Granite Mountain by Tusk O’Granite on New Year’s Day / 花崗岩山

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Granite Mountain by Tusk O’Granite (West Granite) is a famous hiking destination in Alpine Lakes Wilderness. It shares a saddle with Low Mountain to the north. Meanwhile, South Fork Snoqualmie River stretches across the south side along Interstate 90.

Granite Mountain southeast ridge
Granite Mountain southeast ridge

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Granite Mountain by Tusk O’Granite at a Glance

Access: Granite Mountain Trailhead
Round Trip: 7.4 miles
Elevation Range: 1840′-5629′
Gear: microspikes, snowshoes
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: yes

The Preface on Granite Mountain by Tusk O’Granite

Alas! The yellow pup and I skipped 2020 because of the new puppy. Then the inclement weather kept us away last two years. After three years of hiatus, we returned to Granite Mountain by Tusk O’Granite on this crisp New Year’s Day.

The worsening weather midweek had me skip my New Year’s Eve celebration on Avalanche Mountain. To top it off, it rained and snowed in the mountains until yesterday. So I knew that trail breaking was inevitable.

A group of two before sunrise
A group of two before sunrise

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Granite Mountain Trail

There are several reasons why I’ve always started early for this hike. But the main reason has been to stay ahead of the New Year’s Day crowds. So I could enjoy the landscape in peace and include the west peak if time allowed.

The subfreezing temperatures this morning had created an icy path. Snow was firm from the get-go, plus water ran down the trail past the first stream. So I put on microspikes, and we were soon back on continuous snow.

Sunrise from the clearing
Sunrise from the clearing

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Pratt Lake Trail Fork to the Clearings

We reached the trail fork in a mile and turned right onto the steep slope. Immediately, I zigzagged through the knee-deep holes created by recent boot tracks. Feeling annoyed, I switched to snowshoes to move more quickly.

I was glad to have the days-old tracks, which I assumed would end at some point. Sure enough, the footpaths faded by the new snow at the second clearing at 3100′. A brief pause later, the dog and I proceeded to break trail.

Crossing the snow chute
Crossing the snow chute

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Granite Mountain by Tusk O’Granite Summer Route

The fresh powder was ankle-deep in the trees yet manageable. But the switchbacks at the edge of the forest held knee-high amounts. Nonetheless, we could still follow the summer trail to 4000′ before losing it to the snow.

Down at the first gully at 3600′ were minor point releases near the tree line. We quickly crossed since they were high up on the chute. Despite the mild avalanche forecast, the deaths on this mountain were a constant reminder.

Open terrain below the meadow
Open terrain below the meadow

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En Route to Southeast Ridge

Using my GPS track from 2019, we moved east for half a mile from the 4000′ switchback. Then we veered north at 4300′ and up the open terrain. We dug ourselves out of deep snow several times where tree cover was sparse.

Soon, we slogged up 700′ through where it would be the meadow area sans snow. Then at 5000′, where the summer trail crosses to the north, we stayed on the crest. There was our first view of the unmistakable Kaleetan Peak to the north.

Slowly tracking on the southeast slope
Slowly tracking on the southeast slope

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Final Stretch on Granite Mountain by Tusk O’Granite

It was exhausting making tracks today, but glad we made it onto the southeast ridge. Perhaps it’s the altitude, but I needed to take a deep breath every few steps. Or it could be that we haven’t spent much time in the snow this season.

Today’s soft snow kept us from reaching the crusty layer underneath. Otherwise, trudging uphill would’ve been less brutal. Finally, after dropping many f-bombs, we made it to my favorite winter summit in one piece.

Lookout tower on Granite Mountain by Tusk O'Granite
Lookout tower on Granite Mountain by Tusk O’Granite

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Granite Mountain Summit Views

Despite the harsh sounds picked up by the camera, the east wind was more of a breeze. But the windchill had us huddle west of the tower most of the time. Before we knew it, we had spent an hour and a half on top!

I saw two people walking up the ridge an hour into our visit. Soon, Liam and his friend, whose name escaped me, joined us on top. They hadn’t snowshoed much before and were ecstatic to have made it up to take in the views.

Southeast panorama from Granite Mountain by Tusk O'Granite
Southeast panorama from Granite Mountain by Tusk O’Granite

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Onward to Tusk O’Granite

After chatting a bit, I took a shot of the two and left with the dog to Tusk O’Granite. We hugged the ridgeline while avoiding the icy south slopes. But moving through the krummholz and exposed rocks in soft snow was irritating.

We avoided open terrain by staying in the trees past the saddle. Then we briefly crossed the slope to the southeast ridge, where I saw exposed rocks earlier. Before long, we were on the woodsy ridgetop of Tusk O’Granite.

This way to back Granite Mountain
Next stop, Tusk O’Granite

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Tusk O’Granite Summit Views

The high point sat far west of the ridgetop, and it was less windy than Granite Mountain. We stayed a short while to check out things I might’ve missed on past trips. Alas, it was time to revisit the nearby peaks.

These peaks were new to Connor, who looked unfazed by the surroundings. He also didn’t explore much without the yellow lab. But it was better having him shadow me than roaming off someplace and getting in trouble.

Southeast panorama to Granite Mountain by Tusk O'Granite
Southeast panorama to Granite Mountain by Tusk O’Granite

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Leaving Granite Mountain by Tusk O’Granite

The trip took longer than usual because I stopped every five seconds to shoot footage. I thought I’d see more than two people on Granite Mountain today. But perhaps those who went up later could still benefit from our tracks.

The area had less snow this time but enough to keep the brush under control. We exited alongside day-old tracks to the south slope. Then we dropped 2000′ to Pratt Lake trail and dillydallied our way back to the car at dusk.

Unnamed creek in the PM
Leaving Tusk O’Granite

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