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The quest for #200… or, why on the hottest weekend of the year?

Spire Mt (6213’, p1853’)

Spire Mt Benchmark (BM) (6065’, p385’)

Iron Mt (5245’, prom 525’)

Conglomerate Point (5375’, prom 135’ )

Sept 10-11,  2011

-via Trout Creek road

Paul Klenke, Martin Shetter, Don Brooks, Carla Schauble and Franklin Bradshaw


Weather – Hot, hottest days of the year (high 80s, low 90s)

Celestial Sunrise 6:34a, Sunset 7:31p; Moonrise 6:26p, Moonset 4:59a, 2 days until new moon


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Short of it

Up the newly shortened road north of Trout Creek, scrambling what looked more like a streambed.  Past old abandoned machinery, past the extent of the 4 wheelers through the fully overgrown extended logging road to below and south of the east west running ridge.  Ore brush bashing up with blueberry delays to the heavily small treed ridge.  A jaunt west to Iron to enjoy the views, hot sun and flying ants.  Then back east on the ridge to almost miss Conglomerate point being just a high spot beside our route to camp. 

From Conglomerate a short walk on a way trail then west from the ridge to a meadow camp with snow and fresh water.  Laze and rest in the sun with 10,000 flies and mosquitos that wished to be intimate. 

Morning off before the sun to avoid the heat north over ridges and through basins and more ridges and more basins of talus and snow to the notch on the northwest of Spire’s summit.  Dropped crampons, axes and poles for the scramble and a protected section to the summit.  A calm celebration of Paul completing the T200 with Prom. List and enjoying the views, hot sun and flying ants.

Now back toward camp with numerous stops to relax, tagging Spire BM on the way to camp.  Everything stuffed into the packs a hot walk following our approach. Delayed by cooling breaks and everyone being hit with a bout or two of severe berry delay. Working up a good appetite we stopped at Bubba’s in Sultan for food and Kids Karaoke… 


The plan…

Paul sent out with request to join him on the last climb for him to finish the T200 with prominence.  I’d not had my eyes set on Spire, but had thoughts in the distant future of Conglomerate and Iron.  Not much knowledge of any of the peaks except Carla’s strong adhorance of the approach and in the past not wanting to go up it, ever, ever again…  The distraction of a trip with Paul, Don and Martin the group would hopefully buffer the ‘pain-in-the-butt’ approach.  Well, at least I had expectations ; ).

So, not sure of available water… carry enough for the entire day. It was going to be the “hottest day of the year”.  Find a camp below the ridge after Conglomerate, based on Fay’s report.  Hopefully some water, or worse case a 600’ drop with numerous water bags to get water from the lake below.  Day 2 east basins to Spire, catch Spire BM on the way back, and out.  Car wise Martin offered up his, having the greatest ground clearance hoping we could make a few miles up the road.


Early morning and up the road

We met for carpooling early –still dark. Hopes to get to the trail and hike in the cooler morning air.  North on the Index-Galena Road signs said road closed, local traffic only.  On past to the road just past Trout Creek (to Sunset Mine).  Another older “Road Closed” sign.  Paul laughed –maybe thinking of the stories we’d all heard of how nasty the road is.  Around the first corner a big surprise.  Dang! The road was newly de-commissioned.  Not just a deep ditch sideways.  A track-hoe had piled giant boulders and dug a deep trench lengthwise then sideways at a steep banked area.  That was it for the car.  Our hopes of a few miles soft leisure were exchanged for hoisted packs and hiking past the fresh (looked like yesterday) digging.

The road started in perfect condition (8:00a, c930’).  I wish my driveway was so flat and smooth.  After the turnoff to the mine (8:20a, .7m, c1370’) this all changed –and glad my driveway is in no way similar.  It appeared we were walking up what felt like a large creek bottom without the water.  Zigging right and left for easier tread.  Signs of recent 4-wheel drive action, then a part newly cleared on the sides.  Hmmm, wonder why?  Then we knew.  On our left tumbled down the bank a huge old power shovel (or whatever you call the precursor to the track-hoe -8:45a, 1.5m, c2085).  Trees had been cleared and much rope and cabling.  Someone had been up recently (based on the still crisp bag of open chips in the road) cutting off pieces and salvaging the iron.


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The upper road, where it got nice


Onward we hiked til Paul called his troops to a mercy break (9:20a). Even though morning it was already getting hot.  We took a slower pace, the plan was to stretch the trip to two days to have time to take it easy.  The upper road was pleasant for an old logging road.  Then all signs of 4-wheelers stopped and the road became over-grown with alder and vine maple (9:55a, 3.1m, c3500’).  Pace slowed, looking behind to see a head bob or brush move.  Over ¾ mile of this brought us to the end of what we could tell of the road in an old logged clearing (10:33a, 3.9m, c4210’).  Now a left (north) and up to the ridge less than a quarter mile (11:09a, 4.1m, c4660’). 


