Invisible Mountain


Howling winds make Invisible Mountain a real challenge.

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

With a NOAA prediction of just a 10% chance of precip and high of 42°, it seemed like a good day to sneak over to the Lost Rivers. Before the predicted storm of the weekend got there. Except when I looked again at 4:30am, NOAA was predicting gusts of 24mph. In Mackay. Hmmm.

When I went outside to set my gear in the driveway, the trees in my yard were swaying in the wind. But we stuck with the plan, and were on our feet at about 9am. The route follows the ridge from above the car angling up and left. You can see a touch of snow up high, but the summit is higher yet.

Looking up the route

As promised in the Lopez guide, it was steep and brushy, plus we got to wrestle with the mountain mahogany. He forgot to mention the loose talus and gravel.

Let me emphasize that this was really steep! And the mahogany was extra fun, especially when it snagged our snowshoes, strapped to our packs.


Low on  the ridge

After the first 1000' or so, the angle eases some and the brush opens up. About then we started hitting snow. But hey, it's sunny. In the still photo, you can't see the trees waving in the wind.


View to the Mackay valley

Did I mention the wind? Before we left the last of the thinning trees, we battened the hatches. Good thing because the wind was broadcasting snow particles (not flakes, but hard little beads of metamorphosed corn) more than head high. Free dermabrasion.

Note the wind cloud hanging over us. We were verbally inviting it to move on.

The footing here wasn't great, with loose talus partially frozen in place. But the real problem was the wind- even with ski poles it was knocking us around. I occasionally felt compelled to go to all fours (and I weigh over 200 pounds).

Wind cloud

We didn't talk much, but afterwards compared notes. We had each been thinking, "This isn't all that bad. But it might not be all that smart, either." We stayed well below the ridge crest, just in case something even stronger blew in.

When we got to the short Class 3 section, we had been wrestling the wind for over an hour, so I was pretty tired. And the threat of being blown off the ridge seemed pretty great. When a lull arrived, we pushed through quickly despite our fatigue.

Lass 3 section

Shortly after, we were on the summit plateau. This had some of the worst wind, plus it offers up one of the better false summit scenarios I've seen: the farther you walk, the farther away the summit gets.


Battling the wind high on the ridge

When we finally got to the summit, we each did a quick 360 of the views, took a picture, and without saying anything started down. There was no discussion about our original plan of heading over to Sheephead Peak.

So now we were facing into the wind. Here's the upper cirque of our peak, with the White Knobs in the background. The clouds had been creeping slowly westward, and we didn't want to be caught up here in limited visibility. Looking abck into the cirque

And here's looking north into the bulk of the Lost Rivers, with McCaleb on the far left. Note the lack of snow here at 11k. The wind was doing a great job scouring it all off.

On the descent, the wind eased slightly. Plus, we had gravity helping us. So other than fatigue and tricky footing it wasn't too bad. But down low, the warmth of the day had turned the snow slick and the previously-frozen mud slippery. When we got back to the car, we were feeling pretty beat up. Despite the easy rating, this was one of the more physically demanding climbs I've done in quite some time.

Stats: I'd estimate the winds were blowing 25-30mph, with gusts over 50. We were exposed above timberline in that for about 3 hours.

View north to the Lost Rivers

Mr. Natural Home | 2010 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski