With a weekend planned in Leavenworth with Mel and Katie, we decided to find a local scramble. We discovered Wedge Mountain on the Mountaineers website and decided to check it out. The top promised views into the enchantments on a trail that was dog friendly so we could take Mel’s Golden Gravy.
drive time from Seattle
Researching this peak proved to be one of the biggest challenges. Turns out there are two Wedge Mountains. One labelled on topographic maps as Wedge Mountain (5781′) and the other as the highest point on McClellan Ridge at 6885′. We were after the higher of the two ‘Wedge Mountains’ which involved a scramble to the summit. Point 5781′ is more of a hike and is prominent from the town of Leavenworth.
The second challenge was the drive to the trailhead. There was a maze of logging roads we had to navigate making the drive almost an hour from Leavenworth! Not to mention we had conflicting information on the location of the trailhead. South Wedge and Wedge have different trailheads so depending on which website you look at you get different directions. We ended up having to direct using Gaia to get to the one we wanted (GPS 47.49893, -120.68948). As the logging road got further up the mountain the road got worse we huge ruts and washed out sections. We took these slow in Mel’s SUV and at one point I got out to guide her.
After the drive, we were all pretty happy to be out of the car and walking on the trail. It was hot and dusty, we didn’t start until 1:20. The trail was steep and pretty much ran straight up to McClellan Ridge at around 6200′. We got good views out to Wenatchee as we got into a burnt-out area from an old forest fire. The view from the ridge into the Enchantments Snow zone was really beautiful. We spent a little while eating a late lunch, soaking in the views.
The trail didn’t continue onto our summit so we bushwhacked over down trees mostly following the north-trending ridge until we reached a viewpoint with an obvious notch before us. The true summit was across the notch which required a scramble to get to. I decided to follow the ridge which involved one very ‘airy’ move which I didn’t recommend Mel to follow me on. The summit had a register and worse views that the overlook point (due to views of snow lake being obscured by the ridge). Gravy didn’t love that she couldn’t join us on the scramble so Katie stayed back with her.
We were only an hour going back down to the car, not needing to stop much we made it back by 5 not looking forward to the drive ahead.
After Snowfield Peak Kelsey and I planned to do something the weekend of the August 3/4. We took our time picking a climb, other options were Mount Daniel or Gothic Basin. We eventually landed on Sloan Peak via the Corkscrew route which Kelsey had some friends who climbed it the weekend before us so we had good beta on the route. We were joined by her friend Dan and Kat (who I climbed Rainier with). The first decision for the group was a 1 or 2 day climb and whether to use the Bedal Creek or Cougar Creek approach. We chose to do the climb as a 1 day push and because of this we chose the Bedal Creek trailhead (which from all reports seemed like the shorter approach with less elevation gain and no river crossings).
Mount Loop Highway
drive time from Seattle
NW Forest Pass
Dan, Kelsey and I left Seattle at 4:30 Monday and met Kat along the Mountain Loop Highway. Even though the Bedal Creek trailhead is pinned on google maps the roads don’t really match when you are driving out there. Just after the Bedal Creek campground, heading south on the Moutain Loop Highway you turn left at FS-4096, which is marked by a small sign. Google has the road as 4081 which is wrong. A few miles up the bumpy and narrow road you come across the trailhead. I was glad we took my jeep because there were a few sections of the road that looked pretty washed out. The trailhead coordinates are 48°4’19” 121°22’35” and there was room for only 4 cars.
We got hiking around 7:20 am on the Bedal Creek trail, there was a few cleared out avalanche chutes which were very brushy but easy enough to stay on the trail. One of these sections had some stinging nettle which got Kat and I but the stings were dulled by the water covering most of the bushes. After 45 mins from the trailhead at about 3700ft we found the flags leading up the hill to the left. This was the climber’s trail leading to the ridge between Bedal and Sloan Peaks. The trail was steep and in some parts extremely brushy. The flagging was intermediate, whenever you say a flag the boot path was obvious but the further you got away from the flag the more the boot paths seemed to diverge until another flag was visible. The last push before breaking out of the treeline was the thickest of the bushwhacking and I was definitely glad to break through to a talus field.
From the talus field which was under the south side of Bedal Peak, the boot path (now more obvious) traverses to the saddle between Bedal and Sloan, We passed a tarn at 5400 ft which had some nice reflections of both Bedal and Sloan. After this tarn, we lost the trail and decided not to lose any elevation and head straight up the ridge towards Sloan. As we climbed we got great views out to Mt Pugh which I’d climbed 2 years ago and Glacier Peak. We didn’t realize but this wasn’t the ridge that people describe leading up to the glacier of Sloan, that’s northeast of the summit. When we did figure it out we decided to traverse across to the correct ridge over rock slabs. It did involve some scrambling to gain the ridge but the rock was solid. I don’t know if it was necessary to traverse because we probably could have continued up the ridge we were on.
