K9 by Nimbus Mountain and Thor Peak via Scenic Creek / K9峯

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K9 by Nimbus Mountain and Thor Peak perches above Scenic Creek in Alpine Lakes Wilderness. The basin reaches the peak directly when Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is inaccessible. Meanwhile, the rocky summit boasts spectacular views.

Sunday morning traffic
K9 above canine

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K9 at a Glance

Access: Scenic Creek Trailhead
Round Trip: 7 miles
Elevation Range: 2200′-6242′
Gear: snowshoes
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: with guidance

The Preface

I’ve been fighting a nasty sinus infection for the past three weeks. Although yesterday’s weather was gorgeous, I was glad to have stayed home and rested. So I felt well enough today to tackle the peak with the pup.

I first saw K9 from Windy Mountain in January. It’s one of the many places we’ve yet to explore between Icicle Creek and Deception Creek. So far, we’ve only been to Mac Peak, Surprise Mountain, and Spark Plug Mountain.

K9 above canine
Sunday morning traffic

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Scenic Creek Trail

Snowplows have cleared the roads of snow to park south of the railroad tracks. But I started snowshoeing right away from the Scenic Creek entrance because there was still lots of it. It would be our first time in this drainage.

The aftermath of the February snowstorms was apparent as the area was still under much fresh snow. Cody tried to help with trail-breaking by staying a step ahead. But I could’ve used another person to help carve out a path.

Making our path along Scenic Creek
Making our path along Scenic Creek

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En Route to Hamada Lake

The 2.5 miles to Hamada Lake didn’t go as fast as planned. There was no easy way to continue without postholing constantly. Meanwhile, we tried hugging Scenic Creek and weaved through trees to avoid being on soft snow.

On the other hand, I was glad to have the snow smooth out the terrain. Otherwise, we would need to hop over massive down trees under all that powder. It also let us bypass two boulder fields en route.

Hamada Lake
Hamada Lake

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K9 West Basin

I planned to go through Murphy Lakes and Point 5756’s south saddle. But then I decided to go through Hamada Lake first and see how things looked. Soon, we reached the lake’s outlet and finally viewed today’s goal.

After rechecking the maps, it looked as though we could take the shorter route east to the peak. Given today’s snow conditions, it looked doable. So from the water, we went east into K9’s west basin and continued.

K9 West basin
K9 West basin

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Through the West Notch

The final 150′ to the notch was agonizing as thigh-deep snow had slowed us down significantly. I’ve seen photos of K9’s impressive north face. But the west flank looked just as stunning from a thousand feet below.

At last, we made it atop the steep gully after many grunts and cusses. Then I took a minute to enjoy the gorgeous south view before moving again. But I knew all this effort would soon pay off once we reached the top.

Eyeing the notch
Eyeing the notch

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The Final Stretch on K9

From the notch, it was only another half a mile to the summit. But we first needed to gain another 750′ of altitude. However, that part alone ended up taking another hour to complete! Meanwhile, the fatigue had finally set in.

Our tracks alternated between a few strides on firm snow and calf-deep plunges in powder. I soon felt winded and knew I wasn’t as well as I had thought. To make matters worse, I started coughing again. Grr.

The K9 west ridge traverse
The K9 west ridge traverse

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K9 Summit Views

What a gorgeous day in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness! The top was a long and heavily corniced ridgeline from what I saw from the basin. So I felt for solid rocks with the poles and steered clear of the edges before settling in.

I anticipated the 25 mph-plus wind warning in the forecast before the trip. But it turned out to be breezy and warm at the top, which I wouldn’t complain about. But glad the weather felt much hotter than 25 degrees.

Southern panoramic view
Southern panoramic view

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Name That Peak

I looked around and could only name the peaks several valleys away. Stuart Range was to the southeast, and Nason Ridge was to the northeast. There were also the Wild Sky Wildness high points to the northwest.

Since I hadn’t explored much of the area, the nearby peaks looked foreign. But I know I’ve viewed them in other places before. Glad I had brought maps to add more mountains to the bottomless bucket list.

Northern panoramic view
Northern panoramic view

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Leaving Scenic Basin to Highway 2

We enjoyed an hour of views and good weather before leaving the summit. But with a fast descent, it took under two hours to return to the car. Thanks in part to the enormous amount of snow, which we loved on the way down!

Fresh ski tracks were on the frozen water back in Hamada Lake Basin. It looked like others were here basking in the weather as well.

Evening view
Evening view

See more trip photos here.

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