Mt. Teneriffe

     The plan was to do an 18 miles ski/snowshoe climb up Iron Peak in the Teanaway. I tried it in mid winter a few years ago and made it to within a mile of the summit when my turnaround time came. The trip down was so fast I realized I could have made it. The last few years I have looked for a February or early March day to try it again. The conditions looked to be perfect this weekend right up until Friday when the avalanche forecast made a big change at the last minute and shot me down again. Friday evening I tried to come up with a lower elevation trip that would be a real workout, have low avalanche danger, and take advantage of clear skies. I came up with an old favorite, Mt. Teneriffe. It is 14 miles by road and ridge with over 4000' or gain. While it is just down the ridge from Mt. Si the summit is higher and much less frequently visited. I must say that it is much more visited in the winter than it was just a few years ago.

     Instead of the 4:30 wake up time Iron required I slept in until 6:20. By 7:30 I was out the door and by 8:25 I was on the trail. I was a little surprised to see two cars already there. I wasn't sure where the snow level was but hoped to get well along before needing snowshoes. The road is not the prettiest route you will find but it is efficient at gaining elevation. The first mile and a half or so gains only 350'. When the road turns uphill it doesn't let up for miles. There were 3 or 4 trees down across the road but the branches had been removed. All were easy to get over or around. The road itself is in fine shape. The trailhead is at about 900' and I hit the first snow patches at 2700'. At about 3300' the snow became continuous. Before reaching snow one of the early birds passed me coming down. The snow was hard enough that snowshoes were not necessary yet. There was just one other person's footprints in the snow.

     When I reached the Mt. Si turnoff a snowshoe track joined it. I continued on with just my boots. The road climbs steeply and along here the road is sometimes covered with a 45 degree slope of snow. It can be hard to proceed when it's like that. This day the snow was flat and the way was easy to follow. The grade flattened and when it began a gentle descent I put on snowshoes. The sky was mostly clear and the lack of trees gave me nice views to the south and east. I could clearly see Mailbox Peak and Point 5124 where I was in January. The Haystack of Mt. Si also came into view. I dropped on down and finally started the final climb to the pass where the road part ends. Part way up I met the snowshoer whose tracks I had been following. It was now 11:15 and he said he started at 7:15. In 4 hours he hiked up Si, continued on to the summit of Teneriffe and had made it this far down. That is quite an accomplishment. I soon passed the cabin and shortly reached the pass. It is 6 miles to the road end and it took me just under 3 hours.

     The last mile is along a heavily forested ridge. It climbs sharply then moderately to a high point. From there it drops about 100' then climbs steeply to the summit. The last climb can be nasty when it's icy. The conditions this day were excellent. The snow was firm but with good traction. The trees on the ridge are small in diameter and spaced close together. The two hikers before me had left an easy route to follow. The final climb started moderately but when it really got steep I stopped to replace one pole with my ice axe. Finally I came out of the trees just below the summit. In the summer the the summit ridge is flattish rock. It's a great place to lay down on a sunny day. Not so in the winter. The steep slope goes right up to a sharp top and a nearly vertical drop off the east side. The ridge seemed to be almost exactly north - south with Mt. Rainier at one end and Mt. Baker at the other. The boot hiker had made deep prints along the ridge crest to the highest point. I followed along and found one of my predecessors had cut out a flat spot to sit down. That was greatly appreciated. There was nowhere else to sit. I quickly put on more clothes as it would go from dead calm to raging wind and back again. It was 30 degrees but the wind chill made it much worse. My total time to the top was 3:43 minutes. It was non stop other than taking photos. Not even close to the pace of the earlier snowshoer but I was quite happy with it. 

     I snapped nearly 20 photos but decided it was way to cold to eat lunch up there. One other point. I expected to meet the other hiker on top. Instead I saw his tracks heading down the super steep shortcut trail. I was surprised he went up the road and down the trail. I had an opportunity to try out some now gear coming down. I stowed my snowshoes and put on my Stubai ultralight crampons. They made the descent much easier. I had no trouble plunge stepping straight down the slope. The wind on the ridge was now much worse than on my ascent so I kept on going. I made it almost back to the pass before finally stopping for lunch. While eating another snowshoer came by. He was making his first ascent and was glad to hear that there were tracks all the way up. At lunch the crampons came off and snowshoes went on again. Just before dropping to the pass I had a view of Ranchor Lake. Down at the pass the trees have grown up enough to leave only a partial view. I was surprised to see tracks descending the road on the north side of the pass. Perhaps they were trying to reach the lake. I met another boot hiker at the pass. After conversing I headed down and he headed farther up.

     The way down is just a long slog. Six long miles of snow then dirt and gravel. It is definitely not the highlight of the trip. I passed only two hikers and two bikers the rest of the way out. The views high on the road were still great on the way down. The last mile was not much fun as the road is hard and my feet sure felt it. The road walk and clear cuts make this not very scenic in the summer. In the winter the snow helps greatly with the esthetics. I'm sure in a few years I'll head back for a winter hike up Mt. Teneriffe.

Teneriffe Summit
Beginning Of Snow
Near Si Turn Off
Mt. Si Haystack
Rattlesnake Lake
Mt. Rainier
The Pass
Teneriffe Ridge
Ridge Crest
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Photo Page 2