Sunday, May 4, 2014

Castle Peak

Last Friday we had a delightful time with Peter & Leigh-Ann scouting out a hike for the 4th Level YW to go on later this summer.  There was actually a lot of snow on the trail, making for a pretty wet hike, but not impassible.  Peter & I went almost all the way to the top before we got smart enough to turn back.  And although our feet got pretty cold, and eventually we were soaked to the skin well up past our knees, we had a blast.  And the view from "on top" was worth the climb.  This is definitely going to be a great hike (because the snow will be gone in a couple of months).  In fact, I hope my hiking buddy from Washington will go with Peter and I on this one if he is in town when the snow is gone.  Here is the photographic evidence of the lack of one ounce of sense between Peter & I.  But although I cannot speak for him, I had the time of my life!
 There was this much snow at the trail head as we began our hike.
The first meadow we passed.
The summit of Castle Peak is there in the middle of the photo.
We only made it to the outcropping seen toward the left of the photo.
  The intrepid hikers dodging the snow when possible.
 Looking back to where we had come.
Not long after this was taken the two of our party with good sense (and good looks) turned back.
It really was a beautiful day, and pretty warm until we got up to where we stopped.
But our feet were soaked from the start and pretty cold.  We took this photo to compare with the trail in July to see how far up the tree we were.  In most places I think the snow was only 3-4 feet deep, but in other places I am sure it was deeper.
 As can be seen here, for the most part we were pretty successful in staying on top of the snow, generally only sinking up to our ankles.  But every now and then we would break through and go in up to our knees or further.  It was much worse coming back down as the sun had softened up the snow, but we were going downhill and that made a lot of difference.  In places it was a pretty steep trail.
 This is where the trail we followed in met the Pacific Crest Trail, which crosses I-80 just east of the rest stops.  As you can see, about this point the ground started poking through the snow.  So the snow wasn't as bad (except in a few places) - but from here on it got a lot steeper.
 Castle Peak from the trail junction.
 Not to the top yet, but still great views.
 We called this rock our "Ebenezer", even though we didn't raise it.  This is looking back down the trail toward the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail.  After this we encountered hardly any snow on the ridge we were following.  Or at least it was easier to avoid it.
 Castle Peak from the outcropping we stopped at.  As can be seen, the trail descends to a saddle (where there is a lot of snow to go through) and then ascend steeply to the top.  If it weren't for the snow I might have tried to go on, but considering all the snow we had to go through to get back I left good enough alone.
And boy am I glad that for once I knew when to quit.  To get to this point we had hiked not quite 2.5 miles and gone up in elevation just over 1,000 feet.  But the snow just did us in.  Other than there being precious little shade along the trail, it would make a pretty nice hike (sin la nieve).
Looking back to the west the way we came.  If you look closely you can see the junction of the trails where the trees look like they come up and over the saddle, about mid-way from where we were to top of Andesite Peak, which can be seen in the background. 
 That's me on top of the outcropping, pointing to Old Man Mountain.
 That's us, happy that we made it and enjoying the view, which was nothing short of spectacular.
Near the point we stopped someone had ditched a nice sled under a tree.  I suggested that we use it in our descent to speed things up, but the trail boss nixed the idea as it didn't belong to us. ;)
 Just one of the spectacular views.  Andesite Peak is on the left and although you may not be able to make it out in this photo, we could see I-80 at Kingvale off in the distance, toward the right of the photo.
 Basin Peak (with Peter getting some lunch in the foreground).  I really think that lacking snow, a great day hike would be to begin early in the morning where we did (the Boreal exit), climb up to Castle Peak, then follow the ridge over to Basin Peak, then just drop down to pick up the Pacific Crest Trail and come back by Peter Grubb Hut and back to the start.  It would be a pretty good hike for a day, but I think it would be doable.
There it is folks.  The real deal.  Old Man Mountain on the right and 
Signal Peak on the left.
What a view.

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