Thursday, July 26, 2012

Granite Mountain

As you drive up to Snoqualmie Pass from the west, there is the large mountain on the north side that has a steep, tree-less peak and it has enticed me since I was little. I have always wanted to hike to the top of it, and I almost got my chance.

A few weekends ago, I met a group of gals from my meetup group and we set out to hike Granite until we hit the snow. Several websites gave this trail a rating of “difficult” and that was definitely true. We had to take many long breaks while we trekked up this mountain. It definitely kicked our butts!

We started out from the Pratt Lake – Granite Mountain trail head. The trail meanders through the forest and doesn’t ever give you a break from going up, up and up. After the first part of the trail there was a ton of avalanche debris that we had to climb over. I was very thankful to whoever put some pink flags for us to follow; otherwise I would have had no idea which way to go. 

The trail eventually splits off, one direction going to Pratt Lake, the other going to the top of Granite. We crossed over streams, waterfalls, and watched the vegetation change from tall evergreen trees with hardly any shrubs to deciduous trees in the avalanche chutes.

That's looking up the mountain
And that's looking down!

After hiking through a few difficult and steep sections, we passed over a nice waterfall that was cascading down the mountainside. If you are afraid of heights, this was definitely a dizzying sight! Eventually tall evergreens were replaced with mountain meadows that were just beginning to bloom. The clouds hadn’t dissipated at all, so when we got to the bottom of the snow field, we couldn’t see anything!

Most people continued trekking up the snow field, determined to get to the top. We had lunch and turned around at the snow because most in our group did not have experience or equipment to hike in the snow and it’s always better to be safe than sorry. I decided to hike up a little ways to test it out. 

Going up was no problem. There had been enough hikers going up that a set of stairs had formed in the snow. It was the going down that was a problem. I was so thankful for my poles! It was so steep that towards the end I had to break into a run to contain my momentum. My heart was definitely beating fast when I got to the bottom. 

Looking up the snow field. I got about to where those hikers are in the middle.

The hike down was still not easy because you had to watch your step and also climb back over the avalanche debris. I am definitely looking forward to hiking this trail again when there isn’t any snow so I can get to the top and finally say I conquered Granite Mountain!

Total time: 4.5 hours (up to 6 hours if you go to the top)
Distance: 8 miles, 3500 ft elevation gain
Passes: NW Forest Pass required
Location: Pratt Lake Trail head, exit 47 off I-90

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