Bitter Creek: The Finale

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A lot nicer without those pesky clouds

Ok yeah, I’m starting to sound a little like a broken record.

Initially I wasn’t planning on heading back up to Bitter Creek so soon, but I gave the Greek a call and it just so happened he was looking to take some friends on a moderate snowshoe.

“You don’t say. Hmm, you know I might have just the place”…

Plus, with the weather on Friday, the views were sure to be there.

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La pared de hielo

01JAN2016 New Years Day

I got to Index half hour early or so, the wind was just screaming up the US-2 corridor.

Fortunately Heybrook Ridge and the Gunn Peak Massif blocked pretty much all of the wind in the North Fork Sky valley.

The Greek and his friends showed up a little after nine and we were off.

There were fresh footprints along the track, but they fell off at the shooting range.

Really, there isn’t too much to report. The track is solid all the way up with heaping portions of peace, quiet and solitude.

By the time we got up into the cirque some of the party was running out of steam and they stopped for lunch.

The Greek and I continued up towards the ice wall, but the pull of cheese and sausage was too much for him and he fell off and descended back to the feast.

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Sausage eaters

Wind slab from high above was a slight concern and we’d seen a couple small releases on the way up, mostly powder rivulets. In the cirque itself, surface hoar was abundant. (Always check NWAC)

Alongside Bitter Creek, a gully had run out, and high on Jump-Off Ridge the crisp lines of recently released slabs were visibly glinting in the sunlight.

Views were fantastic. The wall and other ice features seemed to glow dimly in the shade of the cirque. High above, the ridge lines were laced with golden light.

The North Fork Sky valley was framed perfectly by the walls of the cirque, and approximately in the middle were three human shapes, bonding over sausage.

The trip down rewarded us with warming sun and rapidly evolving views of the jagged visage of the Index-Persis complex across the way.

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I placed a quarter near the bottom for a size comparison.

THE BOTTOM LINE

All in all I think it took our group 3 hours up and 1.5 or so down.

Now that the route has been brushed and a trail well stomped in, it’s golden, just waiting there for you.

Lots of animal sign, but I think our group of four probably scared off anything within earshot because we didn’t see any critters this time.

Oh, and just my two cents:

Shooters, I like to shoot a gun as much as the next guy. I am not “anti-gun” or “anti-shooting”. What I am “anti” is you people leaving a giant f&%#ing mess wherever you go.

Clean up your $#!t and maybe the Forest Service and outdoor enthusiasts will be a little more sympathetic to your outdoor usage needs.

Frankly, you should be your brother’s keeper out there and pack out the crap your less considerate fellows left behind.

I do it, I’m always picking up candy wrappers and water bottles that jackass hikers left behind.

Love it or leave it, bruh… and I don’t mean leave your $#!t.

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Happy Trails!

 

 

Bitter Creek: The Return(s)

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I thought this one turned out OK.

I went up to the Bitter Creek Cirque “trail” again on Christmas Day.

(UPDATE: Road is now periodically opened after Lewis Creek.)

Not surprisingly mine were the only tracks heading up the snowy old road… well besides the deer and bobcat tracks.

Just before the Canyon Creek crossing I ran into the deer.

A Columbian Black Tailed Deer, no antlers. Looked pretty young.

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A touch of blue

 

We eyeballed each other for a minute before he bounded, well kinda plunged. Sunk maybe? His technique needed practice.

After the Nameless Creek crossing the snow became much more powdery, with frequent, sometimes deep wind deposits.

By the time I was in the switchbacks, it was starting to wear me down.

When I finally got to Bitter Creek I was out of steam.

I didn’t have much time before I had to turn around for Christmas obligations, so I sat down, had lunch and drank from the creek like a wild beast.

Christmas was calling.

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SUNDAY, 27DEC2015

Boldly drove beyond the periodic road closure (and county maintenance), all the way to the trailhead in a 2WD Mazda, admittedly not the best idea for everybody.

Immediately at the gate I was surprised to see someone had gone up the trail in my absence!

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They were on snowshoes, and occasionally skis, it would seem with limited success.

I’ll level with you, the trip up was a lot easier on the ol’legs with a well beaten snowshoe track in place!

Oh, and “someone” had remembered to bring a Corona saw this time and cleared a lot of deadfall and such along the grade.

Snow started falling pretty regularly by the time we reached the switchbacks. I felt a slight twinge thinking about the car.

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At Bitter Creek most hopes for any real vast scenery were dashed by the constant snow.

Homeboy’s tracks were still going, blasting right past my previous stopping point.

