Despite a dodgy weather forecast, I took my father up to the North Cascades for the first time. We elected to take the 'Winter Direct' route up Hidden Lake Peaks. Aside from some brief drizzle around Everett we managed to stay 'dry' (from rain) all day. I think my dad suddenly realized it was not going to be a easy stroll in the woods from the second we parked next to the entrance to the steep wooded hillside. I'm pretty sure he has never ascended a slope as steep as the first 1000' on this route.
There was much relief on his face as the route finally 'flattened' at 4000' and we entered the clouds. We hit the snow line abruptly around 5000', but it was firm enough to kick steps without post holing. As we reached the tree line I suddenly found a few significantly deep post holes and we elected to put on our snow shoes. The snow was a little soft for snow shoes, but doable and definitely worth avoiding post holing every other step.
We made our way up the open slopes stopping for lunch along the way. Nearing the summit my Dad's legs were getting shot and he decided to call it a day on nice dry rock below, while I continued on to the summit. I continued on another 10 minutes or less to the summit. About 50' from the summit I finally broke above the clouds and see something for the first time all day. Cresting the summit of Hidden Lake Peaks has to be one of the most amazing view points in all the Cascades. Every peak higher than 7000' poked up through the sea of clouds. It actually looked as if we were in a major ice age and all of the Cascade River valley was filled with a glacier.
It was a truly magical view. After hollering back and forth with some folks that had summited the lookout and were also enjoying the view I started back down to join my father.
Upon hearing that he was only 50' from the top of the clouds the old man found the motivation to make the final push to the summit. So we dumped our packs and headed up, for me this would be my third time to the summit this year. As we approached the summit the clouds started closing in again and I feared his extra effort would be for not. He pushed his 63 year old body up the mountain and summited a few minutes before the summit was again enveloped in clouds.
After a short but sweet rest on the summit we glissaded back down to our packs and started the long journey back to the car.
One notable event happened on the way back down. At one point my Dad stepped on a small log lost his footing and rolled his ankle. Along with the shooting pain he also heard a loud and distinct crack. After a few moments of internal panic, we were able to surmise that it was a twig breaking under his foot and not any of the bones in his leg (I've already broken enough of his bones down there).
Upon arriving at the truck, my Dad informed me that he thought this was a tougher climb than our climb of Mt. Hood in 2008 - I'd have to agree. Back down, we made our way to the Burger Barn for a dinner that my Dad is still talking about - he is not sure if the food was that good, or if he was just that hungry that anything would have tasted good.
More pictures here: http://picasaweb.google.com/chris.moorehead/HiddenLakePeaks201006#