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Trip Report    

Seattle Basic SIG SNOW FT - SIG Snow Overnight (Snow Anchors & Belays, Crevasse Rescue, Snow Camping, & Roped Travel) - Haney Meadow Loop, Diamond Head & Windy Knob

The goal of this trip is to get to a nice location with a relatively dry weather for basic climbing students to practice all glacial travel skills. We chose the spot at about 5420', right below the north face of Diamond Head. This was a great location for its ample space for camping, a range of slopes and snow conditions for roped travel and crevasse rescue, and a gorgeous view day and night as a treat. Both students and instructors enjoyed the trip.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • The majority of route was still covered with snow, so we only used the paved road briefly, and then scrambled along the ridge line in the woods. The ridge is quite wide.  Some fallen tress and branches were along the way. With a caution, they were avoidable. Below 4600', warm weather melt snow, leaving patches of muddy area (not bad at all). The woods also shielded the sunlight from the snow, so the snow was hard enough not to give in our weight with overnight pack. When snow is gone, some bushes  may surface and fallen logs may add additional obstacles, but it is still possible to navigate through the wide ridge line through the woods.

We parked at the first pullout (at 4100') before reaching Blewett Pass, and started briefly on National Forest Road 9716 at 8:40, and then scrambled up (about 100') to another parking lot (note: when snow is gone, it is possible to drive up here) with the bulletin, restroom. The group adjusted gears, put on snowshoes, and had a last run of restroom. Following the sign of Swauk Forest Discovery trail, we walked along the paved Road 9716 again, and shortly, decided to scrambled up along the ridge line. As we arrived the first bump (~4560'), Diamond Head was in sight. We decided to gather around the nice bench sitting on the bump and to take a photo. After this bump, we lost 100' elevation and started to gain elevation again along the ridge line towards the southeast.  The ridge is quite wide and forested. There were traces of forest fire, burned tree trunks. We had nice shades and in general solid snow to walk on. It was a fairly straightforward hike-up. Occasionally, we had to be mindful to avoid fallen trees and branches in front of our faces. As we reached 5200', the slope became more open and there were less trees. It was still a gentle slope. Around 2 miles (only 11am), we reached 5400'. We passed by a small rocky field, and arrived our campsite, right below the north face of Diamond Head Summit. The whole place was still covered with the pristine snow. To the north were Mount Stuart and the Enchantments. We also spotted the big guy, Mt. Rainier. Several trees carved out a campsite for us. There was enough space for 14 of us to set up 7 tents. Some slopes a little below from the Summit offered us a practice field. In the open field, it was a bit windy. The trees and the "rocky wall" formed by the summit of Diamond Head shielded us from the gusty wind. We had no issues of setting up tents, leaving us enough time to have lunch and to soak in the views. Right after the lunch, we started our practicing on traveling on snow (unroped and roped), self rescue and building anchors. As we had enough fun with snow and were satisfied our progress, we headed back to our tents, melting snow, enjoying dinner and sunset, and getting ready for the Alpine start. The evening in the mountain was serene. The temperature dropped to below the freezing temp and there was gusty wind occasionally. Everyone turned in early for the Alpine start. Many of our boots were wet and thus frozen in the morning. We managed to force our feet into the boots and roped up to practice travel on snow with crampons. The snow definitely was hardened overnight, but perfect for crampons. The terrains near our campsite were sufficient for three rope teams to walk around, and we were walking in an "art" museum, the snow,  the sky painted by the rising sun, the summit rock band and old growth trees. The rope teams had to stop once a while for photos, which was good for us to practice our communications while traveling.  After the solid three hour morning exercise, we warmed up our feet and headed back to our campsite for hot drinks and breakfast. Then we were back to the snow and practiced crevasse rescue till 11am. As everyone got a turn for different roles and made a great progress, we wrapped up, breaking down tents, packing up and a final group shoot with Mt. Stuart as the background. By 12 noon time, we headed back down to our car. The descent back to the cars was fairly straightforward. The snow was still in a good condition to walk on with our heavy pack. We took cautions to avoid potholing. By 2:00pm, everyone was back to the parking lot and ready to have lunch or go home. This was a field trip so we did not summit the Diamond Head. Thanks to our SIG leaders, Patty and Sue, and all the helpers at the trip and at home, we had a great trip.

 

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Danielle Graham
Danielle Graham says:
Thu, May 3, 2018 9:02 PM

Really wonderful trip report, Hong.

Beth Morrigan
Beth Morrigan says:
Fri, May 4, 2018 9:19 AM

Hong, you did such a fantastic job capturing the details of our trip!

Susan Shih
Susan Shih says:
Sat, May 5, 2018 8:19 AM

Great report, Hong! Thank you for taking on the job of writing it.