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Trip Report

Spire Mountain — Sunday, Jul. 14, 2002

SPIRE MOUNTAIN July 15, 2002 Monday's beautiful weather beckoned Steve, Bob and me up the North Fork Skykomish River to climb 6213-foot Spire Mountain. We parked alongside the paved road (elevation 850 feet) and began hiking at 7:00 am, heading about 4 miles up the abandoned Trout Creek Road to its end at 4200 feet. This old mining road is so rutted, rocky, and overgrown that a mountain bike would be of little use. From road's end, we climbed straight up through a clearcut (light brush) to a saddle on the Iron-Conglomerate ridge. A goat path led us along the crest to Conglomerate Point, then around the head of Howard Lake to a 5520-foot saddle east of the lake. At this point, we had the option of climbing over the top of the 6065-foot survey point (which Beckey erroneously calls Spire Mountain) or traversing around its east side. We chose the latter and contoured across a series of moderately angled snow slopes. This brought us to a saddle on the other side, from where we traversed farther northward, descended several hundred feet on steep snow and rock, and continued contouring more snow slopes until beneath the summit crags. We then ascended snow to the notch northwest of the highest crag (called the ""northwest spire'). The lower portion of the summit ridge involved Class 2-3 shrubbery for about 100 yards, then a short segment of Class 2-3 rock. Rather abruptly, the ridge crest gets very narrow and exposed for about 20 yards. Hey, wasn't this rated Class 3? By good fortune, we had brought an 8 mm rope and some runners, so we roped up. Bob easily led up the Class 4-5 crest, with the crux being a tricky little mantle move on nice rock. We continued up the ridge to the false summit, then down and back up to the true summit (Class 3 with running belays). The whole trip took longer than expected, and it was now 3:30 pm. Views from the summit were surprisingly excellent. Despite its modest elevation, Spire's prominence, projection, and position combined with a cloudless sky to offer unobstructed views of Three Fingers, the Monte Cristo peaks, the DaKobed peaks, Big Chiwaukum Peak, Mt. Cashmere, Mt. Stuart, the Alpine Lakes peaks, and Gunn Peak, among others. The summit register revealed how few visitors this mountain receives. Only about six parties have signed in since 1990 (apparently when the register was placed), including Dallas Kloke's party circa 1990, Mike Torok's party circa 1995, and Stefan Feller's party in 2001. It was impressive to also see two solo ascents recorded, one by Don Beavon and another by Mike Collins. Well, at least Don had the decency to admit that his solo climb was ""scary""! At 4:00, we began downclimbing (with one rappel) to the notch and traversing our way back along the ridge toward the road. Darkness overtook us about 1 mile down the road. I hadn't brought a headlamp but Steve and Bob were well prepared with illumination. Steve even lended me a tiny penlight to use-after I recited a list of the Ten Essentials to him-and off we stumbled. Bob eased the monotony of road travel by telling stories of his past epics on the big walls of Mt. Index, Mt. Baring, White Chuck Mountain, and Big Four Mountain. Sometime around 11:00, we happily encountered asphalt pavement. Stats: 15 miles, 7200 feet, 8.5 hours up, 7 hours down.