Red Mountain Lookout

I wanted to do a mid-Spring cross-country ski/backpack up Red Mountain, on the south side of Indian Heaven Wilderness. It has one of the few current and active lookouts still in use in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Unplowed roads lead to the summit, so the skiing wouldn't be too hard. I was wearing shorts and a t-short going up.

I was hoping to park at the Four Corners junction, which apparently now is Our Corners.

I was only barely able to get there with the recent snow on the road, but there was no place to park right at the junction.

I found a space where the snow next to the road was thin a few hundred yards back.

Forest Road 60 heads east and had some inches of snow on it, and snowmachine tracks made the going a bit easier for me.

After a mile and a half, I went left on a smaller road and that had no tracks.

From there it was 3+ miles of breaking trail uphill. I was very happy when the exhausting trip was over and I saw the lookout. I had gained about 2500 feet on skis.

It was almost 6pm and the later afternoon sun on Mt Saint Helens was superb.

Mt Adams wasn't too bad either.

Looking south the way I had come had promise for telemarking on a future trip since the road is somewhere down there.

I set up camp right next to the lookout tower.

Here is a sunset shot with the moon one day after new moon, so at it's narrowest crescent. Accompanying it is I believe Venus, above and to the left.

It was all downhill from there. It was breezy when I turned in and it turned into a full-scale windstorm, with howling winds all night long. Near midnight, with my tent really shaking, I decided to try a risky move to the platform of the lookout on a side where I would be sheltered. In the process, I lost grip on my sleeping pad and within a second it was over 50 yards away. Although the sky was clear, there was a downpour of ice crystals blown by the wind. I spent the rest of the night in my wet down sleeping bag, on the wooden platform. It was still howling when I got up in the morning.

As it turned out, the worst winds were right where my tent was, as the lookout was funneling winds in the space beneath it. Even ten feet to the side of the lookout the winds felt half as strong. 20 yards away was even calmer. So I chose almost the worst spot to camp.

Away from the top, the wind was gone, and once I got adjusted to skiing with a full pack, it was a nice descent, taking 2 hours to get down what had taken 3.5 to get up.