Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hiking Summerland and the Pan Handle Gap

Length: 12.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2950 ft.
Highest Point: 6800 ft
Link: http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/panhandle-gap

It’s been 4 years I have been hiking around, but never really kept a log of those hikes. However, on this hike while discussing with some of the folks I suddenly realized I have been forgetting details of some of the past hikes. So I thought I’ll start making short blogs on the hikes/climbs I go on.

I went on this hike with the good people on /meetup.com. It was after a long break because these days I am mostly hiking with my daughter Prokriti and also Somtapa joins us frequently. Both of them are in India for the next 6 weeks. We all met at the Renton park and ride (close to Walmart) and finally reached and started from the trailhead around 10:00 a.m.IMG_7633

This hike starts from the road to the Sunrise visitor center of Mt. Rainier. A few miles before sunrise the trail starts from the bridge over the Frying pan creek.

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Initially the hike is kind of boring and like any other forest cover hikes. Also kind of flat.

imageThis continues until the first 3 miles where the trail only gains a meager 1200ft. The rest of the 1800 is gained in the next 2 miles. At the 3rd mile there is a scary bridge over a fast and furiously flowing creek. When I climbed the same route 2 years back with Prokriti who was just 7 at that time, it was really really scary. This time around the bridge seemed to be recently repaired and in good condition.

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IMG_7620_PanoAfter this bridge the trail went into relentless switchbacks and reached Summerland at 5900 ft. This part falls on the Wonderland trail that goes around the whole of Mt. Rainier. Summerland is one of the most beautiful meadows I have come across. It has a nice campground as well.

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IMG_7849After sitting around here for some time and having food we continued towards the Panhandle gap. Within a quarter of a mile the landscape changed dramatically. It seemed we were instantly transported to a different world of volcanic rocks. The immense powers of the glaciers were evident all around.

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However, we did not have much time to enjoy the views. The sun was hot and we still had a long way to go. We marched on. Unfortunately I soon discovered that I was getting really low on electrolytes. I started getting cramps and muscle twitch. The heat was getting to me. I also discovered my pack of Nuun electrolyte tabs had fallen off. Thankfully my teammates had some coconut water and Gatorade to share (bless their souls). Replenished I marched on. Finally reached the pan handle gap at 6800ft elevation.

The views were gorgeous. As our lead Ryan said “this is why we do it, if someone doesn’t love this view they should give up hiking”. Also why it’s called a gap was very evident.

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After a long break I headed down to position myself below the Fryingpan Glacier so that I could photograph the other braver souls as they glissaded down.

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It was a long march home. The 6 miles of tread back seemed never ending!!!

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