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Friday, November 28, 2014

Balanced Rocks(Pitchoff Mountain)-High Peaks

Following the blanket of snow that covered the area the last couple of days, I was anxious to get out do some snowshoe hiking today.  The frigid temps and snowy scene made it feel like mid January instead of late November as I left the house early in the morning.

With most of the day free, I chose to do a moderate hike in the High Peaks area.  Pitchoff Mountain is directly across from Cascade Mountain, but due to its slightly lower elevation(under 4000 feet) it receives far less foot traffic. You must be careful crossing sometimes busy Route 73 and arriving at the marked trailhead and a series of steps leading up into the woods.
 A trail register greets you as you enter the dark woods of the Sentinel Range.
 The evergreens were draped in deep snow, weighing down the branches over the trail.
There are a couple of side paths that lead to view points south over Cascade Lakes and Cascade Mountain.  Thick clouds and flurries surrounded the summit of Cascade.
 This is a view off the steep cliffs of Pitchoff directly down towards Route 73 and Cascade Lakes.
 Another round of flurries moving in.
 Steeper section.  I took the snowshoes off and put the micro spikes on for a couple of these sections.
 A look back towards the Cascade Range and a hint of blue skies to the east.
 Looking directly across from Cascade's slide at another viewpoint along a ridge.
 The trail drops suddenly after the last view point, allowing a glimpse of the Balanced Rock area ahead.
After descending momentarily, you immediately begin climbing, very steeply this time.
 A view back south and west from the steep section of climbing.  Thick clouds and heavy flurries moving back in.
 The micro spikes again came in handy for the steep climbing.
 An opening in the clouds allowed a glimpse of blue skies.
 Once you level off from the steep climb, you arrive at a dense evergreen section, where a sign indicates the way towards Balanced Rocks on the right and the first summit .5 miles away to the left.
 The flat summit area on the way to the Balanced Rocks, bathed in heavy snow. 
The following photos were all from around the Balanced Rock area, where there are truly great views.
 Thankfully the skies cleared for a few moments.

 The large, open  clearing with the Balanced Rocks.  The lack of trees leave this area completely exposed to very strong, bitter winds. 
 Fierce winter winds made it painful to face the west and the teeth of the wind. 
 Route 73 west and Upper Cascade Lake snake through the landscape far below.
 Huge boulders and large, open, rocky areas mark much of this area of the mountain.
 After lingering for a little while I headed back towards the trail junction and began walking in towards the first of Pitchoff's summits.  Unfortunately I dropped my camera into the snow and it began to act funny, so I turned around and began heading back, trying to dry it out. Just as I arrived back at the viewpoints over Cascade Lakes the skies began to clear.  I attempted to use the camera again and much to my delight it began to work again. 
 Looking way, way down to the outlet of Upper Cascade Lake.
 Walking back through the  snow drenched woods.
Although only 2.6 total miles RT, the hike was just what I needed.  A good warm up to the winter season.

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