“Mr H Pumps Iron in the Olympics”
Iron Mt (6826', p286)
Mt Worthington (6938', p518')
Copper Peak (c6918', p163')
Hawk Peak (6545', p485)
Via Big Quilcene River trail
May 11, 2013
Stefan Feller, Franklin Bradshaw
Map: Caltopo.com, USGS: 7.5min Mount Townsend
Stefan sent out another notice of intent to hike. Or something of the sort. It was still deep into BC ski season, but… But the weather had thrown us a curve. 18-30” dump of light snow, then no night time freeze. Plenty of hot sun and high temperatures like expected in August. Say what! It was beginning of May, temps should be cold and showery. No, we got hot sunshine. So… no freeze to go with the melting snowpack. The snow pack was getting concentrated heavily with water. This was not good. Heavier snow and ready to go. Large cornices perched, south slopes baking… I thought I’d have to be insane to go on a snow trip with the recent weather and forecast for more of the heat.
Stefan’s trip option looked good. Luck was that someone had hiked in the area a week before and posted pictures on line. The images showed little to no snow. Hey, that was a good sign. I shifted gears and after a night of 2 ½ hours of sleep met Stefan at his place down south. No other takers, so the two of us motored on to the rain shadow area of the Olympics (Buckhorn Wilderness, NE edge of the Olympics).
We just kept walking…
A long Forest Service road drive, a left, left, left, right, left, left, and another left, got us to The Ten Mile Shelter trailhead of the Big Quilcene. We hit the trail at 7:35 planning a few miles then a right up to the ridge. We hit a patch of snow on the trail around 4000’, then bare ground. Such easy walking we shot a half mile past where we planned to ascend. A little break to access that all was good and we left the trail heading up (3.1m, 8:54, c4433’). Not 60’ from the trail I looked down at my feet to see a foothold/jaw trap. It had been sprung and there for some time.
Up we went, steepening hill and dry dirt. C5300 (9:43a) we hit snow, very consolidated and we went up and traversed kick-stepping across a gulley (c5800’, 10:20a). Above a flat spot with rock formation buttress the snow had baked the snow off. Here on up to the ridge was dirt, rock or some thin small snow patches. Our target was a low point east of Iron Peak. We hit east of it and traversed west to just above it. Gaining the ridge had been fast (3h13m from the car). Looked like it was going to be a short day. Good since about 5pm wetness was expected. I was hoping a chance to tag Iron and Stefan had already done it. Stefan offered to hang out and take a nap while I tagged it. Looked simple enough and I’d catch up with him east along the ridge at Worthington.
West to Iron
Looking back at the route (east)
Well, looks can be deceiving… I kicked up the ridge west toward Iron. Then nice rock scrambling, then down and up and around to a high point. Nope, head west. More down, around and up and down into a gulley and up. Hmmm, still not there.
Not the summit yet –still a ways to go.
South was dry and north in Iron Basin was filled in with snow. So… down again and around to the SW side and up and easy gulley to the flat south of the summit, drop pack and up to tag Iron Mt summit 6826 (4.5m, 11:45a, +4475/-147’). The scrambling reminded me of a little of the South Twin Sister scramble. The views great. Sunshine and cloud patterns. Peaks around all new to me. This area was beautiful with snow. I wonder what it would be like in the hot summer.
Summit block of Iron from the south The rock…
Looking east to Worthington Looking west to Buckhorn
North toward Royal Basin area And south
I didn’t hang long on the summit, Stefan was waiting. Doing Buckhorn had been suggested, but from here it was obvious it was more an endeavor than we had expected. Heading east off the summit I took a direct rock route to the steep snow in Iron Basin. Soft and plunge stepping down I spotted another hiker heading up from the lower basin. I headed east to cross on a small tilted snow covered ledge under an imposing north buttress. I wasn’t sure if it would go. The more I went around, the more I thought I was getting cliffed out. Two gaps added spice with some rock scramble traversing. A shear slab lead to more down plunge stepping then I could see an obvious rock and snow route back up to the east saddle.
Yeah! It worked, and saved me a half hour. From the saddle up I wondered if Stefan was there or gone. Arriving (12:24p, 4.9m), all I found was a spare water bottle and boot tracks heading west and up the ridge toward Worthington.
