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Josh Lewis

[TR] The Prairie Mountain Adventure

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Trip: The Prairie Mountain Adventure -

 

Date: 12/21/2009

 

Trip Report:

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Warning! Do not attempt this route (the North Ride) unless you want to encounter dangerous dogs and deal with cliffs below the summit and avoid cornice ridges.

 

This is the sequel to Biking Adventure to Darrington. Me and Michael have been wanting to do this one for quite some time. The Adventure started on Monday December 21, 2009 and ended December 23, 2009. Unfortunately like last time this one had a late start to it, but atleast we made it to Darrington via bus, my mom holds up Michael by giving him a lot of chores before he leaves which was another factor. As we leave home we miss the main bus by less than one minute and end up missing a Darrinton bus which means more waiting time in the rain, atleast we had food.

 

On the bus ride to Darrington there were some nice people on the way, one man even gave me a lighter incase I needed to create a fire he tells me, also he explained how to create a fire in wet enviroments and how I should try to do this (in the future I do plan on doing this). By the time we got to Darrington it was lightly raining and dark out. As my hiking tradition I had to buy some chocolate milk and drink it in a hurry (which is around 800+ calories in about a moment). After this we headed to the Sauk-Prairie Road. When biking the atmosphere of the night was all so beautiful, Michael's jacket had a lot of reflectors on it which made it glow blue from my head lamp and it was snow rain mix. We paced very nicely and soon we could see a shadow of the mountain through the dark of the night.

 

The Chase Begins:

As we are biking I see a pair of glowing eyes and at first glance I was a little nervous, a moment later the dogs where chasing us and Michael got out of there just in time to not have them bite us. It wa a little worry some, from here we turn onto East Sauk Prairie Road which is where it went all down hill, or should I say up hill. As we are biking alone we see another set of glowing eyes, this time I knew it was more dogs so we hurry across and the dogs are just wild and crazy chasing us! These were bigger than the other dogs, these are not your average dogs, had we been on foot theres no way I could have out runned them even if I did not carry a huge overnight pack on my back. I remember one of them even after biking as fast as I could getting real close, almost within biting distance but I just kept going and going until I was out of sight. What a frightening bike ride were my thoughts. At this point we start to head South a little which was going well according to our map, what we did not know was our route went over private property, until we were there. We came up to a gate and it said "no trespassing", according to our topo map it looked like any other road which frustrated me. Michael and me agreed we would still go for it, not only did we want to go up the mountain, but we sure well did not want to deal with those dogs, especially considering they were waiting for us, or atleast thats what I thought it would be, Unfortunately it was worse than that.

 

After we dropped off our bikes we started to hike up the road. As we were walking we would hear the constance of dog barking behind us, which frightened me. Michael and me had our ice axes out by then just incase, well I hate to say it but for protection. As we got further and further up the road we still hear there barking, at this point we know what is going down which we feared would happen... They are stalking us! We did not stop for a long time, we just kept going up and up trying to get as high up, as far away from the dogs as possible. Later even when we are a ways above Darrington we still hear them barking, I was terrified at this point. There was no stopping, it just kept going on and on for hours, up hill hiking at a fast pace and not resting. Way later up the mountain we start to hear less and less sound of the dogs barking but for all we knew they could be still stalking us. Michael made a prediction that they would not follow the road but rather cut through because they are so desperate to get to us that they would go way out of there way to get us! This to me was one of the biggest times of fear in my life and is when I finally got a good time to use my quote "Climb to live, live to climb", basically saying now we have a very good reason to be climbing the mountain... for our lives!

 

As we were going up I was just praying as we were going, and I believe that some how there was a miracle that night, that we made it without having to fight. I not only worried about ourselves but I also did not want to hurt the dogs, it's funny to think of it but this was worse than wolves, wolves don't stalk you when not hungry and chase you up mountains just for being near them, but these dogs were just some how savage, almost seemed evil. After a long time we finally have to stop and eat some food, but after this we continued. We started to get to snow which fortunately did not last too long, another worry came to mind, now they have our foot prints to track us. Soon we reach a fork in the road which is near the end. We decide we had enough and if they came well they would come any ways.

