Mileage: 7.8 miles RT
Elevation Gain/Highest: 4394ft/6560ft
Map: Green Trails Sloan Peak No 111, USGS Sloan Peak, my GAIA
Favorite Eats After Hike: Creekside Ale House
This was my second successful scramble with the Everett Mountaineers on my way to completing my badge. The weather forecast was marginally at best (thunderstorms the night before) but today would be all about the journey. Our trip leader boasted this route would give us lots of challenges and a great view payoff; we got the first.
We started up the climber’s path at 2166ft off FR 4096 about 8:30 after a great pep talk about how this was one of his favorite scrambles. He sure was playing it up, I hope it lived up to the hype. I have started plenty of hikes in cloudy skies only to have the sun break out. Maybe this would be one of them?
The faint path took us through the forest alternating between contour and fall line as it first follows Merry Brook and then sweeps around to the north and finds a ridge up to the east at about 2600ft. Because this trail is not maintained, there was plenty of debris and downed trees to maneuver. However, there is an abundance of flagging so it paid off to not only watch the trail in front of you but trees ahead for direction.
We met the first boulder field at around 3500ft and just shy of 10am. The rocks were moss covered but there was no snow so it was possible to scamper up this one rather easily. Poles were stashed on packs as hands were definitely need. The trail was well defined after this as we continued our steep climb up the ridge above Nels Lake. We couldn’t see it but you could hear water cascading down towards it from above us.
The next boulder field at 4200ft had some snow to make things more challenging but everyone did fine making it up. It was actually a nice break from the trail. Helps with the upper body workout, right? After this there were some views at 4300 ft north at Spring Mountain. It gave me a little hope that we may a view at the top. But as with time on the mountain, things change quickly.
We had solid snow by 4450ft and 10:45am as we continued our climb south to the summit and I switched from my approach shoes to boots at this point. The slope wasn’t that bad and the snow was soft enough to kick in decent steps.
It was about 4900ft when we hit the crux of our journey, the cliff band that we would have to navigate to complete our way to the summit. A few of those in our group had been talking about it from the beginning having been to the top of Bedal before. There was a ramp or notch that we would have to scramble up instead of simply going up a gully (which would have cliffed us out eventually).
Where we came out, one of our group said the ramp was directly in front of us. The other was sure it was higher up. Two of our group (including the one with the rope) simply continued on up the gully. After some discussion between the trip leader and the one who was sure it was where we were, he continued up with other two to see what they could find. We waited a bit (donning jackets because we were in the clouds and rain was beginning) and then they yelled down they had found a way up.
We shortly joined them only to find out that the person with rope had gone up a Bergshrund (where the snow meets the side of cliff band) but then the trip leader decided it wasn’t safe enough to hold the weight of everyone else to get up on top. So, it was back down to where we were before to attempt to scramble up onto the rock and meet up with our one stranded team member.
This turned out to take about an hour as several people (including myself) attempted a route up on the moss and debris covered rock. I have to say this was a pretty challenging thing, especially because the snow that met the rock was hard and icy and there was very little “veggie belay” to help. It wasn’t until about 12:30 before we were all up and reunited. We weren’t even 3 miles in yet.
The snow climb continued for about 15 more minutes until we found a level patch of bare ground and stopped for lunch. We checked in with everyone and the consensus was to continue on to the summit. Why go through all the effort to make it up that cliff band and not press on.? I wanted this summit to count towards my badge!!
By 1pm we were back on our way. Stopping for too long meant getting cold and no one wants that. So we were once heading up, keeping just to the left of the rocky ridge. There were occasional views of the North Fork Sauk River Valley below.
We couldn’t see the summit but we knew it was there hiding in the clouds. Constant checks to GAIA and the compass, we opted to take a route to the side and come up via the east side of the peak.
The sun was a tease as it briefly illuminated our final destination as we kicked steep steps in the snow field and then the ridge at 6200ft. The top layer of snow would shed off as we slowly moved along, but only a few inches.
The first of us reached the summit at 2:20pm and 3.8 miles in and I couldn’t have been more happy to sit down on the minimal amount of exposed rock at the top. I watched the rest of our team emerge from the fog to join us.
Even though we couldn’t see a single thing around us, we celebrated our victory and wrote our names in the register. I had fun with Peakfinder and imagined what a view would look like if I decided to return. It even began to snow lightly but no one cared.
Our trip down was more less uneventful. Glissading was minimal due to conditions, but plunge stepping made things go pretty fast. That is until we reached that darn cliff band again. Even though we knew where we had come up, going down can be a whole other ball of wax (do people still use that expression?). While some of us opted to go back down the same route (myself included), others ventured down a notch just to the north of there that although longer offered more vegetation to hold onto. I am glad I took my route, but I can say there was a point between two foot holds that I wished I had brought my helmet (we were told they were optional).
Once down from there, I knew it would be smooth sailing back to the cars. While we waited for the last of our team to descend, I switched back into my approach shoes (Altras) for the rest of our journey. The boulder fields were a little bit sketchier (some how it is easier to pull yourself UP large rocks than to lower yourself DOWN them). We all managed to cross them without punching through snow but one. My only mishap on the way down was that I had strapped my ice axe and one pole onto my pack and somewhere in the tangle of trees in the descent I lost it. I was using a new pack that used Velcro to attach the pole and well, I guess it wasn’t meant to survive scrambling. Lesson learned.
We were back to the cars at 6:30pm and headed down the road soon after. A stop in Lake Stevens for dinner rounded out another successful scramble with the Everett Mountaineers. I am excited to see what our next adventure will be!
Directions: Drive north on the Mountain Loop Highway to FR 4096 (past Barlow Pass). If you get to Bedal Campground you went too far. Turn right and follow the road to the second switchback. You will see a cairn for a climber’s path about 100ft up on the left.