Granite Mountain - 5629' My First Snow Climb!
We climbed that!
After failing on my attempt on Defiance last Saturday, Flow and I decided to tackle Granite Mountain, only a couple peaks east of Defiance. After meeting in Issaquah we drove to the trailhead. Was nice to have the TH so close to the exit as my car is a joke on snowy roads. We arrived at the TH at around 9am and started shortly after.
One thing that stunned me from the get go was the lack of snow in the forest as we followed the Granite Mountain trail up. The trail was snow free until about 2500 feet elevation (600 feet above the TH) From then until the first gully crossing was minimal snow only a few inches deep. In contrast, when I attempted Defiance, there was already 6-12 inches of snow at 2000 feet...versus none on Granite. This made he feel good from the start and I had a good feeling we were going to summit.
The avalanche forecasts were very low and we took advantage of that and were able to cross the avalanche chutes without much worry. Summitpost says this route on granite is extremely dangerous in winter...not now it isn't!!! Since I have never done a winter climb like this (come to think, this was my first WINTER summit), I did worry about the snow beginning to slide while crossing one of the chutes and postholing up to 3 feet. I considered turning around but Flow helped me realize that the snow was very stable. If I'd been there myself I would have probably turned around. While we could have went straight up the chutes we decided to take the standard route to avoid some very deep snow, although longer, it saved us time.
Here's what the gullies looked like.
We broke treeline after crossing maybe 5 chutes and from then on we had to break trail. We started straight up for the east ridge of Granite, alternating between deep powder and hard windblown snow. There were no slabs of any kind and the snow was very smooth. The weather was very pleasant as the sun was out from now and then. Low clouds would quickly pass. We didn't feel any winds until we hit the ridgecrest. Postholing was from 1-2 feet but it really wasn't bad at all.
Snowshoes weren't needed and we even left them at the car.
After breaking treeline I shot these photos of the high elevation trees as they take the full force of winter.
Once we got to the east ridge, I knew we'd make it. The ridge was a nice firm walk on snow and not very many cornices. The wind slowly started picking up.
By the time we hit the summit the winds were getting pretty bad (who cares!). We got to the summit in 3 hours...thats less than the amount of time Summitpost estimates people to take in the summer!!! It's great to be in shape. The only disappointment from the whole thing was the shelter being locked (I guess they figure you can tough out the cold at the summit if you even going to be there in the first place this time of year)
We stayed at the summit for about 15-20 minutes and enjoyed the views and the clouds quickly passing by. Heres a shot of Kaleetan Peak poking through the clouds.
And one looking the other way (south) over the shelter towards the sun.
The descent was nothing short of good old fashioned FUN as some of the glissades were perfect. It took a tiny fraction of the time to get down as we also ran nearly the entire trail from treeline to the car. It's easier running on trails covered in snow as you have more control against falling (thats weird! doesn't seem to make much sense, but you really do)
As we got near the TH we saw Mikey who went out on the Pratt Lake Trail.
Nice to see other NWHiker members!
Low avy risk and great snow conditions
Solitude(we were the only ones to be above treeline on Granite in awhile)
A Summit! (also my first winter summit; Flow's umteenth)
I'm slowly turning into an all season climber.
Darn! I forgot the summit panorama...here is a panorama taken at the summit.