Sunday, September 07, 2008

Mt. Pilchuck hike details

So I know you want more details of the epic climb of Mt. Pilchuck on Saturday, so here you go.

Saturday dawned partly cloudy in Seattle, with fog over the sound and sun at our house. Got the boy up, fed him some French toast, then headed over to the school to meet the Troop. Or, rather, to meet the other kid who was going on the hike. That's right, one other kid. We called one boy who we thought would be coming and his Dad's response was "I guess we're not coming..."

Well, not to be daunted by low numbers we piled in to the cars (I took the boys, Scoutmaster Mark and his wife and dog rode in their van) and headed up to Mt. Pilchuck. I'd never been there before, but I'd heard the view from the top was beautiful. And on a nice sunny day it should be right? Well, sure, except for one little fact: "weather conditions in the mountains can change rapidly." Or, rather, "weather conditions in the mountains won't be the same as at your house. Unless you live in the mountains."

The farther north-east we drove, the cloudier it got. And by the time we turned off the Mountain Loop Highway on to the Mt. Pilchuck road it was clear that we would be parking in the cloud. The only question was how thin the cloud cover was and whether in the 2,224 feet of climb we'd come out the other side.

We started off with some map and compass work, since part of the reason we were going on the hike was to knock off the "using a map and compass take a 5-mile hike" requirement for the 2nd Class rank. They learned about the difference between true north and magnetic north, how to orient the map, all that stuff. And it looked something like this:

Once that was done we set off up the trail. It started off wet. A creek, really, with gravel and large rocks keeping us from wading through mud. But later it turned in to your standard Northwest mountain trail: mud, roots, and rocks all contained by logs.

It drizzled a bit, then let up, then we climbed in to the cloud propper and it got foggy. Not severely foggy, and the trees kept most of it off, but definitely dim and damp. And then we broke out of the trees and in to boulder fields. Which, being a slacker, I neglected to photograph. I also neglected to photograph the top of the old Mt. Pilchuck ski lift, a big square (or maybe hexagonal) concrete platform with bolts sticking out of it. In fact, I didn't photograph anything until we got to the top, mostly because I was too busy concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other and not collapsing in a heap and sobbing. Because let me tell you, that's a steep trail. Especially if you're a 41-year-old fat guy who hasn't been to the gym in a while.

Finally, though, we clambered up the 3 miles and made it to the lookout shelter at the top and could see the wonderful view from the summit of Mt. Pilchuck:

Yes, the clouds never lifted, the fog didn't blow away, nothing. There was a pretty decent breeze at the top, but it was just blowing the cloud around rather than making it dissipate. So we sat on the rocks and ate some lunch, when disaster struck and Logan fell off a cliff. Fortunately I was in position to capture him going over:

It's amazing he didn't fall on me, really, what with the camera angle and all...

Oh, and in case you're wondering, yes, the trip down hurt as much as the trip up. Well, maybe not AS much, but still a lot. Although in different places...

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