Goat Rocks #2, July 8-9, 2004
When our plans to ski Baker after Fourth of July fell through, O'Brien and I came up with a last minute plan to hike into the Goat Rocks on July 8th and 9th to firm up our sense of direction for next winter. We decided to go as light as possible, with light bags, bivies only, the Superfly stove, and "no cook" food. I did a mental flip of the coin re: bringing skis and finally decided that the snow would likely be pretty much gone, so there would be little point. We loaded up the Montero around 11:00 AM and got the show on the road.
We pretty much cruised on the drive to White Pass, taking the Maple Valley route and going by Crystal Mountain, over Cayuse Pass, and up to White from the west. The options from there were to go into the Goat Rocks via White Pass and the Pacific Crest Trail, or continuing down to Clear Lake and taking trail #1118 up the North Fork of the Tieton River. O'Brien was in a mood to see where they went wrong in the route finding process in April without snow on the ground, so we decided to go with Trail #1118. Upon arrival at the TH, we found a grand total of NO other cars in the lot, which I always take as a positive sign.
The hike turned out to be in perfect conditions on a beautiful trail, the 8.5 miles up to the upper McCall Basin taking around 4 hours. We struggled a little trying to find a way over the river to get to the base of Old Snowy Mountain, with my porous trail runners getting a little wet, before deciding to stay on the north side of the water to camp and scrambling up past the narrow gorge in the river. At about 5,500 ft. we found a great spot where glacial action and erosion had combined to create a small, perfectly flat sandbar in the middle of a mountain of shale.
As we began to set up camp directly across from Gilbert Peak, we muttered repeatedly about the poor decision not to bring our skis - the snow looked great from the top of both peaks, and was more or less continuous down to the level of our campsite. On this, a mediocre snow year, skiing on the north facing slopes of the Goat Rocks was still good - and the approach much easier than the two-day slog on skis had been in April . . . kind of gave us some ideas for next year in June, to say the least.
The night went well, with sporadic waves of clouds blowing through the valley, and an incredible array of stars to entertain us until the moon came up. O'Brien's decision to take only a thin sleeping bag liner on the trip made the wearing of every piece of clothing in his pack necessary, but he achieved a reasonable level of thermal comfort through the early morning hours.
We woke to brilliant sun and warmth on the morning of the 9th, and ate breakfast sitting on the rocks before packing up and heading back down the hill. The hike back out took around 3 hours and we actually met 3 other people on the trail. Once again, we regretted the decision not to bring skis, as the exit too was much easier than it had been in the spring, but we live and learn!