Gardner Mountain - 8898' / North gardner mountain - 8956' - Traverse class 3
The next morning we got a fairly casual start and began hiking up the long 10 miles up the Wolf Creek Trail around 9am. Our goal was to hike to the Gardner Meadows, climb both Gardner and North Gardner then camp. The following day we would hike out. So beginning up the trail, it was breezy and somewhat cloudy. The trail wasn't particularly scenic but the views began opening up at about 4,800 feet when the thicker forest transitioned into a huge burn area covered in smaller shrubs and hitchhiker plants that got all over your socks. We had to wait out a brief rainstorm that kept us huddled under trees for 30 minutes or so but it quickly cleared back up and we continued to the meadow where we set up camp.
After a quick lunch, it was about 2pm when we started heading directly up the south slopes of Gardner Mountain. It was quite loose in spots where your step would slide down every time, but some occasional solid rock provided some reprieve. The wildflowers were beautiful throughout both the meadow and the lower slopes of Gardner with Lupine, Indian Paintbrush and others in full bloom. Higher up on Gardner we were forced onto a large scree slope and the wind picked up dramatically and at times blew me off balance. Josh and John were a fair bit behind me so I found shelter near the summit out of the wind and relaxed until they arrived.
Due to the fierce wind, and incoming clouds John decided to head back down to camp while Josh and I continued to North Gardner. The traverse actually had a couple gendarmes to hike around near the low saddle between the two peaks so we dropped on the south side as we traversed west and reached a low point of about 8,150 feet, then bypassed the unnamed Point 8,493 on the right (east) side. The remainder of the ascent up the south ridge was done on or just east of the crest. At one point we got ourselves onto some Class 4 terrain on the west side though which we found out on the return wasn't necessary.
The wind continued to pick up and it started to get foggy/drizzly shortly before we reached the summit. Once we reached the top, the view to the west was completely blocked off with the exception of an occasional peak-a-boo view. By this point it was after 6pm and we were getting cold so we quickly had a bite to eat and started down. We returned over the unnamed peak and skid down the big south facing scree slope which took us directly back to the meadow. Just before dark we reached the tents again where John was waiting but we actually walked right into another group of 3 who had arrived since we left the meadow. Josh and I thought it was our camp initially but quickly realized we were further down. It was nice chatting with them as we gave them some beta and returned. Turns out they were on a long trek. The 4 sausage pieces I had for dinner was amazing.
The next morning we made the hike out in great time and we all decided to return to Bellingham and have a rest day before starting towards the Chilliwacks. John went his own way and we agreed to meet back up at the Bellingham Fred Meyer the morning of the 27th, giving us the 26th to have a rest day. Well, that didn't really go as planned, as Josh and I decided to work hard on our "rest day". Tune in to part 2 for more about that!