The hike to Erie Mine has a bad reputation. A few years ago someone attempted to hike up to the bunkhouse and got what mountain people call “cliffed out”. That’s the human equivalent to a cat climbing a tree and not being able to get down. Very steep rock walls can be like that. A person can hoist themselves up, but then realize with dread there’s no getting down. The unlucky hiker a few years ago got to spend a night at hotel Erie, perched on the rocks until morning when a helicopter team performed an evacuation.
The fact that someone had to be heli evacuated is testament to the challenges of hiking Erie. For one, it’s steep. Secondly, there’s no established trail. Ask half a dozen people who’ve hiked it, you’ll get half a dozen versions of convoluted directions. You might even get a crudely drawn map, as I did. The directions will also come with certain disclaimers. Don’t hike it alone. Avoid the tram line terrain. Always stay to the right. Take a left at the giant rock shaped like a bear’s head? etc.
So I set out a few weeks ago to explore the Erie Mine. To get to the base of the mine, before all the “fun” vertical climbing, a person must walk out about 3 miles on the Root Glacier Trail. Then start the nerve shredding catwalk climb up the ridge before the tram line. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess.
Being that I hiked alone I took my sweet time, pausing before advancing anything even remotely precipitous. I found out immediately that I didn’t quite LIKE the terrain. Maybe I’m too much of a flatlander, but the steepness of this terrain weirded me out: quaking knees, machine gun heart beat, vertigo. I climbed up until I was parallel with the bunkhouse, but obviously on the wrong gulch, ridge, whatever, and then turned around. I’m pretty sure I was hiking on a game trail, but then again, maybe not.
So, all the talk is true. Erie Mine is steep. It shouldn’t be hiked alone. The route is an enigma. Plan of attack for next time – go with someone who has hiked to the bunkhouse before. Here are some pictures from the Erie Mine adventure.