Ranger Creek - Point 5781

We finally had a dump of snow. After weeks and weeks of no snow the mountains received one to two feet of the white stuff. Avalanche danger was present so we needed a safe trail with some elevation gain. Gary came up with Ranger Creek on Highway 410. We have done Noble Knob via the Deep Creek Trail several times in spring with some snow. This route also goes to Noble Knob but it is 15.4 miles RT vs. 11 miles on the Deep Creek Trail. John joined us on this trip.

We met at Gary's home in Kent at 7:00 am and headed out. Beyond Enumclaw the traffic was heavy with skiers looking forward to some fresh snow. The trailhead is almost non existent. Just before the Buck Creek Road the trail starts up the hillside. This is one trail I had never been on. We turned around at the Buck Creek road and parked along the highway near the 2500' trailhead. By 8:20  we were on the trail.

It's 6 miles to the Dalles Ridge trail that traverses just below the ridge. I hiked that trail to Noble Knob just two years ago. We hoped to make it a good part of the way without snowshoes. The trail gains about 3000' in those 6 miles with a gentle grade all the way. As with the nearby Deep Creek Trail the route does not follow close to the creek. At first we heard the roar of the highway then it  was silent.

At the 2.8 mile mark we reached a short spur to a viewpoint. The clouds were low and we had no views. Well, it was soon time to head higher. We had a little snow on the trail before the 3800' viewpoint but not much. The trail traverses a steep hillside. It would not be much fun if there was more snow. Above 4500' there was snow on top of a thin layer of ice. Footing was okay but we all slipped a few times. At 4.8 miles we reached the shelter. The building is in good shape and would be even better if folks had not had a fire on the floor inside. It smells of smoke now. We had a short break and headed out.

It took a few minutes to figure out where the trail went. A cut log was the clue that put us back on track. The new snow was 4-6" deep now but we continued on without snowshoes. With a few miscues we were able to stay roughly on the summer trail though the snow became deeper. Before long the snowshoes went on. The trail then began a long climbing traverse. With 3/4 of a mile to go to the Dalles Trail junction it was all side hilling. Our pace slowed way down. Some steps in the soft snow held and others knocked off the new snow and left us to try stomping a step into the hard ice.

The way was almost entirely in forest. Where the trees thinned the snow was markedly deeper. Up to 8+ inches of new snow. We had to cross one open slope. The snow was very dry and powdery. I went first and found more of the snow over ice to deal with. Once across the others followed. When the route seemed to disappear we switched back to the left and picked it up again.

We knew we were within less than 100 vertical feet of the Dalles Ridge Trail and the traversing was so tedious and slow that when an opening presented itself we headed straight uphill. The Dalles Ridge Trail was obvious enough though deeply buried by snow. We kept going higher and a few minutes later reached the ridge top at a saddle. The map confirmed that we were between Point 5600+ and Point 5781. It took us 2 1/2 hours to travel the first 4.8 miles. It took nearly as long to do the next 1.2 miles. Though we were less than 2 miles from Noble Knob there was no change to get there and back before midnight.

At the saddle we discussed what to do. Point 5781 would make a fine destination. We were at 5500' with just 280' to go. The map showed the ridge to be steep but not too bad. The snow over ice left us less than sure we could get up it safely. The ridge on the opposite side was much gentler. We chose to try traversing the less than half a mile along the Dalles Ridge Trail. Near the ridge top the forest was more open and the snow was deeper. We wallowed along making very little progress and decided that this was crazy. We went back to the saddle and decided to give that route a shot.

If we failed we would just settle for the ridge top. There was nearly no visibility so views were not the reason to summit. We started up on snowshoes. With better snow it would have been a snap. As it was we made good progress. With a few slips we climbed higher. I led and weaved around trees trying to stay clear of tree wells. We also worried about a cornice. I stayed well back from the edge. The slope moderated and I headed for a rounded dome ahead. There are several high points but I think we stopped at the highest one. After about 6 1/2 miles we were all beat. The wind was not bad and we found a sheltered spot just below the summit. Noble Knob was not to be but we dubbed Point 5781 "Ignoble Knob".

We bundled up and sat down to a late lunch. It was after 1:00 pm already. The drop to the saddle was a bit of snowshoe skiing as the new snow just slid on the icy layer below. After that we had our track to follow back. Side hilling still sucked but it was much easier than on the way up. We cut the last switchback snowshoe skiing down to our track below. It didn't take all that long to get down to the shelter. We took off snowshoes there. I put on microspikes as my boot tread is not much good on ice.

The last 4.8 miles was not hard but seemed much longer than it did coming up. We chopped off a few hours on the descent. As expected we saw nobody else. We also saw no other footprints in the snow. This is not a popular trail and it is a very lonesome place in the winter. We did not make it to Noble Knob but "Ignoble Knob" made for a good alternative. It was nice to see snow flocked trees again too. This has been a poor winter for snow but this was a great day to be in the mountains.

No Underbrush
Trail Sign
A Little Snow At 4000'
More Snow
Crossing Open Slope
Flocked Trees
Dalles Ridge & Blue Sky
Deeper Snow
Trail Junction
Snow & Icy Steps
Pretty Place
Magical View
Climbing To Summit
Clouds & Sunshine
Summit Ridge
Ignoble Summit
Heading Down
John Slip Sliding Down
Shooting The Shooter
Long Traverse
Open Slope
Finally Some Color Again
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2010