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 Post subject: Hamilton Mountain, 2/2/13
 Post Posted: February 4th, 2013, 7:13 pm 
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Just a quickie to let folks know that most of the Hamilton loop is pretty clear at the moment. I went up there Saturday (2/2), and didn't encounter any snow until the last few hundred yards before the summit. On the summit itself, there's up to 3' of snow at the southern end, and across the ridge until you drop down into the woods again. The saddle is bare. Looking around, both Table Mountain and Hardy Ridge look pretty snow-free as well. But looks are deceiving.

I texted my wife from the top, and told her I had decided to "try a new way down." Going mostly off the park map, I thought I'd try those equestrian trails that head off the north end of the saddle and up to the Upper Hardy Trail, before following the creek back down. This plan would've been just fine, in fact, had I only thought to bring my snowshoes along! Ugh... It wasn't long before the post-holing began. And given how little snow I'd encountered so far, I just thought it wouldn't - couldn't - last long. Dumb, stupid, still-kicking-myself, rookie mistake. :oops:

Well, over four miles later, I finally quit sinking in - sometimes past my knees - and was back on relatively firm ground. If you're looking for a snowshoe trip close to town, with some nice views getting there, this might be it! If not, well, stick to the traditional loop.

On the way up, the creeks were gushing! The Pool of the Winds was kicking out spray like I'd never seen before. You couldn't even see that massive log that's in there, anymore. (Assuming it wasn't washed out?) It was beautiful, but impossible to photograph looking in.

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Solar rays cutting through the mist at Pool of the Winds.

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Thrusting the camera into the spray for 1/2 second to push shutter.

Looking over at Hardy Ridge, it appeared every bit as snow-free as the approach up Hamilton was turning out to be. And Hardy is significantly higher, I recalled, as I remembered looking down at the much shorter Hamilton from up there last spring.

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Just a bit of snow, way up on the very top of Hardy Ridge.

Never noticed the (apparently) recycled support beam used in this trail repair before. Has it been there for awhile?

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False hope for the weary and unprepared hiker on a hot day?

For the first time, I took the old trail cut off up and along the ridgeline of Little Hamilton Mountain. The views were far superior to those on the main trail! However, the exposure was also quite a bit more severe, and the east winds were gusting in the 40-50mph range. Photos were challenging.

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Cut off for Little Hamilton (yellow track), at about 1550', appears to be drainage feature.

There is a bailout point about halfway across, just before the trail narrows down to practically nothing. Just a few scraggly bushes to one side, and a 200' cliff to the other. Given the wind, I opted for that. But this is a very worthwhile detour, in my opinion.

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Heading east up the old trail to Little Hamilton - watch your step!

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Looking back down to the west. Click to zoom, and follow the trail!

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Looking back at Little Hamilton, from higher up towards summit.

Didn't run into hardly any snow on the way up. Just a bit at the summit, but nothing that required spikes or snowshoes. I gotta say, to this point, I'd almost felt a little silly having my gaiters on, and snow baskets on my poles, but they were both appreciated from the summit onward.

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Lots of snowmelt on the trail at 1975'.

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Bit more snow at 2400', just below the summit.

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50mph east wind gusts and a couple-few feet of snow on the summit. It stayed this deep heading north
along the ridge, all the way to where it drops back into the woods.


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Table Mountain's looking pretty bare, too.

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The saddle was completely bare!

All this led me to think, why not try that "new" (to me) route through the woods!? Well, this is why...

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It started out pretty innocently. Really thought it'd ease up, for some reason.

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Of course, it never did.

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I missed my turn, and wandered all the way to, then past, the northern end of the park!

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Oh sure, it's obvious when you look at it from this direction!

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The post-holing continued until just past Don's Cutoff.

At this point, my "half-day pass" had expired over an hour ago, and I was left to boogie on down the remaining three miles back to the trailhead without pause. I really am still kicking myself for not having my showshoes along! Never broke 2500' - didn't think they'd be needed. Dumb, dumb, dumb!

Ah well, here I am to tell the story. That's something. :)


11.6 miles, 3330' EG.

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 Post subject: Re: Hamilton Mountain, 2/2/13
 Post Posted: February 4th, 2013, 7:54 pm 
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Thanks Karl, what great report! I was wondering how the snow levels looked from the summit north to the saddle. Sometimes it's tough to tell from the hwy.

I've never continued north on that old road at the saddle, and now I'm super intrigued!

Thanks again for the reconnaissance work! :D

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 Post subject: Re: Hamilton Mountain, 2/2/13
 Post Posted: February 4th, 2013, 8:33 pm 
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airoff wrote:
Thanks Karl, what great report! I was wondering how the snow levels looked from the summit north to the saddle. Sometimes it's tough to tell from the hwy.

I've never continued north on that old road at the saddle, and now I'm super intrigued!

Thanks again for the reconnaissance work! :D

Shoot, it was impossible to tell from the saddle! :lol: I'm gonna do that road again, but I'll either wait until summer or bring along the snowshoes next time! There's a spur trail near the northern end of the loop, up to the top of a ridge there. I wanted to do that, but was just too beat to take it on. Would definitely be a good extension in decent conditions. :)

Attachment:
File comment: Red arrow: Intriguing spur to ridge crest.
capture.gif
capture.gif [ 13.48 KiB | Viewed 1826 times ]

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 Post subject: Re: Hamilton Mountain, 2/2/13
 Post Posted: February 5th, 2013, 10:07 am 
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Several opportunities for good loops around Hamilton Hardy Ridge..If you follow ridge North you will end up at the source of Hardy Creek. Ridge trail is nice on South end but gets brushy near the north end. Continue West and South on road and pick up a road back toward Keuffler.Approx a mile on that road you will see user trail up to Hardy Ridge. On the user trail you need to go South East before reaching the top because the brush is awful North of Phlox Point.


