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Iron Bear and Jester Mountains
posted by John : March 19, 2011

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Now that's what I'm talking about

Amy and the kids were supposed to be in Chelan. But then they weren't I bailed on Friday night hiking plans, but Saturday's daytime trip was still a go. Even though it was supposed to rain down low and be full of snow up high. Even though there were avalanche concerns that pushed us off our first choice (well, my first choice) of Preacher Mountain and to the other side of the Pass. Even though we were promised a full six miles of road walking. At least it wouldn't be raining on us over there... right?

Damn right. In fact, the weather called for a much more affirming expletive. Blue skies. No clouds. Certainly no rain.

Yee. Ha.

It was 9am when we finally left the car (I'd mention something ungallant about the driver who missed the exit, but he drove so it wouldn't be appropriate) and started up the snow-covered road. Yeah. A road walk. A lot of it. Still, the skies were smiling and so were we. Even the dogs, all four of them, were getting along passably well. As long as none of them ran ahead of Jasper. Or behind. Or anywhere he didn't want them to be. Tom had a couple of stern words for the dog, but in the end it was just accepted that he was who he was.

By the time the road walk ended we were in t-shirts and had all our vents open. We were fully in the sun as we poked around the summer trailhead and chose a line up the ridge that didn't mess around with switchbacks or the like. Scott broke trail and only gave up the lead when we were on an easy up. Then it was my turn. Then Tom's turn. Then back to Scott. You get the idea. Basically, we had Scott push hard until he couldn't, I'd lead for a few hundred feet before turning it to Tom. Repeat. Repeat.

The few trees we found were still heavy with snow, but also draped with icicles. Had the light been different we'd have had quite a show. Instead, I could only marvel at the beauty of the dark blue sky, snow covered trees, and a few clouds that drifted by on occasion.

Actually, the clouds seemed to be everywhere but where we were. They hid the big mountains around us, but stayed mostly out of our way. I can handle those kinds of clouds.

Near the summit of Iron Bear (Doo dee do do do do dum dum dum!) the snow was firmer and the trees more caked with ice than snow. Glorious goodness in every direction. The dogs even seemed to take notice of their surroundings. Treen paused frequently to look back for me and off into the distance.

From Iron Bear (Doo dee do do do do dum dum dum.) we descended into thick woods and skirted the northern edge of the ridge. Beyond a local high point we were back in the open and climbing toward Jester. At the top we couldn't tell if it was really the top or just almost the top so of course we went to the other top just to make sure. And of course, when we were there it wasn't possible to tell if it was the actual top, either. Still, we figured we'd tagged them both so it was time for lunch. Everyone snacked, chased after unattended food, and had a drink.

We (or rather I) had thought about going back along the ridgeline rather than the road. However, wiser minds prevailed (everyone in the party other than me) so we retraced our steps. Breaking trail, even down hill, was a little less certain than going back over known terrain. Of course, from lower down the route looked like it would go, but you can imagine the trouble I'd have been in had it not.

The walk out was about as much fun as three miles of road could be. The big thrill was when Athena gave up on just looking through culverts and actually went through. Yeah, it was that fun. Even dinner in Cle Elum was better than the road walk. But only just.

Total distance was about 10 miles and gain was a paltry 2,900 feet, but it felt it was all in the last two miles to the summits. That's gotta count for something, right?

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