“There are two kinds of adventurers: those who go truly hoping to find adventure and those who go secretly hoping they won't.” -Rabindranath Tagore
When: February 21, 23, 26 of 2011
1st Time: Chance and I
2nd Time: Solo
3rd Time: Michael, XDiablox, and I
Elevation Gain: According to the Tracks I gained 5,630 Feet (I thought I worked myself hard) Perhaps this is because of lowering elevations
Distance: 15.75 Miles
I've wanted to climb Mount Zeke's for quite some time, I often see it when going through highway 2. When looking for route information on Mount Zeke's I could find nothing, so in a sense I felt some what like a pioneer in the sense of exploring an area with little information. But unlike pioneers of the past I was able to use google earth and look at topo maps to help give me an idea of what route I should take. Eventually I decided to take the South Face via Lake Isabel.
Part 1: Mount Zekes Exloration
Sadly I did not have an opportunity on the good weather day, but on February 21, 2011 Chance then was able to take me on a trip. Getting to the trail head was a bit of a hassle, the gravel parking lot on the left was closed because of gang activity according to some guy running by. We then got to a pull out a few hundred feet further down Reiter Road.
The trail started out as a road walk which was easy to follow until we got to a turn near May Creek. We went up steam to look for a crossing which we were not getting much luck. After spending a while we went back down stream and found a nice steam crossing, Chance was a little outraged that it was right before our eyes. We crossed it then continued up the forest road. Later on we get to some nice mini waterfalls which I had to take some photos, soon after it began to snow. Chance knew we had no chance of obtaining the summit and did not want to have to drive back in bad conditions so we turned around. The good thing about Chance is he does not live up to his name.
Part 2: A Solo Adventure
I was now pressed for Zekes after the attempt and now had a better idea of the route. I woke up at 6 a.m. which out side it was snowing, this meant I was in for an exciting day. I looked over at my snowshoes and wondered if I should bring them, I decided not to. It wasn't a bad idea considering that the snow later on was so powdery that it would not have done me any good. I then dash out the door and take the bus to Everett. Then from Everett to Gold Bar, as I was getting closer to my last stop I could see the bottom of the Mountain which had me quite excited.
When getting off the bus I then hop on my bike for the ride to the mountain. The city road had snow on it which I had to be a little careful, especially at a few spots on the road that were not plowed on the side where I was biking. At about 9 a.m. I make it to the trail head which because I had a bike I was able to make good speed up the road, although a few rough patches. There were quite a few obstacles in the pathway like ponds, trees, and branches. At one point as I was biking over a big branch I slip and flew off my bike. I then decide to walk the bike a ways until I get to the creek crossing. This time the rocks where covered with snow. I stashed my bike and started on the hiking part of the adventure.
After brushing off the snow rocks and carefully crossing I start up a jogging rhythm. When looking all around the environment looked quite different than it had before, the fresh snow had made all the difference in the appearance. After the running became tiresome I would be forced to stop (as in slow down and walk). As I was walking along I wondered if the sun would make an appearance which eventually it did.
Pretty soon I passed where we had turned around which the trail was quite faint due to all the snow on the trail, to my left I could see flags and a small trail which I assumed must be the trail. So I took it which led me up a ways, sometimes I would loose the flags but then find them again. Eventually the flags just ended which brought up a little concern, if I went back I would loose too much time, so I decided now was the time for me to try navigating the woods.
As I hiked in the woods the trees kept spewing snow and with a gust of wind the whole forest turned into what looked like a white out. For a second I panicked because I thought an avalanche was coming down until I could see again. I was drenched in snow by now from it, but it looked beautiful at the same time. Then travel became slow, there was dozens and dozens of fallen over trees around. It was impossible to avoid which I had to dash over them as fast as I could because I knew time was important. Sad to say that as I was climbing over one it ripped my favorite pair of pants, then another one ripped the protection of my ice axe which made looking it harder (to this day as well). I'll admit I was getting a little paranoid of breaking through one of the bushes/trees and landing on a bees nest, my brother told me about his experience in the woods where that happen to the people around him and he managed to get away.
The woods travel was horrendous, so many trees had to be hoped, jumped, crawled over, and if lucky traveled around. I lost much time due to this, but continued on. Eventually as I was traveling I started to become a bit lost which I wondered if I was on the right side of the mountain or if I was even on Mount Zekes! Then I luckily found a creek bed which I was able to get out of the terrible woods, although sometimes I would plunge through the snow onto annoying rocks.