We refilled water from snowmelt and continued up to the base of the glacier where we roped up. We were about 3.5 hours from the car to the base of the glacier. I was given the opportunity to lead the team which was my first glacier lead. I was a little nervous because there were obviously open crevasses that I’d have to navigate us around but thankfully there was also a faint boot track of other climbers to follow. We came across other climbers for the first time on the glacier and they warned us that it was crevasse-y the way they went and maybe keeping lower would be better. I didn’t think I wanted to blaze a new trail, and knowing that they had passed that way we continued on the route we were following. It wasn’t long before we knew what they were talking about. There was a pretty steep snow bridge with crevasses opening up on either side. We were careful to move up and over it. The snow was a little softer than I would have liked making it easier to slip and right at the narrowest part of the bridge next to the crevasse opening it was icy so we took care in our footing to safely move across. After that, it was a short walk to the other side of the glacier to reach the spot to unrope.
We stashed our glacier gear ready for the way down and headed up the very obvious boot trail to scramble to the summit. The trail follows a ledge around to the southern side of the summit before climbing up a rocky gully. The views on this part were amazing, the Monte Cristo peaks were in our face the entire time. The scramble was fun, mostly easy to follow a trail and the exposure wasn’t bad. The last few moves to get up to the summit block were class 3 but none of it felt sketchy. We topped out at 5.5 hours from the car.
We enjoyed lunch on the summit as we took photos, wrote in the summit register and read a poem someone had stashed with the register. It was a little hazy (being a really hot day) but we could see Mount Baker in the North, Rainier to the South and faintly out to the Olympics. As always we had fun naming peaks and finding new ones to climb. We probably had 30 minutes on the summit before starting our descent.
We scramble back to the glacier (not) looking forward to crossing the snow bridge again. On the way down the snow bridge felt a little better because more climbers had crossed it creating good steps and it was in the shade making the snow a little harder.
We unroped on the glacier a little lower and followed the rock slabs down the northeast ridge and had to traverse across the rocks again to get back to the saddle of Bedal and Sloan. The day had well and truly heated up and the way through the open fields before descending into the forest again was really sweaty work. Once in the forest whenever we stopped we were descended upon by biting flies so we didn’t stop much. The trail was a welcome site until Kat and I found the stinging nettles again, It was so much worse than the morning it felt like my legs were on fire. We hilariously just ran through it screaming and swearing until we got through. I didn’t really even know which of all the plants was stinging nettle so I was wildly bashing at the plants with my trekking poles.
We arrived back at the car at just over 10 hours. It really was a great day out and we were surprised (based on all the trip reports we’d read) that we weren’t later. Sloan is definitely doable in a day and I think we were helped a lot by using the Bedal Creek approach (not sure why this doesn’t get more love).
I decided to do a weekday adventure this week by exploring out on the Olympic Peninsula. There’s something about the drive out there that has me trying to avoid it. The good news is it has most of the hiking population of Seattle trying to avoid it too so you’re always guaranteed a nice quiet trail. I chose Lake of the Angels because I had seen photos and thought the mileage wasn’t too bad for a one day trip with the drive.
7.5 + 2
drive time from Seattle
Poles for steep slopes
I left Seattle a bit before 6 and made the drive to the Hood Canal area via Tacoma and Olympia. It always amazes me the level of traffic coming into the city at this time of the morning. With a brief stop for coffee along the way I got to the Putvin trailhead at 8:20. I don’t know what it was but I felt a little off at the beginning of the hike, jumpy at any noise and felt like I was huffing more than I should have been, probably didn’t help that I read a trip report that ran into a family of cougars on this same trail.
After 1.3 miles I came to almost a second trailhead on an old road, which had a sign for the Lake of the Angels (another 2 miles ahead). The trail after this sign is pretty unforgiving it climbs more than 2000ft in 1.7 miles. I worked up quite a sweat on the way up! In some parts it was so steep you had to scramble up roots and rocks which once above you finally break into the alpine (and are rewarded with ripe huckleberries). The trail then passes the Lake of the False Prophet (lol these names) which is really more of a frog filled pond. It is pretty swampy in this section so I was glad I had my hiking boots to navigate through the muddy bog that was the trail.
There was one final climb over a hot and wildflower-covered slope to reach the basin containing the Lake of the Angels. The Lake sits in a rocky cirque under Mount Skokomish. I sat by the lake to rest awhile, watching the fish jump and enjoying all the wildflowers that were in bloom. There’s an obvious lack of mountain goats up there at the moment with their fur everywhere around the basin but none the sight. The Parks Service recently closed the trail for their evacuation in the relocation project.
