Pratt - Granite Ridge
This is one of my favorite close
in early spring hikes. The lower section is snow free and the upper section
is easy to navigate. With snowshoes it's no problem reaching the ridge top.
There are nice views of mountains and snow covered lakes from the ridge.
The vast majority of hikers head up Granite Mountain and it's quiet after
the first mile. This day was forecast to be warm and sunny. I had a fairly
early start and was on the trail by 8:30. At about 1/2 mile there was a nice
patch of trillium and a few violets. Unfortunately that was the end of the
flowers. This is not a great flower hike but it will be better in a few weeks.
Just before the one mile marker is the turn off to Granite Mountain. I turned
left and immediately saw a hiker and a tent. I have never seen a tent this
close to the start so I stopped to talk. The hiker had come in late Friday
evening and made it this far. He planned to head on to Pratt Lake. After a
short conversation I was moving again.
The toughest part of this trip in spring is usually
the big creek crossing at about 1 1/4 miles. It is often small in the morning
and a raging torrent with the afternoon snow melt. There are now so many
rocks across the creek that it was an easy crossing. The way continued west,
paralleling the highway. It remained snow free until turning north. Here snow
began quickly. Within 75' the trail went from bare to buried under 6-8" of
snow. It quickly deepened. I would guess that the snow started at about 2
1/2 miles. The hardest part now was the narrow wooden bridges. The snow melts
faster at the top making a triangle. It is very narrow at the top. The snow
was plenty hard enough not to post hole which made it impossible to stomp
a wide path across these bridges. On either side of the bridge the snow over
the creek melts faster making a step there a little risky. In some places
one could fall 6-10 feet to the water below. I carefully worked my way around
many of these. Those who are unaware tromp merrily over very weak snow bridges
without realizing the danger. With a good deal of care I passed by all the
At three miles I noticed the sign for the route to
Talapus and Olallie Lakes. The footprints continuing on lessened but there
were still a few. The next hurdle is the crossing of the Olallie Lake inlet
creek. In the summer it is a level step across of a tiny creek. In the spring
it can be a little more interesting. The last time I was here in the spring
I gingerly crossed a snow bridge 10 feet above the creek. This time the creek
was uncovered. I kicked steps down about 8 feet to the creek, crossed on
rocks, and kicked steps back up the other side. The real fun part of the
trip began here. I put on snowshoes and headed into a mass of small trees.
The trick is to get through this zone without post holing to your neck or
falling into a tree well up to your neck. I weaved in and around, never
going in a straight line. In general, I aimed a little to the left. After
successfully navigating this tough section the route entered more open forest.
The forest provided enough shade ot keep the snow hard. When I left the
forest the grade steepened rapidly. Here the sun shone brightly and the
snow softened. I sank about 6-10 inches with every step. Fortunately, I
did not post hole to my crotch. The going slowed down but was still not bad.
The last push to the ridge was steep but not too tough.
As I climbed Mt. Rainier came into view. Bandera and Pratt Mt. also rose
above the trees. I aim for the far right end of the ridge where it goes from
fairly flat to a steep slope up Granite Mountain. I crested the top at about
11:00. Kaleetan Peak dominated the view to the north. Chair Peak is right
along side. Looking back to the west I recognized Revolution Peak and Point
5124, where I was in early January. Just below the ridge to the north is a
small frozen lake . The wind was light until I reached the top where it began
to blast away. I sat down behind some rocks and put on two more layers of
clothing and gloves. From there the wind was not too bad. When I started out
in the morning another hiker asked about any other routes up Granite. I mentioned
that my route could be continued up the ridge to the summit. After half an
hour on the ridge a heard the sound of foot steps. There he was. He had followed
my route but did not have snowshoes. The last slope had been a long series
of post holing for him. I had lunch and watched as he continued on up Granite.
I hope the snow was firmer for him higher up.
After more than an hour on top I reluctantly headed
down. The snow was far too soft to allow glissading so I kept on the snowshoes
and plunged on down. A short way below the ridge I had a nice view of frozen
and snow covered Olallie Lake. The route back was easy walking. When I reached
the real trail I saw a pair of snowshoe tracks. The backpacker was well on
his way to Pratt Lake. When I reached the end of the snow my solitude lessened.
I passed 4 or 5 groups heading up. Several of them had no idea what was
ahead. I'm amazed that people head out for a hike with no idea what's up
the trail let along carry a map or a compass. The big creek crossing proved
to be no problem even with the rapid snow melt above. By 2:10 I was back
at the car. This trip proved once again to be a fun snow hike with some
very nice views. I'm sure I'll be back in a year or two.
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
Ridge In Sight
Half Way Up
Bandera & Pratt Mts
Kaleetan & Pratt Mts
Photo Page 2