Category: Summits & Outdoor Fun

Red Mountain (no, not that one)

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Sometimes the hardest part of a trip is picking the destination. It’s especially hard, when your planned two-day trip is a no-go because of a shitty weather forecast. (Who wants to camp on the snow in rain? Not me.) We already had the time blocked out, so we decided that we might as well use at least some of it to bag a peak or two. 

The default destination is often the Teanaway because it sits in a micro-rain-shadow. We settled on a seldom-climbed peak called Red Mountain. (A bit of trivia, there are 12 summits in Washington named “Red Mountain.” After the trip, I had to explain so many times, “No, not that Red Mountain. We climbed the one off FS 46 near Cle Elum.”) It’s ranked #42 on the Alpine Lakes Home Court 100 list and #77 on Washington’s Top Peaks by Prominence, so it’s nothing so sneeze at. It’s just off most people’s radars.

The trail start is a climber’s dream – straight up, no messing around. We reached snow at about 4300′. (Our outing was in early June, so YMMV.) After that, we walked straight up the snow to the saddle on the ridge just south of the summit.

We had bad beta, directing us to Point 5722 to find the remnants of an old lookout site. We didn’t find one, so we headed north to the true summit. Where the snow had melted out, we found a boot path on the ridge and eventually the lookout site. 

After that it turned into a true Cascade scramble. Some ups and downs, loose rock, exposed areas, good views, mostly 2nd and 3rd class with a few 4th class moves thrown in for fun. It was cool on the summit and precip threatened, so we beat a hasty retreat back to the cars. All-in-all a fantastic “consolation” climb.

Kololo Peaks

I lifted a foot to take a step just as a gust of wind passed. The rock below my other foot rocked, and I teetered precariously on my crampons, wishing I was on snow, not some loose piece of Cascade granite. The gust passed and I put my foot down, thankful that I didn’t get blown down the scree slope and onto the steep snow below. 

We were on the false summit of Kololo Peaks. It wasn’t far to go to get to the true summit. Just down 50′ of scree to a saddle and back up another 100′ or so. My climbing team had done a grueling 13-mile approach and climbed in near white-out conditions. We weren’t about to be turned so short of our goal. We made it, snapped our “summit picture” and beat a hasty retreat back to camp. 

Teakettle Junction

Anyone who’s been here will understand the relief I felt when I saw this sign. Only 6 more miles (30 minutes or so) of bone-shattering dirt road to go to get to the Racetrack where rocks move on their own.

The tradition is to either bring a teakettle with a message inscribed on it or to write a letter and put it in a kettle.

80 years young

Drive to the most remote part of Death Valley and you’ll be find an impressive Joshua Tree forest. (Not the best photo in the collection, I admit, but these are too cool not to post.)

Technically these are yucca, which is not a tree. We can blame the Mormons for the misnomer. Apparently, the tree’s unique shape reminded Mormon settlers crossing the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century of a Biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer.

They only grow about 1.5-3 inches per year. Judging by the size (15-20 feet in many cases), these are very old. Not nearly as dramatic as the Redwood forest, but a good reminder that the wonders of DVNP are subtle and reserved for those who search for it.

Flower Porn

If you go to Death Valley looking for flowers, you’ll generally be disappointed. (The fabled “super blooms” only happen in rare years when rainfall is above average.)

There were almost no flowers this year, except for cactus flowers, which totally captivate me. They almost look fake they are so bright and bizarre perched atop the spiny paddle-like bodies.