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Trip Report    

Alpine Scramble - Cowlitz Gap & Rocks (winter)

A large group of Mountaineers dealt with awkward snow conditions and poor visibility to reach the summit of Cowlitz Rocks. On the descent, the clouds lifted allowing for good views of the Tatoosh Range.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • There was a fair amount of fresh snow, so for much of the trip our steps were a foot deep or more.  Early on, we had the benefit of following steps of a party of two that preceded us, but they turned around about 1000 vertical feet short of the summit.  After that point, we took frequent turns kicking steps, which worked well.  It took some effort to break trail through the fresh snow, but the layer beneath (12 to 18 inches below) was fairly solid.  We didn't bring snowshoes; we brought crampons but never used them.  The descent was fairly tedious; conditions were too inconsistent for good plunge stepping, and using existing steps wasn't ideal either.

We took the usual route, walking the road until it crossed the Paradise River.  There were tracks of a party of two that we could follow, although we frequently checked our maps to be sure we agreed with their route choices.  The two who had preceded us eventually turned around when the visibility was worsening, but we continued on with lots of consultation of our maps, compasses and GPS.  Everyone took turns kicking steps, and we made it to the top, which, alas, was in the clouds.  However, on our descent the clouds eventually lifted and allowed a good view of the Tatoosh Range. 

The weather during the day included occasional snow, then rain for the last hour or so.  It was never very windy, so all in all it was a fairly comfortable day.