Snowking Mt.

November 25 and 27, 2002

Dave Svilar, Darren Rainey

 

Darren stands on the hated 2nd knoll and ponders a route on our first attempt at Snowking.  On our second and successful attempt we ascended the red line and descended the green line.

The endless summer just continues.  Darren and I had taken advantage of the latest high pressure system to go rock climbing in Leavenworth on Saturday and were now capitalizing on the ridiculously low snowpack to climb Snowking Mt. on Monday.  At this time of year the slopes of the North Cascades should be getting hammered by storms and blanketed by heavy snow.  However the Washington ski areas had 0" of snow, so instead of pouting about the delayed ski season Darren and I went for a climb.

Monday November 25

From the beginning we underestimated the challenge of Snowking Mountain.  Our approach description said to pass the first knoll on the left and the second knoll on the right.  We didn't have a map and weren't sure what was even a knoll, which ultimately led to our demise.  We mistakened the second knoll for the first and found ourselves off route and still a long ways from the mountain at noon.   At this time of year it gets dark shortly after 4:00 pm, so we knew it would have to wait for another day.  Luckily, I was retired, and another day could be any old day as far as I was concerned.  While trying out for various fire departments Darren had a weird job in which he only worked at night.  We would be back two days later on Wednesday. 

Wednesday November 27

With a resolved determination to not get beat a second time by Snowking we met in Everett at 4:00 am.  Darren was only working on 2 hours of sleep, so I drove the Toyota  listening to Zeppelin tunes as the cold, dark, morning passed by.  The Toyota took the rough last two miles of the road near Cascade River better than Darren's Civic and we were hiking under moonlit skies by 6:30 am.  The first 2,500 feet of elevation are gained on a brutishly steep trail through old growth forests.  Somewhere near 4,700 ft the trail became nearly impossible to follow as fresh snow covered the already faint trail.

This time we passed to the right of the second knoll and traversed the now snow-covered slopes to a boulder field.  The snow made the boulders slippery and we began to wonder what else this second knoll could throw at us.  Finally we broke onto Kindley-Found Ridge which would take us to the mountain.  From here the hiking became downright pleasant as the morning sun shined on the snow giving us the feeling we were traveling through a winter wonderland.

Darren hiking on the crest of Kindley-Found Ridge towards Snowking.

Getting closer to the mountain we decided there were two feasible routes to the summit.  The first was more direct and simply followed the ridge straight to the glacier.  The second followed the broad low-angled ridge to the left of the mountain.  Never one who enjoys backtracking I voted to take the first route up and the second back down.  After passing a couple of frozen ponds and a lake the route climbed a ridge followed by a moderately steep glacier.  The last 100 feet of rocky summit was steeper than anticipated, so we took extra care ascending the 3-4 class rocks.

Dave kicking steps up the Snowking Glacier.

 

Dave climbing the final summit rocks.  Not only was it steeper than anticipated, but the rock was extremely loose.  Once on the summit we realized there was a way we could have simply walked up.

Upon reaching the summit we checked our watches and realized we were ahead of schedule - it was only 11:30.  This was good news because the summit was beautiful and warm.  It felt like we could reach out and touch the peaks of the Ptarmigan Traverse from Dome to Magic.  Another mountain that caught our eye was neighboring Mutchler, which we had never even heard of before this trip.  We lounged on the summit for almost an hour before reluctantly starting our descent.

Dave scrambles the final six inches.

 

More of me on the summit.

 

November 27 and skins at 7500 feet.

Avoiding the steep loose rocks we had ascended, we took the easy route back to the glacier.  We hadn't descended for much more than 10 minutes before taking a break.  It was just too pleasant and gorgeous for us to want to leave.  We had to pinch ourselves to believe that this could really be the end of November.  Time was ticking and we didn't want to get stuck trying to find the trail back to the car in the dark, so we finally started making tracks back down towards the ridge.

Darren descends the ridge.

Hiking back across Kindley-Found Ridge it felt like spring time.  The snow was soft and the sun forced us to strip down to our t-shirts.  We made a last pass of the dreaded 2nd knoll and descended all the way back to the Toyota before dark.

Darren tends to his sore feet back at the Toyota.

Driving back I tried to think when my stars would ever be aligned the way they had for the last seven months of my retirement.  Warm, clear late November days?  Good pal like Darren?  Mom packing my lunch?  Unemployed and zero responsibilities or commitments?  I had better savor it while it lasts.

-written December 2002

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