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Kendall Peak
posted by John : July 21, 2011

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Schizo Summer

Working from home again and the family has headed east in hopes of some blue skies or at least warmth that doesn't come from a furnace. It poured rain all day and half my face was numb from the dentist. Still, it's Thursday so it's time to go hiking.

(Side note: Nitrous, previews for Horrible Bosses, and Queen on the radio make for some really interesting thoughts.)

I tried to roust someone to go early, but they were all busy or perhaps just tired of my special brand of company. However, the rain lessened and then stopped so I headed to the trailhead at Snoqualmie Pass really, really early. Surprisingly, there was another TNAB hiker there, but he wasn't interested in going early. So I plugged in and headed up the soaked Commonwealth Basin trail on the way to Kendall Peak.

There's a very straightforward approach to Kendall Peak on the PCT, but it's long and kind of tedious. And there's a blowdown the Forest Service is going to blast out rather than cut. It must be a heck of a blowdown. Instead of the PCT, my plan was to use the Commonwealth trail to the usual creek crossing, then bushwhack up a talus field to the PCT, follow that to a massive avalanche gully, up to rejoin the PCT, and then follow the boot path to the summit. Really, it makes sense.

The Commonwealth was full of flowers and patches of snow. I thought about rolling in it, since Treen wasn't there to do it, but opted instead to just move along. Although I made good time, I was probably going slower than TNAB pace, stopping for pictures, all that. Being alone is definitely a different experience that's nice on occasion, but not always.

Up the talus (where I found women's makeup, go figure) and back to the PCT. Trudge trudge (downhill?) to a switchback, then trudge trudge uphill to the avalanche gully. Calling it a "gully" is a little of a misnomer. I think of a gully as pretty narrow. Perhaps "swath" or "OMG I wouldn't want to be here when this happened" is a better description. Downed trees were everywhere and only the most supple plants survived. I started up on the left, then wound up on the right. Really, I was just being greedy with my route and taking the easiest way up. Unless it meant stepping on flowers in which case I'd detour.

In spite of it being a "gully" it was really pretty. There were terraces of a sort so it was steep and then mellow and steep again. A snowmelt creek flowed through in either quick cascades or lazy loops. The upper stretch was a maze of downed trees from this past season (maybe) and above it were cliffs. Just below the cliffs I found the PCT again.

Up this high the PCT is in the open with great views of... I-90. Oh well. Actually, the views would have been pretty nice had they not been clouded over. But wait, blue sky! I swear I saw it! And then the sucker hole closed and it was back to swirling clouds. It was only 6:30 when I arrived at the spur to the summit. Way too early to go up and just sit in the chilly weather even if I did have all manner of gear to keep be warm. Hey... isn't the Kendall Catwalk just around the corner?

The traverse around the summit ridge was bare rock with steep snow cutting across the trail occasionally. It was hard snow so kicking steps on the traverse was a chore. Such a chore and with no real concrete idea of just how far the Catwalk was I took a final look and turned around. Looking at my track after reveals I was 0.1 miles from the Catwalk. <sigh>

However, my timing was good. As I turned up the boot path to the summit I saw TNAB coming up strong. On the summit we were only four (plus Zeus and Athena, of course) and we didn't linger long. The few sun breaks we had seen before were nowhere to be found and there was no hope for a sunset... again. We did see someone below us, but they were at least 15 or 20 minutes from the top so we headed down. The only difference in the descent was getting off the PCT early to take the Commonwealth while skipping the talus. Probably a good choice since it was fully dark by the time we were there.

It was a relief that the snow wasn't as heavy as we had feared and the summit was attainable. Treen would have loved it, but she'll have to wait until next year to tag Kendall.

Totals, including my Catwalk attempt: 7.7 miles and 3,600 feet.

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