Thursday, August 29, 2013

Almost-to-the-Heavenly-Twins from St. Mary's Peak


In the middle of our experiments with cheap packrafts, my friend Stewart and I decided we needed to spend some time up high. The ridge line from Saint Mary's Peak to the Heavenly Twins seemed to fit the bill: it has a high trailhead and a summit post description that dwelled on the gendarmes.  We expected a pleasant scramble through alpine terrain. Ignoring the large amount of vertical gain visible on a map we set our alarms for 6:30 and were at the trailhead after 8.  



We made good time to the Saint Mary's lookout, signed the guest book, chatted with the woman who works there and used her Osborne Fire Finder to identify a few peaks. A resupply hiker told us that a party had made the traverse in 6 hours the previous week and we were unlikely to make it any faster.


From the lookout the traverse looks quite easy. Just run out that red ridge and up that rocky one (see photo above). You can't quite see that instead of the pleasant run along bare ridge, you need to make a thousand foot drop through steep scrub forest before you even get to the rocky ridge.



Looking back towards Saint Mary's from a few miles out the ridge you can see the scrub forest. Less fun then we had hopped.


We enjoyed views of these Spires and walls to the South.


And the weathered peaks to the North.


The granite of the ridge became whiter the further west we progressed.


Just before a large drop off we found a very cool old summit register one entry had dubbed the "Almost-There" jar  after reaching it after a 4am start. We eyed the terrain between us and the main summit and, worrying a bit about the forecast storms, decided the lakes below us looked more tempting than the peaks above. Stewart probably could have made at least one of the proper summits but I was wondering if I would have legs left for the climb back to Saint Mary's.





When I uploaded the photos for this blog post google+ automatically made the panorama above which turned out quite nicely.





The lake we visited was pleasant and not that far out of our way as we needed to drop down to begin the climb back up through the scrub forrest. We both swam and Stewart noticed that it was much warmer than a typical Cascade lake which would have been fed by snow melt much later into the year.








The climb back to the Saint Marys peak & lookout was a bit of a slog, but I suspect we managed to be both the first and last entry in the guest book for the day, some 30 people had signed it between our visits.



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