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[TR] The Rockies/Mt. Elbert- Rockies from Trail, Elbert from South 10/31/2004

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Climb: The Rockies/Mt. Elbert-Rockies from Trail, Elbert from South


Date of Climb: 10/31/2004


Trip Report:

Okay, the South Cascades Forum needs an apolitical TR (and so does this site, really). So here's one little ditty 'bout Jack 'n Diane...


This trip was done with my dad. We first set out for Huffaker Mountain (3640+FT, 2320P) down by Randle, WA. I won't go into detail about this little peak with big prominence, but here is a picture of a cool pinnacle I tried to climb near the summit:



After Huffaker we were off to climb The Rockies & Mt. Elbert...


We approached The Rockies and Mt. Elbert from the south via the road up Wallanding Creek (gotta love that name!). No gates seen. Distances from where FR-73 (this road number being a coincidence after having just completed my 73rd of 144 2kP peaks) leaves Hwy 508: 1.6 miles --> cross Tilton River c. 900 ft; 6.6 miles --> cross Wallanding Creek (rough road through here; small car may have problem); 9.5 miles --> reach 3,600-ft saddle between Rockies and Elbert (turn left to go to The Rockies); 10.0 miles --> spur to Rockies ends at berm (c. 3,800 ft).

A view of The Rockies from near that saddle:



With me running ahead, we walked the remaining road a few hundred yards to its end. The old trail (to the former lookout) goes off to the left just before the road end. You can take it all the way to the summit but the last quarter miles winds up the overgrown final slopes. My thighs were soaked after brushing past snow-laden bushes and trees. The summit of The Rockies (4320+FT, 720P) had about 2 inches of snow on it. It is a flat spot where the old lookout once sat. Not much remains of the lookout:


The summit sits in the heart of the small sub-range of peaks west of Hwy 7. It's an ideal lookout site.

Time up = 30 minutes (max).


Some views from the summit:

To the south is Pk 4088, a neat looking mountain (for the area):


To the north is the head of the Little Nisqually River. Thurston County's highpoint--diminutive 2,922-ft Quiemuth Peak--is visible at left-center:


To the east is "Mt. Elbert", which is probably the highest point in the area at 4,327 ft:




While my dad visited the summit (for his second time in about 15 years) I went down to the 4,080+ ft rock promontory east of the summit (see picture looking east above). Here is the view of The Rockies from that promontory. After that it was on to Mt. Elbert to tag that too before darkness set upon us. Elbert is 1.9 miles due east of The Rockies. (Elbert is an unofficial name to go with The Rockies.)

Here's a closer view of Elbert. Poor thing has been denuded:



My dad opted out of going up Elbert and that was fine with me. He kept calling it Ebert anyway. Roger Ebert? A road is shown going up the south side of the peak from the 3,900-ft saddle on that side. This road has been back-filled (decommissioned) but is still navigable:


The road rounds the corner of the south rock peak. There are some short cliffs one can climb through to avoid swinging way right on the road. It takes about 20 minutes to climb from saddle to summit. Because the summit of Mt. Elbert (4327FT, 2607P) has been logged off it now has views but looks ugly for it. The Rockies and Pk 4088 south of The Rockies are much more interesting.


With my dad waiting for me in the truck on the road crossing the west side of the peak, I chose to descend the west basin then small creek to get to this road. It took about 10 minutes to get down in the waning light. From there we drove north on the myriad roads leading that way back to civilization. We were looking for FR-74 (after completing 74 of 144, of course) and eventually found it. Back home by 7:30PM ready to toss steaks on the grill.




Notes concerning the heights of The Rockies and Mt. Elbert

When I told my dad that The Rockies is not the highest point in that sub-range of mountains west of Hwy 7 he didn't want to believe me. Since he had been up The Rockies before he had sentimental incentive not to. I showed him my Topo map with 4,320+ for The Rockies and 4,327 for Elbert. Obviously, based on these, The Rockies could be higher.


My dad produced some references giving different heights for The Rockies:

4,363 ft --> Lookouts: Firewatchers of the Cascades & Olympics, copyright 1981, Ira Spring & Byron Fish, page 197, LO# 278)

4,333 ft --> Gifford Pinchot National Forest Map (1960's map, I believe).


4,322 ft --> from the USGS database (but it's hard to believe this when it is known a peak's highest point is not always what's listed in the database; example: Huffaker Mountain, which is 3,640+ ft not 3,586 ft).

(Note: If the above USGS links discontinue working then you can do a search for the above names through the USGS query tool.)


My dad owns a GPS so I took it along. I also took along a rudimentary hand-level but it proved inconclusive. Now I know a GPS is not accurate to within 1 foot of resolution, but here is what was shown for both summits.

4,358-4,363 ft (fluctuating range) --> The Rockies

4,348-4,355 ft (fluctuating range) --> Mt. Elbert


The only triangulated value seen for "Mt. Elbert" is the 4,327 ft shown on the USGS map (and Topozone).


In light of the above, if you're really concerned about bagging the "right" 2,000-ft prominence peak in the area, suggest you peakbaggers climb both.


But wait, there's another piece of evidence that lends support to Elbert being higher...

Below is a zoomed in photo of Elbert taken from the summit of The Rockies (with the camera held at eye level to the highest summit rock on the latter). Directly behind Elbert is Storm King Mountain.

Now the line of sight data can be interpreted in a number of ways but the simplest piece of evidence is Pt. 4400+ on the south ridge of Storm King. This point could be as high as Pt. 4439 ft. Since Storm King is about 9 miles from The Rockies, the curvature of the earth over that distance at that latitude (~46.7N) would make points that distance away appear ~50 feet lower than "normal". In this regard, you could say Pt. 4400+ is really between 4350-4389. Likewise, Elbert is 1.9 miles from The Rockies and the curvature drop for it would be ~2 feet. You could subtract this 2 feet from the previous. Since the summit of Elbert is above Pt. 4400+ (Pt. 4350+) in the picture and since neither The Rockies nor Elbert are as high as 4,350 ft (if you believe one or more of the triangulated values), it could be concluded that the sight line from The Rockies to Elbert is uphill in that direction, ergo Elbert is higher. In another way to look at it, if Elbert's triangulated value of 4327 ft can be taken as accurate and if the point directly behind its summit is at least 4350, which it is since it is quite obviously higher than Pt. 4400+, then The Rockies has to be less than 4327 ft.


Note that none of this proves which is higher with a certainty. It is only more evidence supporting Elbert's position. Was my camera perfectly level (tilted about the sightline axis) when I took the photo? This could skew the analytical results a minor amount.



Gear Notes:

These peaks are hikes. There is an old overgrown trail to The Rockies. Mt. Elbert is open country. No need for special gear.


Approach Notes:

The roads around these peaks are labyrinthine. The approach up Wallanding Creek on the south is simplest but the road is rough at about halfway to the destination at the Wallanding Creek crossing (low clearance cars not recommended).


The roads on the north (from FR-74) are better but there are more turns/junctions. You had better have a map or a good sense of direction. The uphill fork doesn't necessarily mean you'll go up. The downhill fork may be the right way to go "up" the mountain.

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Oh man. Wow, this is where I grew up. I once kayaked the very tail end of wallanding into the N fork tilton. Cool. I always wanted to see further up into the canyon that seems to be present on the creek from the topo, but never got back to see for myself. When I'm back at the homestead, I'll have to get up there...

Edited by AllYouCanEat

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Nope, the very very bottom. I always wanted to get up there and see if it was possible or if any piece was. I doubt it (500-1000fpm), but it's always nice to dream.

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