Mt. Higgins

Mt. Higgins has been a hit or miss affair for me. A couple of easy summer trips and three winter trips. Not quite as successful in the winter. One summit and two failures. Suzanne and I were turned around in deep unconsolidated snow one time. Last year our group ended up on the ridge just to the west of the old lookout site and found the conditions too unsafe to cross over the open slope to reach the top. We hoped to make up for the previous year's navigation error. Suzanne, Barry, and I were back for another try with David making his first visit. We headed out of Seattle at 7:30. We headed though Arlington and down the highway to C Post Road. The road is a bit bumpy as we followed it to the end at about 1450'. Surprisingly there were three cars already parked. Those folks started just ahead of us on the trail.

By 8:55 we were on our way. Logging closed down the trail for about 3 years and the first part of trail was taken up by a very wide dirt road. It was very muddy the first year after the trail reopened. The road is now covered in grass and is looking much better. When the road ends a narrow trail begins. There are no trees on this steep slope and views of Whitehorse and Three Fingers dominate. It was hazy enough to make for poor views this morning.

The four guys out ahead of us allowed us to pass. Not a bad move on their part. We would have the honor of cutting a trail through the snow above. We expected some new snow but not that much. The summit is only 4849'. Other than navigating on snow the other big question mark is the crossing of Dick's Creek. It can be a deep torrent in the spring. With the high temperature forecast to be in the high 50s at that elevation plus the direct sunshine I feared it might be much higher on the return.

We entered forest and thin snow ensued. It continued to deepen as we ascended. Not deep enough to be a problem but pretty slick. The slick boardwalks had enough snow to make them less slick. We dropped down to Dick's Creek and found it to be flowing fast but we managed to rock hop across with dry boots. As we climbed up the snow continued to deepen. Thee were no tracks in the snow but Barry managed to keep us on the summer trail. A few cut logs verified it.

When we reached a few open meadows the snow depth increased markedly. We soon had to put on snowshoes. The route gentles as we gained very little elevation in the next half mile. At the final meadow we could see the lookout site. The previous year the clouds were so thick we never did see it. It made navigating that much more difficult. The route up is in forest and you can't see the summit after leaving the meadow.

Occasionally we would see a cut log or piece of colored tape to let us know we were still on the trail. The snow continued to deepen. Soon there was between one and two feet of fresh snow. This winter has had much less snow than normal, especially at lower elevations. I have had few trips where deep trail breaking was necessary. With only 500' feet to gain I was shocked as it felt like we were still on the summer trail. That did not happen on any of my previous winter trips. One of the guys from the other group caught up as our pace dropped significantly. We gained half the elevation in 1:08. It took another 2:10 to gain the other half.

At long last the slope relented and we topped out at the old lookout site. Heavily flocked trees, mostly white sky, and lots of sunshine led to a really beautiful scene. Speaking of flocked trees and sunshine, we had a lot of snow bombs falling out of the trees all day. Some were big enough to about bury you. Well not that deep but I kept my jacket on most of the way down though it was too hot to want it except for protection from the bombs. One ice block did hit me squarely on the head. I hope it knocked some sense into me.

We bundled up on the summit as the wind suddenly blew strong and frigid. The rest of the other group soon joined us. It's interesting to see the green valley down below and the deep snow all around. We could see Mt Shuksan to the north and Mt. Baker from farther east on the ridge. Glacier Peak was out along with Whitehorse and Three Fingers. Not the best lighting but not too bad either. We reached the top just after 12:00 noon and stayed for half an hour.

The trip down was much faster. We dropped over 1000' back to the meadow in just half an hour. We kept snowshoes on longer going down as even the thin snow was still slick. Back at Dick's Creek I was glad to see that the water level was not much changed from the morning. We all made it across again with dry feet.  When we made it back to the open slope I mentioned reading about an old inscription in the rock dating back to around 1920. I had looked for it on my previous two visits with no luck. Just a few minutes later Barry stopped an pointed it out. It is right above the trail. Looks like it says "S. Strom 8-1917". It still is in very good shape.

We reached the car at about 2:35, just about two hours after leaving the top. We cut off more than an hour on the descent. It was an interesting spring snowshoe trip. More fresh snow than nearly any winter trip. A cold breeze on top but otherwise very warm. Just one other group on the trail plus one guy near the start on our way down. Definitely a whole lot more fresh snow than I was expecting. David is off for seven weeks hiking the Appalachian Trail in a few days. Not a bad last trip in Washington this spring.

Suzanne has posted a report here:  Nwhikers Report & Photos

First Snow Cover
Now On Snowshoes
Knee Deep Snow
A Creek Crossing
Summit From Meadow
Lookout Site Above
Not All Snow Covered
Back In Forest
Deep Snow Slope
More Forest Ahead
Snow Plastered Trees
Nearing The Top
View East From Top
Higgins & Skuldugwas
Skuldugwas Peak
Round Mountain
Peak To North
View North
Summit Group
Heading East
Half Mt. Baker
Mt. Shuksan
Deep Soft Snow
Unnamed Bump
Whitehorse & Valley
Hazy Whitehorse
Three Fingers
Starting Down
Sun On Open Slope
Back To Meadow
Crossing Dick's Creek
Last Whitehorse
S. Strom 8-1917
Logging Road Is Healing
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2010