Posts Tagged With: washington

Snow Camping on frozen Colchuck Lake

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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

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

A day in Olympic National Park

Barring few hikes on the Olympic Peninsula I hadn’t actually visited Olympic National Park for 2.5 years. Sai and I decided to visit Hurricane Ridge and places around and it turned out to be a fantastic day.

Our day started with a misty sunrise ferry ride from Edmonds to Kingston. The mistiness continued for a while and specifically at a town named Port Gamble, it looked soothingly beautiful where street lamps and rustic structures fought the mist to appear in the early morning light. We bought snow chains at Les Schwab and took the road to Hurricane Ridge. There was hardly snow on the road except the last few meters. I had heard a lot about Hurricane Ridge but it didn’t blow me away maybe because there was some smoke that day from the wildfires in LA. We hiked around and since I was still recovering from ankle sprain, I took it slow. It was so sunny and green while driving back that it looked like Summer. We went on a short hike to see Madison falls wherein I tried an easy scramble to reach nowhere. Then we drove to Lake Crescent which was as nice as well and we observed numerous Airbnb places at the nearby Lake Sutherland. We ended the day with the visit to Ediz Hook which is a narrow piece of land stretching for about 5 kms from mainland. The view from there was surprisingly beautiful wherein we saw the Sun setting behind the Olympic mountains.

Photos and Videos here

Hurricane Ridge Activity overview

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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.

Activity Overview

More Photos and Videos here

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

Hike to Mt Washington

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An absolutely stunning day including snowshoeing, fresh snow on the trails/pine trees, beautiful landscape, not too cold/windy weather, fun people, cave fire and good food. Gaurav, my hiking buddy told me about the meetup hike 2 days back and I readily agreed to go. Apparently, the group organizer has been organizing this hike since 7 years on New years day. I was all excited about the snow and meeting new people but little did I know that I would receive more than I could ever imagine.

I carpooled and started our drive around 8.25 AM. We could see accumulated snow in a few miles from Eastgate P&R. Never had I seen snow so close to Seattle before. We reached trailhead at 9:10 AM and started hiking by 9:45 AM. Snow was all around the place and we started snowshoeing right from the beginning. Fresh snow made all the difference and it had created varied landscapes. It felt so good to feel and play with the smooth soft spread. Though the pine trees bowed to the weight of snow, it stood up in creating magical views. I was open mouthedly gaping at the beauty throughout the way and it got better every single step. I was prepared for the cold which turned my back pack heavy and it caused discomfort for shoulders. Since this was a popular event, most of my meetup buddies had come and I had a great time with them on the trail. Ying was cracking jokes about me not sharing the pics after the hike. Surabhi was there too and last time I had eaten the most of the Pringles she had bought and did the same this time too. Gaurav, as usual was giving some gyan and was pulling others legs. The clouds at the summit stole the thunder. It was like a river joining the sea. It got quite cold soon on the summit and we started getting down. I was carrying an hydration pack and it froze. So I couldn’t drink much water until later. While going up was spent admiring the beauty, I had a blast coming down. It partly felt like skiing and we got down at amazing speed. We stopped at the cave for fire. People had got food and were having a gala time talking to each other with fire to warm everyone. I stayed for some time and started walking with few others to trailhead. It was completely dark by then and we walked with torch and headlights.

What an amazing day it was. I have seen snow before but today it was a different experience altogether. Washington still awes me and that too raising the bar every-time. The best part is that all of this is just a couple of hours drive away (This was 45 mins)

Photos and Videos here

Activity Overview

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Categories: Outdoors, Seattle | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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