An easy enjoyable walk up to the flat ridge (with only small snow patches) passing rock formations. Ahead a wall of a formation blocking the ridge.
Looking west from Worthington Worthington from the west
Just before Worthington and behind another formation, Stefan was waiting (was that sleep drool on his chin? Easy and fun class 3 scramble to the summit of Worthington (5.4m, 6938’, 1:10p).
Stefan heading up the summit block Hey, check that out…
Iron Peak west Silver and Hawk Peak east
A cold wind reminded me it wasn’t August (yet). Good views and a gander at the register. Then we dropped the east side of the summit rib for some fun weaving and cl3 scrambling. Southside was bare jagged rock and north the same covered with snow and inviting gulleys for skiing. The snow did add to the beauty with a contrast of black on white.
Ridge scrambling east from Worthington
Looking back (west) to Worthington Silver
At Tull Pass looking west at the slope from Silver Tull Pass
Copper Peak (5.6m, 6925’, 1:54p) was a walk by with very little elevation gain (. A pause for views, then down the very steep east face snow. 2/3 of the way down the face cliffed out, we exited south and were off snow to the low point of Tull Pass (6m, c6110’, 2:10p). The snow was getting soft, so a few moments of plunging deep. We followed the easy ridge NE bare rock and some snow patches. A veer to the left (north) brought us to Hawk Peak (6.6m, 6545’, 2:40p). Even with being on the edge of the range the views here were great. Added beauty of snow and a different change of scenery looking east to see the Hood Canal Bridge, islands and distant Seattle. I miss trips in the Olympics, a nice change of scenery.
MR H playing on Hawk Peak
Mr H made an appearance as we relaxed and ate. He seemed a little hyper bouncing around. One moment dipping in the food bag, another onto the summit block. Maybe he had too many mango, or just liking the beautiful day and scenery. Soon he settled into his favorite pack pocket high view seat and we were ready to go.
Heading to the pass south of Silver Lake Basin Silver Lake Basin
A little change in plan, we dropped softening snow toward Silver Lake and traversed to the south saddle (7.1m, c5793’, 3:15p). From here it would be a 3300’ drop to the Big Quilcene trail and trailhead. Choices… gulley direct below (would take back westerly to where we ascended), Ridge heading south to intersect trail (possible steep sections to avoid) or ridge more east veering to SE (unknown… but shallower pitch). Which did we take? Remember the hikers… Yeah, we took the steeper direct route. Did it go? Well…
Flowers and Rhodies
Open bare area with some skeleton trees and flowers emerging changed to short trees and a flat area at c5000’ (7.8m). Then larger trees and some snow patches that soon disappeared (the snow, not the trees). The trees got tighter and tighter… and tighter… More underbrush, and some Yews. Stefan mentioned how the Yews had wrecked havoc on a previous trip… Oops… the yew became much more dense. That wasn’t the issue as much as the pitch became very steep with loose rock and little vegie belay options. No matter, we worked through it and continued down, and down and down through tall slender trees and the surprise (to me) of Rhododendrons in abundance. This would be a nice place with them blooming, but… would we ever get down to the trail? River noise could be heard and the underbrush opened for easier travel.
An hour and twenty minutes from the saddle we intersected the trail at the river (8.4m, c2980’). Mosses, rushing water (moss on the river rocks too) and large old trees. Now a casual walk down the trail. At one point I spotted a comm cable insulator from most likely a bygone lookout post. Another thirty minutes of walking and we were at the trailhead (9.5m, c2500’, 5:05p). Stefan had refreshments waiting that Mr H was eyeing. Mr H also revisited the trailhead kiosk to say by to the picture of his buddy Mukmuk’s relative.
This is a nice and casual hike that offered better than expected views (in the forest and ridge/peaks). The road in the Big Quilcene appears to melt out early providing earlier season trip opportunities. And the road is in very good condition.
Thanks Stefan for another great trip.
Thanks for reading, and happy trails,
Stats: 9.5m, 9h34m, +/-5704
Gear: Ice ax, snow shoes (training weight/not used).
Copyright 2013, FWB, all rights reserved