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Getting reacquainted with Winter on Granite Mountain
posted by John : November 11, 2014

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Shouldn't this be an easy walk up?

All Summer long I've been building this fiction about Winter. It was based mostly on the glory of Spring hiking. In the Northwest, Spring can be rainy and lousy, but the best days are full of consolidated snow, blue skies, and views that go on for miles and miles.

Like Mailbox Peak when you can see four of our five volcanos from the summit.

Or like the almost-Solstice on Snoqualmie Mountain where the snow starts at the waterfall and provides steps all the way to the top.

Or our twin wins in Mount Rainier National Park at Sunrise and Paradise.

Perhaps best of all was the "Spring" Ramparts Tour that happened in July this year. Spectacular, stunning, and glorious.

So it's no wonder I desperately look forward to the fresh fallen snow of Winter and take every opportunity to get into the high country as soon as it starts turning white.

That's when I remember what Winter adventuring is all about.

It's about a sun that burns bright, but not warm. You have to wear sunglasses, but then your ears get cold because they're pushed away from your head.

The wind that cools as it blows across the snow in Spring and Summer instead chills and blasts you with ice crystals as it whips through the mountains in Winter.

Water that refreshes when it's hot is frozen solid and lands you flat on your back and the snow only serves to slow you down rather than provide a perfect staircase to the summit.

This is the reality I was reminded of as Treen and I climbed Granite Mountain. It was a perfect bluebird day except it was bitterly cold and the wind was blowing about 40 mph. The snow started in the meadows, but wasn't consistent until we entered the basin. We had to stop to layer up before we got to the summit and still lost feeling in a number of appendages. We didn't linger though the views were stunning.

Even a couple of weeks ago at Lake Lillian didn't really have the feeling of Winter. No numb fingers. No need to shelter from the elements. That's not Winter. This was Winter.

I love the adversity and the harsh reality. Winter's the easiest time to find Type II fun and pushing up the final ridge to the lookout was certainly that. Winter is another way to test myself and prove I'm still alive.

Soon, Granite Mountain will be closed off by deep Winter. It will be too dangerous to climb in most snow conditions. Unless we have a low-snow year (like last year) the next time I'll be up there will be in Spring. And by then I'll have forgotten just what Winter is really like up there. The harsh rocks will be easy steps up and glissades down and I might even hike in shorts and a t-shirt. And that will be ok.

Because once I have romanticized about Winter all Summer long I'll once again get the chance to get reacquainted with it and all the brutal truths that come with it.

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