Climbing Mount Ellinor

Posted by Ken Campbell July 15, 2008 0 Comment 528 views

We started up the Mount Ellinor trail just before 1:00 pm. At first, I had planned on beginning the ascent at the lower trailhead, which would have meant more miles, more elevation gain and loss, and more time. Since this had turned into a family outing, however, Mary and I thought it would be best to start at the upper trailhead, and given that we hadn’t gotten a real early start, it turned out to be a good idea.

The trail is fairly steep, and we hit snow somewhere around 5,000 feet, which made the going a little trickier. Micah was great through the whole climb, whether it was as a passenger in his piggyback pack, or as a boots-on-the-rock alpinist, as he scrambled the last twenty feet by himself, more or less.

Goats were easily found at the higher elevations. There were several families moving among the crags, with young kids in tow, scraping at the soil and foraging. The adults were molting, huge rolls of wool coiling off their backs. On just about every bush along the trail, large and small tufts of wool had been captured by low-lying branches. It wasn’t too many days ago I was wondering as to the welfare of the Olympic goat and now, here I was, face to face with what appears to be thriving population in the southeast highlands.

The views from the summit were expansive and clear. A cloud of smoke to the distant southeast turned out to be a huge fire burning in the Gifford Pinchot, near Mount Adams. To the north was Constance, close by, but still so, so far away. The westerly view took in Mount Cruiser, it’s distinctive summit slab a contrast to the other, pointier peaks. Beyond one range lay another, and off in the hazy distance, Mount Olympus reached skyward. I strained to see pieces of the route I had climbed there, years ago, and as I began to pick out the details, pieces of that trip came back to me.

I remember the early morning start, the way the sun reflected in the crevasses of the Blue Glacier. I remember kicking steps and using my axe for traction on the icy chutes that led to the snow dome. I clearly recall having to self-arrest on one of the steep, east-facing inclines that afternoon, on my way down. I can still feel the wind that blew on the summit, hear it whistling through and over that rocky world.

Looking ahead, as well as behind: I’m planning to go back to Olympus again at some point. As I looked at the route and saw what I’d done years before, I felt a tingle for what was still to come.

But the day belonged to Ellinor. The hike down went well, although Micah signed off about a half-hour from the trailhead. I could hear him snore as I jounced down the trail with him on my back, one tired climber.

We camped at Staircase. This morning, we walked up one side of what had once been the loop trail, but was just an out-and-back now, because of a washed out footbridge. The rapids at Staircase are an exhibition of the various faces of the river. Quiet pools hang above cruel rapids where white water roars as it pummels the stone. Otherwise runnable sections are criss-crossed with logs and sweepers. This part of the Skokomish would be a frustrating river to paddle, but it is certainly a thing of wild beauty as well.

The trip, according to all who participated, was a great success.

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