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Trip Report    

Winter Scramble - West Granite

Bluebird weather but challenging snow conditions. Ultimately we met our objective but ran out of time to traverse to Granite Mountain

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • No snow on trail until after 2,500 feet.  Patchy snow from that point up to 3,500 feet.  Considerable snow above 3,500 feet in which snowshoes are recommended.  Off trail, there was a foot of unconsolidated, heavy, wet snow.  Snowshoes are going to be needed above 3,000 feet on the Pratt Lake trail with the next round of storms.

After a week of storms, we had a nice weather window for a winter scramble of West Granite.  I was surprised driving up to see that there was no snow visible on top of Mt. Si and as I continued east on I-90, it appeared that the snowline was fairly high up.   I felt fairly confident that we would not be in waist deep snow as described in trip reports from last year.

We started on the Pratt Lake trail at 8 am as a group of 5.  A private group of 3 was going to do the same thing that we were, so we discussed plans.  The private group passed us and we did not see them again, but we had our game plan, so no worries.  The trail itself was clear of snow and we made it to our planned turn off at 2,900 feet.  We were going to follow the GPS routes of either Travis Prescott or  Ananth Maniam which is a direct route up West Granite from the south.  I had dreams of being able to kickstep all the way to the top.  When we got to the turn off, we saw only patches of snow  and not knowing where the true snow line is, we decided to proceed to our second option which is at 3,400 feet near Lookout Point.  There still was not enough snow for us to head up  from the southwest so we continued on to the third option which is  the northwest ridge from above Olallie Lake.  

We ultimately determined that the snowline was around 3,700 feet and as we got to that point, the trail was completely covered in snow.  The pace slowed.  On hindsight, we should have put on our snowshoes there but we trudged along to 4,000 feet which was our turnoff.  We started up the hill with snowshoes on.  There was probably about a foot of new, unconsolidated, heavy, wet snow.  The snowshoes were helpful, but at times on the steeper sections, travel was slow because the snow was slippery.  We finally got to the summit of West Granite at 12:45.

Our soft time was 1:30 with a hard turnaround time of 2:00.  We could see the tracks from the private group going across the ridge but knowing we were running short of time because of the short days, we decided to call it good and descend.  We headed down the south face following Ananth's path down.  At first, we had no problems as the snowshoes were working great.  But as got below 4,500 feet, the pace slowed because we had to travel around trees and through branches and brush.  The snowshoes were less effective so around 3,500 feet, we switched to microspikes.  Unfortunately, these didn't work very well either.  There was too much snow for microspikes to work and not enough for snowshoes.  We just slowly made our back to the trail at 1,900 feet and then out.  We made it back to the trailhead 5pm.  It was dark with just a little light from the half moon.   Total stats were 9 hours to complete 8.9 miles and 3,600 ft. gain.

Overall, it was a fun trip... it was a type 2 fun day.  It was a shame that our snow conditions were less than ideal but the weather was great and the views were terrific.   On hindsight, maybe we should have left the trail at 3,400 feet, but the challenge of winter scrambles is that you never really know what the conditions are like until you are actually on the mountain.