After having something to eat I was ready to explore the basin, I started hiking and scrambling up rock ridges and ledges towards Mt Skokomish to see how far I could get. I made it up to 5800ft, took a wrong turn off the tracks I had downloaded, going to the wrong saddle before correcting my mistake. From the saddle at 5800ft I could see the traverse under the south face of Mt Skokomish and didn’t like the look of all the loose rock so decided to make this my turn around point.
The hike back down to the lake I took a different route which seemed like it got most of the foot traffic. Back on the Putvin trail, I was glad to have my trekking poles with me. The steep and rock covered trail was easy to slip on the way down. By the time I got down to the old roadbed my knees where pretty sore from the decent. I decided to hike back along the old road which met up with the Putvin trail about half a mile from the trailhead.
Jade Lake has long been on my list of backpacking destinations. The photos of the lake seem absolutely unreal. It blows my mind that lakes like that exist so close to where I live now. It is understandably a very popular destination and getting a campsite there on a weekend can prove difficult. I was keen to use a good weather window and my free time during the week to get there. I wasn’t able to get anyone to join me for the trip so I decided to head out on my first solo overnight
Alpine Lakes Wilderness
drive time from Seattle
NW Forest Pass
I left Seattle early, at 6 am, on Wednesday wanting to get out of the city before the morning traffic started. On the way to the trailhead, I couldn’t shake the feeling of having forgotten something. I thought it was my sleeping pad for a minute so I pulled off the i90 to make sure I had it. When I got to the Tucquala Meadows trailhead I thought it was my hat, but I found that in the top pocket of my pack. I tried to ignore the feeling and started hiking on the trail. In 2 miles of hiking along a flat trail, I arrived at Hyas Lake. I wanted to take a photo from one of the lakeside campsites and discovered that my camera wouldn’t turn on because I left my battery at home. I was pretty unhappy about this knowing that Jade Lake is one of the most photographic destinations in the state and how long it had taken me to get out and do this trip. I even considered turning around and doing the trip another time. I shook off that feeling and decided to keep going. Use my phone for photos and try and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Partly fueled by my anger at myself for leaving my battery at home. I hiked the next 7 miles in about 2.5 hours. It was still overcast so made for excellent hiking weather. The trail wasn’t the boring forest trail I was expecting. After Hyas Lake it starts switchbacking up towards Deception Pass (5 miles of hiking). From Deception Pass, the trail intersects with the PCT and then forks off towards Marmot Lake. The trail passes a few small lakes and meadows before climbing again to reach Marmot Lake. I stopped at Marmot Lake on a log next to the water to have my lunch.
From Marmot Lake, the trail becomes more of a climbers trail and shoots up a talus field at the south end of the lake. Following the cairns, then losing them I followed the talus field to the top to join the bootpath that passed No Name Lake on the way to Jade. Lynch Mountain loomed over the meadows as I passed No Name Lake and I was excited when I started to recognize the peaks from all the photos I’d seen of Jade Lake. I got my first views of the turquoise water around 1:30. There were a few other tents already set up at the lake so I scouted around a little before choosing one near the entrance trail. Once I stopped hiking I was attacked by what felt like a million mosquitos. Before I put the fly of the tent on I sheltered from the hoards and admired the view.
After a snooze in the tent, I decided to filter some water. There were plenty of small streams running into the lake and they all contained several frogs! During my snooze, the clouds that had hidden views for most of the day had finally cleared. To kill time before dinner I explored some of the side trails around camp. I was able to scramble to Jade Lake’s outlet stream in one direction then scout the way south of the lake which led towards Dip Top Gap. Thankfully the mosquitos abated a bit later which allowed me to eat dinner in relative peace. I enjoyed the colours sunset produced on Lynch Peak and Jade Lake before heading for bed.
The night was colder than I was anticipating and I slept a little cold in my summer sleeping bag. I woke at 7 to beautiful blue skies and had breakfast while I was still in my sleeping bag. I packed a day pack, grabbed my trekking poles and headed towards Dip Top Gap. My goal for the morning was to summit Dip Top Peak, an easy scramble up one of the peaks that surround Pea Soup Lake, the lake in the basin above Jade. The route up Dip Top Gap climbs a snowfield to the Saddle above Jade Lake between Lynch and Dip Top Peaks. On the way up I mostly tried to avoid the snow, it was pretty hard after the cool night and hard to get good traction on it. Next time I think traction would help on the snow but I was able to climb the snowfield without too much difficulty. In an hour from camp I made it to the gap.