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 Post subject: Re: Hamilton Mountain, 2/2/13
 Post Posted: February 5th, 2013, 11:22 am 
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kepPNW wrote:
Shoot, it was impossible to tell from the saddle! :lol: I'm gonna do that road again, but I'll either wait until summer or bring along the snowshoes next time! There's a spur trail near the northern end of the loop, up to the top of a ridge there. I wanted to do that, but was just too beat to take it on. Would definitely be a good extension in decent conditions. :)


Hi Kep,

A couple of winters ago I spent some time exploring the Hardy - Hamilton back trails and took that spur up to the top, and... SPOILER ALERT*

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*


*


*


*



It's totally not exciting. A road grade up to the top of the ridge that has a clearing, but trees have grown up surrounding it. All second-growth, closed canopy forest without much diversity. Don's Cutoff is routed through a much more attractive section of woods.

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But Hardy Ridge, once spring comes..... worth the cost of a Discover pass and then some. My favorite loop is up Hardy from the equestrian TH, down the east side, connecting on the fancy new footbridge, up Don's cutoff the the saddle, then hitting the waterfalls on the way down. Great with a car shuttle, or you can close the loop in various ways discussed at length in some previous Hamilton - Hardy threads.

I'm intrigued by your "old" yellow route. Is it obvious as you're going up? I don't think I've ever noticed a cliffier option than the main trail, and I love cliffs as long as the footing is good.

thanks,
payslee

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 Post subject: Re: Hamilton Mountain, 2/2/13
 Post Posted: February 5th, 2013, 4:33 pm 
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beag wrote:
Several opportunities for good loops around Hamilton Hardy Ridge..If you follow ridge North you will end up at the source of Hardy Creek. Ridge trail is nice on South end but gets brushy near the north end. Continue West and South on road and pick up a road back toward Keuffler.Approx a mile on that road you will see user trail up to Hardy Ridge. On the user trail you need to go South East before reaching the top because the brush is awful North of Phlox Point.

I was actually eye-balling that as one potential loop I'd like to do sometime! Not really sure I see where you're talking about heading SE, though. On this shot, the yellow is as far north as I got the other day, the red is as far north as I've gone on Hardy Ridge (Phlox Point?), and the dashed blue is my best guess at what you're suggesting. Sorta close?

Attachment:
File comment: Closing the loop between Hardy and Hamilton?
HardyLoop.jpg
HardyLoop.jpg [ 140.6 KiB | Viewed 1774 times ]


payslee wrote:
a clearing, but trees have grown up surrounding it

I wondered about that. I could see the clearing in Google Earth, but from down in the woods it seemed like it could go either way. Certainly wasn't worth post-holing up to find out, that day! :) Someday, with better footing, I'm sure I'll make the detour, though.

payslee wrote:
But Hardy Ridge, once spring comes..... worth the cost of a Discover pass and then some. My favorite loop is up Hardy from the equestrian TH, down the east side, connecting on the fancy new footbridge, up Don's cutoff the the saddle, then hitting the waterfalls on the way down. Great with a car shuttle, or you can close the loop in various ways discussed at length in some previous Hamilton - Hardy threads.

There's another loop that's "on my list!" I need to dig up some of those old threads. Again, just looking in GE, I was thinking maybe the powerlines would provide a link?

payslee wrote:
I'm intrigued by your "old" yellow route. Is it obvious as you're going up? I don't think I've ever noticed a cliffier option than the main trail, and I love cliffs as long as the footing is good.

There was some loose rock, but I never felt at all shaky in that regard. (As opposed to the feeling those east winds gave me! At least they were blowing in the "right" direction, so a tumble would've been down the less steep embankment. ;))

Yes, it's pretty obvious, if you know to look for it. It really looks more like a drainage feature from the trail, though. I wish I'd taken a shot of it, now. Just past that overlook with the big split rocks, you veer sharply upslope. You've probably stopped out there before. Here's a shot from above, with a woman standing on one of the rocks contemplating whether to cross over to the farther one out.

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Can't see her? Click to zoom.

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Standing out on that rock (last May), about where the woman above is, looking back at the trail.

I'm pretty sure the cutoff is right around that corner above. The initial grade is probably 60%, but that only lasts for 20 or 30 feet at most. Here's a closer look at the track:

Attachment:
File comment: Orange is the newer "official" trail. Yellow is the old trail.
LittleHamiltonCutoff.jpg
LittleHamiltonCutoff.jpg [ 223.16 KiB | Viewed 1774 times ]

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 Post subject: Re: Hamilton Mountain, 2/2/13
 Post Posted: February 5th, 2013, 4:52 pm 
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Here's one of those old threads - I think there are more listed under "off trail" as well.

viewtopic.php?f=8&t=9987

And thanks for the tip - I always assumed that was just a spur, I think.

-payslee

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 Post subject: Re: Hamilton Mountain, 2/2/13
 Post Posted: February 5th, 2013, 5:44 pm 
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payslee wrote:
Here's one of those old threads

VanMarmot! Of course. :lol:

He also posted a link in that thread to another of his big loops, taking the route beag suggests above. Looking now at a topo map, I can see it all laid out, and that's definitely one I'll be doing too. (Leverage that $30, eh!)

I like that return route you posted. It was one I had imagined, just looking at Google Earth. Seems like a natural.

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