First tracks (in a month) on Defiance - 3/15/19

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Bosterson
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First tracks (in a month) on Defiance - 3/15/19

Post by Bosterson » March 16th, 2019, 12:08 pm

Third time is the charm, as they say.

Ben and I got a DN-style alpine start from the Starvation TH at approx 10am, because "someone" (hint: it wasn't me) forgot their boots and we had to drive back to Portland from Cascade Locks before driving back to the TH...

I was last here on 3/2/19, so basically two weeks ago, and the conditions are very different. I believe the weather decided it was officially "spring" when the clocks changed last week. All the lower elevation snow is going to be gone in a few days.

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Dog appears to have already melted out below Puppy Dog.

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Lancaster is no longer frozen.

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For reference, this was 2 weeks ago at Lancaster:

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It was hard to tell if people went up last weekend due to the consolidation and melt of the snow. We really only saw one set of prints heading up; this "bench" I think is actually the result of newer snow melting out around the more solidified track from a month ago.

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The track continued around onto the switchbacks past the 1300 ft road junction, but we opted to go up the Direttissima.

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Same spot 2 weeks ago:

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About the spot where Shop and I turned around last time. It was covered with unconsolidated powder and all the trees were covered in hoarfrost. Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes...

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The other tracks joined the Direttissima but stopped at around the 1600-1700 ft mark. After this, it appeared no one had been up the Defiance side since I last tried on 2/18/19. That day the trail was broken to about 2300 ft and I broke from there to 3800 ft before turning around. Not sure when the last time someone actually made it to the summit was. I would consider it possible but unlikely that someone could have summited via Starvation if no one had summited via the Defiance side during the same period.

The snow was pretty crappy lower down (compacted and frozen in the powerline corridor at the bottom, slushy above that) but gradually improved as we broke trail above the Breather flats.

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In the high burn that starts at around 3400 ft, the snow started to get colored by charcoal blowing off the trees.

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Almost Neapolitan snow - we just need some strawberry.

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The high burn area also casts neat shadows on the snow.

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We came to the higher burn zone sign a little above 4000 ft - I think usually this sign is at shoulder height.

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The snow conditions improved dramatically as we approached the edge of the Lindsey Gap. There is a lot of snow up here! It formed all kinds of interesting features, like cornices and waves and folds.

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Breaking treeline at the bottom of the first talus field, huge drifts. The snow became nice and styrofoamy.

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Looking up the first talus field towards the summit. Aim for the upper left corner to go through a couple of trees and pop out into the second talus field that leads up to the road.

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A nice old tree.

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Second (smaller) talus field.

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It looked like some sort of sno-cat had driven up the road in the past day or two to service the towers. We were happy to have a groomed trail and rejoiced in the ability to walk without snowshoes!

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Well, the snow is definitely above the fence.

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I imagine these little bunkers were totally buried just a week ago.

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The tallest tower is totally rime blasted. Chunks kept falling off while we were up there.

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Normally you have to climb the ladder to get on top of this building....

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Due to our DN start and the endless trailbreaking, it was now about 4:30pm. Hooray for Daylight Savings! But we scrapped loop plans and opted to go down the way we came up.

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6.5 hours up but only 2.5 hours down. We made it back to the car without headlamps. :D
Will hike off trail for fun.

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retired jerry
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Re: First tracks (in a month) on Defiance - 3/15/19

Post by retired jerry » March 16th, 2019, 12:14 pm

there is hope the snow will eventually melt

nice trip and report

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Eric Peterson
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Re: First tracks (in a month) on Defiance - 3/15/19

Post by Eric Peterson » March 17th, 2019, 7:39 am

Styrofoamy :roll:

Nice update but this isn't Larch...

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Chip Down
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Re: First tracks (in a month) on Defiance - 3/15/19

Post by Chip Down » March 17th, 2019, 1:15 pm

Ah, a satisfying end to the saga...or maybe the obsession will continue and you'll return next weekend?

Below: the warning sign as it appears in slightly less snow.
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Don Nelsen
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Re: First tracks (in a month) on Defiance - 3/15/19

Post by Don Nelsen » March 17th, 2019, 4:57 pm

Thanks for the TR and pics! Nice job - now I think I'll take the wussy way out and follow your tracks later this week. :D

dn
"Everything works in the planning stage".

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Chip Down
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Re: First tracks (in a month) on Defiance - 3/15/19

Post by Chip Down » March 18th, 2019, 6:12 am

Please estimate how high you could get without snowshoes, offtrail. I have plans in the neighborhood, wondering if it's still too soon (probably is).

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Bosterson
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Re: First tracks (in a month) on Defiance - 3/15/19

Post by Bosterson » March 18th, 2019, 9:06 am

Chip Down wrote:
March 18th, 2019, 6:12 am
Please estimate how high you could get without snowshoes, offtrail.
With appropriate footwear and spiky hand implements, one can posthole as long as one desires... However, for reference: snow started for real around 700 ft, however the route was tracked/had melted out into a bench up to 1300 ft where the old logging road crosses, at which point we put on snowshoes to go up the Direttissima. Note that on the way down we opted to plunge step the Direttissima since the snowshoes were skiing too much, and this resulted in postholing up to shins/knees (though note the downhill slope produces a longer effective depth, as well as more downward penetrating momentum).

Presumably things have melted out even further in the couple of days since Friday, but I would still guess snow would be a hassle starting around 1000 ft offtrail, maybe a bit higher but not a lot higher. The snow at that elevation is also too slushy to really take a nice axe or crampon placement. The snow in general was pretty junky until above the Breather flats, and became amazing up at 4000 ft.
Will hike off trail for fun.

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Chip Down
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Re: First tracks (in a month) on Defiance - 3/15/19

Post by Chip Down » March 18th, 2019, 7:27 pm

Thanks Bos. That's consistent with my recent experience. I think right now 1000' is a sensible estimate of the snowshoe threshold. When it gets up to 2000' I'll start thinking about implementing my plan. Until then I'll probably stick to Washington, which always melts out sooner.

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