Climbing is dangerous! Every year many climbers are broken, maimed, and killed. Don't be so foolish as to trust your life to what you see here. I'm not a guide and neither is this web site. If you don't know what you are doing or where you are going, please take a course or hire a guide!
Snoqualmie Mountain and (not) Lundin Peak
July 21, 2001
My plans with Russ to climb Mt. Baker were displaced by poor weather: Both outside and my wife (as in feeling under the weather). So we decided to day hike up Snoqualmie Mountain. To make it a bit more interesting, I suggested that we traverse the east ridge of Snoqualmie to the West Ridge of Lundin, a short 4th class climb on reportedly good rock.
I hadn't made this traverse before, but I'd looked at it many times. I scoped out the map and saw that just by staying on or near the ridge crest we would be able to make it to Lundin. I put together a small rack and grabbed a short scrambling rope.
We met at PCC for breakfast and then headed up to the pass. Just past Denny Creek we entered the cloud cover. We arrived at the Alpental lot at 10:30. It was burgeoning with cars. We got ourselves together and started up the trail at 10:45.
The brush was wet in the dewy, cloudy morning. I stopped and snapped a few pictures of dew drops glistening on leaves, like little diamonds.
Russ and I were both feeling the effect of our PCC breakfasts. Neither of us could seem to get in gear. So we took it east, making many brief stops. Eventually we broke out of the trees and onto the south shoulder of Snoqualmie. For a few moments the clouds parted and we could see a bit. But not very much and not for long.
Near the top we passed a couple people coming down. It was their first time on Snoqualmie and they reported very low visibility at the top. We continued up and arrived at the summit at 12:25 PM. It was actually quite pleasant on top, lots of radiant energy coming through the clouds and no wind. we sat down and made ourselves comfortable. I ate and drank and studied the map. Getting the Lundin seemed obvious to me, even in fifty feet of visibility. Little did I know that we were about the enter the Enigma Range.
At 1:22 PM we walked away from the summit. we dropped into the basin north of the jagged eastern summit ridge, first on frighteningly loose rock, then on step (but thankfully soft) snow. We traversed along, staying just below the crest of the east ridge, or so I thought.
At some point I pulled out the map and realized that I was 180 degrees disoriented. This is where the fun began (and I now believe we made a key mistake). We started wandering around trying to find the ridge crest on what was increasingly looking like a broad slope. Eventually we found what seemed to be a ridge running in the correct direction. Not inclined to make the same mistake, I tried to stay on the crest of the ridge. The led to some interesting downclimbing on steep, brush covered slopes, but we persevered. At this point we were on the crest of the ridge and moving due east. I was convinced that we were headed in the right direction.
We crested over a small hump, which I thought I could identify on the map. I think expected that we'd drop down the ridge to a narrow, long saddle at 5800', leading directly to the West Ridge of Lundin. We started down and down and down. At 5800' we came across two very distinctive towers on the ridge. But it kept going down. It was now 3:30, two hours after we'd left the summit of Snoqualmie. Below the towers it became clear that we'd erred. We dropped out of the clouds and could see a beautiful valley and drainage below us. At first we surmised that we'd somehow missed Lundin in the mist and were now looking at the Commonwealth Basin. We saw a small pond below us near what looked to be Red Pass. Yep, it check out on the map. Well, we didn't climb Lundin, but at least we weren't completely lost. Still, something didn't feel right.
We dropped into the basin on a faint trail. We walked a dry creekbed to beautiful flat area. Odd sinkholes belied the presence of caves in the area. This should have been a big clue, but I didn't get it.
We continued down along the seldom-used trail, losing it now and then in the trees or under windfall. Then suddenly the trees opened up and I was staring across another valley. What I saw was so surprising that it took a few seconds to sink in. In fact, when my subconscious first suggested it my conscious dismissed it outright. The I saw the lift towers. And Shot Eight. It was Alpental. We were on Cave Ridge. After walking and stumbling around for almost three hours we ended up 100 yards from the trail we'd walked up in the morning. I had been thoroughly humbled by the Enigma Range.
We made a half-hearted attempt to traverse the low route on Cave Ridge, but decided to turn around and walk down the trail, tails between our legs.
It was after 4:00 when we got back to the lot. I just kept looking up at Snoqualmie and shaking my head. I couldn't help but laugh at myself and my arrogance. The night before I'd contemplated bringing a GPS receiver with some waypoints to follow. But after looking at the map I dismissed the idea, "It doesn't get much simpler than that. All we have to do is walk down the ridge."
This page was last edited on
Thursday, January 01, 2004