The views from Dip Top Gap where stunning, Pea Soup Lake sits under Mount Daniel and the Lynch Glacier, the water was a deep blue colour and there was still evidence of winter with ice floating in it. From Dip Top Gap the scramble to Dip Top Peak was pretty straight forward. It climbs some slabs on the south side of the east ridge of the Mountain until the east ridge can be gained. The only real exposure for the climb came just below the summit as the ridge narrows out. I enjoyed the views for the summit and the warm sun. There were great views of Mount Hinman (another one to add to the list) and out to many of the other Snoqualmie region peaks.
I made quick work of the descent, the snow was now in the sun so the snowfield was a little easier to travel on. I glissaded some sections using my trekking poles to control speed and kept to the snow as much as possible because it was much faster than crossing the rock fields. By the time I got back to camp, the day had well and truly warmed up and the mosquitos were back in force. I got bitten several times packing up my camp even through layers of clothing. Before leaving Jade Lake I decided to have a swim. I got down to the lake near my campsite and took a skinny dip. I lasted about 2 seconds in the water because it was absolutely freezing but also wonderfully refreshing.
The hike back down to Marmot took about an hour and was longer than I remember from the day before. I was getting tired of rocky, rooty trails that I was happy to be back at the lake. I had worked up a sweat coming down and stopped for another swim at Marmot Lake. I definitely lasted slightly longer than my swim in Jade Lake but not by much. The hike all the way back to the car was pretty uneventful, I stopped for a quick break at the junction with the PCT. I was tired by the time I got back at 5 as it had been about a 16-mile day. I will definitely have to go back to Jade Lake, with my camera battery but overall I’m really glad I didn’t turn around.
With a great weather forecast on the cards for the coming weekend, I headed back into the North Cascades to bag some peaks. I was joined by Ananth and his friend Kelsey for a Friday – Sunday trip. The priority for the trip was Snowfield Peak and the Neve Glacier and with the extra time attempt some of the other peaks in the Colonial Basin.
North Cascades National Park
drive time from Seattle
Glacier Travel Gear
We left Seattle around 6 am to give us plenty of time to get to the Marblemount Rangers Station for our camping permits. I was surprised how busy the station was for a Friday morning when we arrived around 8:30. It seemed like most parties were getting permits for Eldorado and Sahale some of the more popular climbs in the area. For camp permits in the Colonial basin, we were the only ones. We were warned by the ranger about the condition of the approach trail, to expect a very steep and brushy boot path above Pyramid Lake.
The trailhead for Pyramid Lake is a pull out on the side of Hwy 20 and has no amenities. We crossed the highway to get to the trail to begin. It took us about an hour of hiking to get to Pyramid Lake at 11 am. I was impressed with how light I’d managed to pack my bag until I discovered at Pyramid Lake I’d forgotten to fill my CamelBak. I filtered some water at the lake before we set off on the climber’s trail. This trail climbs straight up the East Ridge of Pyramid Peak. At times it’s so steep you have to pull yourself up on roots and rocks, definitely not an easy task with a big pack on. It is also extremely overgrown in places and requires careful attention you are still on the trail while bush-bashing through the overgrowth. It had been raining that morning so the bush-bashing left the front person soaked. I was thankful the weather was a little overcast so at least we weren’t overheating on the climb up. Unfortunately, on the climb up I lost my lens cap and a filter somewhere in all the bush-bashing.
We cleared most of the thick forest at 5000ft where we stopped for a bite to eat at 2:30. I didn’t realize how tired and hungry I was until we stopped. We started getting views down to Diablo Lake and over to Pyramid and Colonial Peak (the basin of which we were planning on camping). The trail after this point traverses under pyramid peak following some snowfields and above a waterfall to get to the newly formed lake at the bottom of the Colonial Glacier. The traverse under pyramid had obvious rockfall risk so we donned helmets and got out our ice axes for the snow traverse. At one point we had to cross a snow bridge over a waterfall which was still in good enough shape that it wasn’t too sketchy.
The lake at the bottom of the Colonial Glacier was a welcome site which we reached around 4:30. We scrambled up the rocky ridge to find the campsites next to a small tarn. The wind on the ridge was pretty strong and we chose sites with windwalls already built up to set up our tents. The wind made it a little challenging but we managed and then spent the next hour sheltering for the wind in the tents. I was pretty cold in my 3 season small backpacking tent which felt like the wind was coming straight through even with the wind wall. I went and joined Ananth and Kelsey in their 4 season tent to warm up a little. While I was gone from my tent. I’d left the door open a little and a mouse got in and ate through my food bag! It only had a corner of one of my oat bars but from then on we were more vigilant with our food. Ananth and I filtered water down near the Colonial Lake because this was running and seemed like a better water source then the stagnant tarn at our campsite. By the time we got back to camp, the wind had dropped significantly and we were all able to make dinner and enjoy the views a bit. We made for bed at sunset (around 9 pm) and I warmed water for a Nalgene knowing that this was going to be our coldest night and I only bought my summer sleeping bag.
