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Santiam Alpine Club

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Elk-Kings Winter Traverse

March 9, 2019

Coordinator: Ben Rosati

Summit Altitude: 3 feet
Elevation Gain: 3700 feet
Round-trip Distance: 10.8 miles

The group of 6 intrepid SAC climbers met in the Kings Mountain parking lot around 8 am. Leaving the lot around 8:30 am, the team began the steep trek up to the summit making good time and taking advantage of the well work boot pack. Stopping only briefly for a good old heal duct-taping to manage one climber's hot spots, the group made great time, tagging the summit around 10:30 am.

The team took a lunch break, wrote some love letters to the Mazamas in their summit register, then took off towards the traverse. Here, things began to get interesting as the trail faded and snowshoes were donned. Snow was ~ 3 feet deep on the summit ridge line. Following a GPS track and the experience of another climber who had done the traverse without snow, the team descended to the back side of the traverse. Traction was problematic for the initial portion as there was a layer of snow on top of a layer of ice making it difficult for snowshoes to gain traction. The fall was relatively well protected due to the plethora of trees on the slope, but climbers took precautions bringing out ice axes in case a self arrest was needed.

After reaching around 2900 feet, the team began breaking trail across the 60-70 degree snow slope. One veteran climber even described it as reminiscent of breaking trail on the Mt. Jefferson traverse. After about 2 hours of effort in trail breaking, it was about 1 pm when the team re-assessed their situation. Seeing they had only traveled ~0.5 miles of the ~4 mile traverse, the group decided that beers waiting in the car were preferable to a night that would likely end on slick snow in headlamps.

The group turned around and found the going much easier following their boot pack. Though the age old concern for accidents being more likely on the return trip came up when the snow of the boot pack gave way which led one climber to begin sliding down the cliff. Luckily a well aimed and short slide led that climber directly into a large tree at which point the climber was able to right himself and climb the short distance back to the boot pack. All was well and no injuries were sustained.

The remainder of the return trip went off without issue and the group made it back to the cars around 4:30 pm. End of day IPAs were a great cap to the exciting adventure.


Pre-Event Forum
[View Post-Event Forum]

Greg says:
NOAA Kings Mtn Forecast https://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?lon=-###-###-####1039427&lat=45.###-###-####83085#.XIArIaC1vcc


Ben (leader) says:
Hey team, Hope everyone's enjoying the week so far. Getting excited for Saturday! I've gotten some great beta from Greg, Peter, and Adrian about Elk mountain conditions from last weekend. It seems that we can expect a decent amount of snow starting ~1/4 of the way up the trail on Elk with ~2-3 feet of snow on the top. Seems that given the recent weather report Greg posted we can expect another 3-7 inches in addition (accumulating over the next few days). The trail itself has been reported to be pretty slick necessitating crampons and an ice axe for safety. Would also be sure to bring snowshoes and gaiters for the traverse as we will likely need to break trail with more snow likely on the north side. Let's prepare for a long day of treking with some exciting route finding. I'll have a GPX with us to assist. (Thank you Mazamas!). Make sure to bring enough food and water to cover yourself for several hours out on the trail. I'm being conservative and estimating ~8-10 hours? Any other insights on time or preparation welcome and appreciated as well. I'll have one extra seat in my car for the trip down, so let me know if you want to squeeze into a back middle Subaru outback seat. Would love to have you! Cheers! Ben Cheers! Ben

Marina answers:
Ben and folks, I am super excited to climb with you all on Saturday!! I am planning on driving and will be happy to take three people with me. Let me know if you need a ride! Cheers, Marina


Ben (leader) says:
Hi all, One more update. After chatting with Greg, trekking poles with snow baskets will likely be beneficial for the north side of the mountain as I expect we will be breaking trail. Also want to emphasize the time piece of things. Hoping to be off and on the trail as close to 8 am as possible just in case the back side of the traverse takes more time, so please try to be prompt. This will cut back on the possibility of climbing or descending Elk in the dark. Greg also graciously volunteered to leave his truck at Elk Mountain trail head, so we can possibly save ourselves 3 miles between trail heads if we are later than expected. Looking forward to the adventure tomorrow! Let me know if you have any other questions. Ben


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