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Perseverance and purposeful oblivion: Why Denny Mountain is a great fall climb
posted by John : November 22, 2015


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During the ski season, Alpental is the most adventurous of the Snoqualmie Pass ski areas. It's also the highest and most scenic. Not that I've ever skied there. I have, however, hiked it a couple of times.

I honestly didn't set out to climb Denny, but the recent windstorm and flood that washed out our driveway, blocked our road with downed trees, and punctured our roof also left the Forest Service roads into the backcountry impassable. Denny starts just off a paved road so it was a good choice.

The secret to enjoying Denny Mountain is perseverance and purposeful oblivion. Let me explain.

For the first half of the climb there's little to recommend this hike. The bushwhack through the huckleberries and knee-high trees isn't much fun, but there is a winding trail under the chairlift that makes it tolerable. By the time you get to the saddle, called "Midway" by skiers, you're left wondering why you bothered. This is where you have to strap on crampons and just keep climbing. It's just a little farther until you're through the brush so you need to put your head down and put one foot above the other.

200 feet above the saddle the terrain opens. The brush is lower and more often than not you're on rock. (Or snow as was the case on this trip.) There's a ragged ridge clawing at the sky to your left and the "Edelweiss Bowl" is below you. If it wasn't for the chairlift leading to the "Top Station" it could be in the wilderness. This is where you need to ignore man's impact on the mountain and appreciate the area for what it is.

At the top of the lift, it's just a short way to the summit block. There's a narrow crack in the rock that's wide enough to pass through, but not while wearing a pack. And dogs might need a boost to get into the gap and to make the 90 degree turn midway through the passage. The squeeze is worth it because it's only when you're through that you get a perfectly framed view of Mount Rainier.

The summit is big enough for a decent sized party and a weather tower (bummer), but if you look away from the tower (and the freeway 3,000 feet below) all you see are mountains, mountains, and more mountains. Add to the fact that you're really unlikely to see anyone else on the mountain until the lifts start running and it's a great Fall trip.

I got a couple of decent glissades on the way down and even tried out my new snowshoes. This year I upgraded to the FLEX VRT XLs (Amazon affiliate links help support moosefish.com. These 'shoes were provided thanks to my diplomatic appointment with Tubbs Snowshoes.) The "VRT" is for "Vertical" and these 'shoes are clearly designed for my kind of snowshoeing; the kind that involves steep slopes and big views. They're also the first pair I've had with the BOA closure that lets you dial the binding to the right fit. They're definitely the best snowshoes I've ever owned.

When you go to Denny make sure you know whether the mountain is open for skiing, respect other users, and be aware of avalanche danger. And remember that the upper section makes up for the lower section, especially if you can ignore the lifts.

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