Distance: 19.5 km
Elevation gain: 660 m View map Download GPS track
Last fall we set off to hike up Sentinel Peak, but aborted the hike after 50 m when we encountered a hunters camp and their fresh tracks heading into the valley, choosing instead to hike up Plateau Mountain
. Today we returned to conquer Sentinel Peak only to discover the area is being actively logged! Huge swaths of forest have been clearcut, roads have been plowed into hillsides, and construction and harvesting equipment was parked everywhere. We could've bailed to plan B, but I didn't feel like aborting the same hike twice and with the logging ongoing I figured this might be the best it will be for a few decades.
Our plan was to hike to the western end of Sentinel Pass and ascend the southwestern ridge of Sentinel Peak, descend via its southeastern ridge, then hike up Hailstone Butte and follow its ridge south, descending from it very near to where we parked. This route worked well initially, although the long plod along the logging road with clearcuts on either side was a bit depressing (a bike would make a lot of sense here now). Near Sentinel Pass, however, we ended up bushwhacking while balancing on top of nearly five feet of snow in the trees. It was supportive, but on a few occasions we sank up to our waists, a predicament that is not that easy to free oneself from! Thankfully the western end of the pass and our ascent route had only snow from a small storm late last week, and from the pass to the summit the going was easy and straightforward.
Unfortunately, despite getting an early start (7:45 am) and a forecast that promised sun until the early afternoon, clouds and isolated snow/rain showers had moved in by the time we reached the summit. The weather didn't improve as we descended from Sentinel Peak, and so upon reaching the old access road that we'd planned to follow up Hailstone Butte
we decided to call it a day and followed the logging roads back to the car instead.
We didn't see much in terms of wildlife on this hike - I guess the hunting and logging isn't all that agreeable with them - but we did see a red fox in the meadows to the south of Sentinel Peak and followed bear tracks along the entire southeast ridge of the mountain. Those tracks were a few days old at most and appeared to be from a mother black bear and three yearling cubs. I have no idea why she and her cubs climbed the mountain, but they did, and they even survived an excursion onto a cornice.