Abernathy Peak [8,321-ft] June 30 through July 1, 2007
South Face to NE Face and back over

TAZZ from nwhikers.net was nice enough to let me borrow this wonderful picture taken a week before from Gardner Peak!!!

This ones for the old man's old man! Thanks for bringing the family to Washington. RIP, Grandpa!

I wake up at 5am, quickly piling my gear in the car before rushing to Seattle to meet Phil. I arrive, to his surprise, an hour early (oops). I help pack his gear from his condo down to the car where I jokingly inquire if he forgot anything (I always end up forgetting something). It isn't until later that he realizes he forgot his wallet! He drove the speed limit the entire 5 hours (conservatively) to the trailhead. 

Throughout the drive I reflect on my Grandpa’s life. For me my chapel is far from the cities: the sky and the mountains; the far-off vistas and highland lakes; the wildlife and temperamental winds. That is why in the wake of loss, I leave my house and go into the mountains.

Mid-day comes and goes after we eat in Twisp. Phil is sure he’s eaten at a good restaurant somewhere in town and wants to find it. The first one we walk into, we see two locals sitting around a bar. They pass a look of death over me, but hell with that, I'm not leaving, but Phil whispers, "Maybe we should try someplace else." I didn't argue. I'm happy to be a wimp as soon as someone else is.

After eating, it is another 20-odd miles to the trailhead.

Our hiking begins after sorting gear. Once on the hot trail I realize how nice it is to not be grabbing onto Devil's Club or Vine Maple to haul myself up the slope? Eastern Washington approaches are great!

Foolish? Foolhardy? Foible? These terms all ran the gamut, but any can explain my worry. The snow can't be seen anywhere but on the highest of North faces. Two hikers confirm my worst fears when I ask, "Any snow up high?" I really didn't want to ask. I already looked the idiot and-their-knowing-my-not-knowing whether or not there is snow, doesn't help.  

Phil skips through a meadow in search of the Snowy Fairyland.

The hike continues through nice forest.

"No, not for skiing," they grumble, less than open-minded about my ski-endowed pack and further conclude the conversation with, "Have a good HIKE." Hike, eh? Well ain't that nice. Don't burst my bubble or nothin'.

Scatter Lake (7042-ft, 4.2 miles) is secluded above a waterfall that pinballs down the rocky escarpments below the lake. Once I top the final ridge I can see the lake residing in a valley flanked by Larch trees parading all the way up to the lake's edge. Phil finds a tremendous camp situated on a spigot of land halfway around the lake. We see no one else around.

Reflection of clounds and a tree with part of Abernathy behind.

Reflection of the clouds and ripples on the water.

Buttercup (?) climbing out of a bed of grass next to the lake.

I spent my time watching the numerous fish dash whenever as I took photos.  

Later, the night's incredibly bright moon reflects off the lake and whenever the breeze stalls a million conversations fill the quiet: birds chirping, bugs buzzing and fish jumping. As I wait for my camera to take photos (couple minute exposures), I sit and listen.  

Abernathy Peak with stars streaking above. Next time I'll do a longer exposure.

Day Two

Morning wakes me with bright sun and I'm sure it's late, which makes me happy. Time enough for the snow to soften is yet to be determined.  

After packing Phil and I climb snow from the lake onto scree fields. I think, "What's worse than climbing scree?" A chuckle before I answer my own question, "Climbing scree with skis, I think!"

A jolt of excitement is enough to rush me to the summit where views new to me swim into view. Different perspectives are great also.

Verrrry NICCCCCE! (Phil's Borat imitation).

The summit register rests under a pile of rocks, which I uncover and open. As I read, the first thing I notice is a note by one of several GUYS who climbed the mountain naked! Funny commentary follows (for good reason), but I didn't read everything. It does remind me of when friends and I saw a group on top of Maude from Seven-Fingered Jack. The most hilarious part was when, with binoculars in hand, we meticulously scouted the North Face. The next day, in the summit register, 3 girls had written of their nude ascent!

My gear on the summit with the North Cascades laid out behind.

After I made a note, Phil readies his gear and heads down the ridge, "I'm not in a hurry, I'm just going down the ridge 10-ft. "I'm in a tee-shirt feeling warm, and Phil's been complaining of being cold all day, so I just tell him to go ahead and start down while I take photos. He skis from the ridge down onto the NE Face of Abernathy (This is opposite our ascent route from the lake. Our plan is to ski it and then climb back out).

Using my telephoto lens, I focus down on Phil schussing down from the summit.

I join Phil after several minutes. He's been waiting patiently for me. I traverse to the right where there looks to be a tight couloir. Phil worries it doesn't go, but I am sure it does. "Oh yeah, looks good," I holler back.

"WHAT!" Phil replies and so I repeat again. "Oh, good job!"

The snow changes when I traverse into a couloir which links the upper snowfield we skied to the lower slopes. It is 10-15 feet wide and several hundred feet long.

Dropping into the valley on skis is like flying down toward it: you can't help but be wide-eyed when you land at the valley bottom! Quite enjoyable! The snow regresses to bumpy/sun-cup texture as we arrive near snows-end 1500-ft down. With grins, we look back up, excited!

After a short rest near the burnt forests of Abernathy Lake under the watchful eye of Mount Gardner, we head back up.

The couloir we skied looks climbable all the way to the ridge crest, so Phil takes the lead and I follow. We put on crampons below the couloir and Phil climbs most of that, too. My legs become suddenly energized as I take over the lead near the top. Upward I rush over soft-steep snow, which in places sinks to rock. The climbing is really fun!!!

Phil nearing the summit ridge.

Phil climbing off the NE Face.

Over a final cornice on the ridge-top, Phil and I traverse back toward the summit in search of snow. After we find it I bomb to the lake on terrible snow, but I’m not minding. Fun is all about perspective. I just hiked 5k for this, I'm gonna have a hell of a time skiing it by GOD!

Back at the lakeshore I watch numerous fish fan away. "A fishing pole would've been nice," I think. Ski-fishing, I haven’t done that before!

As Phil arrives I regret having to leave. Knee-pounding fast-cruising trail is ahead of us.  Clouds begin migrating into the area as we drop into the valley, regulating the heat somewhat. At one point I say to Phil "Isn't it awesome to be carrying downhill all this gear made for going downhill?"

He laughs, "Man, another classic Hummel-quote."  

It sure is.

Scatter Creek was a very nice trail.

The trip ends as it began, with a LONNNNNNNNNNG drive.

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