Stafford LO (Mar 3, 2018)

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stafford_lo_coverConditions: Snowshoe
Gear: Snowshoes
Map: USGS Red Top Mountain
Area: Teanaway, WA
Reference: n/a
Stats: 8.78mi, 1130' gain (round tripy)

Avalanche danger was considerable. I had contacted JimK about doing a trip but what did we want to do with the avy forecast. I didn't want to do the I90 Cougar/Tiger/Squak/Rattlesnake hikes. Just not interesting and just way too many people. I had thought about returning to Stafford LO but wasn't sure about the long drive over the pass. JimK suggested it as an option so I jumped on it?

Steve and I met JimK at the 65th P&R and we carpooled east. The drive over the past went nice though there was lots of traffic for that early in the day. We wondered if it was a lot of ski traffic since there had been so much snow the past week or so. We arrived at the Teanaway River Rd turnoff (off Hwy 97) and headed up the valley. JimK wondered how many cars would be parked at the end of the road (plowing in the winter means the end of the road is 29 Pines). We arrived to find just a few cars/trucks. Looked like there would be a few sledders out in the area (elve 2608').

We headed up the road and ...dang...forgot my phone. I left it in plain sight right in my car. Steve (gotta love a guy that will run back to your car to get your phone for you) volunteered to get it for me since I can't run and we didn't want to waste a lot of time. I didn't want to leave any bait that might lure someone into smashing a car window. Steve was back in about 30 minutes and we continued up the road. We continued up NF-9737 almost 1.5 mile (2724') to the first road junction and continued straight onto NF-9703. We went another 1/2 mile to the next junction right after the bridge over Standup Creek (2807'). Making a left on this road we finally started to pick up some elevation gain. We continued up that road about 1.2 mi to the summer "trailhead" which really just means the bridge over the rest of the road is gone and replaced with a footbridge (elev 3105'). We found the footbridge covered in snow up to the handrails. JimK kicked steps across first, followed by Steve, then me.

On the other side of the footbridge we continued up the old road (NF-112) converted to trail to it's end at 4.42 mi . We were only about 150' below the old LO site at the end of the road so it was a nice little boot up some fresh snow to the top. We got really lucky with the views. The weather was warmer and the skies much bluer than expected. We had views over to Miller, Hawkins and Esmeralda, Teanaway Butte... We took a nice long break at the top, almost 45 minutes. Then almost in unison we all stood up, we all started to get chilled about the same time so it was time to head down.

We retraced our route up all the way back to the car. We made one stop about 1/2 mile from the car. JimK mentioned a nice spot along the creek makes for a nice break on the way out. It turned out to be a nice small sunny spot so I talked the group into a short break. We dropped backs and just enjoyed the views.

We heard some snowmobiles on the road and looked up to see two large groups heading UP the road which did seem strange to that late in the afternoon. I thought I had seen some red writing flash as they flew by. Steve said he saw "SAR". Not good. I spoke to someone who was hiking up the road and asked if there was an incident "Yes, maam, an avalanche". Really not good. The parking area was crowded with responders when we got back to the car. The rig behind us that was there earlier in the day was still parked there. Turns out a group of snowmobilers on the back side of Esmeralda were caught in an avalanche. There was really sad news for two families today... It was a very powerful reminder that the mountains can be harsh. My thoughts go out to all those affected by the tragedy yesterday.
Stafford LO Slideshow

(click on map to view a larger version)

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