Rattlesnake Ridge – Two Ways

After running Granite Mountain yesterday, I followed up with a relatively easier day – running up Rattlesnake Mountain one way with a bike shuttle  back to the car. I locked my bike to the fence at Snoqualmie Point, then drove to the ledges trailhead at Rattlesnake Lake and ran from there.

View from Rattlesnake Ledges on the way up
Lovely backdrop to the very scenic summit cell tower

This is really the way to run this mountain. The ascent trail is only 4 miles long gaining 3000′, a perfect steepness for running uphill. Then, the 6 mile descent is easy on the knees and runs FAST. I hopped on my bike and rode the flat road through the lovely town of North Bend. There is a slightly unpleasant steep hill on Cedar Falls Rd right before reaching the trailhead, but by and large the half hour, 9 mile ride was a nice cooldown after the run.

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Skyrunning – Granite Mountain

Granite Mountain 

5629′ peak elevation

8 miles

3800′ vertical gain

2:03′ round trip

GPS track

Today was a speed run up Granite Mountain for time. I felt pretty good about my 1:17′ ascent time up the rocky, steep trail. I ended up using poles this time to take some of the strain off of my legs which I think was pretty effective.

Rather than taking the “summer” trail to the summit on the way up, I scrambled the summit ridge direct on talus, adding a dramatic finish to the route. Running above the clouds on an exposed ridge, using my hands and feet, is an exhilarating change of pace compared to my nightly laps around Greenlake Park in Seattle.

Breaking out above treeline

Lookout at the top

Running a vertical K on Mailbox Peak

I continued my string of mountain runs of increasing difficulty, this time choosing Mailbox Peak via the new trail. With over 4000 vertical feet on the ascent, this was by a pretty wide margin my “tallest” mountain run to date. The European running event called a “vertical K” ascends a mere 1000m , or 3280′ – I blew through that before even catching sight of the summit on this run.

Mailbox Peak

4822′ peak elevation

9.4 miles RT

4300′ vertical gain

GPS track (absurd)

Mailbox Peak used to be notorious for the steep, slippery trail that ascended straight up the mountain in 5 miles round trip. Prospective Rainier climbers would load up their packs and climb the mountain for training. Fortunately, the Washington Trails Association has helped construct a new trail, which reduces the gradient with many switchbacks low on the mountain. The trail just opened up last month, and it is a joy to run on!

The namesake Mailbox

This run was supposed to be a training run as I prepare for the winter season. I am hoping to enter a ski mountaineering (“skimo”) race this winter, so I need to keep up the climbing strength I’ve developed hiking and running this summer. I’ve been slowly working my way up the I-90 hiking peaks, starting with puny Squak Mountain in the Issaquah Alps, to Rattlesnake Mountain, a stout effort at 3k’ gain and 12 miles round trip.

I took off from the parking lot pegging my heart rate right in my anaerobic threshold range of 173-177. The lower trail is covered in leaves from the deciduous forest that thrives at these elevations. The middle two miles of the trail are nice switchbacks in coniferous forest. My biggest problems were a nagging Achilles tendon and my sunglasses, which fogged up with the combination of sweat and the fact that I was literally running in a cloud.

The trail breaks out onto the ridge just before mile 4 and then climbs much more steeply, gaining around 900′ in half a mile. This portion of the trail was not graded like the lower switchbacks, with trail surface varying from mud, to muddy roots, to rock chunks and dirt clods. I hit the mailbox 1:26 after leaving the parking lot, then enjoyed the views through the gaps in the clouds.

After very carefully negotiating the steep upper mountain, I opened the throttle up on the way down, descending to the parking lot in around 50 minutes. The new trail runs VERY fast on the descent!

I was pretty pleased with this GPS track log… looks like I was climbing at roughly 3000’/hour.

Mailbox

I’ll probably be back to this mountain repeatedly. It’s only about a half hour from Seattle, has a great view, and is the perfect length for a hard training run. I have heard that a multiple time winner of the Seattle Marathon ran this in 0:55, so maybe if I magically develop a freakish VO2max maybe I’ll give the record a go one of these days…

Silver Peak and Mount Catherine

On this cloudy day, I set out to get my blood pumping with a mountain run (or two). I saw Silver Peak as a good candidate for views and easy access on Summitpost, and noted that the short Mount Catherine trail is nearby. They’re both located near the Hyak ski area off of FR 9070 in the Snoqualmie National Forest.

About 4.5 miles in, I came to four or five vehicles parked by the side of the road and a trail. I parked here and started following the trail, but got pretty confused – it was gaining elevation much faster than I had anticipated for Silver Peak, and heading in the wrong direction. A quick check of my GPS app revealed I was actually climbing Mount Catherine instead. No matter, I pushed ahead and summited the 5052′ peak anyway. At only 1.5 miles one way, it took me just 23 minutes from car to summit at my decidedly lackadaisical trail “running” speed (more like a power walk given the steepness) for around 1200 feet of elevation gain. This is a good peak for those lacking the endurance for a more stout vertical gain like Mt. Si. And the views are actually pretty outstanding. GPS log here

Mt. Catherine summit

After a quick descent, I moved my car another 1/4 mile down the road and found the Pacific Crest trailhead at Windy Pass. This is what I had originally been looking for. I headed in the direction of Stampede Pass on the PCT. GPS track here

Windy Pass

The trail is just beautiful, winding through conifer groves, talus slopes, and numerous creeks, although the surface is quite muddy right now. At exactly Mile 1.7 the turnoff to Silver Peak via an unofficial but fairly clear trail goes to the right, splitting off from the PCT at a spot marked with visible cairns. After gaining several hundred more feet, I reached a saddle between Silver Peak and its neighbor to the south, Tinkham Peak and headed to the right. Continue reading Silver Peak and Mount Catherine