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Tour de Steeps: Putrid Pete's Peak
posted by John : May 18, 2014

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Way to go, loggers

Even with the minimal winter we had there have been some slopes that have been off-limits. Then came February and March when we got the snow we so desperately needed. We got back up to normal levels just in time for the normal Spring melt to begin. Now, the steep mountains are starting to open up again.

Mailbox as been available all winter long. It rarely closes.

Teneriffe is also usually open, but it's so tough I'm only interested in it twice a year, tops.

Putrid Pete's Peak (henceforth referred to as P3 because even with cut-and-paste that's too long to repeat over and over again) is another of the little-known, but super steep climbs. It's part of Defiance Ridge, sometimes called Banana Ridge. (The points on the ridge go Mailbox Peak, Dirtybox Peak, Dirty Harry's Peak, Web Mountain, P3, and Mount Defiance.)

In January, P3 was nearly devoid of snow and not in a good way. It should have been a slope of avalanchy horror, but it was a welcoming snow-free alpine meadow. It was the first time I had ever climbed it in Winter. It was wrong.

Now that it was Spring, the late season snow was mostly gone and the mountain was ready for climbing again. To get to P3 you could drive to the Ira Spring trailhead, but that's cheating and we don't cheat.

Instead, we start at the freeway for the maximum elevation gain and mileage. (Nobody ever accused of us being smart. After all, we start at 6am on Sunday morning.) This lower section is the best part of the trail. Lush moss, a beautiful creek, and nobody to be seen. But that's not the steep part. Neither is the short road walk to the actual trailhead or the couple of miles of switchbacks through the brutally logged forest that gave Pete his descriptor.

It's when you leave the forest behind and you start climbing up the exposed alpine meadow that it gets steep. Trekking poles are a necessity unless you have to use an axe for safety. There is no "trail" per se and that's what makes it steep. No switchbacks or breaks, just up. There are bare spots where you can step. The rocks are your best bet, though some move. We don't wear helmets on many of our hikes, but this is one.

Unlike Teneriffe or even Mailbox, a greater portion of P3 is meadow. It's a little closer to the crest so it feels more like the alpine. The summit is slabby granite with a sheer drop on the north side. Web Mountain to the west and Defiance to the east are both higher, but P3 is a great trip in itself. Connect it up with any of its neighbors and it's a great loop for the experienced hiker.

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