Ascent of Point 4787 on 2019-10-19

Climber: Eric Gilbertson

Date:Saturday, October 19, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Point 4787
    Elevation:4787 ft / 1459 m

Ascent Trip Report

Truck Summit (4,120ft), McClellan Butte South (5,045ft), Pt 4787, Pt 4701

October 19, 2019, 12:15pm – 8:15pm

18 miles, Eric Gilbertson

This trip ended up ranking very high on the character-building scale, much higher than I anticipated. That was probably due to the 8 continuous hours of being soaked from torrential rain and wet snow combined with bushwhacking, getting sort of lost near sunset, and trail running in microspikes in the dark.

Saturday morning I unexpectedly discovered I had the afternoon free to squeeze in a hike, so quickly picked an objective, threw some gear in the car, and headed out. There were a group of four peaks on I-90 sort of near Seattle that I hadn’t done and it seemed like I could link them together with a bit of bushwhacking, plus following some trails and old logging roads. It was supposed to be wet but I wanted to get in some exercise and bag some peaks anyways.

I drove to the McClellan Butte trailhead at exit 42 and started up in the rain. A group of six hikers passed going down, and the rain soon changed to wet snow around 2,500ft. The snow got deeper, but I had the fresh tracks to follow. Another hiker and dog descended past me in the snow, and I passed the final hiker descending just below McClellan Butte South Peak. At the bend in the trail I did a short bushwhack to tag the summit, then returned to the trail. I’d already previously hiked McClellan Butte, and it seemed like a dangerous summit in these conditions (it’s exposed class 3/4 at the end), so I skipped it.

Back at the trail I bushwhacked down the southwest ridge following deer tracks to an old logging road around 5,000ft. The snow was shin deep on the road, and I plowed along, making a side bushwhack up Point 4787. The bushwhack was very slippery with the fresh snow on the steep slopes, but luckily I had microspikes.

Back on the road I encountered a deer, which darted into the woods, then I caught up to a mountain goat, which ran over to an exposed rocky cliff. At the road’s end I bushwhacked up Pt 4701, then returned to the road. At the col just below the peak I followed the mountain goat’s tracks down the slope, with the goal of bushwhacking down to Truck Summit to pick up an old logging road on my map.

I was aiming for the north ridge going down from the peak just east of Pt 4701, and as I descended the wet snow turned into a cold and hard rain. I was thoroughly drenched. I had chosen to wear trail runners, which were drenched by all the post holing, but that choice would prove useful later in the day.

I was trying to do a descending traverse to the ridge, but lower down the ridge flattens out with many intermediate local maxima that don’t show up on the topo map. Somehow I got turned around, going past the ridge and back to a local maxima. I realized I was on the ridge, and started following it toward what I thought was the Truck Summit direction. But after a few spicy knife-edge sections the uphill trend continued and I got suspicious. It turned out I was heading the wrong direction on the ridge.

By then it was 5:15pm, about an hour before dark. I really didn’t want to be caught bushwhacking in the torrential 35F rain at night, so considered following my tracks back up to McClellan Butte South. But then I decided if I could just get to the logging road near Truck Summit before dark, navigation would be easy.

I quickly turned around and followed the ridge in the correct direction. I eventually reached a col with an old abandoned logging truck on an old abandoned logging road. Now it was clear to me how Truck Summit got its name. I made a short bushwhack from the truck up to tag the summit, then regained the old overgrown road.

It was close to sunset, so I jogged down the road through the deep snow. Eventually the snow got thinner, but then the moderate rain turned into a torrential downpour. I was already drenched, but now I got even colder. It made a lot of sense to trail run down to stay warm, even though it was a bit awkward in microspikes on the thinly snow-covered old road.

As I got lower it got darker and I stopped to get out my headlamp. But unfortunately my headlamp was too wet and wouldn’t turn on. I had spare batteries, but could not figure out a way to replace them in the heavy rain without getting the headlamp even more wet.

I did have my phone in a ziplock bag, though, so turned on the built-in flashlight. I held the phone in one hand and jogged on the road in the dark. For some reason, though, the phone battery quickly drained down to 10%, and I turned it off to save the remaining battery life. It was still raining very heavily, and now there was intermittent thunder and lightning. At least the lightning lit up the road in front of me.

I did have a third backup option, which was a spare battery pack with a built-in light. I didn’t think I could charge the phone and use the light while keeping everything dry, so just kept the phone in my ziplock bag and used the battery as my light.

Somehow in the low light and rain I missed the turnoff back down the McClellan Butte trail, but the road was soon blocked by a gate and rocks. That didn’t look right, so I turned around and found the correct trail. I managed to get back to the car by 8:15pm and quickly changed into a dry set of clothes I’d stashed there, and drove back ready for a hot shower and a huge pasta dinner.

Link to full trip report and pictures.
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