22 May 2002 - 9:29:58 PM
Trip Report: 5/17/02 - Guye Peak and Snoqualmie Peak
Instructors - Chris, George, Sim
Students - Andrew, Janice, Mike, Murray, Rob
The Three Hour Tour began after the Friday morning downpour let up, which allowed for a long, leisurely pack check in the cabin's rec room and a long, unfocused route-planning session in the dining room. We eventually picked Snoqualmie Peak, partially because Pat had suggested it earlier and partially because we wouldn't have to pack along harnesses or ropes.
The hike in to Commonwealth Basin started out pleasantly enough, with the instructors assigning Gilligan's Island roles to the various students. Mike and Murray began shouting at each other: "I'm Gilligan!" "No, I'm Gilligan!" The two nearly came to blows, but Sim yanked his hat off his head, wrung it in his hands, and sputtered, "Gilligans! When I get my--" Mike and Murray, along with Andrew, immediately took off before Sim could finish, leading as fast as they could. We wound up half way up Kendall before we were able to re-group.
The plan had been to get to the Guye-Snoqualmie saddle, scoot around Cave Ridge, and trudge up the south shoulder of Snoqualmie peak, just like it said in the Beckey guide. Murray looked around, pointed at a random mountain, and said, "That's Mt. Baker." He then pointed downhill and said, "So we need to go that way." Andrew pulled out his compass and took a bearing. "It's 320 degrees to Mt. Baker," he announced. The students set off again, switching leads about every 30 seconds, each adjusting our group's direction by 20 degrees or so in order to disorient the instructors.
We crossed the three rivers and began weaving vaguely north-ish and uphill until we overheard one of the instructors mutter, "Hey, I think I know where we are now." Mike took action, assuming the lead, turning 90 degrees left, and marching quickly downhill. It worked -- the instructors slipped back into their normal state of bewilderment. We crossed a tributary, headed uphill again, and found our old tracks from the Snow 1 weekend. Just as we'd planned.
Up at the saddle, we shed our packs and took a lunch break. Chris pulled out a mass of cheese and began gnawing at it. "It's very stinky," he said, an odd glint in his eye. Janice pulled out some tart, chewy candies. "They're British," she said, but they were good anyway. Periodically, the instructors would ask if we wanted to climb Guye Peak, and we would shrug. Andrew and Janice took advantage of the break to call in to their respective jobs, and the rest of us pelted them with snowballs.
The instructors asked for the fourteenth time if we wanted to climb Guye Peak, and Mike grabbed his ice axe and said, "Yeah, let's do it." We left our packs at the lunch spot, crossed through our old camp site, and step-kicked up to Guye Peak. This time there was a beautiful view. The weather had cleared up nicely, and Rainier was out, but we had missed the magic gully Chris had read about in the Beckey guide that would have taken us to the south rib. From the north rib, we were able to scope out the approach to Snoqualmie Peak. It looked long, and we could see ski tracks snaking down an avalanchey stretch. Hmm.
After a quick descent with a fun (for those with long pants (especially Schoeller pants)) glissade, we returned to our packs. Andrew and Chris had both glissaded in shorts, and Chris spent the next fifteen minutes complaining about ice wedged in uncomfortable places (thou dost protest too much, methinks).
We wiggled around Cave Ridge and reached the approach to the south shoulder, which was basically a stretch of avalanches waiting to happen. Mike step-kicked like a madman up the slope to reach the shoulder and get out of the gully, and then we were on the prime avalanche slope portion of the shoulder. We regrouped and discussed things. After some debate and speculation, we finally reached consensus that Janice had a nice butt. Sim and Chris step-kicked to a steeper portion of the slope and dug a pit to analyze the snow pack, which seemed sticky enough to hold. One by one we slogged up the shoulder and took a break just above the steepest part. The rest of the way to the peak was pretty straightforward, except for the number of moats scattered about we kept discovering.
On the peak (6278') we had our second lunch. Some folks took off their boots and spread their musty socks on the rock to dry out. Mike lit up a cigarette. Chris pulled out his stinky cheese again. The combination of fumes and high altitude, unfortunately, had a deleterious effect on several members of the group, and Murray, Rob, Sim, and Chris grew light-headed and began spewing Monty Python quotes. George acted fast and administered Diamox to the afflicted members. Janice held her head in her hands until the drugs kicked in.
A good idea at the time was descending via the west face, meeting the Tooth group in the parking lot, and having them give us a ride back to the cabin.
Sim and Chris went first to scout out a route down and try to start some avalanches. At the end of one of the glissades, Chris demonstrated the somersault technique of stopping. "You won't find that in Freedom of the Hills!" The two of them decided that the descent was too easy, and did their best to make it more challenging by sending us back and forth between cliff bands, having us downclimb steep snow slopes and a rocky outcropping or two, and setting up Mike's 20m emergency rope as a literal hand-line (harnesses? prusiks? bah!) over, into, and through a sketchy tree moat. Murray was proud to leave behind his first piece of webbing in the mountains.
George demonstrated another interesting method of stopping a glissade by leaping into the air and to the right, spinning around several times and grabbing a tree in order to avoid glissading directly into an open moat. The French judge, however, deducted several points because the maneuver was not performed in the pike position.
Sim's voice crackled over the radio: "Okay, now we're going to do an obstacle course glissade through broken tree branches. Good steering technique lesson!"
True to making the descent as challenging as possible, Rob performed three self-arrests, and Andrew performed one. The rest of the students didn't seem to be in the full spirit of it, and contented themselves with just postholing into moats and breaking through steps while downclimbing.
Looking for a way down to the parking lot, we began traversing north and reached the bottom of a long avalanche chute, which would have been about a two minute glissade from the peak. To the left was a nice view of the parking lot, where Pat was patiently waiting for us. Murray approached the end of the chute and said, "Wouldn't it be fastest if we glissaded over the waterfall and down the 100 foot cliff?" Sim advised against it, and we continued traversing. We eventually found a spot to descend, which involved downclimbing into a tree moat and grabbing the tree roots to lower ourselves. "The ol' vegetable belay," Sim said. "You won't find that in Freedom of the Hills!"
We reached the last stretch before the parking lot and, on the way across, found a few more moats. At the snow's edge, however, before the parking lot began, a swift, cold stream flowed by, and Sim and Pat evaluated the situation. "I don't know," said Pat. "It could be dangerous. Maybe you should hike back up to the saddle and come down Commonwealth Basin."
Sim nodded. "The stream looks pretty fast. If someone falls in, they could swept away. Instant hypothermia and death." He hefted his pack and addressed the group. "Looks like we're heading back up."
As we resignedly lifted up our packs, the air crackled, and Nate's glowing form appeared above us. His booming voice filled our heads. "Heading back up? What are you, a bunch of Big 5 employees? Use the beer, Pat! Use the beer!" There was a bright flash, and the vision was gone.
Pat smiled and laughed. "The beer! Of course!" He ran back to his minivan, pulled out several cases of Miller Genuine Draft (in cans, naturally), and lugged them back to the stream, where he quickly built a makeshift bridge. "This'll also chill the beer!" he said.
Once safely in the parking lot, we piled into various cars and drove as fast as we could to the Pancake House while chugging MGD. Oh, one last thing -- miraculously, Rob didn't sweat a single drop during the entire day. Yeah, that's the ticket. Not a drop.