We got up early, ready for a big day of peak bagging and left camp with first light at 5:30 am. There was a boot path that took us to the end of the rock ridge and to the start of the Colonial Glacier. From the day before there didn’t seem to be any big crevasses present on the glacier, we roped up regardless knowing that we’d need to be roped up for the Neve glacier. As we climbed towards the Colonial-Neve Col we were rewarded with beautiful views of the Colonial Basin and surrounding peaks. The wind from yesterday had completely gone and there were no clouds in the sky. It was still pretty cold and the snow was solid as we made our way across it.
After an hour from camp, we got to the Colonial-Neve Col. I was feeling a little sore after climbing the steep slope and probably a little dehydrated from the day before so I quickly filtered some water and prepared a Nuun tablet to help. We got our first views of the Neve Glacier (the biggest non-volcanic glacier in Washington ) and Snowfield Peak which seemed to sit high above it. The glacier seemed in great condition, some crevasses were opening in the middle but looked easily avoidable. We lost about 300ft descending from the Col into the Snowfield basin and onto the Neve Glacier and had to scramble over some rocks (in crampons – eww) to avoid a collapsing snow bridge. The trip across the glacier took us a little longer than expected, we were all dragging our feet a little and we didn’t unrope and start scrambling towards the Snowfield summit until 9 am.
We unroped on the West Ridge, moved our rope in a safe spot away from rockfall and headed up an obvious boot path to the summit pyramid. All the beta we had read talked about heading towards an obvious ‘notch’ in the rock. You travel up the notch then before heading over it you traverse to the left to gain a ridge that leads to the summit. There was some exposure in the scramble but the conditions were great, the rock in good shape and the route mostly obvious so we made easy work of the scramble. We reached the summit around 9:50 and stayed there for about 30 mins. The views were incredible, we had 360-degree views of all the North Cascade Peaks and enjoyed pointing them out and getting lots of photos.
Our trip back across the Neve glacier was quicker but the sun was heating up and we made sure to move quickly to not get fried by the UV reflecting off it. By the time we climbed back to the Colonial-Neve Col it was 12:30 and my feet were aching due to the heat and having to kick steps to get traction in soft snow. We ate and rested at the col for about 30 minutes, I had to take ibuprofen for the pain in my feet which thankfully seemed to help. We saw other people (our first for the trip) crossing the Neve glacier since we didn’t pass them they must have approached from a different trail. Our next goal was to head across to the 3 peaks of Paul Bunyan’s Stump, Pinnacle Peak and Pyramid Peak which sit on the West side of the Colonial Basin.
The traverse across to the shoulder of Paul Bunyan’s Stump was very steep and Ananth had a hard job of kicking steps for Kelsey and I. We unroped on the north shoulder of Paul Bunyan’s Stump which on this face of it was surprisingly vegetated. The route up Paul Bunyan’s stump starts north of the peak, passes under the east face, ascends the south face and ends on the west face. The final part has a lot of exposure and with all the loose rock it didn’t leave me with the best feeling as we climbed it. When we finally reached the summit I was a little sketched about and didn’t really want to move too much. The views were definitely dramatic from the top. My favourite of which was the view of the Neve Glacier outlet. The descent back down to where we’d left our packs was obviously worse than the ascent but was better in that we knew what to expect. It took us an hour to get down to our pack and it was 4 when we arrived.
The next goal was over to Pyramid Peak, which we knew was a simple walk-up. We decided to stay high and traverse under Paul Bunyan’s stump in the Colonial Basin. We got to a very steep snow traverse which combined with some melted out snow moats did not leave me with confidence. Kelsey and I were pretty spent (it was 4:30) and it didn’t hurt my ego to forgo the other two peaks so we turned around here to head back to camp. Ananth, on the other hand, pushed on to do the other 2 summits.
Kelsey and I filled up on water on the way back to camp where we arrived around 6ish, to finally rest our feet for a bit. Ananth arrived back at camp exhausted by 7:30 happy that he got both of the other peaks. By the sounds of it, I was glad to miss out on Pinnacle Peak because it sounded like a very sketchy scramble. We were all exhausted after a long day, Kelsey and Ananth were in bed before the sun. I stayed up to take a few photos before retiring to my tent.
We got up early on our third day with a mind to climb Colonial Peak. Ananth was still exhausted from the day before and the rest of us wanted to get home at a reasonable hour so we ditched the attempt on Colonial and decided to just pack up camp and head back to the car. We were joined by a pair of goats at camp which kept us entertained as we packed up.
