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  • Writer's pictureChris Toepker

Getting Verts In

Updated: May 15, 2020

Getting out there is a big part of what Michael and I are encouraging each other (and you!) to do. Every weekend I head to the mountains, quite often the "Issaquah Alps" to add vertical work. I work it in a number of ways, too. First, it's just the climb. Up just sucks, and we've adopted the motto "Do something that sucks - everyday." (Check!) Second, I usually carry my full 45 pound kit. I like to know I can handle it even on the worst workout. (Also, double the suck - hooray!) Last, that kit is also my bug-out bag. I'm preparing not only physically, but mentally and practically for potential events. That means constantly fiddling with the contents, in the attempt to make it better, whatever that might mean. Less weight, more comfortable equipment, more food or water- whatever the answer, it's a lot of back and forth. I always wind up taking something out, then come across a reason to add something else. The weight is a pretty steady 40, but the exact contents? They change.

Recently, I trekked up Dirty Harry's Peak, which is quite the slog. Indeed, the ascension is at least 3,300 feet. Still, this is something of a fave because there's usually not many other hikers, and the view down to Granite Lakes (another fave spot!) is gorgeous. Like two jewels, shining in a giant green bowl. It really is a very nice reward after the steep climb!

Up, a bit around the peak, and then back.
The hike's vertical profile

After bragging about the full pack, I'm loathe to admit: this trip I took the lighter 25 pounder. It's been a while since going up so much, and walking that thin line between breaking impossible, and getting broken always takes good judgement. I erred on the side of caution. Sometimes, discretion really is the better part of valor! Even so, I regretted it. On the way back I ran out of water. If I had my whole kit, my filter would have been put to good use! (Oh, sour grapes!)

As for the hike, I really have to hand it to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. They have been busy on this trail. Hooray! The lower area is a popular rock climbing area, but the access trails and spots for belaying were not well marked. That's all been improved. The trails have all be groomed, and very good signage for access and climb difficulty were all added. The trail towards the peak was also groomed and much more clearly marked. Great work, team!

Getting back to the workout, there are two motivational treats going up to the peak: the Balcony and The Peak. The Balcony is a rocking outcropping overlooking the valley, where I-90 winds its way over Snoqualmie Pass. The Peak, looks down onto Granite Lakes. However, we were going to be treated to another kind of beauty - that of a Chinese painting. The cloud ceiling was very clear and distinct, and as we hiked up, the amount of white space increased. The experience of scale became both smaller, and somehow more expansive. Sadly, by the time we got to the peak, everything below was white out!

Still, the 1,000 feet for each mile out, and a total 7.5 miles? For a weekend workout, it was most certainly "mission accomplished."

Look, there's Granite Lakes - see?!

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