A Fright on Mt Si

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Being that it’s a glorious Memorial Day Weekend up here in the Northwest, my co-worker Eilon (developer lead for ASP.NET MVC) and I decided to go on a hike to Mt Si where we had a bit of a scary moment.

in-front-of-mt-si I first learned about Mt Si at the company picnic last year, seen behind me and Cody in this photo. I remember seeing the imposing cliff face and thinking to myself, I want to climb up there. I imagined the view would be quite impressive.

Mt Si is a moderately strenuous hike 8 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 3100 feet taking you to about 3600 feet, according to the Washington Trails Association website. Given that it is a very popular hike and that this was a three-day weekend, we figured we’d get an early start by heading over there at 7 AM.

That ended up being a good idea as the parking lot had quite a few cars already, but it wasn’t full by any means. This is a picture of the trail head which starts the hike off under a nice canopy of green.

041Right away, the no-nonsense trail starts you off huffing uphill amongst a multitude of trees.


Along the way, there are the occasional diversions. For example, this one won me $10 as the result of a bet that I wouldn’t walk to the edge of the tree overhanging the drop off.


When you get to the top, there’s a great lookout with amazing views. But what caught our attention is a rock outcropping called the “Haystack”, which takes you up another 500 feet. Near the base of the Haystack is a small memorial for those who’ve died from plummeting off its rocky face. It’s not a trivial undertaking, but I demanded we try.

Mount Si
026Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the above picture to provide a better sense of scale for this scramble. In the following picture you can see some people pretty much scooting down the steep slope on their butts.

Mount Si

Once they were down, we set up and reached around two thirds of the way when I made the mistake of looking back and made a remark about how it’s going to be much more difficult going down. That started getting us nervous because it’s always easier going up than down.

It would have probably been best if I hadn’t made that remark because the climb wasn’t really that difficult, but introducing a bit of nervousness into the mix can really sabotage one’s confidence, which you definitely want on a climb.

At that point, the damage was done and we decided we had enough and started heading back down. Better to try again another day when we felt more confident. At that moment, a couple heading down told us we were almost there and it wasn’t so bad. Our success heading back down and their comments started to bolster our confidence to the point where I was ready to head back up, until I noticed that my shoe felt odd.

What I hadn’t noticed while climbing on the steep face was that my sole had almost completely detached from my hiking boot during the climb. Fortunately, Eilon had some duct tape on hand allowing me to make this ghetto looking patch job.

MacGuyver Repair
JobAt this point I had a mild panic because I worried that the duct tape would cause me to lose grip with my boots on the way down. And frankly, I was pissed off as well, as I’ve had these boots for a few years, but haven’t hiked in them all that often. What a perfect time for them completely fall apart!

Fortunately, I didn’t have much problem climbing back down and we stopped at the first summit to take some pictures and have a brief snack.

Not having the guts today to climb the big rock, I scrambled up a much smaller one and got this great view of Mt Rainier in its full splendor.


The view from the top is quite scenic and using binoculars, I was able to check on my family back in Bellevue (joke).

079Going back down was much quicker than the way up and we had a blast of it practically trail running the first part, until my other shoe gave out.

084Guess the warranty must have run out yesterday. ;) Fortunately, Eilon, who was prepared with the Duct tape, also had all terrain sandals with him, which I wore the rest of the way. Next time, I think I’ll ditch the Salomon boots and try Merrells which other hikers I ran into were wearing.

Despite the mishaps, the hike was really a fun romp in the woods and I highly recommend it to anyone in the Seattle area to give it a try. Go early to avoid the crowds. I doubled my $10 in an over/under bet where I took 140 and over cars in the lot. We stopped counting at around 170 cars in the lot when we left.

Mount Si
052This is one last look at Mt Si on our way back home. Eilon put together a play-by-play using Live Maps Bird’s Eye view (click for larger).

The path we
tookFor more info on the Mt Si hike, check out the Washington Trails Association website.

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31 responses

  1. Avatar for Mohammad Azam
    Mohammad Azam May 24th, 2009

    Seems like you picked up the shoes at Goodwill or something!!