Later on I finally find a section of the mountain that seems to actually gain elevation, but sadly there was a lot of trees and such in the way that made it so at a few spots it was deeper than waist deep which I didn't want to get in over my head if you know what I mean. Or should I say literally. After getting over this I was then able to go straight up the slope. After the slope I had one more round of tree hopping, which I checked the time which my camera clock said 2 p.m. So now every moment was precious, I dashed up around the corner of the mountain and finally got to a gully. This was quite a relief. But there was still a lot of work ahead.
From here I went up the gully which at first I worried about avalanches but tested the snow and everything seemed to check out just fine. Now I was traveling through waist deep powder which became quite exhausting, eventually the slope across was visible as well as Lake Isabel which got be excited, I now knew I was on the right mountain! With each step I slid back slightly and it became what some would call a "suffer fest". My hands were becoming almost numb, and my feet were a bit wet.
It got to the point where I was excited to make 20-30 feet of elevation gain. It's such a difference in difficulty from winter to summer, and just because Mount Zekes is 4865 feet tall does not make it easy, it has about 4,400 feet elevation gain. Eventually I topped out and reached the ridge at about 4,200 feet. There was a small cornice to my side which I used to help me get up the rocks. The rocks were tricky because they had loose snow, and I ended up doing an interesting move to get up it. By now the winds picked up and my face felt a bit frozen, and weather looked like it would only get worse. I looked at the time on my camera which said it was 4:18 p.m. I looked up and back down and figured I would not summit until around dark, so I finally made the choice to turn around. Plus my mom back at home as well as my brother Michael I did not want them worrying too much, and I wanted to be able to catch the last bus.
On the way down I was having cramps which I forced myself to drink, although my water was half frozen and the lid hard to pull off. I attempted some glissades and brought an awful lot of powder down with me. I had to stop at a cliffy section of the gully which I had to go through woods to get up. Then I dashed on down the rest of the gully and then around the corner and then back down to the creek bed. Considering I got a little lost on the way up I should get as far as possible before dark.
The creek bed was nice going, which then led to a old logging road. I figured it had to lead to something which sure enough later on led to the trail. I was running hard down the mountain to get out, plus most of my gear was wet, I was low on food, and water was freezing. Later on I get my bike and attempt to bike through the woods but the snow made traveling too difficult which I then decided to run with the bike. I couldn't ride it much until I got to the road. Then on the road I biked on in the dark evening blue light, I wanted to be sure to pass the house with the dogs (ever since Prairie Mountain I've been scared of dogs that have an open fence and look big and bark at me). I biked through as fast as I could and then reached highway 2 which it was snowing by now. I looked back and could see the mountain, wanted to take a picture but was too much in a hurry to do so.
I was now wanting to make the soonest bus home as possible, when I got to the stop I missed the bus which I had to wait almost an hour. I then was shivering at the bus stop for a while, eventually a guy walks up to the stop and I greet him. I told him about my adventure which he then said "not very many people your age do that kind of stuff". The bus then comes which I was so happy to get on the warm bus, and then we started to have conversations. I must say it's amazing the people you meet when going out on adventures even when you thought you would hardly speak to anyone. He gave me a fresh pair of socks to wear home and in Everett we parted ways. Then was my last ride to home. When I got home it was so nice to rest. But adventure did not escape me that easy…
Part 3: Another Attempt for Zekes
On Friday I went up Gold Mountain and had a good workout, but then came Saturday which before starting the trip I was dreaming of working out hard in the mountains, I wake up and start to wonder if I'll ever have a time where I'm not breaking trail. We hike up to the creek which the creek by now has all kinds of ice and such making crossing a bit of a pain.
Later on we get to the fork in the trail which for the first time I went the right way up, although sadly I missed another fork which we ended up having to go a ways back down. Then I went back up the road I ran down the previous time. One of our party members who was the driver went back down, as we were going up Rex was getting quite cold and was "crying". After checking the time we knew we would not make it so we had to run down and make it to the car in time before they head off into town and leave us there until 6 p.m.
Fortunately Michael caught up, on the way down when I was running I slipt and fell on my hand which I decided to run less. On the way home we enjoyed some Domino's Pizza and I got 15 hours of sleep which still didn't feel like enough. My success rate this week with 5 trips is 0% but at least I have a 100% success rate in the adventure/fun sense. And that's what counts the most. I worked myself harder than many success trips. One of these days I'll have to return.