Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sufferfest 2010

Last summer, after an amazing few days in the Glacier Peak Wilderness, Andrew and I decided to return in 2010 for a week-long end-of-summer hike-a-thon. Our planned route was over Little Giant Pass to the Napeequa Valley, west to the PCT where we would go over Indian pass and take the "closed" portion of the PCT up to Image Lake, and return over Spider Gap. A 100 mile loop around one of our favorite Washington peaks. I put in the request for days off from work the required six months in advance, and we planned, dehydrated food, and studied maps.

Seattle weather before the trip was not promising: the rainiest September of memory. We drew out a pros and cons list for alternate options. After hours of contemplation, debating, and discussion, we decided not to change our plans. Seattle weather be damned, we were headed to the Glacier Peak Wilderness.

We headed out, stopping by the 59'er diner for lunch (stackers!!). This afforded us full bellies, but also a late afternoon start time. Reaching the trailhead about three hours before dark we forded the Chiwawa river and headed up the overgrown and steep trail to Little Giant Pass.

Brendan's not-so-happy faces while fording the icy Chiwawa

From Glacier Peak Sufferfest

Hauling our bloated bodies up Little Giant Pass

From Glacier Peak Sufferfest

From our first night camp on top of Little Giant Pass

From Glacier Peak Sufferfest

Colder, wetter weather moved in during the night bringing a light dusting of snow and ominous clouds. We finished the climb over Little Giant and headed down to the Napeequa valley, throwing worried looks upwards to the little black rain clouds hovering overhead.

Short but sweet view through the clouds of Clark Mountain over the Napeequa Valley.

From Glacier Peak Sufferfest

From the Bottom of the Valley

From Glacier Peak Sufferfest

As we started our climb out of the Valley, the rain began. Tentatively at first, then in lusty drops that pockmarked our foreheads as we looked up in anticipation towards Boulder pass. The overgrown slide alder and huckleberry bushes acted as sponges, ready to loose their wet bounty at the most gentle brush or tap. The water off of the bushes rushed down our legs, and came to an abrupt standstill in our shoes as we squish-squashed up the trail.

Reaching higher elevations, the temperatures began dropping. Trickles, then cascades of water poured off gabled buttresses on Clark Peak and down the trail, which was now more of a streambed. We hurried downhill, hopeful to find a dry spot in the trees to pitch the tarp to wait out the rain, which now had taken on an air of malice.

And so it rained...for 23 hours. Rain on the tent, rain in our sleeping bags, rain on our dry clothes, rain in all body crevices. We attempted to ignore it, vainly picking wet pine needles out of our chili. Then we tried to bargin with it, hovering in the dryest quarter of the tent. We shouted at it, when drips through the leaky megamid kept us from sleep.

Finally, we accepted it and decided to bail. A little bit defeated, we made a dash for the nearest exit point when the rain let up. Luckily, we were able to hitch a ride to Lake Wenatchee where the locals were more than happy to take our money for a long, bumpy ride back to the car.

Headed back to Seattle I decided that I undoubtedly needed a little sunshine in my life...but where would this be found? Perhaps Oregon?

Only 50% drowned

From Glacier Peak Sufferfest