Excelsior Peak snow run?!
With my shoulder now back in the game it's time to really ramp up the training. Time to ditch the dad-bod, and get back on tracking with my training in general. I can't complain too much though really. Right now I'm sitting about 15lbs higher than where I'd like so that's not too bad. Unfortunately, all 15lbs of that likes to party right around the mid-section and I'm not a big fan of that so it's gots ta go!
Got a nice 5am start from the house, and was lacing the trail runners up at 5:45am on the trail. Apparently when I looked at the elevation of the peak at home I must have been having a bad conversion day, because I remembering it being around 4,300ft. Umm... yeah. Not so much. It's at 5,700ft. Not really an issue in itself, but that elevation would soon play into an interesting challenge later that morning.
My pace felt good (I do not run uphill, but instead use my trekking poles and keep a nice brisk pace and the heart-rate pumping), and I was at the 4,500ft mark fairly quickly. I round a corner, and see a little snow on the trail (expected). The next corner yielded a little more, and a little more, and this pattern quickly grew. Pretty soon I was looking at what you see in the picture above. Decision time indeed. I now knew I had about 1,000 vertical feet more of ascent before I reached the peak, and that would be very challenging in trail-runners. On the other side of it I had all my 10 essientials, GPS, dry socks, emergency bivy, water filter, and everything needed to be safe and adventurous. I decided to go for it since it was still early and the snow was quite firm. I also set the rules that if the run-out on any of the snowy sections got sketchy I would turn back. It's one thing to slip on your ass in the snow, but it's another to slip on a high angle slope, and not have an ice axe to self-arrest with.
Off I went trekking up the trail, and quickly found a nice boot path. Sweet! I followed the boot path periodically checking GPS to make sure I was still on-trail until I hit the meadows and could see the peak. Nice! I saw a couple people heading up the ridge to the west and a couple tents so that explains the boot path. Betcha they got a beautiful sunrise that morning! Now out of the trees the snow was much thinner and even gone in places so I opted for the hiking trail to the peak. Exposure was low, and at this point I was really happy with my decision to forge forward. I reached the peak about 7:30am, and soaked in the beautiful morning in all it's glory. While the hike itself is steep and yields very little views poking out through the trees, the view from the peak is breathtaking. Mt. Baker, Mt. Shuksan, Mt. Sefrit, and virtually hundreds more in the N. Cascades and Canada can be seen.
After snapping some pictures of the views (and one beautiful image of the flowers) I decided to descend via the winter route up the west side of the peak. It's more of a straight shot down to the meadow, and at this point the child in me took over. I checked the run-out (safe), and positioned myself for what I knew was going to be an epic boot glissade. Boy-oh-boy was it! Well... for the first 20ft anyway. I then, unintentionally, transitioned abruptly rearward (aka fell on my ass) into a more traditional glissading position. Remember I mentioned this was a trail "run"? You know what you wear when you run? You wear running shorts. Ever worn running shorts? If not, I'll clue you in. They're extremely lightweight with a built-in pair of undies in them so, in-turn, you don't have to wear your own drawers. This is superb for running.... not so much for glissading. Lets just say that within .37 seconds of my butt hitting the ground my eyes popped wide open and I got the cleansing of a lifetime. Oh so alpine fresh! Haha!
After I got back to my feet and ran around in circles for a couple minutes trying to regain feeling from my snow cone experience I started the descent. The snow went quickly, and by the time I hit the bare trail I had my poles stowed, and was in full speed descent mode. It's brutal on the knees, but hands down the best quad exercise possible. Burn the calves on the way up, pound the quads on the way down. Total trip... 10.44mi, 2hr44min, and 3,734ft of elevation gain. Nice!!!
This is a tough trail with minimal rewards until you reach the meadows. Stick with it though, grab the peak, and you'll be VERY happy you did!