I've whined and complained about our lack of snow long enough. It was time to do something about it. Yes, there are guaranteed havens for snow on the volcanos, but I didn't have that kind of time and I didn't want to just putter around the Pass. Given Romp to Stomp is next weekend and I first wore a Mountain Tutu on Granite Mountain that seemed like the perfect spot to return to.
Usually, Granite is off-limits during the winter due to avalanche terrain. There are lots of ways to recover from an avalanche, but the best way to avoid becoming a victim is to stay out of avalanche terrain. That's what I've pretty much done with Granite.
This year, like last year, the lack of snow meant a lack of avalanche danger. Three inches of patchy snow and ice isn't going to slide. My timing was off a little, though, since a stretch of good weather ended the day before and rain was forecast.
Amazingly, it was actually snowing at the trailhead when I left at 6am. This is amazing because the trailhead is only just above 1,800 feet in elevation! Lately, the snow level has been over 7,000 feet. Maybe I'd dodge the rain after all.
Treen and I trudged through the dark forest making good time. The light snow continued to fall, blown horizontally whenever we were in the open. By the time we were in the meadows the trail was packed with several inches of ice, though the snow had melted off everywhere else. I abstained from crampons until I arrived at the split of the summer and winter routes.
In summer, the trail climbs modestly through the basin north of the ridge. It's a sheltered route with a couple of tarns and a beautiful rock garden. With sufficient snow, you can ascend the ridge itself. It's usually a jumble of boulders unsuitable for man or dog. We chose the summer route to stay away from the rocks.
Of course, the summer route hasn't seen a ton of action lately.The sole set of prints abandoned the route about half way up. That left us with two options. Turn around or go straight up the slope. (I suppose a third option would have been to break trail up the summer route, but where's the fun in that?) We chose the direct ascent.
It was about a year ago that I had a wee little slip and declared henceforth I'd always carry an ice axe on Granite. It sure would have been handy to have had that axe while climbing this slope. I kicked steps in the crusty snow and made it to the ridge without incident, but really, really I will carry my axe next time. I mean it.
Last year on Super Bowl Sunday I climbed Mailbox and took a picture, which is clearly why the Seahawks won. I figured it was my duty to repeat the ritual this year. Rather than carry a sign and beverage up, I found a convenient 12th Man Vodka bottle. On the downside, it tasted terrible. On the upside, if anyone questioned the Mountain Tutu I had an excuse.
Alas, there was no one else on the mountain until well below the meadows. By then I was out of the snow and had stowed the tutu for safe keeping. (It wouldn't do to fall and cover it in mud just a week before the Romp.)
The snow continued to fall all the way down to the trailhead. It accumulated on my pack and camera case. I was thrilled at this unexpected blessing. Unfortunately, the forecast calls for Rain/Snow for a few days, then snow, then rain for the next week. And that's at 4,400 feet. At Pass level it's nothing but rain.
It seems this pitiful winter will continue. I'm just glad Treen and I got a quick taste of Winter before Spring returns.