After many weeks
of no snow we
finally had a small dump in the mountains. Where to go? As usual we had
no idea on Friday night. A consensus finally gelled around a trip up
Mt. Higgins to the old lookout site. I have summited one time in the
winter via the ridge. It included crossing a steep open slope to get
around the summit block. I did not want to have to do that after the
recent new snow and the chance it would slide. Going straight up is
more protected in forest. That is the route we took down on that trip.
Suzanne and I also tried once on snow. We were turned back about 600'
below the summit by very deep soft snow.
In the summer there is a nice trail all the way up. In the winter it's
a bit tougher as you can't see the summit from most of the route. There
is no obvious ridge to follow either. The other problem can be getting
across Dick's Creek. In the spring it can be too deep to safely ford or
rock hop. We also did not know if the road to the trailhead was snow
free. With those points in mind Suzanne, Barry, and I met Bob and
Kolleen C Post Road where it turns off from the road to Darrington. The
trail was closed for several years while logging went on. It was
reopened when we did the winter ridge route in 2007. It was much
different on the drive up. There are no more trees from the river up to
the trailhead. There are now views out to the mountains to the south
and the valley below.
8/10ths of a mile from the trailhead the road has deep water ruts in
three places. It would be challenging for a sedan to get through. We
had two SUVs and touched bottom once but made it up and down okay. at
the trailhead was one truck. We were on the trail before 9:00 am. The
route starts on the closed off end of the recent logging road. It was
muddy in 2007 but is now mostly grass. It was cold but we warmed up
quickly heading uphill. There was no snow on the road and only a little
at the start of the trail. We came out into the open where the trail
traverses on open slope and it too was snow free.
We entered forest and the snow began. A dusting soon became enough to
cover the trail though it was still easy to follow. By the time we
reached Dick's Creek the snow was deeper. It was well enough compacted
to allow for easy travel. The water level in the creek was not too
high. Unfortunately the rocks along the side were icy. It was
challenging to jump across but we all made it with dry feet. Once on
the other side we followed the foot prints left by the other group that
morning. The route is mostly just straight uphill along the creek. When
the grade flattened we stopped for a food break and to put on
snowshoes. The forest was thinner here and the fresh snow deeper.
We followed the track across the flats and then it began to drop. That
did not seem right but we followed it down to a creek crossing. We
found a log and gingerly crossed well above the water. A few minutes
later we reached snow covered Myrtle Lake. Oops! That was not part of
the plan. We pulled out the map and Kolleen's GPS to help with
navigation. The topography is not very distinct and we worked to get
back on track.
It felt like we were almost turning around but we were in fact heading
towards the summit. We headed up a draw and then onto a good terrain to
work our way uphill. A big open slope appeared to our left. What side
of it did we need to be on? Our slope looked good. The other side
looked to be much steeper than I remembered coming down. We continued
on up. The only steep section was near the ridge top. The wind also
began to blow hard as we neared the top. We popped out on a rounded
ridge in a spot Suzanne and I both recognized. The ridge had a near
vertical step and the summit was right above.
We were at the point I did not want to see. We just needed to cross the
top of the big open slope, contour around the summit and head straight
up. Maybe 100 vertical feet and less than 10 minutes away. The amount
of unconsolidated snow made out decision easy. It was too risky to
cross the slope. So close yet so far. The summit was not to be this
day. We opted to exchange snowshoes for Microspikes, crampons, or just
boots. The wind was very strong on the ridge. Trees were covered on one
side with rime ice. A few more photos and down we headed.
It did not take long to drop 500' and get out of the wind. It was a
little after noon when we had our lunch. After that it was back to
snowshoes. We took a more direct route down. It allowed us to avoid
crossing the creek on the narrow log again. We reached our track above
Myrtle Lake. One short uphill and it was all downhill to Dick's Creek.
It had warmed up enough to make the snow in the trees melt and rain
down on us a little. We did fine on the recrossing of the creek. The
water was no higher and some of the ice on rocks had melted. From there
it was just a slog out on less and less snow until we exited the forest
and were back on dirt.
At the trailhead there were now no other vehicles. We made it over the
washouts in the road with no problems. We did not make the summit but I
had a great time. Views from the ridge were great and the snow
conditions were pretty good. This is not an easy route to navigate and
it proved to be the case this day. If the snow conditions had been more
stable we could have summited but safety was more important. The
mountain will still be there when we come back.
Barry's report is here: Nwhikers
Report & Photos
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
First View Out
Back In Forest
Crossing Dick's Creek
Barry & Suzanne
View From Ridge
Whitehorse Close Up
Slope We Didn't Cross
Across The Flats
Looking At Summit
Back In Our Tracks
Recrossing Dick's Creek
Last View Out
Trips - 2009