| May 30, 2018 |
Sometimes, it’s really challenging to recognize what we need, ask the Universe for it, then ACT on our needs. A lot of us can feel the shift in our needs, but not many people actively seek resolutions.
This climb (and trip overall) was a feast for the soul. ‘Twas the day of Haley’s birth, and she arranged a trio of soulful girls to celebrate her entrance into the world! The weather was pristine: not too hot to induce uncontrollable sweating, a warm & refreshing breeze, and consistent clear skies. Minimal wardrobe changes were required and the vibes were high. Plus, we saw minimal people on the trial and the views of the southern Pickets and Mt. Triumph were gosh darn inspiring. Not too shabby for 2018’s first North Cascades summit, eh?
Here’s our journey to the summit of Trapper’s Trappers Peak!
Climbed: 5/27/18 (Haley’s Date of Birth)
Location: My favorite highway (Highway 20), 48.68826°N / 121.32269°W
Length: 10.2 miles, roundtrip according to WTA (GPS track 9.8 miles)
Highest Point: 5,966 ft / 1,818 m
Elevation Gain: 3,466 feet (TH starts at 2,500)
Weather & Conditions: Sunny and 65, literally perfect (and almost a Joe Nicolls song). Snow starts at 4,200 feet, bear grunting behind rock at 4,050 feet (eep!).
Theme Song: Strokin’ // Hands Clap
The weekend was set up for success, but our expectations were far exceeded on every level. Personally, I entered this weekend with a full heart. The week beforehand, I traveled to South Florida with my mother to visit my bestie and her dog, Gus. Though my life in Washington is beautiful, being so many miles away from loved ones takes its toll on my soul. I needed the in-person conversations (AND HUGS!) with the two women who I connect so deeply with. I needed to ground myself and to return to me. With my energy renewed, my heart at peace, and my intentions reset, South Florida gave me just what I needed.
So, when it came to Memorial Day Weekend, I was able to put energy into planning an epic celebration of Haley’s 28th birthday (despite the impending doom of her turning a year older). I’d been itching to drive across Highway 20 since it opened on May 11, walk on some snow, and stand atop a peak in the North Cascades! Haley and her girlfriend, Marian, agreed to climb Trappers Peak then drive the rest of Highway 20 to Winthrop. The result of our decision was happy hearts, peeling sun-kissed skin, and sore abs from laughing so hard. (Oh, and my shoulders are sore. Is that from all the fist-bumping?)
I guess an indication to how great the weekend is that I’m actually writing a trip report on it, and it’s not a year later, and I actually edited some photos, and I’m feeling creative and free and all that sappy good stuff again. AMEN for renewed energy and run-on sentences!
You know when you meet someone that you immediately feel is meant to be your friend? Well, that’s Haley. I mean, it’s not even a feeling, really… because I showed up at Haley’s doorstep one day to go skiing and we were wearing the SAME socks, patterned wool shirt, and matching ski gear: Scarpa Gea boots, Dynastar Cham skis… and, literally, this was NOT planned. So that’s more like FACT than feeling. We had no choice but to be friends that day. We talked the whole way to Steven’s Pass about wholehearted living, the law of attraction, relationships, and life. So I knew we were up for more soulful connections on our Highway 20 road trip!
Haley’s birthday army (Birthday Girl, Marian, and Kristen) loaded into Jazzy (my Subaru) at a leisurely morning pace. Some might call it a “bonfire start,” but we’ll call it a “birthday start” for Haley. It certainly was no alpine start, but we weren’t trying to be heroes this day. Marian and I met for the first time, and I made the wonderful first impression with my a-peeling skin (get it? It’s not easy being ridiculously good looking, you know.) from my fresh South Florida sunburn. She put her bags into my already-packed car (was this a 2-day or 2-week trip? You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference by peering in my windows. Saying we were prepared for anything would be an understatement), and we were underway.
The drive to Thornton Lakes Trailhead was energizing, and it’s not just because of the Starbucks coffee. I blessed the girls with my “Singalong & Disney” Playlist, which embarrassingly and inappropriately contains Disney songs alongside songs like Lonely Island’s I Just Had Sex and Bloodhound Gang’s The Bad Touch. The playlist also offered an introduction to Strokin’ by Clarence Carter, which is pretty much the best song to share with new friends. We spent the rest of the weekend strokin’ to the glorious mountain sights.
Jazzy handled the drive to the trailhead pretty well, but woahwee was it a rocky ride! (Note: The road could definitely be conquered by 2WD at a slower pace than we drove.) Blasting Hands Clap and fist bumping out the sunmoonroof was probably QUITE the sight to see, and we rolled up to the trailhead in style, but there was nobody to stare at us in amusement. We pulled up to a trailhead with 3 empty cars and nobody in sight. We all made a valiant attempt at pooping before hitting the trail (33% success). Not too bad for a 10am arrival. I was praying for solitude, but was definitely not expecting it.
