After a few weeks of rain, warm temperatures, and high avalanche dangers, a cold snap finally rolled in and the clouds were swept away. The avalanche conditions dropped to low and we did our typical Sunday planning scramble. Late Sunday, we decided to snowshoe West Granite Mountain (also called "Tusk O'Granite" on some maps), with the option to traverse across to Granite if conditions were good.
West Granite Mountain
Trail Stats - 6.5 miles and 3,700' of gain - though there are multiple options
Rough and steep approach with no trail (that we found), but heavily treed enough that it would be relatively safe in higher avy danger
We got the West Granite/Granite trailhead early, strapped our snowshoes to our packs, and headed up in the glorious sunshine.
We took a left at the Pratt Lake trail and crossed a few icy creeks before striking up into the undergrowth. There are a few options (as far as I can tell) for getting to West Granite.
- Option 1 (which we took) - head upslope shortly after turning onto the Pratt Lakes trail, and head through the forest and undergrowth, before gaining the SW ridge of West Granite. Top out Granita, and then continue to the summit.
- Option 2 - Take the Pratt Lakes trail around West Granite until just north of Ollalie Lake, then take the W Ridge to the summit.
I'd read several trip reports that stated the top section of this ridge was extremely steep, so we chose to take option 1. However, we met a group descending from Granita that had used option 2, so it looks like either one works. There might be less bushwhacking on option 2, but I don't know.
After hiking through a pleasantly spacious old-growth forest, things got steeper, snowier (snow line is ~4,000'), and brushier. We spent a lot of time pushing through bushes and trying not to slip down the hill. We ultimately put our snowshoes on, which increased traction but made us even more ungainly.
Once we got out into the open, things got way more pleasant. We'd been roughly following a single snowshoe track, and we came upon a far more trampled path as we approached Granita, which may be a better path than we took. We didn't follow it down, and so have no idea where it goes.
After summiting Granita, we followed the ridge line up West Granite mountain. At the top, we got some of the best views I've had this winter.
We still wanted to go for the traverse to Granite, so we set off east along another snowshoe track. Most of the tracks curved south at the saddle, but we kept following one crampon track, until we got to the exposed ridgeline.
While we'd both been stoked on traversing to Granite, the W ridge made things obvious - we'd have to bail. The snow was barely corning up, our snowshoes weren't penetrating at all, and without crampons or ice axes we were looking at a sketchy climb with a big slide if we made any mistakes. We headed back to the saddle and then down the valley.
We ate a slow lunch in the warm sun and then started on the long way down. Instead of traversing back to the ridge, we followed tracks down the open slopes, glissading where we could.
Eventually, the trees closed back in, and we slid/fell our way through hundreds of feet of steep ice and slick roots.
We finally got back to the trail just as night fell (at 6 pm, at least the days are getting longer!) and slogged back to the car. Another glorious Monday!
but I don't know if either of our routes through the "schwak zone" are worth following. They're not very pleasant.