Ascent of Mount Howard on 2018-07-29
|Others in Party:||(The Dog) Ava|
----Only Party on Mountain
|Date:||Sunday, July 29, 2018|
|Ascent Type:||Successful Summit Attained|
| Elevation:||7063 ft / 2152 m|
Ascent Trip ReportAva and I on our own.
Did Mt Pugh on Saturday then planned to drive to Merrit lake trailhead, car camp and do the Mastiff to Howard traverse and down to Crescent lake and out as a loop.
Left the Mt Pugh TH about 4pm, stopped in Monroe with it in the high 80's for a quick meal so Ava would be ok (Taco Time), Safeway for some drinks and snacks for Sunday, then on my way out saw Pet Pros and miraculously got some dog bug spray! Back to Safeway to get a little spray bottle so I wasn't carrying a giant one and then off to find the trailhead.
FYI the road in to the Merrit Lake Trailhead is pretty bumpy with giant rocks, totally fine for a higher clearance car but my subaru impreza required going slow and some tricky maneuvering sacrificing brush scraping the sides of my car over protecting the bottom quite a bit. There was only one truly bad spot so I made the trailhead and was the only car there. I setup the tent thinking I had learned something from my Chikamin attempt but since when packing I had thought there might be enough time to hike in a bit and actually camp I had packed the lightweight single wall BD tent. Yeah, no ventilation so Ava and I were still HOT trying to go to sleep. Still way more comfortable than trying to sleep in my car. Also, there is cell service (Verizon) at the TH. I communicated with Noel and Sean a bit.
I planned to start early for the heat but when I woke at 5 Ava wanted to snuggle and so we I reset the alarm. A perk of being on my own :-) Anways we ended up starting not super early at 6:50am. Bugs were pretty bad and they didn't really let up all day. Boy was I glad that I had gotten more dog bug spray. I ended up soaking my kerchief in deet and wrapping it around my head. Not great for the heat but very much needed in helping me deal with the constant buzzing. If it wasn't mosquitos it was flies or both or back again.
This time I started with two liters of water and my filter. Easily found the climbers path off the main trail around 5100ft (I think) along the ridge heading up for Mastiff. The last time I did this it was mostly snow and pretty much a whiteout so it was really nice to see the views. Traversing along the ridge above Merrit lake is easy. Just go down a bit where needed and over and up again. Easily on up to the bump that Mastiff is. There is a little cairn built and a summit register but I could not get it open.
I had read Sean had dropped down nearly to the Canaan Lake then traversed over as he said it looked less brushy. I decided to not just follow his track and do a little higher traverse. There was some trees to get through, some boulder hopping, some steeper heather steps. Nothing too hard and basically just went the easiest way over and down over and down. Pretty cool terrain that felt quite alpine. Would have been amazing if it wasn't for the bugs...and the heat...it was still really delightful though. Took a little break on the slabby rock before heading up the final easy part to Howard. No challenging terrain as of yet.
From the summit I wasn't as confident about the path down to Crescent lake so followed Sean's track. Basically you just traverse to the right and down some boulders and continue along down and over until you can see down to Crescent lake. Ava and I found a big flat heather and sandy area with snow melting and a big pool. She enjoyed walking around in it and cooling off. I filtered some water here just in case I needed it before getting to Crescent lake.
Continuing to traverse and heading down heathery steps I saw a cairn and what seemed like a dry narrow creek. Headed down this and to what I figured was the one harder slabby spot to get through. Ava went down to my left and I thought it looked ok so traversed over and down but realized the slab part was much more vertical and taller so I would really be sliding on it until I hit the bottom...yeah, so it looked much easier across the way so I went back up and over to the right where it was totally easy. Then it was just a little weaving back and forth down some little ledges. Again, nothing very hard.
Sean had said not to follow his bushwhacking trail down to the lake as it was pretty bad, so I thought I would just go what I found to be the easiest way. It didn't look any easier to traverse right far above the lake and then down so I just went down. Sometimes there was a somewhat animal trail, mostly it was super thick stuff varying from tall grass to slide alder to very dense brush to thick trees. Funny thing is when I try to stay on Sean's track I keep having to correct....on this when I wasn't trying to every time I checked to see how far off I was I'd be dead on.... Anyways the worst was when I ran into a steep narrow wet mossy bouldery creek. Thank you tree/veggy belays. I think Ava really liked that I was finally doing some real bushwhacking with her and every time I called her she wasn't too far off. We finally broke out to the base and went right to the lake for a quick dip. Glad I had my crocs as the bottom was some sort of mushy wood/mud scratching but sucking my feet. With that major refreshment I decided to filter at the outlet of the lake instead of where our sunscreen/bug spray dip had been. Then found the trail and headed out for what I thought was all downhill. Turns out you go down from Crescent lake and after a marshy grassy field you then start gaining again. I think I got down to 4600 and had to gain back to the 5100 ft ridge where I had left the trail originally for Mastiff. That was not so fun in the heat at the end of a long day...
I saw the only other person I would see all day on the uphill part. It was a guy in shorts and no shirt (clearly bugs aren't that attracted to him) and he was saying that it was a pretty isolated trail since I was the first person he had seen other than a couple that went to Merrit lake. He must have thought I looked a mess. When asked if I had gone all the way to the lake I said yeah, but I had done a loop of Mastiff to Howard and then down to the lake first...I don't think he really got it. Anyways, you can kind of get a view of Howard on your way back up to the ridge. I was feeling pretty worked at this point. Ava still hadn't had her breakfast and I had not eaten much since neither of us were hungry from the heat, only thirsty. I forced down some olives and a granola bar and we made it out.
I left the trailhead at 3pm and the drive home was very long due to the 92 degree temp and the 1 mile per hour traffic on rt 2. Got home maybe 6:30pm and found Janusz still working on the wood pedestals. He worked until past dark and then came back Monday morning in the dark at 5am.
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