Bandera Mountain

Sometimes you just can't get going in the morning. I had no ambition at all but I did not want to spend the whole day in town. I finally headed out at the early hour of 10:00 am. By the time I reached the Mason Lake trailhead it was 11:20. It was nearly 11:30 when I hit the trail. On the drive in I notices a dozen or so cars parked near the blocked road to the Talapus Lake trailhead. The Mason Lake lot was full. I managed to park along the road at the entrance. This is why I get early starts.

I have hiked up Bandera a number of times via the old "trail" and the new Ira Spring trail. Each time I stopped at the false summit. Once I did go on a short way, finding bits of a scramble route. This day I was determined to reach the real summit. I also heard that beargrass was blooming on the mountain. Bandera's open south slopes can have a real explosion of beargrass in the early summer.

Within one mile I passed 8 people coming down already. I was late. It was partly sunny and partly cloudy as I moved up the trail. A little cool but definitely shorts weather. By the first leftward switchback flowers were beginning. Some paintbrush and lupine but not much. There was beargrass. The higher I went the thicker it became. By the time I reached the open slopes it was incredibly thick. Beargrass blooming as far as I could see up the slope. Easily the best display I have ever seen. It only got better. The crowd was the usual mob for such a popular trail so late in the morning. At least I would lose many of them by avoiding the lake.

At the trail junction I took the straight up trail to Bandera Mountain. Just as steep as I remembered it. It was a real knee buster when there was 1700' of a straight up rut. Now it is only 1000' from the junction to the false summit. I was surprised to see most people going up instead of to the lake. I made slower progress as there ws so much beargrass to photograph. It is hard to get a good shot as the yellow/white flower often appears "blown out" in the sunlight. I had many not turn out but did get a few good photos.

There was no snow left on the trail though it still lingers just below the ridge top on the north side. I passed a few groups near the top. Nice views of the Cascade crest and some heather in bloom on the ridge. There were other hikers at the false summit so I did not waste any time there. I headed down the ridge on my way to the real summit. A boot path does exist most of the way. I found and lost it a half dozen times or more. At one point I was on the snow covered ridge following someone else's old footprints.

Best I can determine, the real route stays on the south side of the ridge most of the way. It usually drops below bands of tress though it does plow through thin forest once or twice. I dropped 160' to a saddle then began a steeper ascent. The route enters forest and is a little less defined though still not hard to follow. I lost the track just below a high point and scrambled up. This was definitely not the real summit.

I dropped a little on snow and soon was back on dirt and rock. The ridge top was not easy to travel so I contoured lower on the right side. The dirt gave way to a big talus field. It was easy enough to cross on the rock. A few trees and more talus gave me a look at the real summit. Some more rock traversing and a final short climb brought me to the top. This summit has a much more open view than the false summit. Though only 80' higher the view is much better.

Granite Mountain was right across from me. Pratt Mountain is also close. Below are Island and Rainbow Lakes. The route up Humpback Mountain is just across the valley. Nice views of the crest peals including Chikamin, Lemah, and more plus Mt. Stuart, of course. There was a cold breeze blowing and clouds were moving in fast. I bundled up and enjoyed a short stay. It took me 33 minutes from the false summit.

The scramble back was easy though I again lost the route numerous times. When I reached the false summit there was a multi generation family starting down. They must have ranged from 6 to 60 years of age. Not wanting to get stuck behind them on the steep narrow section, I sped up and passed them all along the ridge top. The lighting was much different with more clouds and I did take the time for many more photos on the descent. As I expected, many hikers were coming up in the late afternoon.

When I reached the lot it was even more crowded than when I arrived. This was a good close in hike on a day when my get up and go got up and went. More beargrass than I have ever seen and a new summit as well. The real summit is a fun scramble and one I will likely hit a time or two each year.