None of us was looking forward to the approach trail on the way down but it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I’d heard about many people getting injured on the way out being tired and taking a fall. Each of us slipped on at least one occasion on the steep descent but thankfully with no injuries. It was a hot day when we reached the cars at 1 pm and made a well-earned stop for ice cream at cascade farms on the way home.
I was asked to join a group of Mountaineers on a private trip for the Ruth Icy Traverse. Mount Ruth and it’s neigbour Icy Peak are in the Mount Baker area of the North Cascades, accessed by the Hannegan Pass Trailhead. Views from the traverse and the ridge campsite are meant to be spectacular with close views of Mount Shuksan and it’s glaciers.
North Cascades National Park
drive time from Seattle
Glacier Travel Gear,
Rock protection for Icy
NW Forest Pass,
We wanted to get an early start for day 1 from the trailhead so we planned to camp out at the Hannegan Pass trailhead the night before. This worked pretty well, there are a few campsites for this use. The road has been washed out right before the old parking lot so you have to walk past that to get to the bathrooms. We picked up our permit from the Backcountry Office in Glacier and by 9:30 am we were hiking towards Hannegan Pass.
The trail to Hannegan pass was currently being worked on by WTA so was in fantastic shape, lots of water along the way and switchbacks at the end leading to the pass. The last of these switchbacks are through a clearing which provides perfect views up to Mount Ruth. Unfortunately, the day was getting cloudier as we went with clouds forming over the summit of Ruth as we approached. We had lunch at Hannegan Pass before leaving the nice maintained trail and joining the climber’s boot path leading up to Mount Ruth. The boot path shoots up the ridge from the pass using a view eroded, steep, rocky/root exposed, slippery trail. We were all glad it wasn’t raining to go up it and thankful it didn’t last too long.
Thankful to have the worse of the boot path out of the way we traverse around a small knoll on the ridge and continues aiming for the summit of Ruth. Now well above the tree line, the wind was cooling as we climbed. The clouds continued to roll in and when we got to the start of the glacier at 6200′ we decided to wait for a bit to see if the weather would clear before preceding. Speaking to climbers on the way down they turned around shy of the summit, likening the white out to ‘being inside a pingpong ball’. We later nicknamed the spot we waited ‘The Rocks of Indecision’ because the weather blew in and out and we didn’t know if the clouds were coming or going. We ended up being joined by 2 other parties and this prompted us to continue in our efforts.
The glacier climb itself was fine, there were no large crevasses so we were able to climb straight up to the summit. As we did the clouds even cleared up a little and we all got pretty hot making our way to the summit. I was surprised at how quickly we got there. We spent some time at the summit taking photos, signing the register and waiting for the cloud to clear enough to see the way we had to go to descend to camp.
The camp we were aiming for was on the ridge towards Icy where we could camp on rock and get views of the ridge scramble we’d have to do the next day to get to Icy. Just before we reached camp a thick cloud rolled in which made the last few hundred meters a little tricky. We all managed to find camp spots on rocks and avoid sleeping on the snow. As we were melting snow for water and getting our dinner we did get a few views over at Shuksan and towards Icy. Unfortunately, we never got the panorama that was promised by this location. As soon as the sun set we were in bed with our alarms set for an early start.
4:15 am came too soon but with the alarm also came rain. None of us was too keen to head out in those conditions so we decided to snooze for another hour. Another hour came and we were still extremely socked in so we decided to sleep until 7:30. The weather didn’t seem to be improving and we were losing time so we decided to call off the traverse to Icy and just pack up camp and head back. Given the visibility, we went back over the summit of Ruth as we weren’t sure we could navigate traversing across the glacier.
We had no trouble following our path from the day before to get back to the ‘Rocks of Indecision’ where we could unrope. As we got lower on the mountain we got below the clouds and could see further than the day before! We all pushed through the descent wanting to get back to the cars. The steep boot path was tricky on the descent with the recent rain but we took it slow enough and all made it down without any serious slips. Just our luck once we’d reached Hannegan Pass the summit of Ruth was clear. The trail back to the car felt like forever and by the end, my feet were pretty sore. We reached the cars at 4pm.
Recently I’d taken some time off from strenuous adventures after Mount Rainier so I was keen to get out into the mountains and push myself physically this week. I had a climb planned for the weekend and with some dodgy weather forecasted for the week prior I settled on a day scramble. Kaleetan Peak was an easy choice. It’s been on my radar for a while, being nice and close to Seattle and offering 360 views of some of the Snoqualmie peaks.
drive time from Seattle
Shoes with grip
NW Forest Pass
Katie was still off work and joined me for the day. We left Seattle early (6:15 am) to beat any peak hour traffic. It was nice to have a pretty short drive and we were hiking by 7:45. Due to government funding, they have closed the Denny Creek Trailhead which added an extra half mile each way to our day as we had to park in the new Franklin Falls lot. The trail leading up to Melakwa Lake is really nice. It’s obviously a popular spot so they’ve done a great job with the trail. The first half you climb through an old forest (under the freeway) crossing the river a few times. The second half gets rockier and follows a waterfall and gorge. The climbing is all gradual there are plenty of features along the trail to keep you entertained in the 4.5 miles.
