New Year Celebration on Granite Mountain / 花崗岩山上新年慶

Corniced summit
Corniced summit

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We welcomed the New Year atop Granite Mountain in the crisp, albeit subfreezing, air. Another tradition hike following yesterday’s New Year‘s Eve tradition hike on Avalanche Mountain with friends. Pup and I arrived in an empty parking lot and started hiking at a quarter past 7.

The Lowdown on Granite Mountain

Access: Granite Mountain Trailhead
Round Trip: 7.4 miles
Elevation Range: 3120′-5629′
Gear: microspikes, snowshoes
GPS Track: available

The Climb

Starting off muddy, we followed the occasional ice and light snow-covered trail to the Pratt Lake Trail junction. I had on microspikes from the get-go, even though I didn’t need them until getting past the junction when the snow became slick. We quickly made it to the first avalanche chute and took a break before the crossing.

Heading up
Heading up

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I contemplated heading up the south ridge for a direct ascent but decided to take advantage of the well-beaten path. The trail took us through two more avalanche chutes before finally breaking out of the forest into the open terrain at 4,200′. I switched to snowshoes and followed recent, half-buried snowshoe tracks uphill.

Northeast panoramic view
Northeast panoramic view

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We attained southeast ridge at 5,200′ and continued on the ridge crest toward the lookout tower in the occasional wind gusts. Soft snow gradually turned to ice just below the summit and made the final walk-up more enjoyable. The wind picked up the minute we stepped onto the summit.

Southwest panoramic view
Southwest panoramic view

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The Continuation

We took refuge behind summit trees due to constant wind gusts. The sun had been out for a good while, although the windchill had brought the temperatures down to low to mid-20s. Great views all around, Mount Rainier had been shrouded in dark clouds the entire time. We left the empty summit behind an hour and a half later.

Northwest ridge traverse
Northwest ridge traverse

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Following last year‘s route, we dropped down onto the northwest ridge and began the one-mile traverse to Tusk O’Granite. By staying on the ridge crest, we were able to avoid the steep and icy south slopes altogether. For the 400′ ascent from the woodsy saddle to the top, we went back to breaking trail in fresh powder.

East ridge to Granite Mountain
East ridge to Granite Mountain

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The Coda

We didn’t linger long on the windy summit, just enough time to look around before jetting. Then we dropped onto the south ridge and traversed southward in a mixture of snow and ice. Some tracks we saw on the shoulder of the ridge looked to have turned around. We followed the tracks down onto the south face.

Outro
Outro

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After descending 1,700′ of elevation, we came out onto Pratt Lake Trail and took a short break by the creek before hiking back down to Granite Mountain Trail junction and out to the trailhead. Two dozens or so cars in the lot upon our return in the early afternoon.

Unnamed creek in the PM
Unnamed creek in the PM

See more trip photos here.

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