  2. Avatar for Gabriel Florit
    Gabriel Florit May 24th, 2009
    but introducing a bit of nervousness into the mix can really sabotage one’s confidence, which you definitely want on a climb

    I disagree - too much confidence can kill you. Always respect the mountain. I didn't follow this advice and nearly got killed on a mountain climbing expedition in Alaska last year.

  3. Avatar for Travis
    Travis May 24th, 2009

    Dude, who takes duct tape along on a hike? Don't get me wrong, it was obviously a good idea, but still . . .

  4. Avatar for Eilon
    Eilon May 24th, 2009

    I bring duct tape along on a hike! A lot of hiking guides recommend bringing duct tape since you can repair leaks, fix shoes (!), mend a backpack, or even make lashing out of it. I was carrying about 25lbs of gear in my pack to prep for a possible future backpacking trip where we'd have to carry a lot more gear.
    Even though Phil won $20 from me in dares and bets, he owes me new sandals, a roll of duct tape, and some first aid bits :)

  5. Avatar for configurator
    configurator May 24th, 2009

    "Hmm. Here's a small memorial for those who’ve died from plummeting off its rocky face. Let's climb this thing!"
    The logic evades me.

  6. Avatar for Henning Kilset
    Henning Kilset May 24th, 2009

    Always appreciate reading these little "non-techy" stories. Thanks for taking the time to write it. Brings me back to my younger years when I went to college in Tacoma (PLU). Live in Norway now :)

  7. Avatar for Xavier
    Xavier May 24th, 2009

    Made in China?

  8. Avatar for C.T.
    C.T. May 24th, 2009

    to Xavier:
    are you serious?
    from Beijing, China

  9. Avatar for Kian Ryan
    Kian Ryan May 24th, 2009

    Switching Solomon for Merrell won't make a blind bit of difference. Your soles have separated due to deterioration in the rubber. I've seen this with people who only take their boots out once or twice a season. Left alone the rubber becomes brittle and you get the effect you've had there. Try not to let them get too dry in-between trips out and if you can, wear them a couple of days a month into work just to give them a bit of flex.
    Love your boots and your boots will love you.

  10. Avatar for Haacked
    Haacked May 24th, 2009

    @Gabriel there's a difference between too much confidence and healthy respect, I agree. But there's also a difference between a healthy respect and fear. I don't think you want to climb a mountain if you don't think you can. You have to have a bit of confidence that you can do it, but not too much confidence.
    @Kian, good tip! Thanks!

  11. Avatar for brnwdrng
    brnwdrng May 25th, 2009

    Kian is right; though I would suggest a better brand of hiking boot as well, e.g., Lowa. Happy trails!

  12. Avatar for Mark Brown
    Mark Brown May 25th, 2009

    That's a great hike. I also like that Dairy Freeze in Snohomish as well. It's usually just as slammed as the parking lot at Mt. Si.

  13. Avatar for Ken
    Ken May 25th, 2009

    Awesome man. Even though the events happened the experience is well worth the hike. I was in the infantry and duck tape was necessary to have despite what people think. Glad that you shared it with the rest of us.

  14. Avatar for w!ldc@t
    w!ldc@t May 25th, 2009

    Chinese quality.

  15. Avatar for JamWheel
    JamWheel May 25th, 2009

    The title of this implies much more exciting content than the reality of the article. Maybe if you had actually fallen off or had any actual panic this would have been worth reading... :)

  16. Avatar for Dani Dale
    Dani Dale May 25th, 2009

    you could of stopped by the house I grew up in. Just one street up on the right after the hiking trail! If you guys ever want to do it again, I can show the other way up threw Mt.Teneriffe. Good work lads!

  17. Avatar for Pat Gannon
    Pat Gannon May 25th, 2009

    Wow, sounds like Eilon came prepared! My dad is a real hiking buff and he convinced me early on that good running shoes (with good tread) are the best thing to hike in (regardless of terrain). I have been on a number of fairly extensive hikes, and that bit of advise has yet to fail me (I've never had my shoes fall apart, regardless of age), so you may consider trying out some New Balance or Saucony running shoes on your next hike. They're a simpler shape, so there's less to go wrong (fall apart), and they don't give your ankles the "false confidence" that my dad is convinced is responsible for the majority of sprained ankles on hikes. I also think the ankle support of a high-top boot is over-rated, and I find that the low-top of a running shoe makes me much more agile when navigating rocky trails. (Let your ankles do what they're designed to do!)
    Happy Hiking!

