Mt Rainier: Pyramid Peak

route to Pyramid Peak (6937')Thursday, October 9th may turn out to be the last great weather day before typical Northwest conditions set in. With this forecast in mind, my buddy CB joined me for a "closeout" hike under clear skies and decidedly non-fall like temps. I had it in mind to climb up the Success Cleaver at Mount Rainier National Park (MRNP) but that would have been more of a solo trip with a late walk out. Since I had never been up Pyramid Peak (6937') before, it seemed appropriate to tag this summit for a good day hike.

We parked at the Kautz Creek trail head (2400') and started past 7 AM with just enough light. At just under 6 miles we reached Indian Henrys Hunting Ground where we basked in the beautiful weather for some chow on the cabin porch before making our way to the Mirror Lakes trail, where the maintained portion ends at 5400'. However, you wouldn't know it by the obvious and rather fine trail that continues all the way to Pyramid Peak. This day was characterized by cool breezes, vibrant fall colors, clear skies and nary a chill in the air that even hinted at fall. If this is indeed the last good weather day we may see for this season, it was a beaut. The climb to the summit is obvious with no navigation problems and once on top the summit plateau is grassy and rather flat. When I took in the 360 degree views I knew that climbing up the cleaver wouldn't have been nearly as expansive. We looked down on Paradise, across the still clouded Puget Sound, and north toward my last trip to Tokaloo Rock. I was able to scout the Success Cleaver for a future trip that would take me up to about 9,000' with a side trip across the South Tahoma Glacier to Glacier Island. We lounged on the summit for over an hour, watching a Chinook Army helicopter come straight for us and pass by, waving to the pilot in the window....nice day for a low level cruise. CB wanted to be off the trail before dark so we dragged ourselves away and started the descent, running into a lone hiker on his way up and the only other person we would see all day. When we stopped at the cabin for a quick snack it was actually hot, making us marvel that it was indeed October 9th. The hike back out was equally as nice as coming in and we made it to the trail head just past 7 PM, able to complete this later season hike without using headlamps. What a way to (possibly) close out the season of good weather! Although this peak didn't break the 7,000 foot elevation mark that I showcased in the 7Up hikes, it certainly provided some of the best 360 degree views I have experienced in the park.
Stats: 16 miles and 5000'

the Mirror Lake trailPyramid Peak looms closer (right)looking north to Tokaloo Spire and Rockoverlooking the Success CleaverArmy Chinook passes by Pyramid Peak


40 Hours on the Wonderland Trail


time map for position reports on the WTThis trip had an interesting start, as I was back from London without much sleep and decided to take advantage of good weather on Monday and Tuesday (Sep 15-16) to head out. But first I was supposed to pick up some new pants from Beyond Clothing, and waited at the Seattle store for the UPS truck to arrive with said trousers. As I finally had to head out the door from the no show truck, they sent me to their warehouse in Kent to pick up a pair on the way to the mountain. No belt on these puppies so I stopped at my buddy's house in Puyallup to get one. They told me I am the first one with these as they are not for sale yet. These shopping delays had me on the trail past 3:30 Pm on Monday.

This trip was really about gear testing, mostly the clothing and a ZPacks specially made Cuben EVent jacket (long cut). My rest system, as of course I had no permits and I was simply going to rest and not camp, consisted of clothing, my 9.7 oz quilt, a custom 3/4 length bivy (made for me 2 years ago) and my new ZPacks XLarge Long jacket for the top. I also sported a half length Z Rest pad and used my pointy hat for my feet. Add in a few more items and my pack weight was 8 lbs, plus not knowing how long I was going to be out, I had about 6 pounds of food.

