Last night when I was looking up pics and studying the terrain, I ran across this on summitpost:
Oh, okay. Sure enough, there was a clear trail, right up the ridgecrest. But at 2700' it disappeared at a step, never to be seen again. Even on a narrow mossy ridgecrest that would force all hikers onto the same route, the moss was healthy. Maybe I got offroute, but I don't think so. At 3400' the ridgecrest got swallowed between a couple outcroppings, turning the route into a gully rather than a ridge. Just above that, continuing up the ridge, I saw nothing but grey through the trees, and knew I had to be coming to a huge cliff. But first, I had to pick my way across a mossy boulder field that swallowed the ridgecrest. At the base of the cliff, I decided to go left. As I contoured around, I could see the cliffs continued quite a ways to the west, but fortunately I encountered a broad breach in the cliffs, and easily ascended through open forest until I could gain the top of the cliffs (3800'). Above the cliffs, I followed a ridge (maybe geologically related to my earlier ridge). This is where the brush (rhodies) got really miserable. I came to another smaller cliffband, where I faced the greatest technical challenges of the day (every boot placement had to be carefully considered). Above the final cliffband, a little more bushwhacking, and then snow, glorious firm snow, and finally I could walk without hindrance. I was starting to wonder if it could possibly be snow-free all the way to the top. A little more up until there was no more up, and I was at the top of WZZ.I've also recently (August 2010) learned that there may be a scramble route up from the Castle Canyon trail. This would be about 3500 feet of steep hiking and scrambling among cliffs. I've not confirmed this except to talk to locals and find the start of the climbers' path but I plan on doing this as soon as possible and will report back. The information I have is that you hike up the regular Castle Canyon Trail, and where the trail traverses left over to the "castles" and a supposedly huge waterfall, look for a climbers path heading straight up. I've done some scrambling of this for a short distance but had my dog with me so could not go too far as it gets third class quick. Supposedly this scrambles up through cliffs to the summit (or the trail to the summit).
I wanted to consult map/compass to find the best bearing to get to the trail north of the summit, but realized I forgot my map. From memory, I thought magnetic north would be prudent. After dropping a ways, I got a little nervous and set a flag, then another. Eventually figured I was too low. Must have walked right over the trail in the snow. Drat. I resigned myself to returning on my ascent route, all the way back to Castle Canyon. On the way back to the summit, pausing to retrieve a flag, I looked around and noticed it was clear to my left and right. Could this be the trail? It was! Heading east, and dropping, the snow cleared up a bit, and the bare trail emerged intermittently. Seeking adventure, I left the trail, and climbed right/southish to a peak that looked enticing. On the way I encountered a wire, maybe about 1/8", heading upslope. I followed it, up a steep brushy slope, until I hit a ridgecrest, where I found the trail. Dammit, I had essentially just done an extra tough switchback shortcut.
Back on trail, I continued until it crossed over the north ridge of WZZ, turned south, followed the crest to an overgrown high point. Called it quits. In all the time since I gained the top of WZZ, I hadn't accomplished anything worthwhile, other than having a bit of fun. Turned back and followed the trail past WZZ and back to the Castle Canyon TH.
equipment: I wasn't going to let equipment be a cause of failure today. Took mtn boots and crampons, rope, short axe on pack, long axe and treking pole in my hands. Turns out I could have worn hiking boots. Long axe was very helpful, but the short one was just a brushsnagger.
weather: Started out cooler than expected. At Timberline, it was in the teens and still dropping as I drove up 26. By the time I actually wanted it to be cold, when I was walking among trees that harbored an inch of new snow, it was warm enough that I got dripped on, and pelted with little slushbombs. All in all, a fantastic spring day for a hike.
This wasn't a very photogenic hike, so not a lot of pics.