Trip Report    

Winter Scramble - Mount Teneriffe

A great introduction/re-introduction to winter scrambling for everyone with just the right amount of challenge

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Several websites suggest that the Teneriffe trailhead parking lot is closed, but it is open and mostly snow-free. That being said, the gate closes promptly at 4 PM, so if it takes longer than expected and you do not want to get locked in, I suggest parking at the school bus turnaround 1/4 mile down the road.

    The trail route itself was a combination of bare ground and slushy snow to the falls; after the falls the snow got more consistent but due to the high amount of foot traffic before us (thank you, Ian, Rodica, and Everett Mountaineers friends), snowshoes were not necessary on the way up. We put microspikes on for part of the Serendipity Ridge descent to just below the falls.

I organized this trip as one that is good for people who want to ease into winter scrambling, mostly because I personally felt out-of-practice and out-of-shape. I hope that this trip report encourages other winter scramble leaders to set up similar trips, because it was a great experience for me personally, and it sounds like the participants enjoyed it as well.

I advertised the trip as on the slower side of moderate, gaining around 1000' per hour when on firm snow/ground. I also made it clear that there would be plenty of opportunities to discuss the nuances of winter scrambling, from avalanche concerns to route selection to gear.

The weather forecast was cloudy and slightly above freezing. Avalanche danger was moderate at and below treeline, considerable above, with risk of large storm slabs on all aspects. The NWAC forecast suggested looking for signs of unstable snow, and to avoid slopes above 35 degrees if there were signs of instability. At the trailhead, we discussed how our route was largely below treeline, and on a ridge, making the avalanche danger acceptable. A few hundred feet below the summit, there is an open slope that is greater than 35 degrees and right at treeline, so we made a plan to stop there and discuss whether it was safe to continue.

The ascent was relatively uneventful. We kept a pretty slow pace from the start, only ascending 1000' in 1.5 hours. The trail was partially covered in mushy snow, partially bare. I suggested we speed up slightly so we could make our objective before our 2 PM turnaround time, and everyone seemed to be on board. We reached the falls at about 2 hours and hit the ridgeline at 2.5 hours. After a short break, we began to ascend the Serendipity Ridge. There is an extremely steep section at the beginning of the ridge that was partially covered in snow, and the rock that was exposed was very slippery given how wet it was. We discussed the possibility of taking the longer trail back, which would avoid this steep section. It was very slow going for a while. Given the level of exposure in a few short sections, we had a quick discussion on whether we should turn around, but everyone felt comfortable enough to continue. After that short steep section, the snow got deeper. There were great, firm steps in place from the prior groups that went up that morning, so we made pretty efficient time.

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A few hundred feet below the summit we arrived at the exposed steep slope. Nobody had observed any signs of avalanche danger, so we proceeded. The snow got very deep at this point, but because none of the parties before us had worn snowshoes through this section, we opted not to because the steps with snowshoes would have been awkward. We wallowed in high steps and waist deep snow until we reached the top. It was chilly and overcast, so after two of our party members sent their ham radio messages out (which evidently gives them 4 points, yay!), we descended to the trees. We opted to go back the way we came, because following the other trail would have meant breaking trail for miles, significantly slowing us down.


We were pretty slow on the descent down the ridge and to the falls. The prior parties had sluffed off a lot of the snow on the steepest sections of rock, so we used some classic scrambling techniques including butt scooting and face in down climbing. Once we got to the falls, we got our headlamps out, knowing that we'd be walking in darkness for a while.

We reached the parking lot just after 5 PM, and there was a friendly gate closer waiting for us. We didn't get a ticket, but it is a reminder to follow the rules of the areas we are recreating. This was partly on me... I should have accounted for a slower-than-expected descent, given that I'd set the trip up for folks who were not in 100% winter scrambling shape. Descents on steep, slushy terrain can be really challenging for people who are newer to it, or have knee issues, or who are simply just not in great shape. 

Overall, this was a great experience. Everyone on the trip contributed to its success. We certainly didn't break any time records, but we all feel a little more equipped for the winter scrambling season.