Grindstone Mountain - 7533'  &  Pt. 7112   Miles: 14.5 Gain: 6100' GT Chiwaukum Mtns. #177
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 October 16-17, 2010
This turned out to be the second summit I've reached this year with a register placed by the Mountaineers back in 1993.  Roosevelt was the other.

I case you hadn't heard, there was a wash out on the Icicle Creek Road (FS Rd 76) about 12 miles from Leavenworth near Doctor Creek a couple years ago.  Access to Chatter Creek and Blackjack Ridge TH's has been limited to those wishing to walk the road around the washout.  Although according to a posting I found recently this may not be the case for long as the Forest Service is currently working on rerouting the road with plans to have it open next year. 

I got out of the house later than I'd planned Saturday morning and didn't start hiking up the Icicle Creek Road until 11:30am.   It only took about 20-25 mins to go the mile and a half to the unmissable fluorescent green lettered sign pointing the way to the Chatter Creek TH on the right.

The trail starts off by wandering around on a mostly gainless trek for a 1/2 mile or so crossing the creek for the first time on a nice bridge.  I can remember doing this part of the trail by headlamp returning from a long weekend scramble trip to Snowgrass a couple years back.  It seemed to go on forever. 

In the back of your mind of course you know that at some point you need to gain about 4000' to get to the pass east of Grindstone so all this pleasant meandering has to come to an end.  Shortly after crossing the creek it does, first on some long switchbacks on the west side of the creek and then more steeply up the now rougher and rockier trail that crosses and re-crosses the creek 3 or 4 more times.  At 5,000' it enters a basin and the steepness relents for a bit but not for long.  In a quick series of tight switchbacks climb up away from the basin to the pass at 6600'

By the time I made it to the basin just below the pass I was pretty much done.  I was more tired than I would have thought I'd be and my knees were really sore.  Must be all that time off I had earlier this year as we prepared for my daughters wedding. 

My original plan was to camp at Lake Edna but I knew it to be at least another mile further and there would be two ridges to climb getting there.  I just didn't feel like I had enough gas left in the tank to do that.  Hmm, wonder if there is any water around here?  Sure enough, the head waters of mighty Chatter Creek were just a couple hundred feet away and what's this I see but a fairly nice camp spot off the trail on a little knoll with a perfect view out over the valley.

The sun slipped behind the ridge to the west just about the time I had camp set up.  With the sun gone for the day, it got cool pretty quickly and I wasn't too keen on just sitting around camp freezing until it was time to crawl into the sleeping bag.  So instead of doing the wise thing and resting my knees for the scramble in the morning I decided to climb up to the still sunny ridge above and see if I could get to the top of Pt. 7112, scope the route to Grindstone and maybe hang around long enough to watch the sun go down over Baring and Index.

Much work on tired sore legs to get to the ridge top between Grindstone's false summit and Pt. 7112, but worth it.   The ridge has some interesting rock and tortured scrub trees along it's spine and I was 

able to find a sheltered spot out of the wind that seemed to collect all the warmth the lowering sun had to offer.  Even the scramble to Pt. 7112 had some drama on the final 20'.   I found the faint boot path dropping down the west side of the ridge and could follow with my eye the side hilling route over snow covered scree and talus below cliffs on Grindstone's north side I'd follow in the morning.  Piece of cake, if my knees will just cooperate.  I sat in the sun for a while watching a hawk glide back and forth on the thermals overhead.

The call of nature was good enough to hold off forcing me to get up Sunday morning until around 8:00a when the sun crested the ridge to the east and lit up the wall of the tent.  Breakfast, packed up for the day and on the way by 9:00a.  I hiked a hundred yards up the trail to the apex of the second to last switchback below the pass.  Here I repeated last nights climb on heather and grass to the ridge between Grindstone's false summit and Pt. 7112.

There would appear to be two routes from here.  Goldman's 75 Scramble book advises heading SW about 100' before reaching the ridge top, climbing over the false summit, dropping 75' to 100' on the other side then traversing on a rocky bench to the summit. and Mountaineers trip reports I read indicated a route on the west side of the ridge, dropping below cliffs and then climbing back up more or less directly below the summit.  I chose the later if only because the first part of the route was visible from Pt. 7112 the night before.  But I could see from the other side that Goldman's route looked very doable (even though the bench was indistinct from where I was so I don't know) and might involve less gain and loss.

Angling downward from the pass through a small stand of trees aiming for a point about 150' lower that crossed below cliffs before making a rising traverse to the basin at the foot of the summit ridge.  The scree and talus had sort of frozen in place overnight and that made side hilling a little easier.  Still not a lot of fun as everything is quite loose.  After rounding a shoulder I was able to leave the scree behind for talus.  Looking up to my left I could see three high points, with the one in the middle looking to be slightly higher than the one on the left and definitely higher than the one on the right.

There was a talus slope immediately left and a cliff face pierced by two gullys leading to the summit ridge.  I chose the gullys, but in hind sight the talus would have been easier.  One trip report mentioned that if your route required  better than low class 3 re-think it.  OK, I now know which of the gullys qualifies as class 3 and that's why I say the talus was the easier way to go (I came down that way).  Once beyond the cliff a small flat bench unfolds just below the summit and it's an easy rock scramble to the cairn marking the top.  I found the register and signed it thinking that surely Grindstone must be done more often than the sparse entries in the 17 year old register would indicate.

Perfect day to be up high like this... views all around. I left the summit and wandered out along the ridge to the N. It is easy going and there is another high point nearby. I descended the talus field close to the false summit and headed back to camp. Long hike out with sore legs but a weekend like this in mid-October really is to good to pass up.

I was back in Leavenworth by 5:00p, late enough to miss the Octoberfest crowds at Ducks and Drakes for dinner but early enough to get me home at a reasonable time.
drive Hwy. 2 to Leavenworth, at the west end of town turn south on Icicle Creek Rd (Rd 76 - 7600) and follow to either the end of the road near Doctor Creek or if the wash out has been repaired to the Chatter Creek Trailhead.

more reports:
See Also: Becky - CAG Vol. 1: 241 & 75 Scrambles: 143

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