Round Mountain

“Are you going somewhere tomorrow?” Nick asked.

“Snowshoeing. Why do you ask?” I responded.

“You have that look, like you’re packing food for some kind of epic adventure.”

“Right. The backpack, snowshoes, ice ax, and boots probably give me away too.”

So much for sneaking out for a day in the mountains! I accepted a last-minute invitation to join Lynn, Sue, Mark, Kurt and Lisa for a snowshoe/scramble up Round Mountain near Darrington yesterday. We got to the TH around 8, debated gear choices (leaving crampons behind), and set off up the road 30 minutes later.

In about 1/4 of a mile, we left the comfort of the road and headed into the woods. I’ve done my fair share of brush bashing and off trail travel, and I can honestly say this was some of the most pleasant in recent memory. Open forest. Minimal blow down. Just straight forward uphill slogging. Before too long, we were wishing for those crampons we’d left in the car, though, as the forest floor turned to a steep sheet of ice. Fortunately the Kahtoola microspikes that we had proved sufficient and we made it to the ridge where deeper snow made travel a little easier.

We got our first view of Round Mountain at about 4500′ (it looked SO far away!), scoped our route to the summit, and dropped about 300′ down to traverse to the mostly open slopes on the south side of the mountain. The snow was consolidated and in excellent shape for step kicking. The group was generally really strong and we all took turns at the front, punching through the crust, making solid steps for those that followed.

We reached the summit at 1:30 p.m. and stood in utter awe at the 360-degree view. Baker and Whitehorse dominated the skyline. The Olympics poked up through the clouds to the west. Rainier even made a shadowy appearance to the south. Magnificent.

Daylight disappears early at this time of year, so we high-tailed it down after a short food break. Plunge-stepping down the first 1000′ was lovely. Then it was back up to the ridge and down through the forest. The microspikes proved useful – both for getting down the icy, forested slopes and for grip in steep duff near the road.

With about 1000′ of descent ahead of us, the sun disappeared. The going was still pretty easy, and it was good practice tromping through the woods by headlamp and compass bearing. Between the six of us, we were able to find pretty much the exact spot that we left the road that morning (yes, we’re that good) and were back to the cars by 5 p.m.

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