Beyond the end of the road began treeless terrain. A beautiful waterfall lies just before the last couple dozen feet of elevation to the cirque floor.

I continued on, following the tracks into the cirque but split ways as I headed for a high spot in the middle to get a look at the large icewall at the ESE base of the cirque.

During my visit I got a chance to catch a few avalanches coming down from the SW wall.

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Towards the icewall.

Long views were elusive this time around, but they’ll be there next time. We’d already surpassed our turnaround time so our stay was brief.

The trip down was about 25% in the dark, exacerbated by that slight twinge I mentioned earlier about the car. At least a couple of inches had fallen during the course of our trip.

There would be digging, of this I was sure.

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Really it wasn’t too much of a pain in the ass. I only had to dig to get us turned around, and again when we got a little high centered going up a hill.

Can’t wait until my Subaru gets out of the shop!

THE BOTTOM LINE

Prep work’s done, Jack: At least until the next storm cycle there is a solid snowshoe track well into Bitter Creek Cirque.

Lotsa Wildlife: I’ve seen animals every time I’ve visited, still haven’t seen the bobcat yet though.

No Crowds: Oh wait, except for the visitor on Friday or Saturday. Thanks for breaking the rest of the way!

Beyond Me: I don’t know a thing about ice climbing, but that ice wall might be worth a visit.

Anyway, shouldn’t have to tell you but: this is avalanche country!

As always check NWAC before heading off into the mountains in these winter months

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Happy Trails!

 

 

 MAPS

USGS BARING

USGS INDEX

 

 

Kitanning Mine

Kitanning Cabin
Kitanning Cabin

The Kitanning Mine is located not far from the tiny hamlet of Index, WA, and can be found just off the long washed out Index-Galena Road.

GETTING THERE

(Disclaimer: These directions are for novelty purposes only)

Winter walk
Winter walk

The washout makes for two different ways to reach the Kitanning; either from Beckler Road, just past Skykomish or by driving to the washout at the end of Index-Galena Road and hoofing it along a rough hewn path through trees, mud and some post-apocalyptic looking sections of washed out roadway.

"Road Closed"
“Road Closed”

In the wintertime hiking is sometimes the only way, and makes for a nice winter walk anyway.

Either way you go you’ll wanna end up at the east side of the wash-out.

♪♫Ooh, ooh, ooh looking out my back door♪♫
♪♫Ooh, ooh, ooh looking out my back door♪♫

Maybe ½-1 mile or so east of the washout shore exists a curve in the road from which a faint trail leads off into the woods. Follow it and you’ll start gently gaining elevation.

At this point mine finding experience is a good thing to have. (A copy of Discovering Washington’s Historic Mines Vol.1 really helps too)

To the best of my recollection I followed the little trail until it disappeared beneath thigh deep Oregon Grape.

Lonely miners...
Lonely miners…

I found an ephemeral stream bed to my right and followed it up, staying left when an obstacles came and eventually began reaching small cliffs, working my way around the them.

When I first went some years ago the sight of the old cabin meant you were there. However I’ve heard in recent years the old Kitanning cabin has collapsed, possibly making the mine more difficult to find, and sealing the hodge-podge of relics and ancient pornography within.

The upper adit
The upper adit

THE TUNNELS

The first adit is right around the corner from the remains of the cabin, literally. It’s right there.

The tunnel is a couple hundred feet long and is blasted into what seems like pretty stable rock. Turquoise colored mineral staining can be seen inside, as well as a couple scattered artifacts.

The upper adit is approximately 500ft above you, amongst steep and sometimes cliffy terrain. An old miner’s trail fades in an out, occasionally leading the way.

This tunnel is a couple hundred feet longer than the lower one and boasts more impressive mineral deposits.

Tessbo Biped deep in the Kitanning
Tessbo Biped deep in the Kitanning

An interesting side note is that this adit does not have a corresponding tailings pile. Strange, no?

According to DWHM#1, the entire tailings pile was hauled off to the smelter by the Twentieth Century Alaska Copper company in the early years of the 1900s.

THE MINERALS

Copper was what was sought after at the Kitanning and is found in the ores; chalcopyrite, bornite, chalcocite and pyrite.

Since there isn’t a tailings pile, specimens are mostly limited to what you can knock from the veins inside the tunnels.

As always, leave it the way you found it (aside from some mineral samples perhaps)

Good luck and happy trails!

Nuclear Patina
Nuclear Patina

References:

Woodhouse, Phil; Jacobson, Daryl; Petersen, Bill; Cady,Greg; Pisoni, Victor, Discovering Washington’s Historic Mines Vol.1: The West Central Cascade Mountains. Oso Publishing Company, 1997