West Bandera Mtn (Pt 5157) (Jan 25, 2014)

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west_bandera_coverConditions: Day Hike
Gear: microspike, crampons, ice axe
Map: USGS Bandera
Area: North Bend, WA
Reference: Day Hiking Snoqualmie Region
Stats: 7.5mi, 3073' gain (round trip)

I sent a message to a few close friends asking if anyone was interested in hiking up Bandera. This weird snowpack this year really sucks. I had a nearly unpleasant hike up Arrowhead Mtn the previous weekend and I've pretty much given up on a snow trip until...snow falls. Bandera was a new trip for me. I've done Defiance (same TH) years ago but never peeled off over to Bandera. I'd seen some recent TRs, saw the snow...ICE...conditions up there and figured it would be a good trip. JimK, Gwen, and Karen were in.

Karen, coming down from BC came by Friday evening and crashed at the house. Early the next morning we drove out to North Bend to meet up with Josie and Scott for an early breakfast at the Riverbend Cafe. Thanks Josie... It was nice to be with friends. Afterwards we drove to the TH at 2160' (exit 45 off I-90, then driving to the TH at the end of FS 9030) where we met up with Gwen and Jim.

Lots of cars in the parking lot at 9am. We figured most would be headed over to Mason Lakes with a few over to Bandera. We were about right. Boots on and packed, we were headed up the trail by about 9:15am.

Wow...so little snow...no snow actually down low. This time of year the parking lot should be surrounded, the trail covered. Seriously...it looked like Spring. This persistent series of inversions was just downright strange. Down low where it was colder (~ 20F) I could almost swear it looked like October if it wasn't for the lack of Fall color. The higher up we went the more it felt like late Spring or even Summer..temps at the summit of West Bandera (Pt 5157) were downright warm...about 55F.

We hiked up the trail which is in really good shape. At first, it's the typical road converted to trail. Long old road switchbacks at first and then after about .85mi after the trail crossed Mason Creek, the "road" transitions to real trail. Jim mentioned having hiked out this way years ago before the "new" trail was build, he'd described having some difficulty finding the old straight up the hillside trail in recent years. We passed right by it on the way up but found it much more easily on the way down, with it peeling off the left (north side) of the trail at about 3420'.

After Mason Creek the trail continues a long traverse somewhat mild at first (up to about 1.45mi from the TH) and then gets steeper for the next .4 mi (to 1.85mi from the TH) before easing up again to the first real switchback on the trail at about 2.2mi (3490'). Still no real snow yet. The were some isolated patches of ice on the trail (compacted snow turned to ice from all the foot traffic) but nothing substantial. A couple more switchback and at about 2.45mi (3700') were in the open looking uphill to our right at a bit of a boulder field and some of the first consistent snow/ice on the trail. Microspikes came in really handing on this trip. We saw several people on the way up and on the way down with rubber boots, what looked like river shoes and all I can say is...they didn't look like they were having much fun on the descent.

At about 3mi from the TH (4130') we hit another switchback on the trail (signed). To continue the obvious trail would take us over to Mason Lake. Instead, we headed nearly straight uphill on the south side of Bandera on a steep trail (covered in snow) that was headed up to the ridgeline. From the point we left the main trail (4130') to the ridgeline, it was about  .19mi and 448' gain. From the ridge looking east towards Defiance and Putrid Pete's Pk, it clear...there really isn't any snow. It's amazing/astounding how little snow there was. We hadn't bothered to bring training weight on this trip (snowshoes) thankfully. There just isn't enough snow to bother bringing them.

From the point we gained the ridge it's another .42 and 565' gain to the summit of West Bandera. It's a really pleasant and beautiful ridge walk. One of the things I like best. I had wanted to head over to the real summit of Bandera but that's another 1.16mi and 350' gain (round trip). Most people were stopping at West Bandera. There was a boulder field to cross to get there and with the rotten snow conditions, we called it a day on the west peak. We had the place to ourselves for nearly and hour which was really nice.

On the way down we stayed on the ridge about longer (missing our up tracks). This ended up being a slightly less steep descent back down to the main trail (highly recommend doing this). Since we were so close to the Ira Spring Memorial, we headed over that way for a diversion before making our way back down to the TH.
West Bandera Slideshow

(click on map to view a larger version)

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