Daria Kashcha of PNW Peakbaggers has read a few #HikingWithHadland trip reports and wanted to experience a great hike, but avoid one of my famous Alpine Finishes, so she suggested an Alpine Start. Apparently, she read about my failed attempt at the Mailbox Peak to Dirty Harry’s Peak back in April and was intrigued about the ability to summit multiple mountains, without having to climb them all from a low elevation – hence the intrigue of the traverse at its intended vertical to summit efficiency. I was open to this and agreed to meet an O Dark 5:30 at the trailhead – waking at 3:30AM, wolfing down my precious marionberry pie and coffee earlier than usual, and delaying the 10-100 call.
Now realize that I have never met Daria, and have only connected with her online in our PNW Peakbagging Group as a result of many exchanges on mutual objectives, folks we know, etc.- so as a new hiking and climbing partner, there is mutual risk about embarking on an outing with little prior first-hand experience. Choosing a partner for hiking, and much more so for climbing is really an important decision, especially as you may need to rely upon your partner’s skills, mental efficacy, climbing, first aid, athletic, endurance, situational awareness, route-finding, navigation, and a myriad of other skills – your lives may actually indeed reply upon each other’s abilities. Upon arriving at the trailhead, Daria sheepishly confessed she left her backpack at home. Terrible! I could have slept until 5:30. Our initial plan was to embark on a redo of my traverse attempt, this time with better beta from several of our peers in the group and general climbing and scrambling community, but extend it beyond Dirty Harry’s Peak to Mount Defiance and wrap at the Ira Springs Trailhead. Well, Bollicks – we were now entering the zone of No Popeyes for this outing (bad), and perhaps an Alpine Finish (trending upwards for me – an appropriate trade for waking so early). We learned we both have degrees in Computer Science related fields, so we put our analytical minds to work – we would drop a car at the MBP TH, get the backpack, then reverse and truncate the route. Problem solved. Arriving at the MBP TH at 5ish, we found it full!. Good grief – the sunrise crowd on a Saturday. We parked down the road at the school, estimated backpack round trip arrival right at 7 am when the upper lot closed. Knowing that this could fill up quickly, we made haste. Upon arrival at the TH at 7 am, there was a queue of cars filling up the lot, folks cutting the line, no merging etiquette – we found a spot, then drove to the Dirty Harry’s TH – filling up too! I really dislike the I90 corridor climbs, as I have done them all, and it’s far too crowded for my preference. After waking at 3:30 AM we started promptly at 7:30 AM!
The last time I was on this trail was nearly three years ago to the date. It had recently been rebuilt, and the route redirected to follow several climbing spots and viewpoints along the rocky ridge up to Dirty Harry’s Balcony. Back then, I was using a dated Green Trails map and followed the old logging road forming the old trail. It had recently been “decommissioned” unknown to my partner and me that day (“Unkle”) and was completely choked and littered with old dead trees, slash pie debris, and just other crappy man placed obstacles – we were perplexed why the recent trips reposts did not indicate the terrible and treacherous condition of this trail, unaware that a beautiful new and easily navigable path was parallel to our three-hour slog per mile upwards until we connected with the new trail.
I found Daria to be a very fit hiker, and skilled scrambler – roots, rocks, snow – she handled all the traverse threw at us. She is very mellow and calm and we had an enjoyable outing together, especially in the couple of spicy spots we encountered – if you ever get a chance to join Daria on an adventure, taker her up on it!
Daria set the pace, knowing I set a PR on the Cable Line earlier in the week, so intended to show me what she was made of. I was gassed the entire day! LOL. We made good time to the summit of DHP, enjoying the early morning fog rolling off the hills, and even finally found the famed “Dirty Harry Museum” – an homage to the forest destroyer of the past.
Upon reaching the summit of DHP, we surveyed the western cliffs, searching for the famed ‘break in the cliffs’ and purported handline providing a secure descent down the famously steep and precipitous cliffs surrounding DHP like a fortress. Honestly, after failing on my last attempt, and now trying to send the route from the opposite side, I was getting a bit anxious as I was not sure what would happen if we could not find the line. We took a break to consume some calories. The last time I was here there were only two of us on the summit – I was surprised to encounter 20+ hikers, some enjoying Mexico’s finest Modella beer. How can one drink alcohol while hiking is something I will never understand, as I consume water and electrolyte at a great rate and often at risk of dehydration.
After some food, we donned our scrambling gear – helmets, gloves, and axes. Our beta indicated that the north was where to descend, and find the hand line, from which the remainder of the ridge traverse from DHP to the cliffs of DBP. While reconnoitering the north cliffs, I found a way down I could safely scramble, and while embarking on the descent, I spied an orange rope about 50 feet to my right – we were in luck. We made our way down the cliffy area with no difficulty, fortunately the hand line remained insitu.
We made good time traversing the ridge west. We spied the mid-peak between DHP and DBP. Its southern side appearing impenetrable from a route perspective with sheer cliffs. We found the north to be gentle sloping dirt and snow, so we followed this along the north side of the ridge. As we pushed west, circumnavigating the mid-peak, we continued on a path that dropped us on the lower side of the eastern cliff walls of DBP. We crossed an easy snow path – following tracks I am assuming from our PNW Peakbagger peers Selena Eon and Trace Gough from their recent traverse. We continued traversing west until we reached the point where I was cliffed out previously, and began a steep snow climb up the north ridge of DBP to gain the crest. We ran the ridge, dropping to the north occasionally to avoid the spiny rocky sections, and finally made the summit of Dirty Box Peak, a Home Court 100!
The crux of the climb had been solved. No more cliff-outs and I now had a viable path for my sections of the Harvey Manning Challenge I am planning for the future. We enjoyed the summit for about 15 minutes, consuming more calories, and prepared for the push to Mailbox Peak. As we made our way to the end of the traverse, all of Seattle appeared to be sunning themselves on the summit of MBP. We quickly gained the summit, spied the new Orca-designed mailbox, and agreed that a speedy descent was in order to get away from all these people. Daria quickly learned that I move pretty fast downhill. Gravity is my friend, apparently sufficient for a new PR down this route which is now my 10th summit of MBP!