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Trip Report    

Winter Scramble - Spark Plug Mountain (winter)

After a long hard climb, we were ultimately stymied a hundred feet below the summit by cornices and cliffs. But everyone loved the climb anyway.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Avalanche danger was considerable, so route selection was crucial. Every single avalanche chute leading to Surprise Lake had avalanched the day before, many of them reaching or crossing the trail. 

Given the avalanche danger, we choose to approach from Surprise Lake, rather than take the direct approach up the Little Spark Plug Lake drainage. This adds several miles to the day but the approach is much safer.  From the outlet of Surprise Lake, follow the ridge WSW to about 5000, then follow the obvious rising traverse to the right to about 5300, then drop down and traverse to just below Little Spark Plug Lake and rejoin the standard route from there.  From Spark Plug Lake, we opted to ascend through the trees between the wide main avalanche chute straight ahead and the smaller one to its left, cresting the ridge about 200 feet below and to the left of the summit. About half way up the ridge we encountered impassable cornices and cliffs. 

Timeline: 1 hour to bridge across the creek, 2 hours to decision point about whether to go directly to Little Spark Plug  Lake or take the longer but safer route via Surprise Lake, 4 hours to reach Surprise Lake, 6 hours to reach Spark Plug Lake,  7 hours to hit our dead end on the ridge, and 11 hours to the car. 

It snowed lightly on us most of the day, so the views were limited. Nonetheless, everyone had a great time and thought the area gorgeous.