 

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Michael sets up the tent and we stash the food away, drink and decided we had enough action for the night. I made the same mistake I made on Columbia Peak... forgot my ground pad, but Michael helped fix this problem by adding his wet jacket and my wet clothes in a waterproof garbage back which to my supprise worked fine. fortunately we had no troubles from the dogs for the rest of the night. At first I was a bit cold going to bed but as long as I kept the hole (the one that you get into and can use a strap to make smaller) in my sleeping bad about the size of my fist were I breath out of, I kept warm and could finally sleep.

 

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I think I dreamed a lot that night but I forget now what it was of, anyways we woke up during early morning. I go out to get the food and we have ourselves some waffles and snacks. My shoe laces were just frozen solid so I was glad I did not untie them and rather unhooked them from my shoe with cold fingers. Too bad my water was mostly frozen so I would have to shake it up to perhaps unmelt it a bit. The sky had a semi clearing look to it which excited me. After this we made a summit bid. At first we were wondering if we should ditch the bikes, go over the summit to Darrington then call mom and get picked up with the bikes, fortunately we did not go for that idea, because the results would have been in vain. It was a fun feeling hiking through snowy woods up the mountain, no trail, just pure route finding and navigating.

 

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Later we found the ridge which we would plunge on some steps and be fine on others, and go over snowy bushes. I was glad for the time being there was no fear of dogs. As we gain the ridge we all of a sudden see ahead a very steep zone. To my suprise Michael acually did not seem to mind it so we went for it. First it was 45 degree slope, and then it just got steeper and steeper near some icicles. I could tell by the slope that it would be dangerous to do if there was no snow. As we kept going up it my thoughts were "I acually like the feeling of steep slopes" and I started to realize as we were on it that ice tools would be handy right here. It was kinda a powdery snow that was knee deep and below it was just ground, as I went further up our progress slowed more and more and it got to the point were I said lets find another way because below was dangerous ice and was just not good for foot holds, when I say it's not safe, you know that it's not safe.

 

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We headed down the slope and headed over to the left of were we came from earlier. It was indeed steep but was not nearly as bad and there was a point that I had to be careful and get around a steep spot with a tree, which I used the tree to climb that part. After this the slopes got more gentle and we soon gain the ridge. The snow was knee deep at this point making it a bit harder to travel, Michael decides to attempt making snow shoes, they work at first but then sorta fall apart, I myself know that if you are going to make snow shoes you really got to commit the time to place them together. I decide to go ahead of him and I see what looks like the summit, I hurry and hope think "were almost there were almost there!" but Unfortunately I was wrong. We were not even close!

 

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As I reach what I believed was the summit I get a decent view and feel relieved, and then I looked over at another high point through the fog. My worry came true, the high point that was buried by fog was the true summit, which was a ways off. In summer time it would not have been such a big deal (exept the end) but with foggy weather and deep snow it made the trip a lot harder. After resting, taking some photos Michael catches up with me and to my suprise he agrees to keep going, which involved traveling down the ridge and then back up. I suppose his thoughts were the same as mine "we went all these ways, we might as well make the summit".

 

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Going down the ridge was easier than I had thought it would be, but the flat section tired me out a bit and I started to become dizzy. Views of White Horse Mountain would come which I felt there that this was true mountain country. The ridge started out gradual and then became harder as we went further and further up. There was a point on a cornice ridge with cliffs ahead that I said I would be fine with turning around. To my amazement Michael steps in and has us keep going, also he found a way to bypass the cliffs by going down the mountain and around. After we start heading back up it starts to get to waist deep powder and every step starts to become more and more tiresome, but the feeling was getting more and more incredible. Words that come to mind is that it felt almost out of this world because I was really there in the moment climbing mountains. The slope was powder so we had to kick steps and it was then when I came up with a technique for steep slopes like these. Your arm can acually have as much use as your ice axe by putting your arm in the snow then having it bent, kinda like an ice tool.

 

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We just kept pushing on and on and later we got to a point were it started to look iffy. We went lower on a steep snow slope and then above back on the ridge were it started to get dangerous. As we look up we could see the summit was just filled with cliffs and it was getting late, and at that point we had to call it quits.

