Mount Phelps - South Route, June 2004
Mount Phelps (5535ft) is some 20 miles up the North Fork Snoqualmie River Valley. It is directly east of Seattle and, because of the relatively low elevation of the intervening mountains, forms a dominant feature in the skyline. Commonly mislabeled as McLain Peaks on most maps despite WSBGN and USBGN name-change approval granted in the 1980s, Phelps still seems to suffer from an identity crisis. The peak's prominence combined with the desperate need for Eric and myself to at least get out and climb something, in spite of the certainty of foul weather, resulted in this outing to Phelps. Late May and early June has been a rough period...thunderstorms, tornados and rotten weather both west and east of the crest yielded bouts of spring cleaning at home and a renewed interest in pulling plastic. Whether being rained out at camp below Mt. Stuart's Ice Cliff Glacier or repeated cancellations of climbs in BC's Coast Mountains, I have been reminded of what typical Pacific Northwest springtime weather is usually like (excluding the extreme weather events).
With expectations of precipitation, whiteout and brush, Eric and I rendezvoused at the North Bend Starbucks at 9:00am. Turning left off of East North Bend Way, we proceeded north along Ballarat Ave. N. and drove on paved road for some distance before venturing into a vast, unsightly clear-cut area crisscrossed by countless logging roads. With frequent Thomas Guide consultation stops and some confusion reconciling that with information in Beckey's CAG, we eventually arrived at our destination - the road-end of NF5736, marked by an old log dump near the elusive Blackhawk Mine. Bullet casings and shotgun shells littered the muddy turn-around area, and, sure enough, just as we were about to set out, a pair of Vietnamese gun-enthusiasts pulled up to do a little shootin'. (more...)
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