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Trip Report    

Alpine Scramble - Cowlitz Gap & Rocks (winter)

Beautiful, clear day with pleasant temperatures and snow conditions. Views of Adams, Hood, St Helens, Little Tahoma, the Tatoosh range and, of course, Rainier.

  • Snow and ice on road
  • Route is through mainly moderate terrain (until the last 200').  There was about a foot of soft, heavy snow on top of a firmer base.  The very top was soft snow on icy rocks.  It was consolidated enough to hold steps with a little effort.  We carried, but did not use, crampons.  We wore snowshoes from the parking lot to the summit and all the way back down again.

We got to Longmire about 20 minutes before the gate (on the road to Paradise) opened.  It opened shortly after 9am target time.  We did not start hiking until about 10:15am.  We followed a trail broken by another party to about 6400' of elevation, making fairly quick progress.  After that, we took turns breaking trail through the soft snow.  We rotated through our group, taking short turns and keeping someone moving at (most) all times.  The last few hundred feet, the terrain switches from "mellow snowshoe" to "we're scrambling now".  We summited about 2:10 pm and started down at around 2:20pm, descending the top few hundred feet slowly and carefully.  After that, we went into "fastest comfortable pace" mode with minimal stops.  Returned to parking lot at 4:15 with just time for bathroom break before driving down the hill to pass through the gate at Longmire just before the scheduled (5pm) closing time.

The day was clear and fairly warm, offering very pleasant conditions and inspiring views in all directions.