 PM and a Sheriff there informed us that the hikers whom we were searching for had glissaded down that chute and were safely back. Even the other group were aware of the news and they came down after an hour while I waited in the Sun enjoying the surroundings having lunch. We were all glad to be safe back. Mother nature and the team taught me many things today.

Activity Overview

Photos and Videossmiley-write-nikhil-navali

Categories: Adventure, Outdoors, Seattle | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Hike to Silver Peak

This was my first meetup hike in Washington. Looking back (I am writing this on 2/28/2018 but I did this hike in 2015) I was so under prepared for the hike, yet had completed it successfully. The views were fantastic from the top including Mt Rainier. A bee bit me while returning and I was constantly scratching my body. While in the car, I had literally gone blind for few seconds. Fortunately my sight was back to normal but it was quite scary.

 

smiley-write-nikhil-navali

Categories: Outdoors, Seattle | Tags: | 1 Comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.