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Putrid Pete's Peak
posted by John : Junuary 26, 2014


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So… Winter?


Putrid Pete's Peak isn't a putrid peak, but the snow conditions are.

In June 2008 there was fresh snow on the mountain and plenty left from winter. In May 2009 there was snow almost down to the talus field. In April 2010 there was still enough snow we were able to traverse the ridge to Web Mountain.

What's there in 2014? No snow, that's for sure. What little white is on the mountain is solid ice unfit for man or beast.

Although it was frosty at the trailhead/exit-off-the-freeway it warmed as we climbed into the inversion. At the halfway point we were shedding layers and I seriously considered hiking the rest of the way sans pants. (Oh, relax! I had tights on underneath. (They are manly tights.)) By the time we exited the woods for the climb it was far too warm for January.

All through the woods the trail is pretty much a standard Snoqualmie Valley trail. It's unmaintained, but in remarkably good shape. Most hikers in the valley stick to the guidebook hikes so this trail, like many others, get little traffic. From the talus field up, though, the trail disappears and you're left on your own. In bad conditions, the amazingly steep slope (the steepest hiked by TNAB) is covered in slick beargrass requiring the occasional veggie belay. It was bone dry on this trip making for easier passage.

On the more moderate summit ridge the snow should be piled deep and the trees should be coated in rime. If anyone were to brave the avalanche risk they'd need snowshoes to make any headway and it would be slow going.

On this trip, however, there was perhaps a foot of rock-hard ice covering only part of the ridge. We're so far below our average snow pack it's becoming quite the worry. At least when people aren't reveling in the sun. We Northwesterners are like that. 50 degrees and sunny? Time to get a tan!

I'm not usually one to lounge in the sun, but on a mountain summit under a blue sky I have been known to linger. On this occasion, we lingered for about half an hour.

Getting down was a great reminder of why P3 is one of the few Snoqualmie trips that require a helmet. Rocks of all sizes bounded down the hill. We even found a rock in a tree.

Back in the woods it was a long but quick walk to the car. We saw only one other climber who was training for Aconcagua, one of the seven summits. At the trailhead there were plenty of hikers out to enjoy the Spring-like conditions on the Ira Spring trail.

I won't deny loving the access our snow-drought provides. I never dreamed I'd be able to climb P3 in the winter. I also can't help but shudder to think that we're going to be in for a dry, dry summer if we don't get a big dump of snow soon. And that the early mosquito I slapped on the summit may be just the first of billions that will make that dry summer quite unbearable.

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