Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Chief Mountain Trifecta

Chief Mountain

Yesterday was day 1 of my summer term of school.  As I sat there through my only class this week I could only think of getting in a nice hike before my other two classes start next week.  After class got out I sat there on the light rail and convinced myself that tomorrow would be a good time to get out since I’m only in one class right now.  I sent Brian a text to see if he wanted to get out and soon enough our plans developed.  Since I needed to be back for class in the early evening we decided on the Chief Trifecta; which includes Chief Mountain, Papoose Mountain and Squaw Mountain.  Another 7am meet-up time for the T-Rex lot was in the books.
On my drive to meet up with Brian I couldn’t help but notice how shitty the weather was today.  The rain was in more of a monsoon down pour and I was thinking this was really going to suck.  Lucky for us as we headed up I-70 and made the Evergreen exit we were now above the downpour and saw spots of blue sky here and there.  Now back in January I had done a hike of only Chief Mountain, so the good news is I knew where the TH was.  Since we planned on doing the loop, Brian parked his car where the Squaw Mountain road comes out onto the highway.  This way we could do our 100yrds along the road at the beginning rather than the end of the day.  If you’re planning to hike just Chief Mountain there is a pull-out on the right side of the road just up the road from where the Squaw road connects with the main roadway.
Chief Mountain and Papoose Mountain
Chief Mountain Trail is highly recommended by me.  This is a great trail for any beginner or even seasoned vets such as us.  You can easily hike to the summit and back to your car in 1-2hours depending on your pace.  We made good time making it up to the summit in about 45 minutes hiking at a leisure pace.  For most of the hike we were covered in a cloud, but as we hit tree line the blue sky came out to visit us for a while.  Eventually the views from the summit opened up around us and we got a nice shot of the Evans group.  With summit one down we were off to Papoose Mountain.
We took the unconventional approach, staying on the ridge line and bushwhacking through the trees.  The snow was soft in spots, so for now I would recommend just following the trail down back to the saddle then heading up the short vertical section to Papoose.  This is an odd summit, because you don’t know you’re on it unless you stop and take a minute to realize it.  The summit is surrounded by trees so it doesn’t stick out at all, so don’t blink!  That marks two down, one more to go, so off we went for Squaw.
Evans Group
Unless you want to drop down to the intermediate dirt road and take it around to the Squaw Mountain Road, you will be in for a bit of a bushwhack like we were.  It was much nicer than the walk down from Chief, but we still ran into patches of deep soft snow quite a bit.  We hit the road about 100yrds below the “redneck gun range”.  Once on the road it is a simple road hike to the Squaw Mountain Fire Lookout.  I was feeling good and got in a good rhythm and in no time at all found myself at the fire lookout.  The wind was blowing considerably harder than it had all day.  Lucky for us the clouds around were giving us good views so I snapped a few pictures and we were on our way.
The fire lookout was impressive and it alone is worth the short hike to see the cool stone work.  There are massive amounts of metamorphic rock, mostly Gneiss along the road and near Squaws summit that add an extra bonus to those Geologist nuts out there.  The walk back to the car was quick since we were on a nice hard packed road.  We didn’t see any wildlife other than about 15 elk crossing the road on our drive back, so that was disappointing.  One note is the road is under some heavy construction right now, so don’t expect to zip right up to the TH as fast as you normally can.  It was another nice hike, one I’d like to do in the summer with all the snow gone, so I will probably be back to this trip again and again.

Date: 5/29/2013
Starting Elevation:  10,646ft 
Chief Mountain Summit: 11,699ft
Papoose Mountain Summit:  11,178ft
Squaw Mountain Summit:  11,476ft
Total Gained Elevation: 1,784ft
Distance: 6.09 miles
Time: 2:45 moving, 0:35 stopped
Partners: Brian

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