Humpback Mtn (Feb 1, 2014)

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humpback_mtn_coverConditions: Day Hike
Gear: microspike, ice axe, snowshoes
Map: USGS Lost Lake
Area: North Bend, WA
Stats: 11.4mi, 3050' gain (round trip)

I've been wanting to get back out with some of my former climbing friends...try to get some interesting and more challenging trips in for 2014. I reached out to Steve/Deb, SuzanneR, and JimB. Well Suzanne couldn't make it but there would be four of us, me, Steve, Jim and Sandra. Now the question was what trip to do. The NWAC avy forecast wasn't looking the best, rating conditions "considerable" near and above tree line, and moderate below. I don't mind heading out in these kinds of conditions but I want a safe route. I was thinking Amabalis but Steve said Jim had just been up there. Well...what about Humpback. Last time I was up there is was with Steve, Suzanne, Dave in Dec-2007. Might be about time for a repeat trip.

After a couple of stops to pick up people, Gertie (my trusty Jetta wagon) was loaded up and headed up towards the pass. We turned off at exit 47 (the Annette Lk exit) and went right, immediately crossing a bridge and the...bam...snow. I didn't want to park on the road. Snow didn't look too deep. I just wanted to be able to get through the first slushy/snowy part and park in a wide spot along the side of the road. After a couple of tries, it worked. If I had the old Subie, I would most definitely have been able to drive to at least the first turnoff (about 1.4mi) or even higher to the 2nd switchback in the road (3mi). As it was, it was good to be out so we'd have some road walking to do today.

From where we parked, the first 3.7mi and 1120' gain is all on road. This was probably the trickiest part of the whole trip. With big fat tire 4X4's racing up the icy road. We'd hear them coming and try to get as far away as possible. Most slowed down as they passed us. A couple just gunned us with me hoping they didn't take me out if they slid off the road.

Right at about 3.7mi from the car is a gate (open) and our route/trail continued along an older road (slightly overgrown but very passable) to a sharp bend on the road (4.6mi, 3230'). I recall this spot really well from previous trips. We stopped, looked uphill for a bit of flagging or cut logs (this is the NW rib of Humpback) and sure enough, we spotted it. It's not super obvious if you don't know where to look. Sure enough, we crashed through some trees and there it was...a boot patch nearly straight up the NW rib. It pretty much stays steep and direct. It's a perfect route for avy conditions like we's on a ridge, and it's treed nearly the entire route to the top.

At this point we were still carry our training weight (snowshoes). Snow depth along the "gated" road was 8" or so. Once we left the road, it was thinner in the trees. The higher we went the deeper it got but still we carried the snowshoes. I was kind of in a funk and I've been to the top before so there was no driving desire to make the top. The weather forecast was calling for blue skies...I might have gone a bit higher if there would have been some views. Right at about 4470' we crossed the first small boulder field. Snow was a bit deeper than a bit downhill but still, in a couple of spots, I could see voids between boulders. Just above this, at about 4660' I called it a day. Steve, Jim and Sandra continued higher up. There is a second larger boulder field and even with snowshoes on, Jim did posthole in a ways to on of the voids.

I took my time, enjoyed a long lunch, then...headed downhill at a nice pace taking my time snapping some photos, looking at the frost covered trees, enjoying the silence.

I got back down to the road (3230') I dropped my pack and figured I'd wait for my group to catch up. The bits of blue sky quickly disappeared. I wasn't here long before Sandra popped out of the trees. She took a short break and we thought we'd take a slow pace back down to the car but just as we started to walk, we head the laughs of Jim and Steve uphill. We then regroups and started the long road walk back to the waiting car.

Our group promised to do some more trips together in 2014. It's been too long since hanging out with this fun group, about 6 years (just prior to my surgery) and hanging out with them, laughing, telling stories, listening to Jim and Steve's "issues"...I realized I miss my friends. I'm glad I got to hang out with such a great group today.
Humpback Mtn Slideshow

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