I arrived at the North Halfmoon Creek Trailhead to find it almost full at 3:30am, with several vehicles parked just below the final ‘difficult’ section. Pro tip: If your vehicle cannot make it all the way to the trailhead, do NOT park it just below the difficult section, as it’s narrow and I barely avoided hitting several vehicles on the way down later in the day. I was driving a Tacoma; I can only imagine the difficulty a larger vehicle would have passing poorly parked cars in this area. If your car can’t make it, do us all a favor and park in the 2WD parking area. The upper 4WD parking area was full of 4Runners, Suburbans, and trucks.
I was on the trail at 4am. The sky was clear and I could see stars, but apparently it had rained the night before, and I was quickly soaked.
The trail was an easy to follow, class 1 trail
At the junction, I continued straight on North Halfmoon Lakes Trail
This was still a class 1 trail, with some fun boulders thrown in. These were easy to navigate, with cairns to guide the way.
After hiking for 2 miles, I came to an unmarked junction and left the North Halfmoon Lakes Trail and followed a social trail to a stream.
There were several small streams to cross, and no established trail. I continued heading southwest, staying above North Halfmoon Creek, doing my best to avoid the boulders. This was all done below treeline, so pictures don’t help much. I stayed level at around 11600’
I came to an avalanche area, crossed it, and continued staying at 11600’
Eventually I could see North Halfmoon Creek, and an easy place to cross. I crossed the creek, and headed southwest.
There was a drainage that was easy to follow
I crossed the creek again (once again, easy) and continued heading southwest
At 11900’ I turned and headed south, up this hill
This led me to the upper basin. Here’s my route to the ridge. This is choose your own adventure. I tried to keep it between the rocks and the scree. I took the rocks up, the scree down.
Here are some close-up pictures of the route to the ridge
Once on the ridge, I turned right and followed it southwest
This was all class 2. There was a short class 4 section, but it could be easily avoided by dropping down to the right a little bit, then regaining the ridge
Here’s looking back at that rock you’re trying to avoid
Now it was an easy, class 2 ridge hike to the summit
There were 2 summit registers at the summit. A plastic tube with I (surprise!) wasn’t able to open, and a glass jar with a register I signed.
I summited K49 at 7:45am
From the summit, here’s a view of Mt Massive, and my route in/out. Now is a good time to get a view of your exit route, and the avalanche run-out you’re aiming for on your way back
I turned and re-traced my steps back down the ridge
Then back down the scree towards the basin and North Halfmoon Creek
Here’s my route across the creek and staying at 11600’ until I met back up with the trail
After passing the avalanche debris I was quickly able to hook back up with the trail
And follow it back to the trailhead
I made it back to my truck at 10:30am, making this a 9.81 mile hike with 3162’ of elevation gain in 6.5 hours.
Ophir Pass Road is a serious 4WD road, but the trailhead for this peak can be accessed from the Ophir city side with just a high clearance vehicle. There were a few small water crossings, but 4WD was never needed.
I parked in a parking area about 1.3 miles east of the town of Ophir, on Ophir Pass Road, in the Iron Spring area. All the parking spots were taken but 1, and every vehicle was parked there overnight. This is a popular spot to park to backpack/hike in the area.
The mosquitoes were out here as well, so I made it an early night and got some sleep. I was up and on the trail by 3:45am. The trail starts on a blocked 4WD road to the south of the parking area.
I followed this road southeast and then south, through gates, aspen trees and two stream crossings with easily crossable bridges
After the second stream crossing, I passed below some power lines, turned left to follow the trail, and started gaining elevation.
The hike below treeline was nice, and the trails were class 1, but there were no trail signs or numbers, and several trail crossings. I’ll do my best to describe the correct route.
I followed a well-defined path south.
At the first fork in the road, I turned right
At the second fork I turned right again, off the road and onto a trail (I’d hiked a total of 1.15 miles at this point)
I hiked west for a few yards, and then came across a trail junction. I continued heading straight
I was now on the trail that heads south/southwest up the hillside. This is also where I ran into a porcupine. Porcupines don’t run, but we noticed each other while we were about 3 feet away from each other: He quickly turned and waddled away in the dark, showing me his full backside of quills as he did so.
