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The Five-Mile Final Exam

After four weeks of grueling mental preparation on winter survival gear, avalanche safety, and backcountry navigation, we finally put the first round of Self-Sufficient Snowshoers to the test. With snowshoes and poles in tow and with packs filled with the Ten Essentials, eight members from the WenatcheeOutdoors snowshoeing class traveled to Blewett Pass to hike a ridge system near Five Mile Road. All came well-armed with maps, compasses, and other navigational tools for plotting and following a cross-country route. Coupling low-tech compasses with high-octane brains, class members took turns leading the entire trip.

We found the parking lot deceptively snowy, and spent the initial two miles of the hike scrambling up forested and exposed ridges in what would have been more aptly called ‘mudshoeing.’ However, as elevation rose, so did the snowpack. The snowshoes were carried at times but still earned their keep as we traced ridges over the duration of a bluebird day. As we hiked we practiced compass navigation, built fires in snow, and discussed cheap tips for shaving weight from packs. From the top of the majestically-named Peak 4,536, we enjoyed views of Mount Rainier, Mount Stuart, Wedge Mountain. We, the high and mighty, also looked down on folded hills forming the Mission Creek watershed. Along the way the naturalists in our group pointed out elk and bobcat tracks but living animals proved to be in short supply.

The descent brought us for a short stint onto Five Mile Road. But the road was long and winding so we short-circuited what would have been a tedious trudge with some entertaining slipping through steep shrubbery. This delivered us to a final gentle ridge dropping us down to the doors or to the awaiting Subarus. Speaking of Subarus, the Cascade Subaru event car was being used because we are all, ahem, sponsored athletes.
In two more weeks we will head to another destination near Blewett Pass to hike with (and test the mettle of) the second half of the Self-Sufficient Snowshoeing course.

See a slideshow taken from the day's adventure.  See a map of the route followed.


Details, Details: The Five-Mile Final Exam

Challenge your navigation abilities and, rather than simply tromping along the Five Mile Road,  follow this cross-country route along the high ridges bordering the Five Mile Road. The route is more interesting and the scenery is better because ridge running is like being on a summit all day.

Length: Five miles, of course – unless you do the shorter version of the route described that avoids the climb up to Peak 4,778’ – then it’s more like the Four-Mile Exam.

Elevation Gain:
2,100 feet for the full exam, 1500 feet for the short test.

Skill: 2 (intermeditate). Fitness: 2 (intermediate).

Season. This area is usually snow-covered from mid-December until mid-March.

Access. From the Y-Junction a few miles east of Leavenworth, drive 16.2 miles south along Highway 97. Five Mile Road is at milepost 168.7 on the east side of the highway. You can usually park at the base of the road in a small, plowed, pull-out (elevation 3,054’ feet). If this pull-out is filled with snow (e.g., after a storm), there are typically small plowed pullouts along Highway 97 within a tenth of a mile of the Five Mile Road. No permits are required for parking.

Trip Instructions:

  • From the parking spot where the Five Mile Road intersects Highway 97, use our map and a compass to travel cross-country and get on the south-facing ridge system leading up to Peak 4,536’. Once on the ridge, just stay on or near its crest to the top of the peak (there are one or two little sandstone obstructions on the ridge you will need to cut under).
  • From the top of Peak 4,536’, head southeast down to the col  at waypoint f6 on the map.
  • From this waypoint you can follow the road for nearly a mile to waypoint f11 (shorter route) or take a more scenic and adventurous line by following the northwest and north ridges to waypoints f7 and f8 to reach the summit of Peak  4,778'. From this summit, descend west trending ridges to reach waypoint f11.
  • From waypoint f11, leave the road by heading west (steep) and then southwest along ridges that re-intersect the road at waypoint f14.
  • From waypoint f14, travel west and cross-country down a less distinct ridge until you hit Highway 97; then walk alongside the highway a very short distance back to the start.

Map. See a map of the route.

Hazards. This is fairly safe route with little exposure to avalanches unless the avalanche hazard is high or extreme. In the event of very icy conditions, which are not common but possible, there could be a hazard of falling and then sliding on steep slopes below some of the ridges followed.

Land Ownership. Forest Service Lands and roads. No permits needed.

Trip Reporter and Date: Shelly Forster and Andy Dappen, February 12, 2013

More Snowshoeing: Maps and details of over 80 regional trips in our on-line guidebook.

Leave It Better Than You found It: 
This should be every outdoor user’s goal. Pick up trash others have left behind, pull noxious weeds along your route, disperse fire rings found at campsites (they encourage more fires), throw logs and branches over spur trails and spurs between switchbacks (make it harder to do the wrong thing than the right thing).

 Treat this information as recommendations, not gospel. Things change and those contributing these reports are volunteers--they may make mistakes, fail to give complete information, or may not know all the issues affecting a route. So forget about finger pointing: If things go wrong, you are completely responsible for yourself and your actions. If you can’t live with that, you are prohibited from using our information.