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Lille Julaften on Sky Mountain
posted by John : December 23, 2010

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Ooh... trees

Sure, I'd just arrived in Chelan the night before, but big numbers beckoned. Not a particularly epic trip, but the promise of attaining my annual goal for elevation gain. All I'd need was about 1,400 feet. A mellow trip at Stevens Pass ought to suffice, right?

I left Chelan early in hopes of not being late. Turns out the roads were in excellent shape and it took me less than two hours to get to Stevens. Great news, except I had none of my gear. That was all arriving with Scott and Josie since our truck was overflowing with more practical cargo the day before. So instead I huddled into my puffy and tried to stay warm for the 45 minutes I had to wait.

When we were all (Scott, Jo, Tom, JK, and Ingunn not to mention Jasper and the TLABs) assembled we wandered up the road. Like the last time I'd been up this way the weather was less than ideal, but blue skies is more than can be expected in late December. The route is mostly roads until you're just about at Skyline Lake, but we cut switchbacks and stopped only to take pictures of Scott celebrating 400,000 feet of gain for the year. Overachiever, perhaps.

Beyond the lake we followed tracks into the famed boulder garden where huge rocks tower above. I didn't recall the rocks being quite so large so as we passed under them I felt awfully small. Around the corner we looked up to the high point and a touch of blue in the sky. Tom explored a bit, but turned back due to the sketchy conditions. However, I had gained enough to turn my gainometer to 200,000. Yeah, only half the man Scott is, but damn epic for me.

Sure, I was good. We could have turned for home, but without a peak it seemed like a trip not fully realized. Back a bit and then down. Tom claims to have gone this way before, but his memory might be failing him. We followed some ski tracks down, but after crossing a talus field (yes, more big rocks) we abandoned that route and Tom broke trail. Pushing along through the deep snow was slow going. I took my turn breaking trail at a gully headed up to the ridge. Sky Mountain was our new destination and it was simple navigation. "Go up until you can't, go right until you can't."

When we got to the end of the ridge there we were. Just us and the rimey trees begging for winter to hurry up and pass on by. Way below we could see the skiers doing their thing, but it seems they were smart enough to mostly stay off the north side of the highway. After a crowded shot on the summit we headed down quickly to get out of the biting wind.

Sheltered by trees, we dropped our packs and broke out lunch. While I'm not known for my expansive palette (PBJ) or my wise choices when selecting food stuffs (leftover Y2K rations) I'm pretty sure I wasn't alone in thinking, "GOOD LORD WHAT IS THAT SMELL?" Even the dogs cringed a bit when the bag was opened. I have no doubt it was full of protein, but perhaps tuna in a bag shouldn't be socially acceptable.

The horror of the nose was replaced by quality dog-based entertainment. Apparently, dogs love the snow and are acceptable targets for snowballs. So is Tom. However, not all dogs appreciate being adorned with reindeer antlers unless they are real and attached to an actual reindeer upon which they can gnaw. Jasper put on a good show with teeth bared and Zeus sought to help out by chomping the antlers and running away with them. As I said, quality.

The trip out was about the same as the trip in, but more down than up. The climb up from the basin between Sky Mountain and Skyline Ridge was a pain, but from there it was all high-stepping down the hill to the cars.

My drive home was as uneventful as the drive to the hike, but I found myself getting bummed out.

Hurray, my goal was achieved. But what was the point? It's a nice round number, true, but beyond that it no longer had meaning. December turned out to be all about pushing hard to get the numbers to line up rather than going on trips that were actually fun. (Don't get me wrong, there were some fun trips, but in spite of good company Mt. Si, Tiger, and Talapus weren't trips I really looked forward to. Even this trip (ostensibly celebrating Little Christmas Eve) through beautiful snow covered mountains pales in comparison to simple trips like walking in the snow at night with the kids.

Of course, none of this was really apparent to me until way, way after the fact. It took me almost a full week to realize I'd made playing outside too stressful and for most of that time I was just depressed and trying to figure out what was wrong, mostly to the detriment of those around me. So from now on only fun trips! Well, maybe Mailbox from time to time, but mostly just to stay in shape.

And yes, I'm still going to track my stats. I'm too much of a nerd for that.

Totals: About 4 miles and 2,300 feet of gain.

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