We made Melakwa Lake in just under 2.5 miles where we decided to take a break for a snack by the lake. The views from the lake looking up at Chair Peak were fantastic and when I walked to the Southern end of the Lake I could see up to our destination of Kaleetan Peak. It looked so far up!
After refuelling we located the climbers trail up to Kaleetan peak. The trail just happens to go past the backcountry toilet so we made use of it. The trail heads straight up the ridge, being pretty steep and some sections requiring using the vegetation to pull ourselves up rocks. Now it really felt like a scramble! About halfway up the ridge, we cleared out of the trees to a talus slope. We got our first views of some of the peaks to the South which run along the i90. We had fun pointing out the ones we’d climbed already. (Granite, Bandera, Defiance).
The boot path was super clear, even across the talus and there were cairns to follow when in doubt. The wildflowers in this section were in full bloom providing a nice kaleidoscope of colours. We made quick work of the climb to the peak at 5700′. Here there’s a big rock pile indicating it’s the summit and we took a chance to catch our breath before continuing.
Just along the trail, we got a great view up to the summit of Kaleetan Peak. From this angle, being below it, the scramble looked steep and terrifying. We hoped that all the trip reports we’d read saying it looks much worse than it is was right. The trail we followed now dropped in elevation down the east side of the ridge to skirt some rugged terrain. The drop-down was very steep and we had to veggie belay often. Next, it traversed some talus slopes before climbing towards the summit up a trail in the vegetation that ran between talus fields. Before we knew it we were at the base of the summit block looking back at the point where we thought the climb looked terrifying. The final climb up the summit block went up some large ledges through a gully to the top. There was plenty of loose rock in the gully so I was glad to have a helmet just to protect from rockfall.
The views from the summit were just as spectacular as I’d hoped. We had about 30 minutes admiring the peaks, naming them, finding new ones to climb. We ate lunch and signed the summit register. There were great views down to gem and snow lake which I’m hoping to explore soon.
The trip back was uneventful, we were tired and the weather started to close in. We saw a few people heading up to Melakwa lake as we were on the way down. As we passed under the freeway for the final mile the weather finally changed and the rain started. I was glad we missed most of it so managed to be relatively dry by the time we made it back to the car.
Way back in 2015 when I visited Seattle for the first time I visited Mount Rainier National Park for the first time. Boyd and I stayed in Ashford and visited Paradise and hiked the Skyline Trail. I was in awe of Mount Rainier, at 14,411 ft (4392 m) it was such a huge mountain that seems to tower over Seattle and can be seen from miles away. In 2015 I never once thought I’d climb all the way to its summit exactly 4 years later.
Mount Rainier National Park
drive time from Seattle
3h + ferry
Glacier travel equipment
Camp and Climbing permit
You do need a permit to climb Mount Rainier and pay a climbing fee, you also need a permit for its backcountry camp spots. I organized permits to climb the Mountain via the DC (Disappointment Cleaver) Route with campsites at Camp Muir. I got The DC route is the most common climbed route up the mountain, it’s maintained by guide services meaning they mark the route with wands and they put up protection for certain hazards. I knew DC was going to be my best chance to get a summit in so I got permits for 3 nights a Muir, hoping to be able to pick a weather window in that time. When the weekend of my permits rolled around we had a great weather window for a Friday night at Muir and summiting Saturday.
I was joined by my friend Ananth and Kat for the climb, Ananth had climbed this route last year and Kat like me was attempting for her first time. We set out from Seattle at 6 am to have enough time for the drive to Paradise and pick up the permits from the Wilderness Information Center and were hiking up to Camp Muir by 10:15. Paradise was shrouded by cloud with very poor visibility so the first 2 miles required a bit more navigating to get to the base of the Muir Snowfield. Pretty much when we got to the bottom of the snowfield we broke through the cloud and had great views up to the summit. With the sun out, we started feeling the heat and worrying about sunburn with the UV being reflected off the snow. The elevation gain up to Muir is around 4600 ft and this took us about 4 hours. Camp Muir is at 10,080 ft so on the way up we started to feel the elevation a little with shortness of breath. There are 9 permanent buildings at Camp Muir includes bathrooms and buildings used by the guided services. It felt like a little community with everyone excited about the upcoming challenge.
