Yesterday was our first time up Granite Mountain and we couldn't have gotten a better day for it. We had been delaying the trip due to the sketchy conditions Granite can produce in spring, but with the unseasonal weather making the avalanche chute crossing a little less treacherous for this time of year, we thought we'd give it a shot.
The elevation grade on Granite is steep and constant, but it’s nothing that’s going to make you question your sanity or swear off physical activity like the old Mailbox trail does. The hike has a nice exposed and scenic stretch of switchbacks after the turnoff from the Pratt Lake trail that keeps you motivated and properly distracted for the push to the top. The switchbacks also periodically duck back into the tree line, which can provide a welcome refuge from the sun on a surprisingly warm day like yesterday.
We didn’t encounter much snow until the summit was in sight, which is around the three mile marker. We had gear for snow, but ended up doing the last stretch only utilizing hiking poles. If you’re headed down into the basin to explore other summit routes or make snow angels (both perfectly acceptable detours in my book), traction devices are probably a good idea, but otherwise you can probably get away without them (although they would have been helpful for the last 100 feet below the summit). It’s always a good idea to pack them just in case though, especially with lower temperatures, rain and snow in the forecast for this week. Truthfully, the mountain may greet you in completely different conditions by the time you read this report.
Rather than divert down into the basin where a number of tracks seemed to lead, we decided to boulder up the spine of the mountain to reach to the summit. The field still had some snow on it, but for the most part you can navigate around it. There was evidence of a lot of postholing in the area, so be cautious if you try to utilize some of the fringe snow bordering that route.
Even on a somewhat overcast day, the views from the summit were spectacular. We signed the registry in the box, sat for a few minutes, pretended that the hike had been a piece of cake, and then headed back down, rounding out what was about a five and a half hour trip when we made it back to the car.
All and all, it was a wonderful hike that I would recommend to anyone looking for a challenging but rewarding trail. But while it is a very popular and well attended mountain, I would still encourage people to be prepared and cautious when snow is present. Granite can have its fair share of treacherous stretches, so please be careful.
TRIP SUMMARY: A challenging and rewarding hike that has a little bit of a Marmot Pass meets Mt. Pilchuck vibe to it. The terrain and aesthetic also felt like great training for our 2016 New Zealand trip.
1:55 pm: Departed the parking lot.
1:57 pm: Remembered that I didn't put the Northwest Forest Pass up in the car.
2:00 pm: Officially left the parking lot. For real this time.
2:45 pm: Pretended to stop and take picture of uninteresting tree clump but was really just a well disguised attempt to catch my breath and hide my poor conditioning. May or may not have an entire roll of pictures of different uninteresting tree clumps throughout the trail. Be on the lookout for the '2016 Uninteresting Tree Clumps' calendar. Copyright pending.
3:45 pm: Encountered a lot of hikers coming down the trail in good spirits, which is always promising. Unless they're just happy to be leaving, which would then be concerning.
5:20 pm: Reached the rock scramble and mutually decided not to tempt fate and instead skip the somewhat sketchy looking boulder scramble to the lookout due to time constraints and hunger. Dinner on the rocks it is.
5:25 pm: Food is always the right choice.
5:30 pm: Just wandered up the rocks a little bit to take a picture of the summit before heading down.
5:45 pm: Somehow found myself on the summit.
5:55 pm: Signed the registry and headed back down.
7:25 pm: Made it back to the parking lot.