Bandera Mountain

Where to go on a cloudy morning leading to a sunny afternoon? How about an open slope of flowers on a day that will not be too hot or too sunny to blow out my photos. Better yet if it's not a long drive. Bandera Mountain it is. Last year I went on to the real summit for the first time. I had a very late start that day and saw the mass of humanity that is on that trail by 11:00. This time I decided to beat most of the crowds. I was on the road by 6:50 am and in the lot by 7:45. Five minutes later I was on the trail.

It was dark and overcast as expected.  When I reached the first view out and over to McClellan Butte I saw nothing but clouds. In fact as I ascended I entered the clouds. The trees and brush were wet from the dew/clouds. Some indian paintbrush, tiger lilies, and beargrass began just before the end of the old road section. It was dark enough to really bring out the colors. Last year I hit the beargrass right at it's peak but the sun was so bright most of the photos were blown out. Not a problem this day.

I was going slow enough with picture taking that one hiker passed me by. At the Bandera-Mason Lake junction I headed straight up. This section is just as steep as I remembered. 1000' of gain in short order. The tiger lilies were really thick here but the bear grass was past it's prime. I could see that I was getting towards the top of the cloud layer. A little sun began to shine through. Near the ridge another party passed me by.

Near the ridge top the beargrass was once again near it's peak. Very nice colors along here. The route enters forest then goes along a small talus field before reaching the upper ridge. Lots to photograph as more parties caught up with me. They seemed happy with one or two photos. The conditions required much more time to capture the images. When I reached the false summit a couple groups were already there. Other folks had tagged the top and already headed down. There was a sea of cotton candy clouds below us and blue sky above. Mt. Rainier was in the clear.

There were clouds still swirling all around. I could not even see over to the real summit one moment. A second later it came into view. I left the crowd and dropped down form the false summit heading for the real summit. There is a boot path most all the way around though it is not easy to stay on it all the way. As with my previous trip, I managed to lose and refind it a number of times. For the most part it is just below the ridge on the south side.

There is still snow on the north side of the ridge and some on the crest but the south side is snow free. I followed the route through huckleberry fields with bushed heavy with immature berries. Should be great in a month or two. The beargrass along here was among the best of the day. Tiger lilies again were in profusion. There was not as much paintbrush but it was right at it's peak. The trail drops around most of the tightly packed trees and I only have a few scratches to show for the small amount of bushwhacking required.

The route reaches a saddle and then climbs steeply to near the first bump. Only a little snow here in the trees. I dropped a little and came to the talus field. From here it is almost all boulder hopping to the summit. I worked my way across the boulders and then one final climb brought me to the top. The views from here are much better than on the false summit. There are no trees to block the view.

I could see the lookout on Granite Mountain as well as West Granite which we visited for the first time early this year. Kaleetan and Chair Peak were mostly out of the clouds. The false summit and Mt. Defiance are to the west. Island Lake sits right below and I could see several islands in the lake. I could see that Rainbow Lake had lost it's coating of ice since my visit only a week earlier.

It took me 35 minutes between summits, almost the same time as a year earlier. Figure an hour round trip. Thanks to the early start it was still only about 11:30 when I headed back. I managed to follow a false trail to low and had to climb straight up the slope to get back on track. Just as I neared the false summit I met a few folks interested in trying for the real summit. At the false summit I met the crowds one expects on this route in the afternoon of a summer weekend. There were lots of folks coming up as I headed down.

The clouds were rapidly dissipating and further attempts to photograph the beargrass were unsuccessful. 1000' of knee grinding brought me back to the Mason Lake Trail and a gentle grade the rest of the way down. When I reached the parking lot is was full as I expected. As I drove out I counted the cars down the road from the lot. 31 cars were parked along the road. Arriving after 11:00 am is not a good idea.

This proved to be an almost perfect choice for the conditions. The hot open south slope was no problem thanks to the low clouds. The conditions were excellent for photography. I was early enough to miss most of the crowds on the way up. The trip to the real summit had great flowers and zero people. All in all, a great day to be in the mountains.

Mason Creek Falls
What View?
Lupine & Paintbrush
Twin Beargrass
Paintbrush Close Up
Tiger Lilies
In The Clouds
Misty Trail
Lone Beargrass
Droplet On Lily
Paintbrush & Tiger Lilies
Thistle Droplets
Unusual Thistle View
Past Their Prime
Misty Beargrass
A beargrass
False Summit Ridge
Sun On Beargrass
Mason Lake
Real Summit
Mt. Rainier
Next Saddle
Boulder Field
Sea Of Clouds
Pratt Mountain
W. Granite & Granite
False Summit
Granite Mt. Lookout
Rainbow Lake
Kaleetan & Chair Pks
Rainier & Clouds
Bandera Summit
Island Lake
Back Across Boulders
Flowers On Ridge
More Beargrass
Still More Beargrass
Here Come The Crowds
Mason Lake Again
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2008