I'm writing this on Saturday morning and I feel a little like someone beat me up. Yesterday I got up very early and drove out 32 miles east of Seattle to North Bend to climb Mt Si. It was a near perfect day weather wise and I was excited. However, I've been doing P90X recently and my legs were already a little tired from having done the Plyometrics (jump training) routine just two days earlier. I knew this would be a challenge.
Mt Si. is the most popular hike in the state with some estimates putting 80,000 people per year on the top. Knowing this, I got up very early to beat the crowds. The picture to the left shows Small Si in front of Mount Si.
The Mt Si. trail is 4 miles to the Haystack Basin (more on that later) and climbs about 3200 ft up for an average of around 800 feet per mile. This is a pretty healthy grade.
On the map below, note Mt. Si's location relative to Bellevue and Seattle to the west. You'll understand why a little later.
I hit the trailhead at 7:08 AM. There were only about 10 cars in the parking lot which made me pretty happy. I was hoping to have the trail mostly to myself for two reasons. The first is that I just like hiking alone. The second is that I'll admit to being embarrassed when people see me stop for breaks and I knew my legs were already a little shaky. If the weather was going to be good all weekend I would have waited until Saturday. However, I knew it would rain on Saturday so Friday had to be the day. I had been up Si multiple times in the past and it had always been cloudy. I wanted the views this time.
The main thing to remember about Mt Si is that while its not the steepest climb around, it sometimes seems like the most unrelenting climb around. There are very few plateaus on the trail and those precious few are very short. It's up and up and up and up and up... A lot of people training to climb Mt. Rainier actually strap on huge heavy bags and train on Mt. Si. There were once markers at every half mile but some of those have gone missing over the years. Yesterday it took me 29 minutes to complete the first mile and it took me an average of 36 minutes each to complete miles 2 and 3.
Unfortunately the 3 mile marker is where I started to bonk. My legs were exhausted and I took quite a few breaks. I found a little gap in the trees, a little tease of the view I'd see from the top, at the 3.5 mile marker. Beyond that point I encountered some snow and was very glad to have my poles. I was simply spent, longing for the food in my pack, and desperate to get to the top and see Mt. Rainier. It ended up taking me 47 minutes to complete that last mile and I was beat.
Just before 9:30 I emerged from the trees onto the glorious bare rock at Haystack Basin and scrambled up to the base of the Haystack. The Haystack is the true peak of Mt Si, but it's another 500 feet of bare/exposed rock from the end of the trail at the Basin. Almost everyone stops short of climbing the Haystack as it is very hazardous and several people over the years have fallen to their deaths trying to climb it. I actually do want to attempt it someday when I've had more training but I knew yesterday my legs were way too spent to attempt it. There are lots of different places on the rock at the Basin to find some privacy and to see great views. Mt. Rainier was out in all of it's glory and it was absolutely gorgeous. It really invigorated me to be able to see it so clearly. Also, looking to the west I could see the skyscrapers of both downtown Bellevue and Seattle against the backdrop of the Olympic Mountains across the sound. I found a private rock to eat my lunch and bask in the warm sun but unfortunately it wasn't as private as I would have liked. There was a bird that was hellbent on eating part of my ham and pepperjack sandwich. I got a picture of him giving me the evil-eye. He actually swept down on me trying to get the sandwich a couple of times before I tossed a chunk of ham over the cliff and he disappeared after it.
I tried to take a set of pictures showing the entire panorama of what I was seeing with my eyes. I was actually able to stitch them together on my PC to create one huge photo but I apparently can't figure out how to display it on the web. The set of pictures below will have to suffice. The first photo on the left is looking east towards Snoqualmie Pass and then the photos pan to the south towards Mt. Rainier before swinging west towards the Olympics.
I ended up staying on top for about 80 minutes relaxing, eating lunch, resting my legs, and laying in the sun before the reality of the climb down. I grabbed one photo of myself to prove I'd been there and headed down. I saw no less than a bazillion people headed up as I was headed down so as always I was glad I'd gone early. It ended up taking me just an hour and 43 minutes to climb back down and I was glad to be done. At my car I consumed the last of my water. I had drank 2 full liters. All in all it was a fantastic morning. Great weather, great views, victory over that pesky bird, and the best ham sandwich and banana of my life.