Olympics Transect 2003 - the Hard Core Bushwacking Days

Day 3: Riding on excessive confidence from the ease of Day 2 we decided to stick with the ridge-running plan to Hayden pass to the north. First attempted route on rock got too steep, so we doubled back, did some more very steep snow traversing (45 degrees?) up to the ridge. The ridge was a pretty neat knife edge, airy, still no wind, very hot, but easy walking - for maybe 1/2 mile. Then the joyride ended. Classic Olympics Scree traversing, slip sliding on the sharp rock bits. Ridge got worse and worse, I didn't have a rap line for the occasional cliff so we bailed straight down a scree gully to nicer pastures. Water was running low, so we packed nalgenes with half snow, half water, which, in the heat, melted in about 1/2 hour. Bugs were pretty bad here, trudged back up a ways on the easier ridge... to find ourselves on another cliff. Bugger. found a route down with enough trees to keep the exposure minimal and dropped off the cliff. This was not going according to plan; it's already 3pm, we've been at this since 9, and we're still 4 Drainages away from Hayden! But such is back country travel. Scenery was fantastic, bugs were medium bad, heat was atrocious. I think we were victims of a cruel joke on the weather's part - it was hot in Seattle, but there was also a temperature inversion, so it was hotter still at altitude! All our camps were above 4000ft, several times around 6000 ft, and it never once dropped below 50F at night! Anyway, we headed up another ridge, which again got too steep, scampered up without packs, and found, yup, another cliff. Gave up and dropped 800ft on green belay* to the next drainage and then plowed back up again. Gretchen has definitely reached her limit on bushwhacking for the day. Beauuuutiful valley, tons of flowers, and a thousand bugs for each. Reached a flat spot at the head of the upper valley and called it good. The mosquitos could have carried the tent away, and the tent screen door zipper finally gave up the ghost leaving us with the solid door (at least there were two) but rather stifling in the tent. Better than being eaten alive though.

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Day 4: Eager to be out of Mosquito Gulch we head up the ridge, knowing we have 2 more drainages and 3 more ridges to Hayden. By this time I've figured out a very important bit of information: The south facing ridges (i.e. the ones I can't see when scoping routes) are about twice as steep as the south facing ridges (which I can see and use to pick the route). Further, we're going up the south ridges, and down the north ones, and it's much easier to go UP steep, than down steep any day. Short translation: we should have been doing this north to south, not the other way around. (Note: this is not a biased observation, I figured this out from looking at the Topo). Again the ridge line is too cliffy to run, so we drop another 900ft by green belay into another gorgeous, bug infested valley, and start clambering back up again, but at least we're on one of the Sentinels now. Reaching a ridge, it looks easiest to go over both peaks, despite the extra elevation and usual heat of the day. So we head over Sentinel Sister, down the saddle, and up the long scree ridge to Sentinel. The rock here is classic Olympic shale, the stuff flakes apart while you walk on it, in big flat shards. One gets the impression of walking on broken plates, and wonders why the mountain still stands at all. Lots of goat and deer tracks, but zilcho on the wildlife count. From the summit of Sentinel we can see the blessed trail, and also 1000 acre meadows, which looks most inviting, and relatively non-lush so maybe better for bugs. We drop a bit on snow (for a nice change) and contour around to the meadows, a gorgeous location with a number of small lakes. We choose the upper lakes and notice that there are 3 tents on the lower edge of the meadow - first people, or even signs of people we've seen in 3 days! A very small timid cloud wanders across the sky - first cloud we've seen since Quinalt as well. Alas, it is soon gone without even a bit of shade. We have time for a short bath in the amazingly mild lake water before the mosquitos descend in clouds that darken the sun. Prisoner of the baking tent or full on gortex gear for the rest of the evening.

Tried the "camp baking" tonight. Threw some flour, salt, yeast and water into a gallon zip lock, kneaded it up for a bit, and let it rise overnight. Baked things on the frying pan in the morning. Worked much better when I covered the pan with a nice flat rock. The result were some pretty tasty English Muffin type things.

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* Green Belay: descending a steep, vegetated slope by turning to face the slope, grabbing the firmest vegetation, leaning back to keep the feet pressed to the ground, and backing down, as if rappelling.

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