  18. Avatar for Suprotim Agarwal
    Suprotim Agarwal May 26th, 2009

    Good to learn that you guys are back hale and hearty..I wouldn't want the MVC project to be shelved ;)
    Nice post btw, triggers me to take a break!

  19. Avatar for Haacked
    Haacked May 26th, 2009

    @JamWheel I changed the title. How's that for responding to user feedback? ;)

  20. Avatar for Dansko
    Dansko May 26th, 2009

    Yes, you should definitely try out Merrels. Their hiking shoes are perfect. Those who are saying made in China, the Merrels which have are also made in china and after 2 years of rough use they still haven't given up.

  21. Avatar for bugsy
    bugsy May 27th, 2009

    would love to hear your preparation for the hike from a techie's point of view especially any gadgets you carry..

  22. Avatar for charlie
    charlie May 28th, 2009

    Great story, looks like a great hike! Makes me miss the mountains. There are not many in Charlotte!

  23. Avatar for John Anderson
    John Anderson May 28th, 2009

    This is not acceptable! Fun is not allowed until we have an installer for VS2010 for MVC! ;)

  24. Avatar for Zach B
    Zach B May 31st, 2009

    Fun hiking up Mt. Si
    I went up May 31 on the otherside of Haystack and got some pretty spectacular views.

  25. Avatar for Lisa
    Lisa June 2nd, 2009

    I think you made a smart choice not climbing to the top. My brother should be included in the small memorial because he died climbing down Haystack last August. He was a strong 27 year old who was an experienced hiker. He and his friend made it to the top, and we have pictures and a video from his camera memory card. We aren't exactly sure how he fell, but it seems that he lost his footing and fell 200 ft. I know people like to take risks because of the thrill and sense of accomplishment, but use caution and follow your instincts!

  26. Avatar for Simone
    Simone June 5th, 2009

    Phil, you should come and visit me in Italy... I'll take you to some serious mountain hikes in the Alps :)
    BTW: this article has some problem with font colors, and turns all the text to orange. Maybe a missing closing tag or something

  27. Avatar for Jack
    Jack June 7th, 2009

    Oh, I'm curious of how many shoes did you damaged! LOL
    Away from pc, internet, come to nature, you are very lucky!

  28. Avatar for Richard
    Richard June 11th, 2009

    You've lived my nightmare: shoe failure in the field. I've had the same kind of blowouts with Merrells, but usually after more than a few years. I think it's age more than mileage--as another commenter pointed out, the "rubber" (or whatever it is these days) just breaks down--and so I've gotten in the habit of owning fewer pairs while putting more miles on them. Tread permitting, I replace boots after two years to three and sandals every year (because the straps separate from the sole). If you can get away with it at work, wear your hikers daily as it keeps them comfortable and makes it a lot easier to gauge the true condition of the shoe by the tread wear. In fact, gym shoes are the same way: they never "wear out" tread-wise, but you're killing your feet after the first couple of years. Carrying Tevas as a backup (and for stream crossing) is extravagant, but great insurance. Owning fewer boots is also a good environmental strategy, so if you end up with ones you can't trust, donate them or use them for household chores (especially painting!).

  29. Avatar for Roy Anderson
    Roy Anderson August 4th, 2012

    I did this hike and climbed the Haystack back in July 1957 with four other guys from my graduating class from Franklin High School. Seattle. I am now 73 years young and the memory of that climb remains with me today.
    Roy Anderson
    Johannesburg, South Africa.

  30. Avatar for Hiker
    Hiker May 18th, 2013

    I hiked up, and climbed haystack today. With it raining, it was very cold, and slippery, I almost pissed myself from fright. Climbing down was like a life/death experience

  31. Avatar for Wendy Harrington
    Wendy Harrington December 27th, 2017

    The memorial is not for "those who have died." It's for one guy.