Friday, January 13, 2017

Mount Teneriffe

Mailbox and the other Snoqualmie Pass corridor peaks from the summit of Teneriffe
10.5 miles loop, 3950 feet elevation gain
Difficulty: Strenuous; trail is extremely steep and dangerous snow conditions occur in winter, route-finding may be necessary in times of snow cover
Access: Paved road to trailhead, extremely limited trailhead parking, Washington State Discover Pass required for trailhead parking

Mount Teneriffe is one of the many peaks that rise above the Seattle suburb of North Bend; it's also arguably the best hike among those peaks, as the views from the summit are quite good and the mountain sees only a fraction of the crowds that attack Mount Si and Mailbox Peak. Teneriffe Falls, an intermediate destination, is one of the most impressive waterfalls around North Bend during the spring snowmelt and a worthy destination in its own right before summer begins. While many hikers may head to Teneriffe Falls, hikers who continue uphill on the steep and rough Kamikaze Trail to Teneriffe's summit are likely to find a little more solitude, less than an hour's driving from Seattle.

This loop takes an extremely direct approach, reaching the summit in 3.5 miles via the Kamikaze Trail. In the steepest section, the trail ascends 2300 feet in the span of a single mile- an astounding angle of attack on this mountain. The return segment follows the Mount Teneriffe Road Trail, which provides a longer and much gentler return to the trailhead. Due to the extreme steepness of this trail and because following the Kamikaze Trail and the upper reaches of the Mount Teneriffe Road Trail may require occasional route-finding, especially when snow-covered in winter, I only recommend this trail to experienced hikers who have already visited many of the other summits in the North Bend area.

I hiked this trail on a clear February weekday. A friend and I drove out from Seattle in the morning, running into a bit of traffic but still making it to the trailhead a little after 9 AM. We took I-90 east from Seattle to North Bend, leaving the interstate at exit 32 and heading north on 436th Ave SE until reaching North Bend Way; here, we turned left to follow North Bend Way towards North Bend, then took the next right onto Mount Si Road, which quickly crossed a bridge over the Middle Fork Snoqulamie River. We followed Mount Si Road past the trailheads to Little Si and Mount Si to a turnoff on the left for the Mount Teneriffe trailhead, near the junction with 480th Ave SE. There was no parking lot here; trailhead parking was limited to the side of the road alongside the gravel Mount Si Road before reaching a gate on the road.

We started the hike by following the old road on a gradual uphill. At two separate junctions, we stayed to the right to continue on the road, following signs for Teneriffe Falls; after a mile and a half of relatively flat hiking through the forest, the trail came to the base of Mount Teneriffe and began to ascend at a more vigorous incline along its slopes, passing a talus slope with some nice views of the North Bend valley. Soon afterward, the trail began to bend into a small canyon and then began ascending via switchbacks along a creek. A small cascade was visible through the trees to our left.

Falls below Teneriffe Falls
Continuing to ascend via switchbacks, we came to the base of Teneriffe Falls about two and a half miles from the trailhead. This is where most hikers stop and turn back.

When stream flow is high, Teneriffe Falls is a stunning sight. Here, snowmelt from high up Mount Teneriffe leaps and bounds as it descends over 200 feet down a steep, rocky face. The viewing area for the falls is very small; avoid the area on weekends when crowds arrive. Be careful and don't try scrambling to someplace unsafe for a better view: a hiker fell and died here in September 2016.

Teneriffe Falls
After enjoying Teneriffe Falls, we backtracked slightly until we came to the faint, unmarked junction for the Kamikaze Trail, which left to the uphill side of the Teneriffe Falls and began a relentless, immediate ascent. We ascended 2200 feet to the summit of Mount Teneriffe in the next mile along the Kamikaze Trail, a brutal ascent with grades easily matching those found on the Old Trail at Mailbox Peak and the ascent to Aasgard Pass in the Enchantments. The trail was not clearly marked but was still relatively easy to follow, generally tracing a route along the southern ridge of Mount Teneriffe.

Halfway up the Kamikaze Trail, we reached the snowline. Following the trail in the snow was actually easier than following the trail without snow, as we were now able to trace the abundant amount of previous footsteeps up the mountain. I put on microspikes to better deal with hiking on snow on a steep incline.

As we approached the summit, occasional treebreaks to the south revealed sweeping views of the North Bend valley and Mount Si. At this point, it was no longer clear if the tracks we were following truly followed the trail; it appeared as though we were simply making a beeline for the summit through two-feet deep snow. Constant postholing through the snow slowed our progress, but we finally made it out onto an extremely steep, open final slope which we battled up to reach the snow-covered summit fin.

Mount Si, North Bend, and the Issaquah Alps
The 360-degree view from atop Mount Teneriffe is the best view of any of the peaks surrounding the North Bend valley. To the west, the Seattle and Bellevue skylines rose above the Puget Sound and Lake Washington, respectively, while the Brothers, Mount Anderson, and Mount Constance dominated the Olympic skyline. Mount Baker's snowy cone was visible to the north and the eastern skyline was dominated by a line of peaks defining the watershed of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River, including Garfield Mountain and Mailbox Peak. Well-loved I-90 peaks such as Mount Defiance, Mount McClellan, Mount Washington, Mount Si, and Rattlesnake Mountain were also visible. Regal Rainier rose above all to the south.

Seattle, with Mount Anderson and Mount Constance rising in the distance
Rainier seen from the summit of Teneriffe
We spent a little while at the summit admiring the view and ran into a hiker who had come up the mountain via the Mount Teneriffe Road Trail, which was our intended route of descent. We were lucky to have run into him, as we hadn't seen where that route joined with the Kamikaze Trail on our ascent. Our new acquaintance guided us down from the summit to the turnoff for the connector trail to the Mount Teneriffe Road Trail. We were never really sure if we were following the trail exactly as we were hiking in three to five feet deep snow, but we followed the ridge generally through the snow until we came upon a wider clearing in the forest that seemed like a former logging road, about a half mile of ridge hiking after leaving the summit.  From here, we followed this path until it came to a saddle, intersecting a broad hairpin in a former logging road. We took the left fork here, following this decommissioned road (the Mount Teneriffe Road) westward along the south side of the ridge connecting Mount Si to Mount Teneriffe. Spots along the road yielded views back towards the Mount Teneriffe summit.

Teneriffe seen from the Mount Si connector trail
The next mile and a half or so hiking followed the former Mount Teneriffe Road through the forested high slopes on a ridge. Winter snow cover was quite deep, exceeding six to eight feet in places. At points, meltwater streams cut entirely through the snowpack, forcing us to slide down six-foot deep ravines in the snow and climbing back up the opposite snowbank to continue on the trail.

Snowy connector trail towards Mount Si
After following this trail for almost an hour, we came to a clearing with a pretty view of Mount Rainier, Rattlesnake Ledge, Rattlesnake Lake, and Mount Si.

Mount Rainier and the valley of North Bend
Mount Si
Past this clearing, we soon came to a trail junction; no sign was visible at the junction, at least not with five feet of snow on the trail. We took the left fork and followed the road trail as it began a gradual descent through switchbacks.

As we descended through four miles of road trail, the snow gradually diminished until it was all gone and we were hiking on the road itself. Although I had been annoyed at how snow slowed my progress earlier, I became even more annoyed at how rocky the trail was through this descent: don't expect it to be kind on your knees. Towards the base of Mount Teneriffe, we passed a junction with a connector to the Talus Loop Trail, staying left at the intersection, before finally returning to the flatter terrain of the North Bend Valley. In the last mile of trail, the road trail rejoined the road trail on which we started, bringing us back to the trailhead.

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