March 2015 – Mount Si

From the sunny peak of Si
From the sunny peak of Si

Fueled by the thought of my next long-distance hike (plans for the Long Trail in VT in June/July!!), I decided to hike Mount Si. Why not kick off my training sooner than later? Ok, well it’s a bit soon to be training in earnest, but the thought of getting out there made me want to get out there. So that’s what I did. Si is a great and popular hike for a lot of reasons: it’s very close to Seattle (about 45 minutes with traffic), it’s a solid distance (8 miles roundtrip), a reasonable trail (evenly graded, more or less evenly distributed vertical gain), and there are good views. It’s also the first hike I completed after coming out to Seattle 1 year ago.

The start of the trail
The start of the trail

Monday, March 2, 2015. Hike: Mount Si. Distance: 8.0 miles roundtrip. Elevation gain: 3150 feet. High point: 3900 feet. 

4 miles to the top
4 miles to the top

On my day off from work, I had a nice leisurely breakfast and coffee before leaving Seattle at 9 am. I hopped on Rt 5 and made the short trip over to North Bend. The forecast called for sun, but so far the day was overcast both in Seattle and at the base of Si. I parked in the lot where there were maybe a dozen other cars or so, tossed on my pack with minimal gear water and snacks, and hit the trail. Start time 9:50 am. Figuring I wanted to make good time, I set off at a good clip.

Gray and clouds and trees on the way up
Gray and clouds and trees on the way up

I passed people here and there – families, trail runners, a guy with a huge pack training for Rainier. The fog remained. The higher I got, the more it hovered low. It felt almost like being in a cool air humidifier. Kind of nice because I’m recovering from a little bout of bronchitis. The air was cool – low 40’s when I left. I hit the 1 mile mark, the 2 mile mark, then the 3. Up, across, up, across. Switchback after switchback.

Low fog and mist in the trees
Low fog and mist in the trees

Getting closer to the top the terrain changes slightly and the views open up more. And as if on cue, the clouds started to thin. The sky got brighter and sunlight began to shine through. Awesome. A few tiny patches of snow from the cold night dotted the trail.

Bouldery top of Si
Bouldery top of Si

I reached the top (mile 4) at 11:35. Not bad for being out of shape: 1 hr 45 minutes at a 2.3 mph pace. The top was basked in sun. A few people sat atop the boulders at the first clearing. I made my way past that to the next bouldery outcrop so I could snap a few pictures. But the clouds enveloped the mountains again and I couldn’t see anything! I couldn’t even see the Haystack (a huge rock prominence and Mount Si’s true summit) which was only hundreds of feet away.

Clouds surround the summit
Clouds surround the summit

I waited a minute or two, drank some water, ate some snacks, and the clouds immediately parted. I could see the Haystack suddenly and what I swear was one end of a rainbow only feet away.

Clouds begin to part
Clouds begin to part

I followed the rocky path to the Haystack, figuring I’d give it a shot. It’s a true scramble up to the top. When I was here a year ago I was much too afraid of the possibility of falling to give it a shot. This time there were two guys ahead of me who were going so I thought I’d at least try. I heard one of them shout “how are we going to get down??” and I wondered the same thing…

The clouds parted to reveal the haystack
The clouds parted to reveal the haystack

I made it the first “pitch” up a crack on the right a few tens of feet, moved laterally to the left, made it a dozen or feet more, and then at the next lateral transition right I’d had enough. I was wondering how I’d make it down seeing as how I didn’t have an answer, it was time to turn around. And, because this north side of the Haystack was mostly in shadow, the rock was super cold and I couldn’t feel my hands any more. Down I climbed, going more slowly than I’d climbed up.

To the Haystack!
To the Haystack!

I made it off the face of the Haystack and was walking back down when I met another group of 3 setting off for it. Ok, it’s probably my fear of heights talking, but I still haven’t figured out how people get up that thing. And down. I hung out at the top for a few more minutes, then started down at 12:10.

Views from my Hastack perch
Views from my Hastack perch

A man was walking just slightly slower than my pace in front of me, so after a bit I asked if I could get by him. He said “go ahead” and something snarky without pulling off so I zipped by him on the left and sped up to get out of his area of bad vibes. Figuring I’d rather run than walk, I thought why not just run down? If I go really slow I should be able to handle a 4 mile downhill run, right? I mostly jogged the whole way down, passing more people (about 60 altogether for the day), and only stopping for one pee break.

Snow along the side of the trail
Snow along the side of the trail

Down, down, down. One mile, two miles, three miles… My legs were starting to feel tired and my left knee was yelling at me, but I was almost there. A bug dive bombed my eye and I stopped to make sure it was gone. Over the boardwalk area/start of the trail, to my car, and checked my watch – 1:10 exactly.

Your average Si trail view
Your average Si trail view

4 miles in an hour or 15 minute miles – a nice super slow jog/fast hike pace (I still can’t believe that Anish set the 1,250+ mile PCT unsupported speed record with an average pace of 4 mph. so fast). I made it! A few snacks, some water, throw on my fleece, and set back for the city. I made it back by 2. All in all, great time for an 8 mile hike departing from Seattle.

Writing this post several days later, I can inform you that I am in fact in less than peak physical condition (I haven’t been on much of a regular exercise schedule at all lately due to a winter slump) and I am and have been insanely sore from my fast hike/run of Si. Days later my quads are still in pain. I’m going to consider this a good place to start training…

Pano 1 - before the clouds parted
Pano 1 – before the clouds parted
Pano 2 - views of the valley and clouds below from my Haystack perch
Pano 2 – views of the valley and clouds below from my Haystack perch. Sunny part of the Haystack ascent on the left, snow on the right.
Pano 3 - the valley below blanketed in cloud
Pano 3 – the valley below blanketed in cloud. Taken from the base of the Haystack
Pano 4 - More valley and cloud views
Pano 4 – More valley and cloud views. Taken from the first bouldery outcrop at the top of Si

 

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