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Southeast Rampart
posted by John : September 6, 2014

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Gullies are fun

I'm a big fan of routine. I frequently hike and rehike the same trails without a problem. I'm so familiar with a couple that I've named some of the more obscure features. On the Twin Falls trail there's Tokul's Pool and Turtle Rock. On Mailbox Peak there's VHL (vertical halfway log) and John's Bane (a root I might have tripped on once or twice or... more). So yes, I can do routine.

But sometimes it's great to shake things up and try something new. I was disappointed when I wasn't able to get to the trail early enough to find a way from Twin Lakes up to the peak above and even more so when I heard tales of how wonderful it was. Just two days later I convinced Eric to go back to the summit with me, albeit by a different route.

We started up yet another extremely familiar trail to Lake Lillian. It was my fifth time up the trail this season. However, just like on each of the other trips, the destination was different. At Lake Lillian, we didn't scale the rock to traverse around the lake counter clockwise, but rather stuck to the trail that avoids the lakeshore entirely. It climbs steeply up through the trees until emerging a quarter the way up an even steeper gully.

In the late Spring, this gully is full of snow. It's one of the last bits of snow to melt out and diehard skiers use it to get their turns in when everywhere else is bare. When there's snow we know it goes. Without snow it was a bit of a mystery.

That might be one of the reasons I enjoyed this so much. It was new. It was different and exciting. Even Eric, who had been to the peak two days prior, had no idea if this would connect or if it would cliff out and we'd have to return home.

From the top of the gully we went climber's right through some scrubby trees full of spiderwebs until we found a nice little meadow. (Note to other climbers, near the top of the gully go into the trees on climber's left and you'll pick up another gully and avoid the trees.)

The meadow was steep, but easy walking. The ridge itself was broken and not much fun so we stayed just below. We found a mini Rift Valley complete with towering monoliths and a bench full of flowers down below. Above, the summit block required we traverse around to our right to hop on the ridge from that side.

The descriptions of the summit weren't false. This was a magnificent high point. We could see the mostly treed Mt. Margaret from two days earlier with Mt. Rainier behind it. All the usual peaks in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness were to the north. What was most wonderful was a new perspective on Rampart Ridge.

Rampart Ridge is one of my favorite destinations not just in the area, but period. It feels like a completely separate world of tarns and cliffs and meadows. You have to pass through the forest and climb steep gullies to get there and it's all worth it.

From this vantage point, Rampart Ridge was a small island standing above the lowlands around it. What's more, it's tilted like a table with two legs shorter than the others. Even a place as familiar as Rampart Ridge was surprisingly new and fresh from this new peak and I relished the feeling of discovery.

However, since this was a Saturday and not a Sunday I had places to be. We turned for home and found it was a shorter climb than we remembered. In fact, the entire trip was under three miles. Round trip. We had spent only two hours on the mountain, which worked perfectly for me. I was home in enough time to get a shower before heading out the door for chauffeur duty.

If I lived where mountains were few and far between I might worry I'd grow tired of adventuring. But I live in the Pacific Northwest and there are more mountains than I could climb in five lifetimes. I'll continue with the familiar hikes because there's comfort in familiarity. (And this route up Southeast Rampart will become one of those familiar trips in time.)

Thankfully, I'll be able to throw in new trips to obscure destinations to keep it interesting and exciting. And if I do ever get bored, I'll just make a point to see the trips through the kids' eyes. It's all new to them.

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