Monday, March 28, 2016

Bruneau Dunes 3-26-2016

We traversed the tallest single structure sand dune in North America.

Partners: Deez and the Lego Master.

Stats: 5 miles and approx 500ft gain to summit elevation 2,937ft in 4 hours round trip from camp.

Gear notes: Barefoot is the way to go. Bring a kite. Be prepared to get sand in and on everything.

Links: Bruneau Dunes on LoJSummitpost page.

Big Dune from the trail.

We had gotten a camp site at Bruneau Dunes State Park. Despite the forecast, we were all set to hike the tallest sand dune in North America, and yes, it is an actual peak with regard to the 300ft prominence rule. There is a short way to the high point starting from the boat ramp. See Big Dan's trip report for that route. We started from our camp site at Broken Wheel. Here is a link to the map of the area to get a better idea of the many options that exist for hiking this area.

Flat Iron Butte.

We started just a bit after 11am. It was a busy weekend with dang near every camp site full and people hiking and sliding the dunes.

Ripples in the sand.

The area is easy to appreciate, especially if you're a geology nerd like me. I really tried to keep my lectures to a minimum and I will skip it here.

Big Dune Lake.

However, these lakes did not exist until the completion of the C.J. Strike reservoir in 1952, which raised the ground water table. As we all know, surface water is coincident with ground water, hence the lakes.

Lower dune.

We knew the hike would be difficult, so we had to be mentally prepared.

Its 60% mental, 40% ability.

Starting up the first dune.

Small steps seemed to be the way to go since we basically slid back after almost every one.

Lower dune.

The slopes are steep and the "trail" just follows the crest of the dune the whole way.

Lake side.

The lakes have lots of birds. We also saw a lot of coyote tracks along the shores as we past them.

First hill.

We neared the first point that was not the top, had a break and regrouped.

We also enjoyed a sand slide, or a sandalanche, if you will.

Making the first high point.

It was a pretty neat experience hiking the crest; kind of other worldly in a way.

A long way to go.

Not many people seemed to be enjoying the full ten course meal like we were. They were skipping straight to the main course and we were still nibbling the appetizer. The actual high point is the peak at the very end.

Vortex Crater.

The Vortex Crater is huge. If one were to slide into it, it would be a difficult task to get back up.

Sand slog.

The wind really picked up about half way through, so sunglasses and shell jackets were nice to have. Going barefoot was pretty smooth walking but we still had lots of it left.

Dune Lakes.

One step forward, two steps back...

The high point.

It might have taken some coaxing to get the whole squad to push up to the high point after all the up-down and sliding around.

Battling the wind and sand to the top.

Replace the sand with snow and this would have been down right epic in the making.
The wind was howling; probably sustained 30-40mph gusting 50+.

Deez topping out.

We weren't going to let a little wind stop us from topping out.

Summit view.

Summit views were surprisingly impressive. Bennett Hills and Danskin Peak to the north, Owyhee Mountains to the west, and far off in the distance to the northwest, the Boise Mountains were visible.

Summit view.

Summit view.

Summit view.

Kite flying.

Then it was time for the kite flying session.

Kite flying.

We were getting a little tired of the wind sandblasting us, we got our summit shot and started down.

Summit shot.

We hiked back to the saddle just below the high point and headed down the slope that most of the traffic uses.

Looking up the short way to the peak.

There was plenty of open space to run, jump and slide down to the lake.

Dune behind the lake.

Then we put on our shoes for the hike back to camp to enjoy some cold drinks and hot pasta.

Best looking tent in the camp ground.

We wanted to get over to the observatory, but the cloud cover did not look promising. We hung in camp, got our Frisbee on and chatted with our neighbors. We'll save the observatory for the next time; adults only. The Lego Master was out cold by the time the stars came out.

Happy trails! Granola, out.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Cross and Avalanche Peak 3-19-2016

A winter attempt on Titus Peak ends due to do unstable cornices and deep soft snow. We change plans and climbed The Cross and Avalanche Peak instead.

Partners: Brett.

Stats: Including the Titus attempt to point 9,921, The Cross 9,225 and Avalanche Peak 9,433 - 7.6 miles, 2,700ft gain in 6:40hrs.

Gear notes: Snow shoes.

Links: The CrossAvalanche PeakThe Cross/Avalanche Peak Summitpost page.

Looking toward lower Titus form the road.

