Ascent of Pacific County High Point on 2019-03-22

Climber: Jeremy Fuerst

Date:Friday, March 22, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Pacific County High Point
    Elevation:3000 ft / 914 m

Ascent Trip Report

Given that this county high point has proven elusive to so many, I am submitting a detailed report in the hopes that it will fill in the gaps of knowledge that have contributed to the low number of successful summits.

* Eric Geissinger's report above is helpful both for correctly pointing out that ownership of the high point belongs to Rayonier, NOT Weyerhaeuser. The link to the map he provided proved invaluable, as experience has taught me that Googlemaps and CalTopo are not up to date on many forest roads in the area. I did use both of those to supplement the Rayonier map I printed from the link, on which I highlighted the route. I can provide this to you upon request.

* Ultimately, though I did put in time on route research, I followed Eric Geissinger's (thank you, Eric!) directions to approach from Fossil Creek Rd. and follow 7000 Rd to 7200 Rd. Intersections are quite well-marked on Rayonier's property, especially compared to forest roads for other counties. Maps are unclear on whether the road you take to the summit is 7200 for the entirety of the route, though (more on that below).

* A permit to access Rayonier's property, purchased through their website (you will absolutely want to purchase a permit, more on that below!), runs you $35 from January through June as opposed to $85 the remainder of the year. Scroll down the list of permit options and at bottom you will find the "WA - SPRING NON-HUNTING RECREATION" option. That is the one you want. This permit covers you and one other person.

* Biking is best for this county, unless you want to walk forest roads for all those miles. I saw no reason to do so if I did not have to. I had my mountain bike, but a hybrid would probably do you just fine. As indicated in previous reports, a permit is no guarantee that any gates will be open. In my case, just past the initial Weyerhaeuser gate, the first Rayonier gate I encountered at N 46.39333, W 123.47894 was locked. There is a pull-out about 100 yards prior to this Rayonier gate, which is where I parked. As I was unloading my bike, a logging truck approached from within the property. The trucker got out, unlocked the gate, drove through, and re-locked the gate. I waved as he passed but did not consider asking if he would let me drive through; I had a bike and did not wish to risk getting locked inside with my vehicle.

* About 2 miles in, a pickup approached from behind and pulled next to me. The driver claimed to be security for Rayonier. I asked if he wanted to see my permissions, and he said yes. So not only will you want to BUY the permit, but you MUST have it on you. (For what it is worth, he did not find the page Rayonier provides upon purchase, as well as the email, to be helpful or satisfactory. "Is this all they gave you?" His aggression waned considerably when I quickly volunteered my Washington driver's license for him to see.) The security guy was friendly enough -- he even helped me clarify my directions -- but they definitely patrol. Another pickup stopped me a few miles later.

* On a March Friday, I encountered 8 logging & loader trucks and 5 pickups over the course of the day. You are likely to see some traffic.

* Shortly after the first security guy and I parted ways, it started to rain. It did not let up all day. I had rain layers in my pack, but given my efforts hammering uphill, I opted out of my hard shells and stuck with my cycling rain layer. I was quickly soaked and remained so for the rest of the day.

* At N 46.46181, W 123.44003 I encountered a crew of loggers working a crane, a backhoe of sorts, and a tree-stripper (forgive me for not knowing the terminology of the equipment). I watched for a little bit until they waved me through. The guy working the crane talked to me for a bit and he was pretty impressed and bemused that I had ridden my bike "all the way up" in the onslaught of rain. He was genial answering a few of my questions about logging until I continued on my way. On the other end of the site, a pickup driver commented as I passed through, "You must be pretty bored to come all the way up here." "Nah, I am just a big ol' dork," I responded, which gave him and his buddy a good laugh. Everyone I encountered was kind and gregarious.

* Given the time of year, in addition to forecasts and snow levels, I kept an eye on the WSDOT cameras at Satus Pass and KM Mountain to assess conditions. This only proved to be a *mostly* helpful method. I neglected to take into account north-facing slopes, and about a mile after I passed the logging work site, and ~5 miles from the summit, I hit patches that quickly swelled to a constant stretch that rose to just above my ankles. Stronger cyclists may have been able to hammer through, but with the incline I was not able to pull it off. I started walking my bike but left my cleats on to pedal the drier and shallower patches and continue saving time. Finally when the snow got to be constant, I pulled off my pack and swapped my cycling shoes for hiking boots. I was grateful to have thought to have brought my boots, though I rued leaving my gaiters and snowshoes behind in the car.

