Iron Peak

     One of the first signs or spring for me is a snow scramble up Iron Peak. It sits west of most of the Teanaway Peaks and has a spectacular view of the other Teanaway peaks, Mt. Stuart, and the Cascade crest peaks. Suzanne joined me for this trip and she brought along two dogs. When I did this trip in 2002 only 11 days earlier (April 20th) I could only drive 1/2 mile beyond the end of pavement. This year we drove the next 4 1/2 miles to the trailhead. There was no snow even there. There were already 4 cars in the lot at 9:15 when we began. We quickly reached Bean Creek. The water was too high to get across on the logs and rocks. We forded with high water at mid calf with a strong current. As usual, I used my dive booties to keep my boots dry. Across the creek were some of the few wildflowers we saw in addition to trillium at the trailhead. Glacier lilies signaled that the snow was here not long ago.

     We continued at least another 1/3 mile before reaching patchy snow. With the warm temperatures the snow was soft, even in the darker forest. As we hiked higher the snow patches became larger. I was surprised that there was still some bare ground even at over 4500'. We came out of the trees near the creek right on the summer trail. Instead of heading up and away from the creek as the trail does, we headed straight up the valley near the creek. Half way up the valley the snow became continuous and fresh ski tracks could be seen. The next  obstacle is the crossing of Beverly Creek. There is usually more snow on my spring trips and a snow bridge is no too hard to find. The few that we saw were very thin. There was still at least 4-6 feet of snow making it very difficult to climb down and back up the other side of the creek. We kept hiking along the side of the creek until I saw a snow bridge over a log. This one looked promising so I carefully walked out on it, testing it with my pole. Indeed, it was plenty strong enough and we were quickly across.

     Now came my favorite part of the trip. The creek crossing was at about 5000' leaving 1500' more to climb in under a mile. The terrain is sparsely placed trees with good views out. We climbed up while angling slightly to the right. I usually head up the east face of Iron just to the right of the summit. I didn't know if the dogs could climb such a steep slope and so I thought we might have to ascend the ridge farther north (right) where it is lower. This means adding more distance so I still hoped for the direct route. As we climbed the views improved rapidly. Bill Peak was the first to show itself completely. Higher up Little Annapurna and Volcanic Neck came into view. Bean Peak and Teanaway Peak were next. As we rose above Fourth Creek Pass the long ridge up Mary Peak was seen. Best of all was Mt. Stuart rising up over Beverly-Turnpike Pass. Part way up the slope we began to posthole and it was time to put on snowshoes.

     As we climbed above the last trees the ridge of Iron loomed above. The usual cornices covered most of the ridge. Half way to the Iron-Teanaway Peak Pass was a spot with no cornices, a moderate grade, and not too much elevation gain to the ridge top. Right above us was my usual route. I go through two lone trees and aim for the tiny dot of a rock just below the ridge top. To the right of this is a huge cornice. This one spot is fairly safe. The dogs had not had any trouble with the lower slopes and Suzanne suggested we try straight up. The snow was actually quite good for climbing. My snowshoes sank in 3-6 inches with each step but no more. Above us we could see the tracks of fresh telemark turns. Someone had recently come down this slope. The sky was clear and there was almost no breeze. It was plenty warm for me on the snow. I was not feeling very good for some reason but was too near the top to stop. To my surprise the dogs had no trouble at all, even on the steepest part.

     At long last I crested the ridge and the expected great views to the west were every bit as good as hoped for. Suzanne was right behind me and we walked the final few hundred feet to the actual summit. There was less snow than I would expect at the end of May. Last year I dug down and could not find the summit register. This year it was sitting on the completely exposed rocks. We were the second party to sign in this year. Thanks to Slide Alder Slayer and Pack Pup for providing the register.  We had lunch and admired the views. I could easily spot HiBox, Alta, and Three Queens to the west. Mt. Daniel and Cathedral Rock had a bright white coating of snow. Mt. Stuart was its usual imposing self to the north.

     After lunch came the highlight of any spring scramble of Iron. We donned rain pants and stowed our snowshoes. I was afraid the snow would be too soft to allow any glissade. None the less we had to give it a try. With the lower snow on the ridge it was possible to down climb a little closer to the summit than usual. This spot was also a little steeper than where we came up. The start quickly dropped over a short near vertical spot then the angle began to moderate. The only key was to have the nerve to go over that first part. There were no exposed rocks and a big run out about 500' below. I pulled out my axe, sat down, and took off. About 20 seconds later I was 500' down the mountain. Suzanne and the dogs were just tiny specks above. They soon followed in the nice trench I had created. It was not the fasted ride I have had down Iron but it was a blast. Suzanne soon shot down the mountain to join me.

     We managed a few more short glissades but mostly snowshoed back down to the creek. It was easy to follow our climbing tracks in the soft snow and we had no problem finding the snow bridge. We kept the snowshoes on most of the way back to the forest below. After stowing them at last it was an easy snow then dirt walk back to Bean Creek. After crossing the creek we saw the first person of the day. Back at the trailhead we talked with the skiers who made the tracks that we had seen earlier. They had come back via Mary Peak and Bean Creek Basin. All in all it was a great trip. We had terrific weather, much solitude, good snow, fantastic views, and a phenomenal glissade.

Beverly Trail
Bill Peak
Iron Peak
Fourth Creek Pass

Mt. Stuart
Bill Peak
Iron Peak Slopes
Teanaway Peak
Mt. Stuart
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Photo Page 2

Trips - 2004