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Trip Report    

Alpine Scramble - Guye Peak/North Route

A beautiful, sunny midweek trip for SeattleScrambleStudents

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • The PCT/Commonwealth Basin parking area was still under a lot of snow, and there are plenty of "No Parking" signs along the road, so our group met up in the Summit West parking lot and walked over from there.

    Snow conditions made for a variety of challenges. Snowshoes were basically required due to deep, soft snow. There was a fairly well-defined snowshoe track that took us all the way to the summit, though it was rapidly losing definition from the sun on our return trip. The main creek crossing on the log bridge presented a bit of a hazard on the return trip as a few slushy segments collapsed while descending on the far side, sending one scrambler on a brief trip into the creek.

    Avalanche conditions were on our mind all day, but the slopes we were most suspicious of appeared in good shape, and we tried to move swiftly through the cooler hours. No signs of sloughing on the avy slope near where the gully meets the saddle, and we were able to traverse around this area. The slopes up to the summit were still firm when we began our final ascent around 11.

This was my first mentored scramble, and also one of the first scrambles available for this year's students, freshly off their snow field trip weekend.

The week leading up to this trip was cause for concern, as NWAC had issued a bulletin warning about the potentially dangerous conditions  resulting from the week's warm weather. Stevie and I discussed our options before the trip and came up with a list of possible backups, but we ultimately decided to continue with the trip as planned. In our morning prebrief, we mentioned our concerns to the scramblers and made it clear that we would turn around at the first sign of instability.

We hit the trail shortly after 8:00 am and hiked about a hundred yards before swapping to snowshoes. I had mentioned in the activity signup that snowshoes were strongly recommended, and fortunately everyone had brought theirs, otherwise I don't know how far we would have made it past the parking lot. The snow was deep and soft and only got worse as the day went on. This was the first time some of our scramble students had put on snowshoes, much less walked around in them, so there were a few starts and stops before we got into a groove and headed on our way. Additionally, the initial pace was a bit much for the entire party to travel comfortably, so we scaled that back as well.

When we reached the creek crossing, the snow rose up about 8 feet above the bridge on either side. Stevie nimbly hopped across with his snowshoes on, but I nearly slid in as I was trying to descend down to the bridge to do the same, so the rest of the party stowed the shoes for the crossing.

Across the bridge, there was a clear snowshoe trail to follow, and we wound our way up the gully, crossing a few snow bridges along the way. The trail stayed high in the trees on the opposite side from Guye's corniced face, so we were able to reach the top of gully without worrying about avy conditions at all.

At the top of the gully, right below the Guye-Cave Ridge saddle, there is a steep, convex slope that would be the most likely candidate for avalanches we had seen so far. We had a brief discussion with the scramblers, pointing out various things we were looking for in our assessment. The slope looked good, with no signs of recent slides or sloughing, and the trail we were on worked its way around the slope, so we proceeded up to the saddle.

Passing the saddle, we reached the final series of slopes headed up to the summit. Again, we discussed the avalanche conditions and evaluated this slope. It was roughly 11 when we reached this point, and the snow on this northwestern aspect was still relatively firm, so we continued our ascent. We reached the summit around 11:40, snapped a few pictures, and headed down to the saddle for lunch. Views were spectacular from the top.

After a quick lunch in the saddle, we began a cautious descent down the gully, where the snow was a sloppy mix of firm and soft conditions that made plunge stepping difficult. We made our way back to the final creek crossing, and found that the snow banks were pretty slushy, and one scrambler took a brief dip in the creek after a section of the snow slipped.

The rest of the hike back to the cars went relatively quickly, and we reach the parking lot a little after 2:30. Stevie closed out the day by running the students through some snow skills in the Summit West parking lot before we headed home.

Thanks to Stevie Russell for co-leading and my wife Elly for assisting.  We had a great trip, and were able to get three students credit for their first climb.