Paul Pottinger’s Adventures from the Top of the World

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Granite Mountain

December 9, 2017

Doug texted me out of the blue, proposing a climb this weekend. Conditions were forecast to be just about perfect, including blue skies, gentle winds, and a freezing level circa 12,000 feet. Our friends in Texas were getting hammered with snow that should have fallen on Seattle, if not for a massive high pressure front parked overhead. We’ll take it.

Originally the plan was for MSH, and I agreed. But, I was worried about the suffering that would accompany my lack of sleep or exercise for the last 14 days, thanks to a particularly vicious URI that I dubbed the Salt Lake Rhinovirus (courtesy of my lovely family member who came to visit for Thanksgiving and became symptomatic before departing). Thus, I was relieved when Doug proposed a lighter itinerary: Granite Mountain, via the Winter Route. Much less driving, and a shorter climb to the summit. I was sold… and our buddy Ken was game, too.

7 AM meeting at the Exit 22 P&R, and we carpooled the last 15 miles to the trailhead. The rest pretty much speaks for itself…. I was indeed super tired this day, and was glad we had foregone MSH. But still a ton of fun, and a great day outside with my buddies.

Last time I climbed this was exactly four years earlier, just two weeks before heading to Mt Vinson. This is how it looked then:

Today, much less snow, and warmer for sure. Still, today’s was a righteous ascent.

Headed to Granite… 32F, with roaring winds.
Almost on top of the cloud layer, booking West as fast as you can imagine.
Selfie on the way up.
After breaking out of the trees, the summer route goes across the couloir… we went left, up the West side of the couloir, AKA Winter Route.
Ken snapped this of me pulling into a break on the ridge.
Doug offers up his salty nuts at a break.
Mother Rainier has no shortage of snow this season.
Looking up the final section from the ridge towards the false summit.
Pano looking South from break on the ridge.
McClellan’s Butte looking burly across the valley. Yep, we have climbed it before.
The lower ridge, blown free of snow in the wind.
Doug chugs his Mountain Fuel at a break. Ken is highly amused.
Doug holds the camera, and pushes the shutter. This has never happened before….
Our landmark tree! I call her Twiggy.

Pano looking South from the Summit.
Pano from the True Summit, including the lookout.
The Lookout.
The lookout, valley below, and range beyond.
Lookout is locked up tight.
Hello, beautiful. I’m 4 for 5 on Rainier… and eager to return.
Mt Adams looms across the farthest ridge. Yep… climbed it, multiple times.
Glacier Peak, one of our favorite climbs! Plenty of snow up there.
Kaleetan! Would love to climb this again… but not with so much snow in the Couloir.
Frozen fog clinging to the fir trees near the Denny Creek drainage.
Pano looking East from the summit.
Doug… mountaineer, pharmacist, and good friend.
Doug ponders the contents of this flask… a Manhattan.
And we have success! Proud mixologist and his customer.
Team Extreme, PNW Chapter: Doug, Ken, and me.
And down we go….
These falls have always been hidden under the ice and snow… I have never seen them before. Beautiful side effect of climate change….
Ken is unflappable on our chilly descent!

After the climb we indulged in BBQ sandwiches and beer in Preston. I was delighted to hear that my friends Kim and Steven Hess had left High Camp for the summit of Mt Vinson at the same moment I had left home that morning. Steven and Kim are chasing the Seven Summits, and getting on top of Vinson would be Six of Seven. I was thrilled to know that they were slugging it out in that cwm with my buddies Justin and Emily, all those thousands of miles away. Vinson is way colder than 32F, but I liked knowing that we were working together, in sync.

The Hessians, Steven and Kim, on top of Lobuche East, April 12, 2016.

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