a good viewing spot below SunriseI might call this the "freedom hike" as I had no itinerary and the option to quit at any point along the way with transport available via my InReach. I set off and enjoyed about 4 hours of daylight and a delightful evening on the Cowlitz Divide, though Indian Bar and over Panhandle Gap to Summerland. The quarter moon rose, the stars were ablaze and I had expansive views through this whole section, albeit without color. As I approached Panhandle Gap the moon disappeared behind a dark cloud and incredibly, exactly at the Gap, it started to rain and hail on me. "Really!?" I said out loud and unfortunately had packed my rain jacket deep inside my pack as I didn't expect to use it until the next day. Hail pelted me as I dug through the pack and finally donned the jacket and crossed the snowless Gap in the rain/hail mix. Somewhere at the bottom I lost the trail and spent 15 minutes reacquiring it in the indistinct features of dark sky and wet rock. By the time I got to Summerland the moon was shining again along with the stars. My own personal rain cloud, I guess. Well I did want to test the clothing under various conditions. By the time I was slightly above the Fryingpan Creek trailhead I figured I should get some sleep, so set up my system in a soft spot right next to the trail and caught about an hour and a half. I awoke to lightening skies so quickly packed up and headed out. Physically things still felt good although I am not so fast going up hill. Tuesday the 16th was clear and very pleasant, on the warm side, and I saw a few people around the Sunrise area as I continued CCW. By the time I got to Skyscraper Pass the clouds were moving in and one could see a change in weather was afoot, as predicted.

Skyscraper Mountain with Grand Park beyondI wondered when I was going to get some decent sleep and finally stopped above Dick Creek and bedded down again, this time for about 3 hours. After getting up and heading down the trail, I was distinctly aware that my sleep bank was getting precariously low and noticed its lack on my thinking and my swiftness. However, I was still quite enjoying myself in my nighttime wanderings, having heard bugling elk, startled by large creatures suddenly crashing away in the trees, and uttering one "holy sh$t" when a bat swooped right in front of my face. Fun times. It stopped being fun on the climb to Ipsut Pass, as the motor was really running out of gas and I felt some blisters coming on on my little toes. Interesting as I have over 200 trail miles on my Inov8 TrailRocs and haven't had to hit the foot kit for years. When I stopped to address the problem I discovered that my stuff sack with all the foot goodies contained a bunch of useless wet stuff, probably from the soaking it received on my Pasayten hike. I rummaged around and could only come up with wrapping my little toe with Elasticon as everything else was useless. Note to self, obtain waterproof container and redo first aid/foot kit. Anyway, I fully admit that by the time I reached Ipsut Pass I was worked, the first time since I started that my fun meter was pegging. As if to edge me in the right direction, I mistakingly somehow just followed the trail towards Eunice Lake. My wandering mind didn't realize something was amiss until I had wasted another 45 minutes on this side trip. As Mowich was my last pickup spot I decided that tackling the remaining 35 miles would certainly put me in the sufferfest realm. I texted my ride (man, I love that InReach!) and caught some sleep before the pickup, luckily testing my sleep system in the rain. I was too tired to move under shelter. I did come to a few realizations though: 1. Get some sleep before a big trip. 2. Start early for a normal schedule and plan to camp for quality rest. 3. Come to grips that in a few months I'll be 60, I can't play like I used to. 4. If I want to do night hiking, go for just one day like I did recently on my Curtis Ridge/Old Desolate trip. A reminder that one can always make a deposit into the experience bank. In this 40 hour period I covered 60 miles and 14,300 feet of elevation.

fall colors near SunriseWhite River crossingpre sunrise at Mowich Lake: end of hike


Mt Rainier: The 7Up Hikes-Tokaloo Rock Loop

Tokaloo Rock loop time map

This is the last in this year's "7Up Hikes" series. My goal of hikes around Rainier taking advantage of off trail segments and touching points above 7000 feet certainly delivered a unique and different experience of the park beyond the Wonderland. That said, this last hike (September 10th) I ended up scaling back quite a bit as the original included another high point on a cleaver and 41 miles of hiking and biking, probably too much for this old man. This one was juuust right, doable in 12 hours: Stats: 25 miles (8 miles biking)/5300' elevation gain and loss.

I had serious incentive to be done and at the Cougar Rock campground by 6:30 PM as some friends were staying there and steak and wine were on the menu. The Tokaloo time map annotates position reports sent from my InReach on this clockwise loop.

