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Hancock's Comb
posted by John : August 1, 2010

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Cowards or brawny brains?

It's there every time I drive home. Hancock's Comb. A lousy pile of rock and trees looming over the North Fork valley, visible from Seattle, crying out to be climbed. Except it's not much of a climb.

Sure, you could start from the Spur 10 gates and bike all the way up the logging roads and then do the climb. But why? Why would you do that if you could drive up those roads? Why waste a full day for something that should be a short and sweet trip?

Ok, maybe not sweet.

I left early from home (gee, this is getting to be a trend) and was at the road's end by 7am. Well, maybe not the actual road's end, but as far as I was willing to drive. The road isn't maintained up there and it's... seen better days. The water has decided to use it as a creek bed during the wet months so it's got some deep troughs in it. And a sink hole. And then it's bermed. So it's not like I was going to gain a ton by pushing the minivan... er... SUV much farther.

Besides, roadwalking is a big part of "hiking" in the Snoqualmie Tree Farm. And it was short with great views of the inside of a cloud. At least I saw some bear... poop. Lots of it. But that wouldn't be a problem for much longer. After all, it was the first day of bear season. That's why I was wearing my I'm-not-a-bear-so-please-don't-shoot-me-k-thx-bye orange shirt and had a seriously-bears-don't-flash bike light blinking on my backpack. And I was whistling and clicking my tongue at least until I was at the real end of the road and I figured it was really unlikely there were any hunters ahead of me.

Of course, at the end of the road is where the fun really begins. The info I'd gathered said I should follow the old road turned trail around the south side of the summit and stay high on the ridge to avoid the worst of the brush. That was followed with a "good luck" rather than a "have fun" so it was a pretty good bet I was in for it.

I looked for a good spot to jump in, but couldn't find one. Instead, I kicked steps in the dirt bank, grabbed a handful of brush, and pulled myself into the thicket. There was no trail. There was nothing resembling a trail. After a couple of trips on the east side of the mountains the intensity of the vegetation was a little overwhelming.

Dodge, weave, open space enough to stand for a moment, slap at mosquitos, duck, push, close my eyes and charge ahead. Where I found rock I stayed with it, but that wasn't common. More frequently I'd get lucky and find five feet of a game trail before it faded away. It was steep and wet and prickly, but not hard to figure where to go. Stay on the ridge and go up. Duh.

Finally, the summit! Damn, nope. A false summit. Drop to the saddle and back up. This was clear of brush until I got to the rock of the summit block, but it was an easy 15 foot scramble up. I looked over the edge of a sheer drop on the others side into the gray clouds, but saw nothing. Two registers (including one placed by Fay Pullen) were there to be signed so of course I did. Gotta make my mark somehow. Then the descent.

Hmm... this ridge seems like it actually might be a faint footpath. And it's going. Sweet! Except it was going in the wrong direction. Dang. Back up and then down into the nasty brush again. I stayed high like I'd been told. If I was missing the worst of the brush I'd hate to see what the rest looked like. With a final hop I was back on the road roughly where I'd gone in with only minor scrapes.

I started whistling and singing again (good thing I was alone) for the walk back to the truck. I never saw anyone else until I was below Lake Hancock because nobody else is silly enough to bother with the peak early on a Sunday morning. Silly me.

Stats: 1.75 miles, 1000 feet of gain.

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