Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ruckel Ridge (4/16/11)

Ever have one of those days when you can't decide whether everything going wrong means you should throw in the towel... or whether it's a test of your perseverance?? That was my Saturday morning.

When two spots opened up on Saturday's BCEP hike, Brad and I jumped at the chance to join the class again on the trail. The plan was to tackle the Ruckel Ridge loop, deemed one of the toughest hikes in the Gorge.

It's one of the few that Brad and I haven't done, and we were psyched and ready to go... clothes laid out, bags packed, lunches made, alarms set. We even turned down a late Friday night bowling invite so we could get enough sleep for the big hike: 9+ miles and 3,700 feet.

I woke Saturday morning with my trick knee hurting. Then my stomach was giving me trouble. Then I found that my cat had just peed on my stack of hiking clothes. THEN I discovered that my Camelbak had leaked all over my backpack overnight. And by then it was too late to meet up with our friends to carpool to the trail head.

Clearly, the hike was not meant to be.

But... my very supportive husband came to the rescue and fixed all my problems, including my attitude :) He even cleaned the pee off the carpet and loaded the car while I found some other clothes to wear. He grabbed one of his (dry!) backpacks for me to use and helped me transfer my stuff. He called the hike leader and said we'd meet them at the trail head... and we were off!

The hike starts at the Eagle Creek parking lot and heads up (UP!) Ruckel Ridge, across the creek and down the Ruckel Creek trail. No one in our group was certain of the route, so we made a couple wrong turns, but nothing major.

It was raining almost the entire time, providing a good test for our gear. Luckily, it wasn't particularly cold, so as long as we kept moving, we were OK. The wind also kicked up a few times for added excitement.

It was a very steep scramble up the ridge, including the infamous catwalk. First you climb up this pile of basalt:

Then there's the very narrow stretch with considerable exposure:

There was an easier walk around, which I decided to take because the rock was so wet and I was wearing my giant ski mittens - not the best conditions for rock climbing :)

We finally reached the plateau at the top, which was completely snow covered. We were a bit unsure of the route and wondered along the creek for a while before finding a suitable log for crossing. The snow was soft, and we were post holing a lot, especially the heavier guys in our group.

After some more route finding in the snow, we found ourselves back on the trail and headed down toward the cars.

Because of the large group (12 hikers), the wrong turns, wet rocks, snow at the top and route finding, the projected 5- or 6-hour hike ended up taking 9 hours! We were soaked and pretty pooped when we finally finished.

Still, it was a great trail with amazing views (or so we assumed... we were totally socked in the whole time). We are excited to try it again on a nice warm, dry, snow-free day when we can move a little faster.