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Snowshoeing Mt Buckhorn (6899 ft), NE Olympics (2-3-2012) - About 12 miles rounddtrip with 4300 ft elev gain

What an incredible day climbing the Buckhorn Mt in the winter !  It was a last minutes trip discussed in the Kitsap Hikers Facebook.  Les Moore who has been an avid kayaker wanted to climb Mt Buckorn and ski down.

During this time of year, high country (above 5000 ft elev) mountains are full of snow and usually need to wait till late spring or early summer.  When the snow is consolidated (compacted down and icy), it's easier climbing with crampons and an ice axe.  My solo day-hike to Marmot Pass and then to Buckhorn summit was the best in 2011.  I felt that I could snowshoe up the trail if I could get to the trailhead.  I decided to join Les using a traction device, crampons, snowshoes, and an ice axe.  I also loaded my cross country skis up on Les' 4x4 truck to ski up to the trailhead (2500 ft elev) anticipating lots of snow on the access road that may prevent us accessing the trailhead.  In surprise, Les's truck made to the trailhead.  The snow level was moderate about up to 1 ft depth and was ok with a 4x4 and high clearance vehicle.  There were already some tire tracks all the way to the trailhead.

We quickly got on the trail following the boot tracks up to just shy of the Shelter Rock Camp site (2.6 miles away from the trailhead). Just above the Shelter Rock camp site,  I put on my snowshoes and Les put on the skis with skin.  Despite there was no boot tracks, the trail was quite easy to follow by looking at the "cut" trees.  We reached at the Camp Mystery (5300 ft elev) but the place looked a lot different with snow.  We continued following the "cut" trees until the wide open valley well below the Marmot Pass.  After passing the valley, we went straight up to the right on the snow field.  When I got to the top of the ridge (6200 ft elev), I recognized that we passed the Marmot Pass (6000 ft elev) to the left.

We then continued to climb up on the trail to the Buckhorn summit.  Wind was near 50Kt.  I was told that I needed to crouch down and both hands needed to be down at 70kt wind.  So, it was not 70kt wind.  I was blown to the side off the trail a few times.  Then, at the summit,  my favorite hat got blown away.  I went down 300-400 ft below to look for my hat but it was long gone to the valley below the Buckhorn Pass trail.

Here were some hiking technical that I copied and modified from last year's hike: 
a. 0 miles: Big Quilcene Railhead (#833.1, 2500 ft elev).  
b. 2.6 miles: Shelter Rock Camp (3650 ft).   Snowshoed from here to the summit.
c. 4.6 miles: Camp Mystery (5400 ft) - Hard to recognized the place.
d. 5.3 miles: Marmot Pass (6000 ft)  - By-passed the Marmot to the right.
e. 6.5 miles: Buckhorn Mt (6988 ft).  50Kt wind on the way to the summit.  Lost my favorite hat that was blown to below the Buckhron Pass.

It was a tough day.  We left the trailhead at 0750, left the summit at 1330, and arrived back at 1620.  My left ancle was sore side hilling with the snowshoes mostly on the trail from the Camp Mystery to the top of the ridge below the summit.  Snowshoeing up was tough but coming downhill was also tough.  Deep snow was good for skiing but was terrible for glissading.  I glissaded down just a little and could not glissade down on the trail.  On the trail, I decided to walk down fast with just a foot traction since Les was already skiied down.  I was post holing a bit (sank up to 1/2-1 ft and some at 2-3 ft depth) but went down steady. Of course, caution needed to be taken on each step with the help of hiking poles in anticipation of postholing.  When I got to the Shelter Rock Camp site to rejoin Les, I was tired.  From there, it was quite easy walking down back to the trailhead. Les was able to ski about another 1 mile below the Shleter Rock Camp site.  Snow was crusty so it was very difficult to ski down.































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