Tusk of Granite is one of TNAB's more adventurous destinations. There's no trail to the summit and it takes a bit of navigation through the snow to find the first summit, Red 2. Some years it's enough to make it there, but occasionally we push on to the Tusk itself. No matter where we wind up, it's a strenuous trip.
This year it was even more adventurous. Previous trips were in April or early May. It slipped to the last week of June this year and the extra time left it almost completely snow free. This was kind of handy for the trail-based portion past the first lake and across the creek, but when we left the trail we had to contend with brush up to the ridge.
Instead of the usual problems of snow, snow, and more snow we dealt with alder, blueberries, and brambles. Some of our group were smart enough to choose alternate destinations or turn back before things got really out of control. We bemoaned the lack of snow, but it made for quicker travel in some sections. And it certainly felt more like "wilderness" than when it's covered with snow. I'm not sure why, but maybe it was the low ground cover as we neared Red 2.
Unfortunately, the weather was lousy. Not so lousy that we wanted to head home, but lousy enough to give us pause before descending into the saddle for the final climb. I remembered it as a minor descent and a minor ascent. Just a short distance. In reality, it was a long slog through intermittent snow patches to a jumbled pile of granite marking the summit.
We waited for a few minutes, but weren't sure if anyone else would be joining us so we turned for home. Just after tagging Red 2 for the second time we crossed a small snow patch. It had been untracked when we were there 30 minutes before, but a set of fresh bear prints marred its surface. They were perpendicular to our direction so I was both disappointed and thankful that we didn't need to worry about an encounter too much.
Thanks to excellent navigation (not by me) we found the established trail right where we left it. It's unclear if this good fortune was due to an excellent sense of direction or modern technology.
Although we survived the trip, it's clear the schedule needs to be altered to put these peaks far earlier in the season to avoid the brush. As a bonus for snow-covered terrain, a truly adventurous hiker could link up with Granite Mountain for a really interesting tour. Maybe next year...