This weekend’s planned agenda was to climb Observation Rock. However, for the first time in what seemed like an eternity rain was in the forecast… lots of it. It seemed that most of the heavy rain and high wind (up to 60mph) was predicted to occue on Saturday. Sunday’s weather appeared a bit better with light showers and some sunshine. Thus, Damien and I opted to pack our ice gear and head out to Mount Rainier National Park. If the weather was as predicted on Sunday we would climb. If not we would have a backpack trip to Spray park and scout out the approach for Observation Rock. Most importantly, we would be spending time in the backcountry in some wretched weather… our specialty!

We spend a good deal of time hydroplaning across the highway to the Carbon River Ranger station to pick up our permit. Then we drove the endless miles of dirt road to Mowich Lake. The rain and winds were right on schedule though now and then sun and blue sky would make an appearance for five minutes. When we left the car the rain was steady, but not a complete downpour. Plus the trail was woods and the trees offered protect from the wind and rain. We saw some very wet and very unhappy looking boyscouts just before heading down the trail… we were smiling. RAIN!!!!!

When I say “down the trail” i truly do mean down. The trail descends down stairs and then meanders up and down for 2.2 miles never actualluy gaining elevation, but loosing about 500 feet. We stayed got a little lost at the Junction for Eagle Roost and  left at the Eagle Roost “water: The map seemed to show that we were supposed to past the camp so we descended to it only to find that the trial did not continue from there. Luckily it was only a .1 mile detour and soon we were back on track following the trail for “water” (the trail to the left). Soon after the junction with the Spray Falls Overlook the trail suddenly decided to ascend (finally). We went up a few switchbacks and entered Spray Park, which is a large open meadow, just in time for the monsoon.

The rain grew insane just as we stepped into the meadow and the wind whipped through the trees. Thinking it might be just a momentary unleashing of water we waiting fifteen minute under some trees, but it didn’t let up. We put on our rain-pants and walked into what felt like a constant waterfall. It wasn’t all that horrible though to be hoenst. There was a real alpine feel to the weather and the place. The trail wandered through the meadows and overflowing tarns slowly gaining elevation. We took a side-trail at about 5800ft that headed in the direction of Observation Rock which we could see in the distant. We could also see trees ahead that would offer shelter from the roaring wind. If we gained much more elevation the tent would never stay up in the 60-70 mph gusts.

We founded a nice sheltered place near the trees and a clear tarn. We put up the tent in a hurry and crawled inside stripping off our rain gear. The wind roared int he trees and over the slopes, but inside, aside from being a bit damp, it was nice and cozy. We didn’t linger inside though for more than an hour. It seemed like the rains were letting up so we went out and ventured cross country in the direction of Observation Rock. To our surprise a blue sky and sunshine made an appearance.

We found what we thought would be a good route to Observation Rock (we already knew we wouldn;t be appraoching the traditional way since we had to camp lower due to the wind). Then we started climbing up to the stop of several ridges as the weather slowing began to disintegrate  again. On the high ridge at 6200 ft the wind nearly blew us off our feet. We retreated to lower ground and headed back to camp once again in the freezing rain. By then it was evening so we filtered water and cooked a delightfully warm dinner before turning in for the night.

At 5am the wind and rain had not left up. Itw as too dangerous to climb. We waiting in the tent until 9:00am with no improvement in the weather. We decided that this was not the day to climb and packed up camp… it was impossible to keep anything dry when packing so we probably carried an additional ten pounds each in water weight. The trek out went quickly and we reached the trail-head at 11:35am. While we were stuffing our gear into the car who should wander over to us but Colin Haley, one of the most talented alpinists in the world. We exchanged a few words about gear and climbing routes. That chance meeting made our day!

 

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