This weekend the weather wasn’t looking promising anywhere, so I hopped on Summitpost to see what was around I-90 that I hadn’t been to the top of yet. I was planning on running a mountain just as a workout even if I couldn’t see anything from the top in the clouds. McClellan Butte had been on my radar for a while – I had seen it in every proximity search but never clicked through to the page. Once I saw folks describing the route as a scramble at Class 3 or even Class 4 I knew that I had to give it a shot.
The trailhead is relatively close to Seattle, right at Exit 42. This was my first time checking out the south side of the valley but it all looks fairly similar. McClellan Butte’s trail gains elevation fairly gradually for the first couple of miles, crossing the John Wayne rail-trail at just before the one mile mark.
After the road crossing, the route gently pitches up until I ended up walking some of the steeper upper sections (the whole thing is runnable, I’m just not in my best shape right now). The upper mountain started to drizzle on me.
After mile 4 or so, the trail crests a ridge and juts to the (south?) in order to avoid some cliffs. It traverses along the upper mountain until reaching the final summit scramble.
I wanted to go for a mountain run for exercise and decided to explore a little bit higher on the Mt. Si ridge without doing the slog that is Mt. Teneriffe in the snow, so I found this little “gem” on Summitpost, described as a “Peakbagger’s peak, nothing more, nothing less”. I found this peak has a lot to recommend for itself.
For one, the approach follows the Mt. Si for most of the elevation gain (one of the most crowded trails in the I-90 corridor). Here’s nwhikers poster Angry Hiker’s artistic rendition:
From the Haystack, proceed through the trees along a faint foot/deer/old Jeep trail up the ridge. How is there snow here still?? I was, of course, in running shoes and shorts with no gaiters and promptly packed my shoes full of snow.
This winter has been without precedent as a horrible one for skiers. Record high temperatures throughout much of the west, combined with Washington’s relatively low elevations, mean that the ample precipitation we have received has largely fallen as rain rather than snow. Cliff Mass’s weather blog has a good discussion of how this has come about and why it might be a preview of the Northwest as affected by climate change more than half a century from now. I’m moving to Canada.
I’m taking this opportunity to get Mountain Running season off to a good start. I signed up for the Yakima Skyline 25K in April so I’ve been trying to build in some elevation to work up to it. The Issaquah Alps are snow free and have been particularly beautiful lately.
Rattlesnake Mountain (2/14/15)
West Tiger Mountain (2/21/15)
I found the “Tiger Mountain Dumb Ass 50K” route suggestion online and tried it for lap one – up the steep, steep Section Line trail and down the pretty technical K3 trail. One lap was enough for me so I went up the normal West Tiger 3 trail on the second lap for a total gain of around 4000′.
Before the rain/snow comes, I wanted to see how much vertical I could run in a day. I had run Mailbox Peak a few weeks ago and appreciated how cushy the lower trail was on my feet, so I figured that would make an ideal candidate to push my limits without beating up on my knees/feet too much. I was also inspired by this account of a double Mailbox peak and wanted to see what I could do.
My previous biggest day was an ascent of Mt. Adams two years ago at 6700′ vertical, although that took pretty much all morning.
I packed my tiny bag (Camelbak pak without the hydration sleeve) with a fleece, small first aid kit, and a Nature Valley granola bar along with my handheld water bottle. I staged one pair of extra shoes at the car knowing that my shoes were likely to be soaked on the soggy trail left by a week of rainy weather in the area.
I took off trying consciously to hold my heart rate back on Lap One (I would gain any lost time back in spades later in the day). Fall conditions on the trail included quite a few puddles, mud patches, and leaves on top of the silky smooth grade created by WTA volunteers over the last couple of years.
I knew that I was feeling good as the miles ticked by on the long sweeping switchbacks. No burning in the calves indicated that I was well rested for this attempt. As I reached the steep last mile to the summit, I switched to walking to preserve my strength. I’m still at the point where trying to run on grades much steeper than 800’/mile is less efficient than walking anyway so it was probably faster overall. I took this chance to eat some energy chews. I also hit snow for the first time this season – tiny patches which melted away by the time I summited the second time.
I hit the watch at the summit in 1:31. I thought “That’s not possible!” My previous attempt was only six minutes faster with much more effort.
GPS track (partial – lost reception on the climb to P3)
It’s November – the gloom has finally arrived, and temps are starting to drop in the mountains. I had run many well-traveled peaks in September and October and I wanted to try something off the beaten track before snow forces a switch to skiing instead of running.
After weighing a number of considerations (safety on a solo run, exposure with wet rock, driving time, familiarity with the area) I ended up selecting Putrid Pete’s Peak as an objective and figured I’d improvise a way down once I made my way back into terrain I have seen before. Arriving at the Ira Spring Trailhead along the customarily potholed road, the temperature lingered at around 37F. This was going to be a chilly day. It was also raining, so I was concerned about temperature management, especially if I got injured and took longer than expected to make my way out or wait for rescue. I threw in an extra puffy jacket into my running pack just to be safe.
I started off running and kept going straight instead of taking the first marked switchback (the Ira Spring trail). These Summitpost instructions got me started on the faint use trail to the summit of P3:
“Begin at the Ira Spring / Mason Lake trail. Follow the trail 1/10 of a mile to the first switchback. Instead of turning to the right, continue forward over the sticks meant to block the way onto a faint path which quickly becomes well pronounced. After 1/3 of mile the trail begins switching back as it climbs steeply along the mellow ridge leading up towards the east summit.”
Much of the lower half of the route was sort of brushy – with the recent rain and dew, I was totally soaked to the skin from brushing against all the vegetation. It was going to be a long, chilly day.
From there, the route steepens considerably and ascends virtually direct to the summit. The last ~30′ to the summit block is low third-class scrambling which was quite secure. At the top there is a very steep dropoff to the north and a waterproof canister for the summit register.
The visibility was… not great
The next portion of the route was a bit of an unknown quantity – I just knew I needed to follow the ridge ESE to Mt. Defiance. The ground here was pretty rugged for the first half of the traverse, with potential for dangerous falls in both directions, so I proceeded with a lot of caution.
This section of the route had no identifiable trails so I generally tried to stick right to the crest of the ridge and the whole thing went at Class 2 with a bit of minor exposure in some points. My biggest challenge was simply the temperature. I was dressed for trail running with minimal insulation, and the temperature was probably 33F or so. After I stopped climbing, my aerobic output didn’t help keep me warm and I soon started to shiver. Continue reading Defiance Ridge Run→