Trip Report    

TAC MAC Scramble - Mount Ellinor & Mount Washington

A beautiful and fun trip for Tacoma MAC to test out our snow legs

  • Road recommended for high clearance only
  • We parked a little under a mile before the lower trailhead. Up to a foot of snow/ice on the road after that, though a couple brave folks with high clearance vehicles went further. The walk up the road was easy and went quickly. 

    Snow on trail the entire way. Hard crust and ice for the first couple miles. Traction mandatory, preferably crampons. Two members start out in microspikes, which were fine for the first mile or two, but became inadequate as the route got steeper.  Deeper snow as we neared the top, but snowshoes were not needed.

    Trail is easy to follow.

    NWAC Avalanche danger rating was low, and we did see any significant cornices, though did witness occasional small pinwheels when the sun came out.

Saturday morning, Mar 7, 6 Tacoma MAC members and 4 adult volunteers (including one MAC graduate) set off to summit Mt. Ellinor. The purpose of this trip was to get some good conditioning, practice using ice ax and crampons, practicing steep snow scrambling, and get some fun glissades. This trip delivered on all counts!

We parked about a mile below the lower trailhead. Weather was overcast, cold, but calm. A quick 20 minute hike later, we arrived at the lower trailhead. There is just a few inches of snow on the trail here, but it was hard packed and icy in spots, and we donned crampons shortly after. Some students learned some good lessons about sizing their crampons exactly to their boot. Close doesn't cut it! After a few episodes of crampons popping off, we made good progress with our student leader Shelby setting a great pace. 

Shortly after the intersection with the upper trailhead, the trail steepens. Those who were still in microspikes began to struggle a little, and switched to crampons.EllinorLunchBreak.jpg

As we broke out of the trees, it started snowing in earnest. There was more fresh snow than expected on the upper mountain, probably about 4 inches. We paused for a quick lunch before the final push. MAC members took turns kicking steps up the steep gully, gaining experience breaking trail. As we neared the top of the first long gully, the weather started to improve and occasional views began to open up.EllinorFinalPush.jpg

After a couple false summits, we finally pushed on to the top. The sun came out, and we had great views of Mt. Washington next door, the long scenic ridge to the west, and occasional views of Lake Cushman. Not much visible to the east unfortunately. About 18 degrees at the summit.EllinorSummit2.jpg

After enjoying the views and some summit snacks and celebration, we removed crampons, tightened down our packs, and prepared for the descent. We plunged stepped down the first section, as the runouts are a little too risky for glissading, especially for new climbers. I made a couple of steps straight off the steep front side of the summit, and it was dust on ice, definitely not suitable for plunge stepping! Back down the way we came.EllinorDescent.jpg

We had some very fun and lively glissades back down. The steep grade coupled with the hard crust below the fresh snow made for some pretty fast chutes. You had two choices: check your speed with your heels/spike and spray a LOT of powder into your face, or don't check your speed and go really, REALLY fast. Most of us opted for the face shots.KevinGlissade.jpg


After the glissades, the rest of the descent was quick and uneventful. We put crampons back on for most of the way down, removing them maybe a half mile before we reached the lower trailhead. The weather continued to improve and we got a few beautiful views through the trees.EllinorTrail.jpg

All in all, a beautiful successful trip with a great group!


Helmets, ice ax, crampons, gaiters, mountaineering boots, avalanche beacon, probe, shovel, warm waterproof clothing. 2 liters water, I don't believe we encountered any running water on route.