Brett and I met up at the Albertsons off of Federal way at O' Dark thirty (05:30) for what we hoped would be a winter ascent of a 10,000 foot peak. We were going for Titus Peak in the Smoky Mountains. There was recent heavy snowfall so the avalanche risk was moderate to considerable. Titus Peak seemed relatively safe to attempt but the generally mellow terrain still demanded caution.

Along the route.

We arrived at the pullout on Hwy 75 and were trudging up the track just after 8:30. The snow was deep powder so anything outside of the narrow track was going to be a lot of hard work to break trail though.

Along the route.

The weather looked to be stellar; almost no clouds and not a breath of wind. Even though the temp was 11F at the car, it felt considerably warmer. I was down to a short sleeve shirt in no time.

Castle Peak in the background.

We had hardly done anything when we turned back to take in the view and Castle Peak was already looming in the background.

Galena Peak.

The Boulder Range looked pretty well covered and I anticipate a good spring climbing season.

View toward the southern end of the Sawtooth Range.

The views from the Galena pass area are hard to beat.

Looking up the route.

We were making good time up the trail and arrived at point 9,921 listed as "Titus Weather Station" on Lists of John. Apparently, that's what most of the skiers out that day refer to as "Titus" because they all stopped there and dropped in on the east slopes toward Titus Lake. There were no tracks beyond that point leading to Lower Titus and Titus Peak. Oddly enough we could see ski tracks on Titus but they must have come up another route. The ridge we needed to follow was corniced and I knew the snow was deep and loose. I also saw recent slab avalanches below the area of a slope we would have needed to traverse to avoid the ridge. As close as we were so early in the day, it was a little disheartening to have to pull the plug on Titus Peak.

I'm all about getting the summit, but I'm really all about getting home.

Main crest of the Smoky Mountains.

We hung at the high point for a bit as several skiers made there way up and dropped in on the east slopes. We did give it a second look but I did not feel the the route was safe. Brett had suggested that we try The Cross and Avalanche Peak on the south side of the highway. A quick map check revealed that we were literally - right across the street from it! Lets get down this sucker and head up that way!

Boulder Mountains.

We zipped down to the road and I vowed that I would invest in an alpine touring setup.

View north to the Sawtooth Valley.

The expansive views in to the Sawtooth Valley cannot be understated.

Welcome sign.

So, I'll let this sink in for a minute. We turned back on a peak because of avalanche conditions and headed for two other peaks called "The Cross" and "Avalanche Peak." Despite the ominous names, they are fairly benign and proved to be perfectly safe.

The Cross.

We knew to get both peaks was about a 3 mile round trip and it was barely noon, so we had plenty of time. Now we just had to contend with the snow slog.

Snow slog up The Cross.

We found tracks heading in the same direction we needed to go, so that saved some work.

Avalanche Peak

About 45 minutes later we topped out on the narrow summit of The Cross. We got a good view of Avalanche Peak and decided it was a go.

Summit of The Cross.

There were several skiers on this side of the road as well. A couple of them said they had never seen this many people up here before. Every pullout was full of cars.

Boulder Range again.

So, anyways, the views did not suck.

Avalanche Peak.

Soon we were heading for Avalanche peak. We found a track headed straight for it which was nice, but the snow was getting soft.

Looking back at The Cross.

Looking back at The Cross, I realized that we would pretty much have to re-climb it to get back to the road.

Brett slogging up Avalanche Peak.

The sparse shade was a welcome break from the solar furnace. A bit of wind would have been nice to cool things down.

Looking back on our track.

Even though we followed a track, it still felt like breaking trail.

Southern Sawtooth Mountains.

No matter where you chose to venture from Galena pass, there are plenty of opportunities for pretty mountain pictures. We took a lot of them.

Smoky Mountains.

We could make out the point that we stopped at on Titus. So close, yet so far away...

Looking to the true summit of Avalanche Peak.

We made the summit of Avalanche Peak without incident and enjoyed our lunch.

Summit of Avalanche Peak.

I was ready for a nap in the shade, but we still had to get down. The snow was only going to get softer. Times a wasting!

Heading back to The Cross.

The downhill sections weren't too bad. The uphill sections sucked. We were able to traverse a shaded slope below the summit of The Cross.

Headed back to the car.

Soon we were back in the solar radiation heat bath, and back to the car shortly after that. It certainly felt like more than a 3 mile round trip, but we had already climbed almost half of Titus and all of this had been in deep powder; surely that had nothing to do with it. Seriously though, I need to invest in an alpine touring setup. The elusive winter ascent of a 10,000 foot peak will have to wait yet another year and Plan B saved the day yet again.

Spring has sprung so lets get at it! 

Happy trails! Granola, out.