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From the road to the ridge


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Creative means to get above the brush and small trees


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Looking west along the ridge


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Go right of this gendarme on the way to Iron Mt


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Looking east from Iron Mt


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Taking in the Iron Mt views



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The ridge was dense with young trees.  We dropped our packs and followed the ridge west. At a buttress we stayed on the right (north) side of the ridge then left, then right to the summit of Iron Mt (11:44a, 4.5m, 5245’). Not trees on the summit, but plenty of flying ants or whatever they were.  Enough incentive to take a break not on the true summit. 


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Iron Mt ridge traverse


Onward and back for a hunt for the packs.  Heading east from them we followed a good way trail on the south side of the ridge.  Mostly somewhat level trek and easy going in wooded covering.   ¾ miles from where we gained the ridge an open rise and a good spot for lunch (1:14p, 5.8m, c4785’).  The rock here was a conglomerate –guess a good name for the point east of us.  North side dropped several hundred feet with a bit of an overhang –yikes!  Good views of Spire, Spire BM and snow patches where we hoped to find a place for camp. The trees opened and the way trail headed uphill in a heather meadow. 


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Meadow west of Conglomerate


Odd missing the flowers I’d been seeing on so many of the latest trips.  Without much warning a bump of Conglomerate Point and a register (2:20p, 6.3m, 5375’). 


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View of where we were going from Conglomerate


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Reg waiting for us on Conglomerate


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Paul reading the summit reg


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Conglomerate summit reg



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Now some downhill along the ridge and at the ridge (2:52p, 6.7m, c5222’) a left down 100’ to a nice heather camp spot next to a snow patch (3:15p, 6.8m, c5110’).


Camp… now what

It was hot, real hot.  We filtered water and Carla tried taking a nap face first in the snow.  The day had plenty of time, but the heat was stifling. 


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Paul cooling off with fresh cold water


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…and Carla cooling by a snow nap


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Hazy days


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Camp lounging


No wind and the skies still filled with the haze of many distant wildfires.  What to do?  We sat down to drink water, and more water.  Nice to relax.  Soon I dozed off trying to ignore the flies dive bombing.  


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Sunset afterglow


Sunset was full of orange color, but not much cooling.  The bugs didn’t subside in the dark, now more noticed by their buzz.  The open tent worked as a great bug trap.  Once cleared, time for more rest still hearing mosquitos, now on the outside as I drifted off inside looking up at the brightening stars overhead.








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Breakfast –trying to avoid the heat of the day


Spire bound

Well rested, we woke and started off in the dark to get a move on before the heat of the predicted scorching day developed. 


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Paul and sunrise


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Morning and the fire smog



Forty minutes from camp we passed under Spire BM, nearly 300’ above (6:40a, .8m, c5663’).  So close, but first onward to Spire first.  Twenty more minutes as we descended north and below buttresses we passed what could be a good camp site (1.3m, c5200’). 


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The traverse north to Spire


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Snow patch under the buttress at c5000’


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Last snow pitch toward the north notch


Down heather and rock then over snow and talus down to traverse at c5000’ and northward rising to the gap north of Spire’s main summit (8:10, 2.3m, c5823’). 


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Martin heading to the ridge


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We decorated a tree in hopes Billy wouldn’t eat our pole handles and straps


Now heading south ducking under alpine trees and gaining the ridge on the left.  Nice rock and scrambling to a point that looked more comfortable with a rope.  Paul led out on the ridge proper up a low cl5 move then easier, yet exposed rock ridge past several slings to heather again.


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Okay, now to go up the lower north ridge


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Looking back at the lower north ridge


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Paul topping the lower ridge


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The group taking in the view of the ridge (Don, Carla and Paul)


We’d seen a goat lower on our traverse.  In a unified yell of, “HEY BILLY”. It turned to look at us then led on to the gap.

Now on the west running rib from one of the false summits, we watched as it climbed on the seemingly impossibly steep slope.


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Billy on the ridge


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The middle of the north ridge


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Paul leading the cruxes


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And first view of the real crux


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Carla on ridge taking in the views


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Hey, I recognize that peak


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Carla and Don heading up the north ridge


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Paul belaying the group up the north ridge


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Martin coming up the north ridge


De-roped we scrambled to a highpoint, then down and up to another.  Still not there.  A down climb on loose rock and up again to the main summit.  We stopped short of the summit letting Paul tag the point before we joined him on Spire’s summit (9:35a, 2.4m, 6213’).  Paul reveled in finishing the T200 with prominence.  A sight standing there with flying ants and flies surrounding him. We took our break a ways away from the swarming critters. 