 

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No hard feels were felt, we had such a fun time going up. Heading down I was always pushing myself to keep up with Michael, I would either punch through a snow hole, or would just trip when running and I started to develope cramps. There was some fun going down, got to glassade the steep section and could see a beautiful sunset through the trees. When we got to the lower part below the false summit I pushed myself until I felt like a diffrent person, and yes I had that crazy look in my eyes.

 

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On the false summit I decided to make a quick time for photography, it was outragously beautiful, to the East the sky was purple, and to the West there was a storm coming in, Michael said we have to get out of here as soon as possible. Going down in the dark was not as bad as I had expected although still very tiring and we made it back to camp for night 2. Unlike night 1 this time it was a bit of a long night, I was wet from going up. I did not sleep well, not only did I have very bad cramps that I had to contain myself from making noises of pain, but I was shivering cold constantly. For both of us it was a hard night and I would just wake up hoping for the end of the night. We decided not to get up too early because we wanted not to see the dogs on the way back in dark hours, but we wanted to make the bus home before we would have to wait many hours.

 

Waking up my feet were numb and frozen feeling, it was hard just putting my boots on, the laces were very frozen as well as my hands. We had some quick food, tried to pack up camp as fast as possible and when we were ready head down. On the way down I was praying a lot as well, I did not want to encounter the dogs again. About less than a mile from our camp we see there foot prints, I was worried by this and thought how lucky we were that they did not get closer. There were various other snow prints as well like deer and bird, perhaps fox. As Michael had predicted, they went strait up the mountain, and just like how we went up, we went down with our ice axes ready.

 

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As we head down the mountain it was interesting how we were between two layers of clouds, one above and one below. Around half way down we hear dog barks. "Looks like my fears caught up to me" were my thoughts. We also heard a truck as well which could be good, or could be bad. Either way I was worried. We headed down at a decent pace and at about the last mile we were quite about our walking and even earlier were trying to keep as much quiet as possible. To my amazement we get to the gate safely and we make a quiet grab for our bikes. We see a guy which I worry is the land owner but fortunatly was a PUD guy. Afer this we had our ice axes to our sides just incase we needed them. Fortunatly the dogs must have taken one of the forks in the road.

 

Making a Wild Dash out of there:

To me it felt like the ending part of the movie "Flight of the Phoenix" when they are chased and trying to fly out, for me it was with dogs, although we did not encounter the main big scary dogs, we did have other dogs chase us from now both sides and we had to rush out of there as fast as we could. Later one of the people explains as we stopped that she complained about the 'scary dogs' but no one did nothin about it. The rest of the way back was a lot nicer from here on.

 

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The place had a very naturey feel to it as we biked to Darrington. At Darrington we missed the bus so I had some more chocolate milk and food, and then we had to wait at a libary for four hours for the next bus which was acually not too bad.

 

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Then the bus ride home was nice. It did not stop there, "I am never finished" which is one of my main quotes because after this my brother went home and I stayed on the bus threw him my pack, kept going further into Lynnwood and went to my youth group party. And I had to bike intensley to loose little time. When I got there everyone was happy I made it and I had some food and snacks and it was just wonder! What a way to end a trip with a party! This was among another one of my crazy adventures, but you can't blame me for getting chased by dogs, how was I supposed to know there was savage dogs waiting for me at the trailhead? Any ways basically when you go out there, don't do this route unless you want to be chased up by dogs and have all sorts of troubles. The adventure it self was amazing, worth it yes, would I do it again? NO! Or atleast not with the dogs. To this day I have a little bit of a fear of dogs.

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another lesson for you, given your shivering sleep night 2: take a pocket stove, tiny pot and a nalgene bottle - fill nalgene bottle w/ boiling hot water and throw in sleeping bag - remove all soaked clothes and get in bag :)

 

forgetting a sleep pad in winter is daft to the extreme of course as you realized - there were plenty of fresh green tree boughs to chop n' deposit below you were you so inclined :P

 

there's nothing wrong w/ putting an ice axe through a dog's cerebellum if'n your not on his property :grin:

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forgetting a sleep pad in winter is daft to the extreme of course as you realized -

 

Josh -

Make a packing list of what you think you will need for each trip.