We set up our tents on the Cowlitz Glacier and started to prepare for the upcoming climb and melt snow for water. The melting of snow took us so long due to the altitude and we only had one stove for the 3 of us. If I was to do this again I’d definitely make sure we had more. We tried our best to stay out of the sun but it was really difficult with all of us getting sunburnt. The plan for the climb was to start at 11:30 pm to try to get in front of the large guided groups and give us plenty of time to summit. We went to bed at 6 to try and get some sleep in. Unfortunately, with all the people at Muir, there was a really loud talking guy that kept most of us awake. I also had drunk so much water I had to get up at 9 pm to use the bathroom (giving me time to take some photos of the sunset). After the sun went down I was able to get a couple of hours sleep and was pretty disorientated when the alarm went off at 11 pm. Kat accidentally set her alarm for 11 am so we had to wake her up. We were a little slow getting ready and tying into the rope we didn’t start climbing until midnight.
From Camp Muir to the summit the climbing route varies as crevasses open and snow bridges form throughout the year. The guides put up wands (sticks with little flags on it) which you can follow on the way up. We started climbing directly out of Camp Muir in a rising traverse across the Cowlitz Glacier before climbing to the top of Cathedral Gap (10,800 ft). Getting to Cathedral gap required crossing large areas of rocks which required us to short rope (shortening the rope between climbers and making sure it doesn’t drag on the ground) in order to avoid knocking rocks down on other climbers. At the top of Cathedral Gap the route turns to the west and gains the Ingraham Glacier at 11,200 ft where we saw other parties starting from the Ingraham Flats Camp. The altitude made the going a little slow but we did set a good pace and stopped for our first quick rest at Ingrahm Flats. I had some stomach pain which was making the going a little tough but I was hoping to push through. The route then traversed the Ingraham Glacier to the climbers right to go up Disappointment Cleaver. Along this traverse, there are two hazards. The first is a section known as the ‘Icebox’ which has Icefall danger from large seracs on the Ingraham Glacier above and the second is the ‘Bowling Alley’ which is immediately after the ‘Icebox’ and consists of rock fall danger from the rocky cliffs above. We short-roped once we got past the icebox to move quickly through the rocky area and up The Cleaver.
Going up The Cleaver was an easy rock scramble made more difficult being roped to Kat and Ananth and having crampons on. We were able to follow the wands in this section and not get off route onto any more difficult terrain. We were relieved to get off the rocks and onto snow after about 500ft of elevation. The snow was pretty steep but in the dark, you can’t really get a sense of the exposure. The Cleaver is the crux of the route and I was happy we didn’t have much difficulty climbing up it. We took another break at the top (12,300 ft) and I was relieved that my stomach was feeling a little better so I could eat.
The final 2000 ft of elevation is all on glaciers, we lengthened our rope again and followed the switchbacks leading up to the crater rim. Here the wind picked up and I had to put on all my layers to keep warm. The crevasses weren’t very big on the upper glacier and the switchbacks were easy to navigate. The biggest challenges for us was the altitude, we had to continually rest on the way up and trying to keep warm as we rested. The forecast was for 5-15 mph winds but after looking it up after we were getting 10-20. The sun rose around 5 am and we were grateful for the visibility awarding us fantastic views down the Paradise and South to Mount St Helens, Mount Hood and Mount Adams. Ananth was feeling the altitude the worst and we had to give him plenty of time to rest. Kat and I both worried about his condition enough to ask him if he wanted to turn around. He was able to push through and we made the crater just after 6 am. The crater of Mount Rainier is a large flat icefield and is 14,150 ft. We unroped here and Kat and I pushed on across the icefield to sign the register and get to the true summit which is an ice mound called Columbia Crest. Crossing the crater we were reminded we were on a volcano by the presence of steaming rocks on the northern rim. The register was sheltered by the wind which felt really nice to be in the sun and out of the wind. The Columbia Crest was super windy so after getting our summit photos we didn’t hang around.
We descended reasonably quickly stopping twice before we got back to The Cleaver for short layering and sunscreen breaks. As we got lower on the mountain and out of the worst of the wind it started to warm up. The views were amazing on the way down, we got to see all the Crevasses on the Ingraham Glacier that were hidden in the dark. We were conscious to move quickly when we got down to the Bowling Alley because the chance of rockfall is increased with the heat of the day, and we were aware there were groups above us descending that could also knock down rocks on us. On the way back across the Ingraham Glacier, we witnessed a huge rockfall on a cliff above the Cowlitz Glacier which was a stark reminder of the risks we were facing. Travelling on the snow in the sun was hot work so I was glad when we got back to camp to delayer as much as I could (really wish I packed shorts).