I started at the road parking outside the closed area on the West Side Road at 6:06 AM and biked to Round Pass where I stashed the bike. Then it was on trail taking the Round Pass trail to the South Puyallup River trail and on the road for 3 miles until I arrived at the St. Andrews Creek trail. The morning was clear and nice and the going was good up to Klapatche Park, only getting a little damp on the legs and feet from the wet brush. I lingered at Klapatche for a while looking at the maturing froglings in the dwindling Aurora Lake and then it was off for St. Andrews Lake, where I would start the off trail segment. Unbeknownst to me it would take me four and a half hours to do the round trip to Tokaloo Rock.

old stoneworks on the West Side Roada drying Aurora Lake in late seasondestination in sight: Tokaloo rock to left of Tokaloo spireThe off trail segment is not as bad as the photos might suggest with trail hints most of the way, at least off and on. Basically I headed up to a saddle from St. Andrews Lake and skirted the south side of the ridge that takes you to Tokaloo Spire and Tokaloo Rock. The spire is quite impressive as you get closer and so are the views south to Emerald Ridge and the Tahoma Glacier. I also saw a different goat herd on this side from my usual pets around Panhandle Gap. I ended up too far right at Tokaloo rock (east) and back tracked to pass on the west side where access to the summit is an easy scramble. Views from these vistas are amazing, looking down and all around at the world of rock and ice. Simply stunning, and private. Few people venture off trail (percentage wise of the hikers in the park) and my 4 7Up hikes have rewarded me/us nicely this year. However, I didn't linger too long there as the clouds were moving up the mountain and the bluebird day disappeared on the descent. With visibility sometimes down to 200 feet I had to be very diligent about not dropping too low on my way back. A couple of checks of the GPS to make sure I wasn't going astray (I do not use tracking or back track features) had me arriving at a socked in St. Andrews Lake at 3 PM.

looking across the Tahoma Glacier to Emerald Ridge (south)a tarn off the ridge, looking southterrain leading to destination Tokaloo Rock past Tokaloo SpirePuyallup Cleaver from summit of Tokaloo RockTokaloo Spire from above as clouds move in on descentHappy to be back on trail and on schedule, I trotted the "Wonderful Trail" down to the South Puyallup River camp as the clouds slowly parted for me. Some photo ops delayed me there but I regained my trusty steed at Round Pass and pedaled maybe 6 strokes all the way back to my vehicle. I did stop to photo the boulders that cratered the parking lot and closed it, pretty impressive. I found it interesting that my end position report was at 6:06 PM, exactly 12 hours after I started, and I made it to Cougar Rock campground at 6:33:40 PM, only 3 minutes and 40 seconds late. After being chastised for my tardiness I cleaned up and was treated to one of the best steak dinners you could have sitting at a picnic table, a fine day indeed!

Basalt formations just below South Puyallup River Campboulders that cratered and closed the West Side Road parking lot


Mt. Rainier: The 7Up Hikes/Curtis Ridge-Old Desolate "T"


Curtis Ridge/Old Desolate "T"Get ready for a spanking on this one, as it provides 26 miles and 8200 feet of vertical, the hardest parts off trail. It took me nearly 17 hours to complete. This is the third in a series of hikes I planned for Mt. Rainier National Park where vistas above 7000 feet and off trail travel let one experience a whole different world outside of the Wonderland Trail. Although already planned, the timing was spur of the moment.

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8 Days in the Pasayten Wilderness-Aug/2014


from the DeLorme map of positions reports sent on tripOverview
Originally planned as a 200 mile trip, my daughter's recovering hip, rehabbed enough to get the go ahead for hiking, had us entering this foray with different criteria: plan on 10 days max and venture into the heart of the Pasayten wilderness as far as current fires, physical limitations and trail conditions allowed before looping back. The meager stats (101 miles, 16,000' of elevation gain) don't do justice to the difficulties we faced….pea sized hail and thunderstorms at 7000', trails and phantom trails with meager tread, river crossings, soaking head high grasses and fireweed leaving our lower bodies in a constant state of saturation, and hundreds of blowdowns and deadfall to name a few. But what a trip!

