The Mailbox trip two days ago was supposed to be just a warmup for Mt. Baker on the weekend. (Mt. Baker is one of the bucket list peaks I have until February 2013 to complete.) However, with the weather deteriorating quickly the prospects of tackling even just a 10,000 foot peak were slipping away. And Amy wound up heading to Chelan earlier than expected. So what's a guy to do on a Thursday night when he's left all alone?
On the true Solstice we had amazing weather, if a little too warm after such a cold Spring. However, this is the Northwest and it was time to get back to the lousy weather and pay for our one day of Summer. It was raining lightly when we left the trailhead. Not that we'd notice since someone took off at a pace that was way too fast. Boo hiss! I felt much the slacker as I fell to the back of the pack.
And to make matters worse, my new Summer boots that had performed so well on Snoqualmie decided they didn't like the prospect of hiking in the snow. As an obvious ploy to try to get me to stop before the snow started they started a slow, but inexorable rub on my heels. Too bad for them I'm not smart enough to stop when I feel pain.
Speaking of pain, 4,000 feet of gain on Tuesday was still with me. Well, not all of it. Maybe about 2,000 feet. As a means to put the burning in my feet out of my mind I began formulating a theory about the half life of elevation gain. It seems to be about two days. Climb 4,000 feet on day zero and two days later it feels like you've just climbed 2,000 feet. Two days later it feels like 1,000 feet. Mileage has a much shorter half life for me. Maybe a day or even three quarters of a day.
So following that thinking I was starting with 2,000 feet of gain and about a mile at the trailhead. Add that to Speedy McSpeedyson's pace and I was a wee bit winded after only 1,000 feet with 2,600 to go.
But just then we broke out of the trees. (Or at least it seemed like just then. I'm not really sure where the trail breaks out of the trees, but it's lovely.) Spots of sun broke through the clouds and the angels sang. And then the wind picked up and the sucker holes closed. It was nice while it lasted.
On the snow we abandoned any pretense of a trail and followed the ridgeline up to the summit along huge cornices. Treen would have delighted in tempting fate by seeing how far out she could go, but she was on her way to Chelan with Amy. Or at least Tokul would have, I don't know if Treen's that ballsy.
It was a subdued Solstice Celebration as the rain began and then turned to snow. With fingers getting chilled we headed down looking for a not-too-terribly-corniced spot to glissade down into the basin. It was fast. We got several good slides in before the snow ended and the downward trudge into darkness began.
Given that I felt like I'd just done a eight miles and 5,600 feet (the whole half life thing, remember?) it's a good thing we're not going for Baker. Now I just need to figure out how to get to Chelan.
Totals (real totals): 7.4 miles and 3,600 feet of gain.