Grouse Creek Mountain


A dry November allows access to Grouse Creek Mountain.

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

We had grand plans for today, but one always has to be mindful of weather and climbing conditions. What we really wanted to do is something like Carl and Judi had done: a big long ridge traverse of three peaks. Except John had already done Hope Peak, so we opted to go the other direction.

In anticipation of all that , and knowing we needed an early start, we drove to Mackay on Friday night and stayed at the Wagon Wheel Motel. Then we got underway right at 6am. Surprisingly mild in Mackay. Not really surprising, it was about what was predicted. More like unusual; not that cold, like around freezing.

The road over Doublesprings Pass was clear, but with a skiff of new snow from that morning's storm (also predicted: 1-2" of fresh). The road up through Christian Gulch had a little more snow in the shady places, and then up the very narrow jeep road to the 'trailhead'. It got a little interesting in places where the road was very narrow, a tilted road bed (due to snow?), and a drop-off into the creekbed below.

But John rolled us through. And we were on our feet a little after 7. Not quite enough light for photography.


Our path up the dry streambed alternated between bare ground and crunchy snow that was sometimes boot-top deep.

Note the low clouds. We were getting occasional peeks at peaks, and hoping the predicted clearing was going to play by the rules.


Higher up, the sun had removed most of the snow in our path.


Finding the right drainage was easy. But what we saw at the head of the drainage was a little intimidating. First, there is the scree. Then there is the cornice.

We thought the scree looked a little less steep out of the main gully on the right.


Maybe. But it's pretty much steep scree everywhere. Pick your poison. We thought we could see sort of a bench, or perhaps a lessening of the steepness. So we headed for that. In this picture, I'm on that 'bench'. Not.

Recommended: leather work gloves.

PS- click for the bigger image where you'll see John and Michael.


Looking back down the cirque.


As we gathered together on the 'bench' we had another route choice to make. We started toward the cornice, but then the slope angle above us eased back, opening up another option. Up.


That got us onto the main ridge, where we could finally see our peak in the distance. And good news: more scree.


Working across the scree slope wasn't too bad, and the views made it all worthwhile. Note: there is a person in this picture.


John and Michael approach the summit.


And we're there!

The wind wasn't as bad as predicted, but it was still plenty cold.

There's McGowan and the Linebacker. Trailhead
Looking more northerly at the Lemhis, and some first-class rock glacier. And Challis in the distance. Trailhead

We scooted down off the summit and finally found a place that was slightly less windy to enjoy our lunch. After comparing notes, we all had slightly cold feet.

We also discussed the prognosis for following the rest of the ridge...not too good. Although there wasn't a lot of snow, it looked like miles and miles of postholing. No thanks.

So now in the sunshine, and with the wind at our backs, it was pretty easy going. Trailhead

Instead of descending the scree at the side of the gully, we decided to go right down the throat. That means a slightly different way through the cornice section. This made us a little nervous, because we had found occasional bullet-proof snow. And it was hard to gage exactly how tall that cornice was.

As it turns out, it was about a 3-foot step onto soft snow.


Then down the scree. Boot-eating scree.

It wasn't the fun kind, where you can plunge step and almost run down. But it was certainly way easier than going up!

Trinity Peak looking lovely. Trailhead
And that was followed by the long slog back to the truck. This was around 2pm, but the shadows were already getting long. That's the middle of November for you. Trailhead



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