Dirtyface LO (May 11, 2014)

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dirtyface_lo_coverConditions: Day Hike
Gear: ice axe
Map: USGS Lake Wenatchee
Area: Lake Wenatchee
Reference: Day Hiking Central Cascades
Stats: 8.35mi, 3906' gain (round trip)

I was looking for a good Spring hike. Something with a lot of gain. Some snow. Good views. I've been thinking a lot about Dirtyface LO for a few weeks so when I asked around, JimK said he was interested. It's been several years for him. Over a decade since I've been there.

We got an early start meeting in Monroe at 7am. The long drive over to Lake Wenatchee we hardly saw any cars. Must have been everyone spending Mother's Day with their moms. We arrived at the TH (2081') early, about 8:30am and after lacing up the boots, we were headed up the trail by about 8:45am.

It was going to be a warm day. Forecast said about mid 50's at the top. Even in the early morning, it felt warm, like near 70. Yikes!

Down low the flowers are going pretty strong. Balsamroot, lupine, paintbrush, prairie stars... The forest from 2006(?) have sure clears the route. I don't remember much of my last trip up this trail but pre-fire, I definitely wouldn't describe it like I did today...open.

The trail climbs uphill pretty steady and crosses Fall Creek at about 1.17mi (2744'). Lots of gorgeous balsamroot here and right at about peak color. We continued uphill 2mi (3.507') to the first junction. There is an old signpost here but it's missing the sign. From this junction the trail follows an old road through a couple of swithbacks until reaching the steep part of the summer trail at 2.7mi (3787'). From here it's uphill through a series of short microswitchbacks. The summer trail is completely snow free until about 4450' so we were able to follow the trail for quite a ways. After the first patch of snow, the snow does become consistent pretty quick.

The snow is thin and rotten in sections. It's a bit unpleasant stepping through the snow and finding lots of downfall (from the 06' fire) so once the snow got consistent, we chose to stay close to the ridge (steep off to our left). This was mostly snow free and much less post holing. At about 3.46mi (4547') we hit a very short steep section of snow and then the hillside laid back a bit (less steep) making the hike straight up the snow fun. One more short section of snow just before hitting the east ridge of the LO site and then at about 4.24mi (5628') it felt like a short and pleasant ridge walk to the former LO site.

The weather station up there is nice and fancy looking (new). The old LO remains and footings are still nearly completely covered in snow.

We hat lots of summit time. Fun to spot the peaks and look at the route over to the middle peak (done that). The wind was kicking up so we didn't overstay our visit.

We followed our tracks nearly the whole way down (some minor deviations on the snow to avoid the really rotten stuff). We saw one other hiker and dog on the upper reaches of the snowy area. Two other hikes far down below on the dirt trail. Three other hikers on a beautiful sunny Sunday. We were back to the TH by about 4:30pm. Whodathunk we'd have the mountain nearly to ourselves on such a nice day. Once the car was packed up I managed to talk Jim into a shake at the 59er Diner. The first of the season :)

More information on the lookout: The original LO was established as a camp in 1914, then a D-6 cupola cabin in 1920 which was then replaced with an L-4 in 1933, and then finally an R-6 in 1957. That final structure was to be moved by helicopter to the nearby Alpine Lookout in 1975 but unable to lift it off the summit, the structure was burned to the ground.

Note: There is a lot of deadfall on the trail. Likely 30-40 trees down. Most easy enough to navigate over or around. A few that were a bit of a pain. The trail could sure use a bit chainsaw work to clear the trail. Lots of the deadfall is developing pretty substantial detour routes around them.
Dirtyface LO Slideshow

(click on map to view a larger version)

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Copyright Janet M. Putz
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