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Trip Report    

Alpine Scramble - Banshee Peak

Long snow scramble on a bluebird day.

  • Sat, Jun 24, 2017
  • Alpine Scramble - Banshee Peak
  • Banshee Peak
  • Scrambling
  • Successful
  • Road suitable for all vehicles

6/24/17 (heavy snowpack year).

Patchy snow started only 1/2 mi from TH.  Near-continuous snow starting at 4,600', becoming continuous at footbridge (5,200').

One of the hottest days of the year. Snow was ~6' deep on the N-facing switchbacks leading to Summerland, such that the trail route could not be visibly followed. It was more straightforward to ascend the gully immediately to the W.  Snow here was firm enough to need step-kicking, but fine. (Three days previously, the snow here was reported to be hard enough to require crampons.)

Basin between Summerland & Panhandle Gap was entirely snow-covered; there was only 1 spot (6,000') where there was surface water for refilling bottles.  The creek at 6,200' was entirely buried, and snow had been collapsing into the creek bed for some time, exhibiting fracture lines along the banks, but snowbridge was plenty strong enough to hold us.

Giant cornice at Panhandle Gap, ready to collapse at any time.  Easy to steer clear to the N & E.

Went around S side of small summit immediately to E of Panhandle Gap, traversing across very soft snow. Got on the E ridge of small summit, but cornice remnants were exhibiting fracture lines, looking very unstable, so we detoured into thick krumholtz trees below. On return, discovered it was easier to do a "down + up" to walk on flat snow below this face, rather than traverse.

The walk up to the summit had just a thin layer of snow remaining, and was more of an "off trail hike" rather than a scramble.  (But with this much snow, it took extensive scrambling skills to get there.) Summit was snow-free.

Very warm, clear day.  The view from Banshee is commanding & amazing, overlooking the majority of the E side of the park. Sky was clear enough to see 6 volcanoes, from Mt Baker to Mt Hood.

Snow on descent was soft & slushy in spots. Descending the gully W of the switchbacks, we stayed on the W side, concerned of punching thru & falling into sub-nivean creek below.  Sure enough, halfway down we saw that the surface had collapsed into a 4' dia hole, exposing the creek to daylight.  Glissading down the center of the gully would have been very risky.  The butt-track of someone who had glissaded earlier in the day was present, and fortunately stopped short of the creek hole, averting a potentially fatal disaster.

The high amount of snow made for an extra-long day (10.25 hrs RT).