Saturday, June 11, 2011

Putrid Pete. Who?

What’s In A Name? Who Was Putrid Pete? June 10, 2011

There is some understandable confusion regarding the name of this prominence. Some call it “Putrid Pete”, others call it “Webb Mountain” or the W. Peak of Defiance. There’s probably other names for it too since it’s a numbered high point on a ridge. Call it whatever you like, it’s a fun trail though considerably steep.

Dennis had been there before – it was Michael’s first time and also my first visit. Yes, I knew where the trail started. It’s pretty obvious where it leaves the Ira Spring trail near the trailhead.

Reports I’d read convinced me that I wanted to explore it some day, preferably with someone who’d been there. Dennis had been there so we were set.

Dennis is a GPS wizard so stop reading here if you are looking for GPS waypoints and such but if you’d like those I can probably get them from him and post them here. Admittedly, I’m not much into gadgets though I have a GPS. Like my “smart” phone, I don’t feel “smart” enough to understand these devices and use them only when necessary.

We didn’t quite make the “summit” – the combination of poor visibility (fog, clouds) combined with treacherous old age stopped us short of the summit. We could have made it – the desire to do so wasn’t just as strong as our desire to stop plodding uphill. Or should I say plodding uphill through wet snow (the wet vegetation and loose rocks were challenging enough).

We let Michael lead the way – his pace is easy to follow, moderate and deliberate. I’d have to say his pace qualifies as a good “forever” pace. Same thing can be said for Dennis.

Following the trail from where it leaves the Ira Spring trail is a cinch. Enough folks have used it now that route-finding isn’t much of an issue. When in doubt, go uphill. We crossed a stream (was it the same stream or two different streams?) – we didn’t pay much attention as the crossings were not a problem. Just a hop, skip and a jump, no raging torrents here.

The trail is steep and in good condition most of the way, especially through the forest. No worse than say, the trail to Mount Defiance or Mailbox Peak before that trail breaks out into the open.

We crossed a small talus field – there’s a cairn to mark where the trail re-enters the forest but if it wasn’t there, it’s still easy enough to spot. We left it. Some hikers knock them down – we don’t.

The forest gradually opens out into a steep slope of loose rock, wet vegetation (lots of emerging bear grass – that should be blooming within a couple weeks). As for the gradient of the trail, it never relents. There are no flat spots. No scary spots either. It’s just … well, steep.

Clouds obscured most of the views – at times we could see I-90 below and we’re pretty sure McClellan Butte made a partial appearance at one point. We could not see the ridgeline above us or the high points so we stopped for lunch, opting to play the rest of the day by ear.

It was a little too chilly to linger so we discussed the pros and cons of going higher. Michael was content to stop there and savor the rest of his lunch. Dennis and I still had a spark of summit fever so agreed to continue on a little further.

If anything the terrain even grew steeper, the rocks looser, the vegetation more slippery, yet we pushed onward. From time to time the clouds would part for views of the ridge above us; my gosh, this is a beautiful place. No wonder more hikers are finding there way to whatever-the-name of this place is.

We reached a point where we could see what we believe was the named prominence. A fat strip of snow would lead us to the top but there was still 400 feet or so to go. We were in all honesty – tuckered. Dennis and I opted to turn around since we knew that going down wasn’t going to be much easier than climbing.

We met Michael and we retraced our way down, grateful when we recognized landmarks though Dennis could have led the way with his expertise with the GPS. A couple of us fell – once – on the way down. I won’t tell you who. No injuries other than muddy pants and a sudden loss of self-esteem.

If you think this was misery – well, it wasn’t. Tiring yes - but also fun and exhilarating. I enjoyed it so much I’ll go back to tag the summit of whatever that chunk of rock is called but I’ll wait for dry vegetation and blue skies.

Stats: About 2,650 feet of elevation gain to our turnaround, 4.6 miles round trip. (What? Is that all?)

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