Elk-Kings Winter Traverse
March 9, 2019
Coordinator: Ben Rosati
Summit Altitude: 3226 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.
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