Our first hike of the 2018 season…

Pasayten talked me into backpacking up Tiffany Mountain as a starter trip — a shakedown cruise — said he’s been up that hill every year, except for last year, for the last eight years or so.  Carried a bottle of “Epiphany” beer to the summit and took a “boots and beer” pic entitled “Epiphany on Tiffany.”

Yeah I know, but that’s my buddy.

I was informed that one year snowshoes were needed because of the amount of snow on the lower sections of the trail.  Seems to me, Pasayten shared a couple of other gems from other trips. Since I had hiked this trail with my wife years ago I knew it was less than 3 miles to the summit.  Perhaps because of the minimal miles, I didn’t really listen to all that was said.

So, the week before our planned expedition, we took a drive up Boulder Creek road to discover if we could even get to Freeze-Out Pass, the location of the trailhead.  It is a road. I can attest to that. First we encountered a quite substantial boulder located dead center in the road, but with lots of room to drive around it. About a mile from Freezeout Pass – we came up against the first of a series of dead trees fallen across the road.  This being part of the area of the Tripod Wildfire, there are many, many acres of standing dead trees, and they do fall every which way, including across the road.

No saw in the truck, so we walked around the first barrier and up the road.  As we rounded the first bend, we realized there were multiple obstacles. Some single trees, some doubles, and a few clusters of deadfall.  I said I have several buck saws we can bring . Pasayten said maybe we should just walk the road from the Roger Lake parking area — it would add a mile, but when we hit the real uphill, we’d be warmed up.  Being the senior member of the party at five years older, I suggested less warm-up was desirable for more-senior companions.

Driving back down the road, Pasayten said he was going to visit the local USFS office to see if he could get them to cut out the trees before next week.  Sounds like a plan, I said. Conversations in the days following this scouting trip revealed that the road was the responsibility of a different region of this National Forest and that they had no plans to deal with it at this time — being involved in helping deal with flooding issues in the Okanogan Valley.

Once again, I mentioned my excellent bucksaws.  Pasayten ordered a chainsaw. Young folks are always in a hurry.  So, on the morning of departure, we traveled the 27 miles from Pasayten place to the first deadfall again.  Prepared this time to make our way to the pass. I could not resist mentioning that we coulda done the job with my bucksaws and saved him the purchase price.  He just said he needed a chainsaw anyway. After an hour of him cutting and me dragging tree sections, I appreciated his wisdom — or lack of appetite for working up a sweat before the hike, or saving his energy to try and keep up with me on the hike — because those same things worked for me, too.

At Freezeout Pass, we could see that the road down the east side — toward Tonasket and the Okanogan Valley — was still totally covered by snow.  Another reason, besides helping with flood issues, why that USFS crew hadn’t been up to open the road.

Loaded up, we traipsed through the barb-wire gate, diligently closing it behind us as requested, and proceeded up the trail after making our way around the first of many fallen trees across it.  Wasn’t actually too tough going, as detours around deadfall were easy to find and some well-established by previous hikers. We were seeing boot track in the damper sections of the trail, along with moose and elk tracks, so we were not he first up Tiffany this year.

At about a third of the way to the summit, we encountered the first significant snowfield in the timber, and decided to navigate to the east side of the wide ridge which is more open meadows.  Finding a route with less snow was our desired goal after postholing across a couple of snowfields. Surprising us, we found the meadows to be seemingly totally covered with snow from ankle to crotch deep.  After several too deep postholing drops into the soft wet snow, I resorted to using my organic snowshoes — read that as “hands-and-knees,” and made it across the deepest patch. The same patch of snow we had no problem avoiding coming back down two days later.

Going up, it seemed that the snowfields spanned the meadows top to bottom and all the way across.  Our goal was to find the shortest route across the snow. Coming down, we were able to see the gaps in said snowfields and avoid almost all of the mushing through them.  Seeing things from a different perspective always helps, right?

Anyway, we did reach the summit which was almost totally clear of snow on the southwest side.  The northeast drop-off still had huge cornices plastered to the rock face on that side. After kicking back a while, we began scoping out camp spots, finally settling for a  kind of bowl partially encircled by some large boulders, somewhat protected from the prevailing (at that moment) wind, somewhat level, and mostly big enough for our two tents.  After two nights, Pasayten named out site, “Lumpy Camp.” Younger folks are so critical.

It should be noted that I did not chuckle, chortle, or otherwise take issue with the fact that Pasayten only packed ⅔ of the water filtration unit.  Being always somewhat prepared for many eventualities, I had my Steripen to zap snowmelt water. Also had my own black plastic bag to wrap bottles packed full of snow in to hasten the melting.  We both found that packing our cookpots full of snow and setting them in the sunshine provided water to cook with by mealtime. I dumped the ingredients for my dinner in a pot, filled the pot with snow, and after it had sat in the sun till dinner time, I had fully rehydrated food to simply warm up — a great fuel saver.

The view from our perch at 8200+ feet was great!  Sharing the mountaintop with about a million ladybugs was interesting.  Little Tiffany Lake was still frozen over and our plan for day two was reassessed.  We had thought we would be able to wander the ridges off the summit. Contemplated dayhiking to the southeast, down and through Whistler Pass and maybe over to the summit of Clark Peak and/or to the northwest above Little Tiffany and Tiffany Lake.  Major snowfields lay in both direction between us and those nice-looking open meadowy ridges just calling to us.

One of the subjects we chatted about, sitting in our ultralight chairs — ownership of which is a membership requirement of OGHC — was that a fall trip up here could allow some major ridge rambing. And maybe we should add that to our list of possibles.   Occasionally, as one might note glancing through the images accompanying this recap, I ventured an opinion or suggestion to Pasayten that either received no response or a somewhat delayed one as he roused himself from “resting his eyes.”

The weather was pretty nice mostly.  Warm when the sun shone, chilly when the clouds hid it.  The wind varied from breezy to blowing unweighted items over with occasional calm spells.  Had a bit of rain, heard some thunder, watched different rain squalls dump here and there up and down the drainages.  Watched the smoke boil up out of the Eightmile Canyon prescribed burn and drift in various directions. Watched clouds drift in from the south and southwest and then seemingly go up in smoke, or water vapor.   We both spent some time reading. I brought an UL paperback novel, Pasayten brought 14 — on his Kindle. That Kindle weighs about the same as my book. If I consider my book to be UL, does that mean his Kindle is UL too?  I do know that he was not doing any heavy reading – – –

All in all, our jaunt was a good start to the hiking season.  As a shakedown cruise it proved worthwhile as I learned it would be wise to make sure Pasayten had packed all the components of his gravity-flow h2o filtration unit.  Maybe I will check on all the shared equipment he brings. He said that he would be sure to caution me about leaving tender, untanned toes and tops of feet out too long in high-altitude sunshine.  We both learned that the legs, especially the back legs, of those UL chairs have a tendency to sink, actually kinda posthole, into thawing ground I was reminded that a flat-looking tent site isn’t necessarily as flat as it looks — except in relation to the sloping hillside around it.  I also found that a bit of time spent scrounging materials and building a level ‘floor’ under the foot of my tent was time well spent. Especially after having to scoot back up the sloping tent floor a few times the night before. I was also reminded that I have a gimpy right knee on our way down the trail and that it would be prudent, wise, and otherwise smart to wrap it, or put on a support device, before heading down the trail.  Probably be smart to go a bit slower on the descents, too.

So, shookdown and a bit sunburned, we count our Tiffany adventure as a good one.  Of course, all hiking trips are good ones. Especially after editing.

Little Tiffany Lake frozen over