Foss view.heic

Trip Report    

Alpine Scramble - Foss Peak

Scramble students persevered through challenging conditions.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Summer trail briefly visible in a few places starting from Bench Lake TH.  Softer snow than expected up high despite temps in the low 30s and cloudy weather would have benefitted from snowshoes had we not elected to leave then at the car.  Solid snow bridges crossing the creek in the basin below Bench Lake likely won't last much longer.

This trip was planned thinking the low snowpack would require an earlier than usual ascent of Foss for ideal snow conditions.  But with cooler temperatures  in May, there's still lots of snow on this route likely for weeks to come.

We scrambled Foss one day after the Stevens Canyon Road opened, and the second day of the timed entry permit system. Hoping for enough visibility for a one-way traverse, we spotted a car at Reflection Lakes, and started out under a patch of blue sky from Bench Lake trailhead.  Alas, that was about the last time we saw the sun until the last mile of the hike out.  We were forewarned by Louise that snowshoes would be helpful, but I mistakenly concluded that the firm snow at the trailhead and the forecast for clouds and highs in the low 30s would render them unnecessary.

After a break just above Snow Lake reviewing navigation and snow conditions, we proceeded up the gulley following the steps that a group of 4 Mazamas attempting Unicorn had made earlier this morning. 

From the next basin at 5400' to the ridge at 6200', we took turns breaking trail in softer snow.  Snowshoes would have been used here had we carried them. 


From the ridge to the false summit conditions varied from firm to soft, and the west wind picked up.  Visibility was low enough that we stayed well below the ridge to avoid any chance of inadvertently approaching a cornice.  On the rock scramble just below the false summit, conditions briefly cleared enough to validate those concerns.

It became increasingly windy with blowing snow that required eye covering to prevent snow from scouring our eyes.  Some proceeded to the true summit, others were content with the false summit.  After a late lunch break, we found our tracks already mostly erased by the wind.  Given the low visibility, we decided to beat our retreat the way we had come and forego the traverse.  Dropping down from the ridge back to the basin, we found there had been enough solar energy penetrating the clouds to result in tedious travel conditions, with postholing hip deep at times, and snow too soft to glissade effectively until the last 500' gulley descent above Snow Lake, which many of us glissaded.  Snow conditions were firmer from there back to the car.

We discussed how difficult it is to communicate effectively with a group of 10 in a howling wind.

Students on this trip will be ready for winter conditions after completing the scramble course, as they got a taste of winter on Foss in late May.