Pack said equipment and check it off the list as you pack it.

When you get home remove all things from the list that you did not use or realize you just don't need.

As you gain expereince you will find that you really do not need much for the average weekend out.

Forgetting a basic like a sleeping pad is just bad form, sometimes it happens but two times in a year seems just forgetful/neglectful.

The list idea helps you think through the process and it really will help pair down the unnecessary crap that alot of people take with them.

The less extraneous stuff you have = the lighter your load = the easier your load is to handle = the more yo can get done = MORE FUN and LESS SUFFERING.

 

 

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yea, what Ivan said.

Good work escaping death and learning a bit more about the mountains hands on.

Don't worry about the missed summits. In the winter, my summit rate is somewhere below 50%. The cascades are tough, especially in the winter.

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To this day I have a little bit of a fear of dogs.

i must not fear

fear is the mind killer

 

fear is the little death that brings total obliteration

 

i will face my fear

 

i will permit it to pass over and through me

 

and when it has gone past

i will turn the inner eye to see its path

 

where the fear has gone

there will be nothing

 

only i will remain.

 

Frank Herbert

 

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forgetting a sleep pad in winter is daft to the extreme of course as you realized -

 

Josh -

Make a packing list of what you think you will need for each trip.

Pack said equipment and check it off the list as you pack it.

When you get home remove all things from the list that you did not use or realize you just don't need.

As you gain expereince you will find that you really do not need much for the average weekend out.

Forgetting a basic like a sleeping pad is just bad form, sometimes it happens but two times in a year seems just forgetful/neglectful.

The list idea helps you think through the process and it really will help pair down the unnecessary crap that alot of people take with them.

The less extraneous stuff you have = the lighter your load = the easier your load is to handle = the more yo can get done = MORE FUN and LESS SUFFERING.

 

another approach to packing - store all your climbing shit were you can see it, like on a peg board, wire shelves, etc - before you leave look at all the shit you're leaving behind and ask yerself, "hey, did i actually want that sleeping pad?"

 

i usually feel nervous when setting off for a trip that i might have forgotten shit, so i also as i sit down in the car try to imagine myself doing all of the things i'll be doing on the trip - eating, shitting, camping, cooking, climbing, getting drunk, etc. - and then mentally confirming i threw in the required gear for each of those activities

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Josh -

 

When you get home remove all things from the list that you did not use or and realize you just don't need.

 

 

Slight change in wording, big change in meaning. In my experience, there are some things I never use that I always bring. And I guess I should add that there are some things that you bring, use, but don't bring again. But nothing in particular comes to mind.

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Hey Josh, I think I might have some old snowshoes you can have. The deck is kind of held together with duct-tape and the binding on one needs to be retightened every 20 minutes or so, but better than nothing I think. What size boot are you?

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Hey Josh, I think I might have some old snowshoes you can have. The deck is kind of held together with duct-tape and the binding on one needs to be retightened every 20 minutes or so, but better than nothing I think. What size boot are you?

 

I usually like excepting free gear, but to be honest I already have a pair of alright snow shoes but left them home because we did not expect to encounter as much snow as we did, and we wanted to carry up as little as possible, although if I had just known I would have wanted to bring them.

 

As for everyone elses responses I very much appreciate them, and have been doing better when it comes to bringing gear. Usually the times I bring all my gear is in the more casual trips of mine.

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i've never done a trip in december when the snow wasn't nightmare bottomless powder and even having snowshoes couldn't dissuade me from thoughts of suicide :)

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I keep all my gear together so that I have to see all of it and decide what I need and what I don't. I hope you learned your lesson about the sleeping pad though.

 

-Mark

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I keep all my gear together so that I have to see all of it and decide what I need and what I don't. I hope you learned your lesson about the sleeping pad though.

 

-Mark

 

I cold night like these, no thank you! But I do Thank you for the advice ;-)

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Good post Josh! At least you didn't forget your tent or your sleeping bag! :) That would have been an extremely cold night!!! Don't worry, you will get Prarie soon!

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