Ascent to McClellan Butte-SE Face on 2010-12-05

Climber: Greg Slayden

Others in Party:Edward Earl
Date:Sunday, December 5, 2010
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Point Reached:McClellan Butte - SE Face
    Elevation:4600 ft / 1402 m
    Remaining Elevation:562 ft / 171 m (15% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

There was snow at Exit 42 of I-90, and we had to park in a plowed area just beyone the bridge over the South Fork, and hike up snowy roads to the summer trailhead. The popular trail was pretty well tracked out down low with footprints and snowshoe tracks. We hiked in just boots for the first mile or two as we followed an old logging road for a while near power lines, crossed the John Wayne Trail (old rail bed), and then the last logging road crossing at 2200 feet.

Beyond this, the traffic on the trail had been noticeably less, and we eventually donned snowshoes as the trail, still easy to follow, switchbacked uphill. We were worried about the early sunset and our slow progress, so when the trail started its long traverse across the SE face of the peak, we decided to head straight for the summit instead of doing the long loop around to the NW side. At 4100 feet an inviting snow slope looked promising, so we left the trail to head straight uphill. Avalanche danger was minimal due to recent cold, clear weather.

It was laborious to kick steps up the steep slope covered in deep, unconsolidated snow, but we made good progress for about 500 feet. At 1:30 PM, though, the slope steepened and it became very difficult to make upward progress--we kept sliding back down. It was now our turn-around time, too, and even though we could see a clear route to the summit ridge, we knew it would be another hour at least to the top, given the likliehood of technical climbing on the summit block. So we took our lunch rest at 4600 feet and headed down.

The downhill went faster than expected, especially on the steep snow slope leading down to the trail. I used my snowshoes and Edward didn't seem to mind postholing as we headed down the trail. We arrived at the car by 4:10, a half-hour before darkness.

As near as I can tell, our direct route to the summit seems like a viable winter route, saving the long detour the trail makes. In better snow conditions, one could easily kick steps up our route, and from our turnaround point it looked pretty easy to attain the ridgecrest right below the point where the summit block scramble begins.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3110 ft / 947 m
    Route:Trail to SE Face
    Trailhead:Exit 42, I-90  1490 ft / 454 m
    Grade/Class:Class 2
    Quality:4 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Open Country, Snow on Ground, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Snowshoes
    Weather:Cold, Windy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Time:3 Hours 50 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 25 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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