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Tusk o' Granite
posted by John : April 15, 2010


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Spring hiking at its best


Even with the troubling conditions and resurgent Winter there are still lots of great destinations for the adventurous. And the stupid. I'll leave it to you to determine which TNAB is. Regardless, the destination for the night was West Granite, aka Tusk o' Granite.

Tusk is easily visible from Granite Mountain, but it's a relatively minor peak in the area. Kaleetan Peak dominates the skyline to the north and Rainier is to the south. Why look at little Tusk to the west?

If Tusk is so minor, why climb it at all? Well... it does have 400+ feet of prominence so it's on a bunch of lists. And it doesn't have as serious an avalanche potential as Granite so it's available in April instead of June. And the views will still be damn good from the top.

So we gathered at the Talapus/Olallie trailhead and headed up the bare trail. It turned to slush. Then packed snow. Microspikes went on our feet to help with traction. Past the lake and across a creek and snow grew deeper so the Microspikes came off and snowshoes went on. A group had PreNABbed so there was a track to follow, but they had chosen a straight up approach that burned the thighs so it was no simple stroll in the woods. (Well, there was one part where it was, but that was just an abnormality.)

When we finally crested the ridge and got the views we were just below Red 2. A sub peak with the distinction of being named after a symbol printed on a map. Oh, well. I figured we were done. After all, it was almost 8pm.

Except... nobody was stopping. The lead group were already almost on Tusk's summit and the group I had trailed up were already dropping to the saddle between the two high points. Being a follower by nature I continued along. The way down to the low point was easy. The climb beyond wasn't fun, but the sun dropping below clouds (that were in turn almost below us) and Granite Mountain tinted red made the last few hundred feet of gain tolerable.

On the summit we had glorious views in all directions. Kaleetan is always a favorite because it looks nigh impossible to climb, but is in fact not so tough. (Don't tell anyone, though.)

We had a brief celebration before we started down. Just below the summit we ran into one of our faster friends who was hauling an extra 30 pounds as part of a training regimen. Scott and I held back to wait for him to tag the top and return. While we waited, the light departed entirely and the slightest sliver of a moon made an appearance.

Below Red 2 we ran into Josie and relished in the ease of the descent, though I realized my state-of-the-art snowshoes from eight years ago aren't as state-of-the-art anymore. I guess it's finally time to break down and try out the new snowshoes I won at the Romp to Stomp. Progress... I guess.

Total effort: six miles and 3,200 feet of gain.

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