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Mt. Rainier: The 7Up Hikes/Goat Is.-Banshee Loop


Goat Island Mountain to Summerland sectionThis is a big hike with big views. I recruited my buddy CB for this one as the extensive off trail and planned exit warranted a partner for safety. As it turns out the gnarly exit was bypassed, more on that. This trip provides 17 miles and 5600 feet of elevation.
We parked at the Fryingpan creek trail head and spent a very short time on trail, taking a right on the Wonderland for less than half a mile and proceeding off trail at the obvious bend. This lower part of the ridge for Goat Island is of course treed but manageable enough and eventually the terrain opened up into some meadows

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Mt. Rainier: The 7up Hikes/Ruth-Burroughs Loop

The Ruth-Burroughs loopRecently I sat down with a map and looked for different ways to explore Mt. Rainier beyond the Wonderland Trail and such. My criteria was as follows:

• maximize climbs to points over 7,000 feet (usually with great views)

• no specialized skills; no glacier travel, no roped climbing

• looped hikes if possible, off trail travel encouraged

• tough hikes but doable in a day by fit experienced hikers; max 2 days

• hardest parts in the first half of the hike

My daughter and I just did the first of the series, the Mt. Ruth-Burroughs loop. This hike starts and ends at White River campground and entails approximately 17 miles of hiking and 5900 feet of elevation gain/loss, plus much of the hike is off trail.

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STP (Seattle To Portland) 2014 bike ride

This is the second year my buddy Craig rode the STP so I mounted a Contour Roam2 to my front fork to capture the experience for him. The first day was very hot, into the 90s, but the second day saw cooler temps and even some rain. Over 10,000 riders sign up every year and about 2200 do it in one day. Centralia, WA is the halfway point where many people spend the night. I find biking to be an excellent cross training tool in my fitness regimen, although I do have a tradition of only doing one major trainer before this event. Let's just say my derriere and neck muscles bear the brunt of my undertraining.



2014 Gear Testing

ZPacks Duplex in Mt. Rainier National ParkI have acquired some gear over the past year that I would like to report on but haven't had enough field testing time. Check back at the end of this season to get a more comprehensive review of the following items:

ZPacks Hexamid Duplex tent: a promising design that may shape up to be one of the best backpacking tents out there. It will be put through its paces in the Pasayten Wilderness and Mt. Rainier this season.

Suluk46 TiCa ice tool: I have not found any reviews on this specialty tool, weighing in at about 5 ounces. I plan on using this for a Mt. Rainier trip where I will be making forays high onto some of the divides, cleavers and ridges. I ordered mine in a 60 cm length.

Enlightened Equipment 50 degree Enigma Pro Quilt: The colors, sizing and options have changed quite a bit on the EE website since I ordered my quilt. I anticipated using this quilt exclusively throughout this season.

Beyond Clothing base layers and clothing: They promise me that the Brokk pant will be available before a planned trip this month. I was able to try these on at the Seattle store but they have not been released for retail yet. The aether base layers are sweet, very light with a weave that allows for trapping of air. Since there is a lot of schwacking in my plans for this summer, I want the pants for anticipated durability and breathability. We shall see if these hold up to close scrutiny.

ZPacks Arc Slim pack: so far I have used this pack on a number of trips but would like some more trail time before rendering a final opinion

ZPacks Pertex Quantum bivy: More usage required, so far I am not thrilled with the design of the netting and may have to modify this. However, the breathability of the top material has proven to be excellent.

These major items will play the key role in my trips for this summer. As always, I hope that each purchase I make stands up but from experience know that only through real world usage can I write a review that can cover both the pros and the cons.


Wonderland Trail Outlook 2014

On June 3rd 2014 I grabbed my skis for a check of the snow conditions from White River to Panhandle Gap in Mt. Rainier National Park and was surprised by the sparse cover for so early in the season. I usually do an update of this area every year around the third week in July, but this year I'm glad I was out early. The coverage is so thin below 5000' that I can see the entire Wonderland snow free at this level and below by July 1st. I also think Panhandle Gap will be bare before September 1st. This video is a combination of stills and ski video where you can check out the tree wells and snow levels for yourself. Peruse the Past Updates section here on to see what prior years have looked like.