Away Game 01-17, Washington State

2017 started off with a nice soft opening that was my trip to Washington State. Not a big away game like my Colorado or Japan excursions, but a nice leg stretcher to get my traveling bug moving. While there I visited with family and friends and had my heart set on climbing Mt. St. Helens in a daring winter blitz. Unfortunately, like most places in America in January, winter has a firm grip on the land and my plans were thrown askew. The recent 55 inches, yes 55 god damn inches of snow decimated the only road leading to the Mt. St. Helens trailhead, adding a full 7 miles to my already arduous climb. As such, I decided on a different mountain to summit. While Mt. Rainier is on the schedule for this August, I decided on a little known peak that got me fancy in my pantsy.

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Mt Si, in winter

My choice was Mt. Si. At 4,167 feet, it was similar to most hikes I’m used to in New Hampshire, with views of Seattle and distant ranges that I enjoyed. With a Class 3 scramble to reach the summit, I made this my away game prize. 16114622_10154397112191636_1519510604813481800_n

The trail started off relatively simple. A nice worn track that thousands of others have trekked before, and pretty much the norm in my neck of the woods. Ice was an issue, so I switched to my Micro-spikes and all was well. A strenuous climb to the top, but not a difficult one. Anyone with moderate physical fitness should have no problem, and I had no trouble just yet.

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Mt Si’s Haystack summit

When I reached what I thought was the top, I was made aware of the task before me; a class 3 scramble covered in deadly ice and snow. Not deterred by this seemingly minor obstacle, I dropped my pack and without crampons, Ice-axe or proper tools, I headed in the direction of the beast. All things considered, I made a bad decision that day, and those of you reading this should heed my words. Making a climb without the proper tools is like surgery with a cleaver. Not pretty, very messy and someones going home with a scar. Armed with only my Kabar, a selfie stick and my micro spikes, I headed up the haystack. Going up, I thought about turning back more than once, but my arrogance and pride leaking thoughts of a failed attempt in Australia into my mind pushed me further up Heaven’s asshole.

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Scramble at the halfway point

Ten minutes later I was at the summit. Enjoying the view, with little room to stand. At this point, I realized the full gravity of my mistake, and getting down was going to be an absolute bitch. Using my Kabar and selfie stick as anchors, I slowly retraced my steps down, carving footholds into the snow as I climbed. Walking down backwards on a ladder made of Astroglide and broken dreams, I carefully scraped my way down. Stopping often to pray, curse and hate myself I made it to the bottom only after an hour and a half of careful treading. I slipped a few times, but recovered quickly. Any false move and I would have slid to my death, leaving little evidence of my existence till the spring thaw. I busted open my right knuckle on the first slip, leaving a trail of blood down the icy peak. 16142221_10154397112131636_4012367564094753404_n

Once at the bottom I met up with two young bucks who watched my decent with careful awe and wonder. Both were dressed to the nines with axes, crampons and ropes. The words they said made the decent almost worth while, and it brightened up the remainder of my day. “Yo dude, that was crazy. You got some balls man” stated the first, while the other offered to bandage my hand. It’s the little things in life that get you through, and these two gents made my fucking afternoon.

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Mt. Rainier in the distance

Once off the summit, the walk down was a nice stroll that calmed my nerves, which were still on overdrive similar to being mortared in Iraq. An enjoyable hike, but one that carries some lessons with it. A solid entry into my packed year of away games and adventures.

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