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Granite Mountain with TNAB
posted by John : June 26, 2008

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The Solstice Party was a week earlier and not on Granite Mountain, but that didn't stop us from heading back up to one of my favorite I-90 hikes. The open upper portion of the mountain is a delight in Spring and Summer when you either get flowers or berries or views. The last couple of years we've had snow in spots, but nothing like this.

We had constant snow once we made the final switchback into the meadows. It's all open from there to the summit and the lookout tower stood against a blue sky with hints of clouds swirling around. Down lower we'd seen trillium past their prime and beargrass not quite flowering. Up here it was solid snow. The big deal was the cornice hanging over a sweet glissade run for the way down.

Tokul was in heaven running with three other dogs. They got along splendidly and she had a blast running back and forth between the dogs and me. In past years she's had problems on the talus that is the usual winter/spring route, but this time the snow still covered it and we were able to walk right over the rocks. Tokul still balked at one point, but with a little (leashy) encouragement she got by and was off again.

At the summit we met up with a couple of other TNAB hikers who had started early. We'd passed a couple others on their way down. They managed an impressive standing glissade down one of the steepest parts of the descent that made me long for better balance. (I tend to go with the sitting glissade where I have more control and am less apt to crash and burn.)

Even though it wasn't the Solstice any longer we still had a fair amount of food and beverage at the top. Feeling left out, the dogs delighted in walking right up to the drop off and looking back. Clearly they weren't worried about the crack that marked the edge of the cornice. We pleaded with them to return to the safe side, but they thumbed their noses (well... if they'd had thumbs they would have) and continued to play. Nothing bad happened, of course. How are they supposed to learn?

Cloud were rolling up the valley so we were treated to a muted sunset, but that was ok as the views of mountain tops peeking through the clouds was impressive enough.

I had hiked up in shorts and a t-shirt, but the way down promised to be significantly wetter. One of the big bonuses to climbing through the snow is the promise of a quick glissade to drop elevation. I started as soon as I could get over the edge and flew down the slope. Tokul opted to take the safe and sane route we had come up.

Now that I was in the basin below the winter route I was postholing a bit much so I climbed back to the ridge. There was a sharp edge to the slope so I actually used my axe to climb out. Woo hoo! I felt like such a mountaineer.

We got in a bunch of additional glissades including one that seemed almost too steep to try. The Aussies chased their owner, Rich, down as herding dogs are wont to do. Even though it resulted in a ton more barking Rich took every opportunity to climb back up as we headed out and slide more.

The final nice touch to the evening was returning to the cars and finding that although I had forgotten my Forest Pass in the other car I had escaped without a ticket. Nice.

Totals are about 7.7 miles and 3,800 feet of gain.

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