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Park Butte: The Epic Journey

Park Butte: The Epic Journey

Mount Baker National Park | Press L to view in lightbox

Destination: Park Butte Lookout, Mount Baker National Park.

Our epic journey began a week before the day of the hike. We were constantly checking snow levels, weather condition, and researched countless trip reports in and around the North Cascades Pass and Baker-Snoqualmie area. However, we did not find a recent trip report to Park Butte -- the last one was a little over a month ago.

The elevation of the fire lookout, our final destination point, is 5450 ft above sea level. A day before the hike, the snow level had dropped to approximately 3000 ft. This made us decide on procuring a pair of snow shoes each.

We left Seattle early Saturday morning and reached the trailhead a few minutes past 9 AM. We were roughly 500 yards away from the trailhead and had gotten stuck on the snow packed unpaved forest road. It was impossible for us to go any further without any snow chains -- we had to put them on.

The first 2 miles of the hike was relatively easy. Snow depth on the trail was about 6 inches at the most. It was mostly packed up until the first fork heading to Railroad Grade and Park Butte. Visibility was good -- we were able to see mountain ridges that were up to 2 miles away. Cathedral Craig and Survey Point were snow white with some evergreen and rocky peaks peeking out -- it was a beautiful scene. Just before reaching the fork heading to Railroad Grade Trail and Park Butte, we came across two climbers heading down. They were planning to climb Mount Baker -- elevation 10871 ft -- but they had to head back due to impossible snow levels.

Shortly after the fork, we put on our snow shoes. The trail was almost impossible to see and navigate. It had been covered with a fresh layer of powder. Even with snow shoes on, we were sinking knee deep in the snow. At times we got stuck waist deep in. We took turns on 'blazing the trail' -- it was so much harder than walking on sand especially that our backpacks weighed 45 lbs each. We covered about half a mile and the trail was completely gone.

We pulled out our contour map and compass, and oriented ourselves. Visibility was becoming poor. We were lucky to spot the forest lookout miles away before the dark and ominous clouds dropped lower. At that point, we had put together our plan of attack.

With luck and some navigation skills, were were able to hit two trail signs (one said toilet!). After going through seemingly unending flat, we reached a steep uphill point. Our pace was slow and painful.

We hit another fork at 4900 ft -- one trail heading to Park Butte Lookout and one to Mazima Park. Ryan, Corey, and I congratulated each other for reaching that point. Visibility had gone down to just 100 yards (roughly) -- it was almost a complete whiteout! So we decided to put down our packs and cook our much needed meal.

We got lucky to gain some visibility back (photo above). We saw the fire lookout and had planned our route on the final push. After 15 minutes, it was whiteout again.

The last mile was the most painful mile we've walked -- it took us nearly 3 hours. Again we were sinking knee and waist deep (balls deep according to Ryan). We had to 'blaze' a trail and switchback through the steepest areas. I definitely had contemplated on giving up, but the thought of reaching a nice and cozy fortress made us push on.

At exactly 5:00 PM we reached the fire lookout tower!

I'm completely exhausted now... I'll continue this trip report and catch up with your streams next time.

Please do not post icons and images in the comments. Any constructive criticism is welcome. Thanks!

Sheffield from the Air (Park Square)

Sheffield from the Air (Park Square)

Park Square roundabout in Sheffield City Centre. The large white building on the left of the shot is Ponds Forge International Swimming Centre. Tram tracks for the city's new tram system cross the road to lead to the centre of the roundabout. Park Hill flats at the bottom of the shot are something of an architectural curiosity. A very large listed building they were part of an experiment in social housing nickanmed 'streets in teh sky'. They have fallen into disrepair in recent years but are scheduled for a big renovation project.

To the top right of the shot the recently redeveloped Victoria Quays area is visible.

This shot was taken from the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

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05.11.2011. u 15:25 • 0 KomentaraPrint#

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