I continued on this well defined trail
Here’s your first glimpse of V3. Look carefully, the arrow points to the exact summit, which you won’t see again until you’re there.
After hiking for a total of 2.25 miles and 11350’ I came to a small water crossing over the trail, and a meadow to my right. I left the trail and headed through the meadow. It was still dark, and there was a camper with a bright headlamp getting ready for the day. He was confused why I was ‘off trail’ and tried to direct me back to the proper trail. I assured him I was going in the right direction, apologized for walking so close to his campsite, and nicely told him I didn’t expect to find a trail to the summit.
I was now in a meadow and basin. There were wildflowers I couldn’t yet see in the dark, and willows I kept encountering. I found out the hard way to stay right to avoid the willows. The path is obvious in the daylight. Here’s the route I took.
And some step-by-step pictures of my way to the saddle, first hopping across a small stream
Staying right to avoid the willows and ascending a small gully that still had snow. Microspikes were helpful here, both on the scree and snow.
At the top of the gully, I was now in a rocky upper basin. I crossed a boulderfield and headed towards the saddle.
Here’s a look at the last bit of hiking to the saddle
Once on the saddle I turned left and followed the ridge southeast, staying to the left of the snow.
At the top of this area you can see the crux of the route. Now is a good time to put on your microspikes and helmet, if you haven’t already. It’s much steeper than it looks, and the scree isn’t manageable without microspikes (trust me on this one).
Here’s your intended route:
You’re aiming for this gully. The scree here is steep; a 45 degree angle for an extended amount of time.
Once at the base of the gully the class 4 climbing begins. The route is obvious, curving around to the right. There is really only one way to go: follow the trail set out for you from the fallen scree. Also note: the scree and rocks here are loose. Very loose. I wouldn’t attempt to upclimb or downclimb this area with another person: take turns the entire way up and down. You will be causing screevalanches on climbers below you.
Here are some pictures from the inside of the gully. Pictures do not do the steepness justice (although the pictures down give you a better perspective). When heading up, continue climbing southeast.
Here’s a look at the exit of the gully
At this point it became even steeper. I did not have on my microspikes, lost grip, and slid on my stomach backwards for a full 12 feet. I seriously thought I was going to slide all the way back down that gully. I braced myself, and without taking off my pack located my microspikes in my backpack pocket and gingerly put them on while trying to balance without much traction. It was much easier to upclimb once I put on my spikes. Here is where I aimed
I then turned right, and hiked south towards the summit block.
I made it to the base of the summit block and was surprised to see a pine marten. He sat there and looked at me. I tried to get a picture, but he quickly turned around and all I got was a picture of his tail and backside. Why are all of my wildlife pictures of animal butts?
Ok, now, don’t let this summit block scare you: yes, you can upclimb it, but you can also skirt it to the left and follow it around and have a class 2 trek to the summit, which is what I did.
I summited V3 at 7:15am. There was a lot of smoke in the air from far away fires this morning.
I was surprised there wasn’t a summit register, so I left one. It was obvious this peak does not get a lot of visitors.
I kept my microspikes on for the trek back down, which seemed easier than the trek up. Here are some pictures of the way back down the gully. Once again, do this one person at a time, and when you’re done, head far away from the gully, as the rocks will slide and they will pick up speed as they do so.
Once out of the gully, the scree-surfing will begin. It’s always fun when you can ride the same pile of rocks all the way down the hillside.
Here’s where you’re aiming. If you’re doing this with another person, you should be standing far away from the rockslide area while they’re ascending/descending. I’ve circled a good place to stand out of the way.
And now to hike down the ridge to the saddle, and exit the basin.
I made it back to the meadow, marveled again the wildflowers, and saw the group of campers were almost done taking down camp (I guess the man I talked to this morning was part of a larger group). I made it to the trail, turned left, and followed it back to the trailhead.
I made it back to my truck at 9:45am, making this an 8.29 mile hike with 3542’ of elevation gain in 6 hours.