The trail started out very mild. It almost felt like a road, and it was completely snow-free for the first 2+ miles. (Upon research, turns out it’s a decommissioned logging road!) We trotted along, with a few creek crossings – including a powerful stream that wet all our feet! Haley’s Spidey senses were tingling, and she decided to take her bear spray out as we continued on the easy trail. Not even 10 minutes later, we passed a pair that warned us of a bear up ahead (they were forewarned by another couple)! They didn’t see the bear, but it (she?) was audible behind a rock after the first switchbacks. Another 0.25 miles later, we ran into the bear-detecting couple who gave us more hints of its whereabouts. Luckily, us girls had enough to banter about that making human noise wasn’t a problem. But, lo and behold, at 4,050 feet we heard the bear! She had to be less than 100 yards from the trail. Marian swears it was a tree creaking, not a bear grunt… but that debate is for another time. (It was a bear.)
The two groups before us had turned around due to snow, which really started at 4,200 feet. Being that the switchbacks were between the trees and covered in snow, we kind of avoided them by making a mess of our own trail, following the zigzagging steps of another group that ventured into the snow. There was certainly some funny route finding, but that’s all the adventure isn’t it! We ended up a bit too west, and were going to sketchily scale alongside a giant boulder to head east, but ended up descending a bit before relocating the trail.
According to WTA, eventually the trail forks: left leads to Thornton Lake, and right heads towards the south ridge of Trappers Peak. We didn’t see a fork (allegedly there’s a sign), but veered to the right/east to follow the apparent trail and clearing in the trees.
Haley lived up to her Instagram claim to fame “Alpine Puff” when she released her scent into the air as we stumbled upon a perfect stopping point. Marian and I were downwind of her royal puffiness, and our olfactory systems were not prepared for the surprise Haley had in store! We all giggled, and Marian and I made mental notes to avoid being downwind of our dearest friend in the future.
We stopped for lunch at 1PM @ 4,900 feet just SE of the ridge heading towards Trappers Peak, with our objective in sight. To our east, we had views of Big Devil Peak, Paul Bunyan’s Stump, Pyramid Peak and Snowfield Peak! (ALL THINGS I WANT TO CLIMB!) Haley had the most perfectly picked strawberries to chow on while we gawked at the sights, until we realized there was MORE to see higher!
The ridge contained snow-capped sections of gentle scrambles, with a few class three scrambling sections. It was SO FUN to walk on the crunchy, perfect snow, then trot along the rocks. Despite the sun’s rays, the snow maintained most of its firmness. There were a few spots with more slush, but we all experienced minimal potholing (maybe 2 per person?) and slips. Marian opted to discontinue climbing around 5,600 feet. We had walked across a few firm cornices, and she feared drop-offs and the heights accompanied with the remainder of the climb.
Though there were not any drop-offs (Haley and I were sure to tell her!), we couldn’t blame her for speaking her limitations. She stayed in a safe place, watching us as we climbed the remainder of the ridge to the summit! We finally crossed paths with the bootpack setters on their way back down (and didn’t see them again! Or anyone else until we were back on the old logging road!).
Mt. Triumph loomed over Thorton Lakes, just beyond our field of view to the left. As we scrambled up to the summit, the USGS Geological Survey Marker was covered, but we didn’t even bother looking at the ground because our field of view was flooding with 360-degree views, including a rare and special view of the South Pickets!
Haley and I summited at 3PM, and took jumping photos and selfies and more ridiculous photos (PG13 for sure), soaking in the thrilling joy of a North Cascades summit we certainly earned!
My only regret is that we didn’t use the margarita mix and tequila stowed in my pack at the summit. But, to be fair, we couldn’t really do it without Marian.
The descent involved a little more pathfinding, and we veered a little too east off course after following drainage for longer than comfortable. We decided to cross the stream at a lower elevation, but this put us even further east. However, once I properly consulted with my compass and GPS, we were on the right course again. Unfortunately, Haley’s Spidey senses were again in tact as we realized our elevation was about the same as the grunting bear’s… so we quickly gained some vertical feet to get above the rock and switchbacks. Had we got a few yards further west, we may have had a different story to share here.
On the trail out, I marveled further at the trillium flowers dotting the trail’s borders. Turns out, trillium plants are long lived and can take up to 10 years to flower from seed! The leaves of the flowers change from white to pink as it ages.
Overall, this took us 8 hours of total time, but that includes 1 hour and 55 minutes of “stopping time” spent marveling at peaks, eating snacks, taking summit photos, and zigzagging while route finding.
Haley put it best on the way to Winthrop: There’s comfort in knowing we can go the wrong way on the trail and in life. Sometimes, we start heading in the wrong direction, and with the help of our own personal army, we can steer ourselves back in the right direction. Life gives us constant transitions, and be it an army of family or friends, we choose who we fight our battles with. Haley, Marian, and I ventured into the mountains and into our souls, and we all found exactly what we needed. We spoke of releasing fear, embracing our authentic selves, and engaging with people who lift us higher.
The cherry on top of our trip? There were three cherries, actually.
- A stay at the North Cascades Mountain Hostel in Winthrop.
- Running into our other mountain friends (Mountain Bastards!) at the ciderhouse in Winthrop and jamming to some Tom Petty covers.
- Walking into THREE different restaurants in hopes of finding food, only to end up at the best choice of all – Carlos1800 Mexican Grill & Cantina! Our waiter, Juan Carlos, was the happiest server and brought each of us patron-based margaritas and sang Haley happy birthday as she wore a sombrero.
Could the day have been any better? I really think not.