* It is worth noting that the last vehicles and humans I encountered were at the above logging site, and it became clear once I reached the snow that, from the absence of tire tracks, no one had come up this far for at least most of the winter.

* After 2 miles, 7200 Rd descends .5 miles to a saddle with a disjointed 5-way intersection with a couple gates at N 46.47471, W 123.38246. As I mentioned above, maps are unclear whether the route to the summit from this point continues to be 7200 Rd, and I did not see any signs. From the saddle, continue straight across, taking the left option that goes up the hill.

* There was no more snow on the road from the saddle, and I was grateful that bare south-facing slopes allowed me to get back on my bike, though I did not change back into my cycling shoes. It might have been worth it; from the saddle to the next intersection it was 1.2 miles and about 900 feet of climbing.

* At roughly N 46.48386 W, 123.38959 you will take a left turn off the road you are on. Clumps of snow on the shoulders up until this point indicated that this road had clearly been plowed at some point, though I encountered no one. This was not the case with the heavily-covered road to the left. It was a drag to leave the plowed road and reenter the snow for sure. After about 100 yards it was clear that there would be no more respite until the summit, so I stashed my bike and grabbed my trekking poles.

* From this point it was about a mile to the summit. I was postholing up to my knees for most of this stretch, but there was no way I wanted to make a trip back here, so I pressed on. Snow had filled my boots, melted, and refroze, and my feet were numb past my ankles. Not bright I know, but I was confident in my ability to make a quick exit.

* Just past the intersection with 2000 Rd, frustrated with the constant postholing and identifying an uphill bushwhack that was only patchy with snow, I said "to hell with it" and beelined it for the summit. This is where I experienced some confusion, because it seemed pretty clear at times that I was encountering a trail that has seen some fairly recent use. I do not know what to make of this. Perhaps there is a sizable number of people who have summited Pacific County and do not sign online registers, or perhaps other users of Rayonier's property like to access the highest point around. (The security guy I visited with said he had been up there at some point; he even knew the elevation was 3000' from checking his GPS at the time. So it does see some visitors.)

* After a couple hundred vertical feet, I came upon an out-of-use road which brought me more postholing. From here it was only a few hundred yards to the summit.

* An admission: It appears from examining satellite photos and my route that I may have stopped 50 yards short of the summit. An outcrop of rock I came upon in the woods seemed to be it, at least according to Gaia and my altimeter and a visual scan. It also appears that the true summit is a clearing just 20 yards from where I stood. Soaking wet, continuing to be rained upon, shivering, and with numb feet, I hastily descended. I am kicking myself for it now, as I wish I had been more thorough. I doubt I would have found a summit marker or cairn or register under the snow -- I did not even attempt to find these at the rocky outcrop I stood upon -- but who knows if something might have stood out.

* I hightailed it back to my bike, retracing my bushwhack and the postholes I pounded on my way in. Once back at my bike, I again did not bother with my cycling shoes and rode with my boots all the way out. Once back at the saddle, I walked my bike up the climb, slogging through the snow, and I continued walking it through the remainder of the snow. Even though it was mostly downhill, the consistency of the snow required considerable effort to spin through, which I could have done with my cycling shoes on, but at this point I was better off to keep moving than to stop and change shoes.

* Once I got back on the bike, it was only about an hour back to the car. Since it was just after 5, all the loggers I had encountered earlier had cleared out for the day and I did not see anyone the entire way out.

* One final note: I am convinced it is possible to hit Wahkiakum's county high point from this route. (This route actually crosses Huckleberry Ridge a couple miles from the summit.) In fact I had planned to explore this possibility, but my efforts slogging through deep rain-soaked snow and the fact that I was soaked myself deterred me from following through on this. From the summit of Pacific County, it is 17.7 miles one-way. One would take Road 1300Y from either the saddle or another intersection 1-2 miles WSW of it and go from there. I am not sure whether to do so in the spring is strictly speaking legal or legitimate; perhaps one encounters no signage on this back-door route granting more leniency. This is for others to explore.
Summary Total Data
    Round-Trip Distance:51.2 mi / 82.4 km
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Bushwhack, Snow on Ground, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Bicycle, Ski Poles
    Weather:Raining, Cold, Windy, Overcast

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