Thursday, September 02, 2010

I Bag Mount Washburn

I wanted to bag another 10,000-foot peak, so I tried to pick one that was pretty easy. Everyone hikes Mount Washburn, I'd heard. A lot of people tried to warn me away from it because it has an actual road going to the top and a live-in fire tower on the summit (one of the last such fire towers around) and it can get pretty crowded.

But I didn't let those things bug me. I'm new to the whole western mountain hiking scene so even if it wasn't the best and most isolated peak, it would still be impressive to me. So I went for bagging this one, realizing that I might not get another chance to hike a third summit on the trip. Carole and Andy wanted to do some other hikes in the valleys and a raft trip--I had to pick a mountain and go for it. Mount Washburn ended up being my choice.

Following is a brief photo album of my hike to the top of Washburn. It's not the biggest peak in the park, and the things other people had said about it were certainly true. But it was just my second 10,000-foot peak so it was a prize to me.

I chose to have Carole drop me off at the parking area at the end of the gravel Chittendon Road. This took a lot of climbing off for me and put me within three miles of the summit. The "trail" here is actually a road that the rangers and Quest Phone company use for access to the tower and the communications equipment on the top of the mountain. Indeed, at one point along the trail I heard a familiar sound from behind and turned to see a Quest Company pickup truck rolling up the slope. I walked to the side of the road to take photos of some flowers and let it pass. Yeah, that was a bummer.

The peak off in the distance with the nub on top is the summit of Mount Washburn. It was a long way off, but the grade was easy. I kept looking along the sides of the trail for wildlife, but nothing was showing its face. I'd heard that there were lots of female Bighorn sheep, but after a few miles I'd seen nothing at all--not even a marmot.

I was getting closer to the top. The forests were giving way to meadows and I was really looking for sign of sheep.

The road switchbacks along the ridge, making for a very gentle grade and a really easy hike. The forests all along this part of the mountain were dead. I've heard the pine beetles have decimated the woods and the stories were true. Vast swaths of forest land are just standing ruin. Much like the destruction of our hemlocks here in the East.

I was almost at the summit when I took this shot. This was the trail down to the main park road far below. I would hike to the other end on this trail/road to meet Carole later in the day.

Some guys from North Carolina took this photo of me with my camera. My second 10K foot peak!

Below the fire tower on the top is a glassed-in room where you can sit to get away from inclement weather. It was just a bit cool and breezy up there the day I was on the top, but I can see where it would be good to have such shelter in snow or electric storms. This little ground squirrel came in under the door to beg for food. I didn't give him anything. Because I'd started the trip early, there weren't a lot of people on the mountain yet. This was to change drastically as I made my way down the mountain.
As I began to descend the peak I came to some spots where you can see that, while Washburn is easy to hike, it does have some very rugged sections. And off in the distance you can see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Looking back up at the fire tower and phone communications equipment.

I really liked the hike down. Lots of impressive cliffs and outcrops of stone.

Time for a self-portrait looking back at the summit area and fire tower.

Down below the scenery was great. The mountain on the other side of the road is Dunraven Mountain. I wish I'd have had the time to bag that one. It would be a simple hike from the road to the summit.

This was one of the flocks of Bighorn sheep I saw from the trail.

Unfortunately there were no males. The flock was made up of ewes and kids.

The closer I got to the end of the trail, the more people I began to see. By the time I made the parking lot there was an almost constant stream of people making the long climb to the top. This made me very happy that I'd started my hike at 8:00 am and had avoided the crowds.

One last really good view back toward the ridges of Mount Washburn as I approached the parking lot at the road.

And right at the end I was rewarded with this really fantastic view of Dunraven! What a cool mountain! Next time I go I'll have to take the short walk up from the road to the top. It looks like it has some really good views!


Jack said...

Cool! I kept meaning to do that hike when we were there, but just didn't get to it.

HemlockMan said...

If you go back and do the hike, I'd suggest starting early in the morning. I got started around 8:00 am and there were maybe five or six people on the summit by then. But by the time I got to the Dunraven Trail parking lot there were probably a couple of hundred people making their ways to the top from that end. Most people seem to start the hike around 11:00 am to noon.