Saturday, September 23, 2017

Hidden Peak & Ramp Ridge - Danger!

11.9Mi/6:10:41/3,724ft/Plus one 400lb boulder

   I woke up this morning not knowing that I was going to go scrambling, much less on Hidden Peak, much less try to connect the ridge between Hidden Peak/The Ramp.  Interesting how plans for the day evolve, eh?

   Like 80% of my days off this summer/fall, the forecast called for rain showers.  That means I wake up, make coffee, go back and forth from the computer to the window, and wait for the sky to reveal itself.  It didn't look so bad!

OK, I'm used to seeing this by now.
   Since it didn't look SO bad, meaning that it still looked SORT of bad, I decided to stay close to home and climb a peak that had so far slipped underneath the radar - Hidden Peak.

   Hidden Peak is connected to O'Malley via a ridgeline, and many a time at the O'Malley summit I have entertained the thought of continuing toward Hidden.  But every time, it just looked too dang far to be bothered.  Hmmph!  So today I reasoned I would cut O'Malley out of the picture, and go straight up to Hidden Peak from the aptly named Hidden Lake just below.

   The trail to Hidden lake is several miles from the Glen Alps parking lot, and as I left the car and started walking, I knew it was gonna be a windy one.  And indeed it was proving to be!  I donned windpants and shell after the first few minutes, and kept them on all the way to Hidden Lake.

The trail to Hidden Lake.

Stream crossing on the way.
   The wind was in fact so fiercesome that it was stirring up white capped waves on Hidden Lake, and threatening to blow me over and rip the phone from my hand as I snapped some obligatory Fall alpine shots.  This was going to be interesting.  Bracing against the wind and errant few raindrops, I started climbing up the soggy scree.

Heading up soggy scree.
   I had slightly miscalculated my ascent, so instead of getting straight to the summit, I was deposited on the ridge.  It was a very windy traverse toward Hidden!  As I got closer, the rock got steadily steeper, until it forced me to go below the ridgeline and claw my way up a hideously manky mess of a chute.  Eww.

   At the summit, the wind was actually starting to calm down a bit, but that's a relative term and it was still quite strong.  In the distance, I saw fresh snow on both Mt. Williwaw and The Ramp, as well as a few rays of sun!  This got my attention, and then I had an idea - I'll go get some sun, and finally connect to The Ramp on this ridge!

At the summit of Hidden Peak, looking toward O'Malley.

At the summit, looking toward Mt. Williwaw and its Big 'Ol Buttress.

Get Hard.  Get Wear.  

OK maybe climbing mountains isn't as serious as the last picture makes it look.
The Ramp with snow.

  I knew that this ridge was pretty serious.  I just didn't know HOW serious.  There is little intel to be found on it, at least none that I could ever find, and the one attempt I had made on it two years ago made me hesitate.  Surely it couldn't be that bad?  Could it?

   Well, I was starting on a different side this time.  Instead of trying to cross from The Ramp to Hidden Peak, I was doing the opposite.  And things were going alright!  For a while...

Traveling on the ridge, look back toward Hidden Peak (right) and O'Malley (left)

Look back toward Hidden again.  What a monstrous block of crud!

Typical saturated crud.
   The wind was considerably calmer by this point, but the rock was still quite wet and horrendously mossy.  Not confidence inspiring at all, especially while wearing wind shells on your gloves.  Despite that, the ridge crest seemed to have go arounds for all the sketchiest parts, for which I was grateful.

As it continued, these go-arounds got gnarlier and gnarlier, until it was difficult to tell if it would be better to stay on the ridge and contend with steep rock, or step off the ridge and deal with near vertical moss chutes.  It was at about this point, even though I was going slow and carefully, that I had a confidence shattering mishap.

   I was starting up one of many mossy go arounds, and decided I didn't like the route I was on, so I opted to try and head to the neighboring one.  No problem - step to the side, get a hold on this large boulder, and the-...

   The boulder moved.

   I felt a heart stopping moment as it moved, and continued to move, coming toward me, barely touching my shoe and wind pants, and then continuing down on its chaotic path of moss destruction, plummeting a thousand feet or more below.  It must've weighed at least 300lbs.

This wasn't good.  The boulder fall incident happened somewhere on the left (out of frame)
   The near miss shook me.  My foot was scratched a bit and my windpants were torn, but it was nothing compared to what could have been.  I felt like it was a sign that maybe this wasn't the day to be here.  I was very close to the end of this nasty part of the ridge, but unfortunately this last bit was also the worst bit.  I decided to call it, and made a painstaking descent down toward Hidden Lake.

   Even though I was bailing off the ridge, it still wasn't easy getting down.  The line of sight is deceptive, and there are many dropoffs that look fine until you're right up on them.  This slowed me up quite a bit, but I heaved a sigh of relief once I was off the super crud.

   Things were certainly a bit more pleasant down here, so I decided to have a nice leisurely walk back to the car, snapping photos as I went, reflecting on my incident.  I felt pretty lucky to have escaped as neatly as I did, with hardly a scratch.  I suppose that this is what happens when you mess around in loose rock, time and time again - eventually, you will make one fall.  Maybe a big one.  I knew it, but now I've seen it demonstrated right in front of me.

Stream running down from Hidden Lake.
More stream action.  The Ramp/ridge in background left.

More stream and foliage. The Ramp and ridge still lurking in the background.
   The parking lots were fairly empty for a Glen Alps Saturday afternoon, and this probably should have been expected due to the weather.  I started on my way home, happy to have finally made it up Hidden, but knowing there's still a looming asterisk on the ridge.  I'll be back.  Just not in the wet!  

(1) The manky gully up to the summit. (2) Realizing that I need to duck below the ridgecrest to avoid the worst exposure. (3) The first crux - I came to a steep overlook, carefully peeped over, and realized I needed to go around. Even so, there was an unavoidable knife edge for about 30-50 feet. (4) Massive crud block. I went around it on the Southwest side, and took a scree filled gully to finish getting past. (5) This is where the rock fell. I was being forced into worse and worse situations, and although I don't think the other side of the ridge would be any better, I'm not certain. This took away all my confidence, and I slowly started making my way down and around. (6) I was faced with several incredibly slippery blocks of rock, and had to keep looking for a way around them. Luckily, there were some moderately inclined dirt/moss ramps that were viable go-arounds. (7) I made it to some far less perilous scree, and my GPS had a significant data recording hiccup!


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