Distance: 8 miles
Elevation gain: 3,800 feet
Guide books billed Granite Mountain as one of the most heavily traveled paths in the corridor, but that must be in warmer weather because there weren’t many others today crazy enough to trudge up a thigh-burning trail still covered in snow.
The trail climbs 3,800 feet in just over four miles, starting out in a lush forest that wastes no time ascending 800 feet in the first mile. It was pretty soon after we went right at a fork (the other direction goes to Pratt Lake) that we found the first snow field. We dug out our axes and crossed with no problem. The switchbacks made the trek a tad steeper, we traversed an avalanche chute and it wasn’t long before we stopped to put on crampons.
A heavy fog rolled in as we slowly moved up the snowfield, eying the gullies and trying to determine the best direction to head. We chose to hang right – until we found ourselves standing atop a cornice. We quickly backed away and snaked our way across the ridge and through a bowl until we spotted the old fire lookout in the distance.
After a quick debate as to how long it would take us to climb the remaining half mile or so (I was already running late for work), we pulled out our poles and carefully made our way up yet another avalanche chute. It was less than 15 minutes before we found ourselves at the base of the lookout, though it was locked and we couldn’t get in to enjoy the 360-degree views others boast about seeing.
The hike down was much quicker (yay for glissading!) and we descended in about two hours – just enough to enjoy a panoramic view of the valleys before hurrying back to Tacoma.