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Mt. Washington at night
posted by John : December 20, 2007

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Fire in the sky

Wow. I haven't been on a TNAB trip since September and that was just the end-o-the-season BBQ on Rattlesnake Ledge. TNAB is usually on hiatus during the winter except the occasional full moon trip and the mandatory Solstice Party on the Thursday closest.

Last year it was Mt. Si. We started in the rain so we were nice and wet when we arrived at the summit basin.

This year Mt. Washington was the destination and the conditions were far more wintery. (In case you aren't familiar with Mt. Washington it's the pyramidal peak we look across the river to.) In fact, it was so much more winteryer (or whatever) that I decided to forgo the whole car thing and hike from home.

As I raced home I saw that the cops were doing chain enforcement at our exit. HA! Suckers! Too bad I'm getting off here and won't need to deal with that when I get going east! Oh, dang. They've got the barrier down so I can't go east. I'd have to go back two miles to get in line with all those suckers.

As the time drew closer to leave I decided I'd be super late if I tried to drive it. At least if I hiked it I could display my mad hiking skillz by including an extra five miles and 800 feet of gain for the night.

Except for the assumption that it would have taken me a long time to drive the freeway and the belief I could make good time without winding myself up the Twin Falls trail to meet everyone it went according to plan. (That is to say, it didn't.)

It took about 45 minutes to get to the end of the Twin Falls trail where it joins the Iron Horse. That's good time for me considering I had all manner of gear strapped to my back (though no kids) and there was snow from the house all the way up. At the Iron Horse there was about three inches of snow, but it's almost completely level so I made great time heading east to the Mt. Washington trail. (The rest of the crew started at Exit 38 and came west on the Iron Horse.)

I had promised Amy that if I got to the Mt. Washington trail and saw no sign of anyone else I'd turn around and come home. I had visions of sitting at the trailhead nonchalantly snacking when everyone else showed up, but they were long gone. Tokul took off up the trail with her fancy new LED flasher flashing away. If she had caught anyone she'd have stuck with them, but she returned to me every time. It's kind of like seeing if the dove comes back with the olive branch to determine how far you are from the rest of the pack.

Just after the Owl Spot I switched to snowshoes to stop the postholing. The trail is not the best during the summer. It's boring with few views and nothing too special. In winter, though, the deep snow hangs heavy on the trees and my headlamp reflected off wet rocks that make a wall on the uphill side.

Just after crossing Washington Creek I saw a silhouette of a snowshoer up ahead. Tokul caught up with Mark first (luckily he recognized Tokul and didn't think her an extremely friendly and well-lit cougar), but soon I was with him. We continued together until we caught up with Yet who was new to snowshoes, but making great time nonetheless.

Ahead of them was Chris who was 'shoeless (that's snowshoeless, he's not that crazy). He had given up his snowshoes for Yet because he's just that kind of guy. Just ahead of Chris was another Chris pondering whether to continue. We talked it over and after hearing the next group was perhaps 10 minutes further along I pronounced it a lovely place to have a party.

We stomped out a clearing and when Mark and Yet caught up we lit tiki torches. Many bottles appeared out of packs, fireworks were discharged, and hilarity ensued. When the forward party called back on the radio to inquire as to our elevation we figured they were on the summit so Mark replied, "Yep," which was probably not technically accurate, but it made us feel better for only being at 3,200 feet. The forward party was actually only about 500 feet higher than we were and even they were a full 700 feet short of the summit with no clear indication of where the trail went.

After the forward party returned we numbered 13 (plus Tokul). After a few pictures, some drink called, Glogg, and some off-key singing we headed down en mass. Just after I commented on someone else's style I took a dive into a snow bank. Hmph. Karma.

I took off my snowshoes at Owl Spot and was treated to a nice view of North Bend down in the valley. The rest of the way out was a blur until we got to the Iron Horse where we did our best attempt at higher math to ensure nobody was still on the mountain. I headed west with Tokul as everybody else's torches faded to the east.

Even in the snow the upper stretch of the Twin Falls trail is lousy. Nothing to see, nothing to hear except the freeway, just blah.

The waterfalls were gorgeous, though, and the river glowed under the moonlight. I took advantage of the privacy and broke out my GPS to figure the actual elevation gains and losses of the trail back from the bridge. If my numbers were added properly it's about 600 feet of gain out and back plus another 100 for the steps down to the overlook. Add on 80 more if you want to see the upper falls.

I rolled back home just before midnight and found the house silent. I dumped my gear, got a shower, and crawled into bed trying my best not to wake Amy, though as usual I failed. At least she didn't remember it the next day.

Total distance was about 10 miles and the gain was around 3,000 feet.

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