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Trip Report    

Winter Scramble - Mount Townsend & Welch Peaks

When it is scheduled to rain everywhere else, a hike in the rain shadow of the Olympics is in order.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles

Time Travelling in the Rain Shadow: I love climbing mountains in the spring. You start off in April or May, surrounded by wildflowers, climb into early spring with just trilliums or glacier lilies blooming, then climb into March with old, crusty, and duff-covered snow, and finally into February with fresh snow, freezing temperatures and brisk wind. Descending, you again go through all the months, but in the opposite order. Yesterday's trip was different. First off, we faced the challenge of finding the right place to go. High avalanche risks and a forecast of heavy rain ruled out nearly the entire state. But the rain shadow of the Olympics offered the possibility that a trip in the northeast corner of the range might avoid heavy rain and Welch Mountain appeared to offer avalanche-safe routes. The ascent suggested that part of our logic was sound -- we had no rain, but avoiding avalanche-prone slopes was harder than expected and we had to carefully cross several. As expected, we climbed through April, March, and February, and successfully reached the cold and blustery summit at 2:30 pm. We decided to take a different route down in order to avoid the avalanche slopes, and instead found ourselves inching down a very precarious cliff. While at the summit, it started to snow ever so lightly. During our descent, the snow slowly and steadily intensified and by the time we reached the cars it was snowing hard. Rather than descend into April, we had descended into January! But at least we avoided the rain that plagued my many friends who climbed elsewhere.

 

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