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Many false summits on the way to the true summit


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Watching and waiting for Paul to summit first

 Paul finishes the T200 by Prominence... Click on play symbol for movie


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Paul on the final of his T200 with prom. endeavor


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Now the rest of us topped off the summit


Can it get hotter

On the summit was a Fay orange match tube register.  Only one entry since she left it July 2007.  I took a pause.  A bit of sadness and also a smile of good memories.  Jack LaMont signed in a week after Fay.  This season I’ve had many pauses reading names of those lost in the mountains. I’m not getting used to it.  A reminder of the power of nature. 


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Paul adding our names to the summit register


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Spire Mt “Fay” register


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Paul busy working on a case of shutter delay


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Celebrating with an adhoc summit smore



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Paul and Carla celebrated with a marshmellow and chocolate chip smore –no fingers burned, but still a scorching hot day.

A nice 40 minute break and off we go.  Day getting hotter, we follow our track back.  Don leads a rope over the crux area and we scramble to the notch while the others take a shortcut and rap off the ridge to the snow.  A downward traverse finding water and another easy excuse for a break. More down as the heat increases, slow past the buttresses (c5000’) and up.  My route thoughts are toward shade and another break at a nice camp spot (12:50, 3.6m, c5200).  Oh, man, the shade felt nice.  Now a rising traverse direct at Spire Bench Mark.  Many gullies and ways up.  I went to a notch on the south side then some cl3 scrambling to the summit ridge and north to the high point (1:35p, 4.2m, 6065’).  I found two benchmark locators and a bunch of rigid rolled up thick wire. This time no swarm of bugs.  The views were diffuse and clear.  Clear as possible with the smog and smoke filled skies.   As usual for the day we lounged before heading back to camp.


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Looking SW to Spire BM


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Looking NE from the base of Spire BM


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Summit wire


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One of two benchmark locators


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Spire from the Benchmark


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Spire Mt


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And a closer look


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Don on summit, Carla and Martin on the ridge


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Spire BM summit reg




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Route from the first ridge north of camp


Does it get hotter than this

The rib we passed dropping to the camp ridge was tree covered. Could be confusing on which direction to go at first.  Choice is east or south.  The correct answer is south.  We dripped into camp, so sweet to just stand on the snow and feel the cool (2:45p, 5m). A break, but we were far from done for the day.  Now to get out before dark.  The heat had drained my energy and it was only 3:30.  Martin lead the way again up and along the way trail past Conglomerate and down the heather meadow. And it got hotter. How is that possible?  When the trail was lost it was found uphill closer to the ridge top.  And yes, we found opportunities for more breaks. 


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Down the Heather Meadow west of Conglomerate


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A last look at Spire Mt



Now the trouble began.  Dropping toward the road from the ridge (5:04p, 6.7m, c4730’) we ran into a bad case of severe berry delay.  Descent slowed, not a crawl, but from bush to bush.  Ah, this one’s good, Ooohhh, check out this bush. Ack! This bush should be nuked.  Oh, yeah, this one now is pure heaven…   We did make it to the road and the end of the berry patch.  The day was good, fresh berries and a nice hot day… it was summer.


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Berry-trouble ; )  oh, yeah… yummmmm….



On we went, hot and downward pushing trees aside descending the overgrown road.  Seemed to drag, then onto the cleared road (5:48p, 7.7m, c3550’).  Shortly a pause to refill water then on we marched down the nice old road.  Then the part that more resembled a dry river bed.  More pause to check out the old power shovel that someone was taking apart with a cutting torch.


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Old artifacts of logging and road construction


And down the road.  I was thinking the best part of the trip was I wouldn’t have to come back up this road.  And the road continued in its convoluted river bottom fashion.  At the junction with the Sunset Mine trail the road instantly went from River bed style to smooth flat gravel (7:12p, 10m).  Nice to finish with easier walking.  We crossed over the torn up section and the car as it started to get dark (7:30p, 10.8m).


Karaoke party

What do you do on a hot evening to celebrate Paul’s finish?  We stopped at Bubba’s in Sultan –food, beverages and kid’s karaoke… an interesting combo.


A good weekend. Was looking forward to an easier hike on the hottest weekend of the year.  Guess I mis-read the miles and vert on Fay’s report.  Or maybe it was the long road walk.  Vertical, mileage, heat, whatever it was I’d had a full weekend.  Best shared with good company and always looking forward to the next trip with them.. Thanks guys!


Hope you all get out there while it was summer and kept cool too.  Thanks for reading.


Happy Trails!




Day 1 -  6.8m, 7h14m, 5240/-962vert

Day 2 - 10.8m, 13h30m , 3551/-7788 vert

Total:      17.6m, 8791’ ascent


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