Finally tackled this to-do list trail despite reports earlier in the week on other sites saying snow was still an issue. Figured the few extra days of summer temps would melt it out sufficiently to summit. Spoiler alert: it was not. Did this as a trail "run" with a buddy. The trail is almost entirely snow free up past the lake apart for a couple small patches just before you reach the start of the scree field. However, there are several largish blowdowns still blocking the trail that either require a low squat/crawl to get under, a scramble over, or finding the detour around. Nothing truly dangerous but those with limited mobility or flexibility may be a bit challenged. Reaching the rock field, we spent a few minutes ogling the views of the cliffs, peaks, and rock formations before us -- truly stunning and it's here that the forest environs give way to the high country alpine vibe. Girding our quads for the ascent ahead, we assessed the thick expanse of snow that blanketed the first 1-200 meters. We strapped on on our microspikes and brought out our poles and it was fine. The biggest challenge here is route finding. Even with a downloaded track we still managed to get pointed in the wrong direction -- we basically went straight up the snow but you want to stay more to the left and look for the trail meandering off to the left at some point. We had to traverse some rock and brush above the snow to get back over to the trail. From there, trail conditions are great all the way up to Stujack Pass. Several kinds of wildflowers adorned the trail, dividing our attention between watching to ground for splashes of color and gawking at the shifting cliffs and distant, snow-speckled peaks. Stujack Pass rewards you with views of the ranges north -- I believe you can see White Chuck Mountain, with Kulshan (Baker) peeking out behind it. Alas, this is where our ascent ended. The trail was once again obscured by a thick but soft patch of snow, requiring us to either scramble up a ledge to the right, or risk a slippery traverse on unstable snow, angled on a steep slope, with only rock and snow below. Even with our spikes and poles, that combination of factors told us to play it safe and come back another day to bag the summit. Going down was awesome -- steep, technical, and gorgeous back down to the treeline, then we were able to let things rip a little bit and make good time back down to the trailhead. Probably for the first time on any trail, we didn't see a single other soul out there all day. There was one SUV parked at the trailhead but it was gone when we got back and we didn't see any sign of anyone else on the trail. We were a bit worried about a break-in, given the copious amount of broken glass on the ground at the nearby parking spots/turnouts. But I guess the trail gods smiled on us. Round trip was exactly 9 miles, with 3,400 feet of climbing. No water after the lake, a few streams and trickles before. Bugs were out and annoying but didn't bother us as long as we were moving.
Mount Pugh — Friday, Jul. 15, 2022