Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Forecast for Sun

As we anticipate the coming weekend with a promise of sun, here is a trip made a few weeks ago when a short-lived cold-and-sunny snap had just hit Seattle.

The forecast was for cold temps, but we were ok with that since we were going to the mountains and would have our layers on and be generating some body heat. While summiting Snoqualmie Pass in Nicole's car, the temperature read 18 degrees; that would have been a relative heat wave for where we were going.

We drove east to Exit 80, then north toward Roslyn and Lake Cle Elum. When I saw the temp was headed for the single digits, I called for a coffee stop in Roslyn. Upon exiting the car, each of us (Rich, Dave, Lisa, Nicole and I) remarked that it didn't feel so cold, though of course we were moving fast to get inside for warmth. We each had a hot drink and sampled the cafe's treats, then we each used the restroom. When I glanced outside, it didn't look any warmer, but we had already used up all the cafe's resources so it was time to go.

We drove as far north along Lake Cle Elum as we could, stopping once we realized we were about to trammel the snowmobile route and parked near the Jolly Mountain trailhead. We had wasted (I mean, enjoyed) enough time so that now it was a whopping 10 degrees. I celebrated the double digits by whooping and jumping, swinging my arms (to keep my circulation going, of course). On the walk from the car to the start of our snowshoe, about 1/2 mile, my feet froze completely solid. Dave offered me some chemical heat, but the thought of taking off my boots didn't sound too appealing.
a wabbit?

The collective leadership and navigational experience was soon put into practice as we made our way from the horse camp, up a road and toward the trail. We crossed a creek, then doubled back and re-crossed the same creek, looking for a better route. Soon, my trail-sniffing senses were alert (they must be temperature sensitive) and all the compass and map training I'd had in November with Rich and Dave were put aside for feelings, hunches and following the sun.

Soon, we found the summer trail and followed it upward as it zigged and zagged, traversing above creek beds and arriving on benches and logging roads. Our main goal was to be in the sunshine and we allowed some sunning breaks, admiring the peaks that began to pop up behind the forested slopes to the northwest. After gaining a thousand feet or so, it became a game to name what peaks we were looking at. There was Chikamin, Lemah and Three Queens, though I was much more accustomed to seeing them from Spectacle Lake on the PCT. To the north was Chimney Rock which is not very often seen and makes a very dramatic appearance behind a ridge in the foreground.
Cooper River Valley

We were running out of time, as I had set the turn-around time at 1:30pm and so, in a desperate attempt to get as high as we could before that time, we ditched the trail and just headed straight up the mountain. When we reached the next logging road, we stopped for photos and gawking.
Nicole, Rich, Dave and Lisa

Gawking and pixelations taken care of, we did something that is only permissible in winter – we cut the switchbacks on the trail as though the act of switchbacking might shorten our lives. Down and down we went, making quick work of all the effort we had put into ascending just a few hours earlier.

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