Not so much a mountain climb, rather a long, long mountain walk. Even moreso on snowshoes!
THE SHORT VERSION
Approx 12mi RT, 4000′ gain
Snowshoes handy after 3500’ish
Trailhead is basically a gate with barely anywhere to park.
Beautiful views, few people!
There was only one vehicle parked at the trailhead when I arrived. Two sets of footprints headed up the gated road.
A little more than a mile out, the road hits the old CCC road. Here I followed the CCC road right for around a quarter mile. At that point I turned uphill, while the CCC road continues into the forest.
Not long after, a scale house for a small quarry appears on the right. The road makes four switchbacks after this bend before making a long line northeast.
Frozen puddles and sparse, crunchy snow progressively transformed into powder as the steps went by…
At about 3200′ I broke from the main road and followed the tracks up what is marked as a 4×4 road on the maps.
When I got up to 4000′ I broke off onto untrammled snow in the direction of a borrow pit approximately in between South Bessemer and pt. 4965. Had a bite to eat and considered heading towards pt. 4965, but the pre-stomped trail going up South Bessemer was a little more appealing.
Speaking of those tracks, I ran into their creators not long after my stop at the borrow pit. Met them at about 4300′, where the following transpired:
“You’ll see the tracks split up ahead; Go Left! We went right and ended up scrambling steep snow to the top. That’s when we noticed the easy way down. Go Left!”
Indeed, just a few hundred feet below the summit at another snow covered borrow pit, the traveler’s tracks split. I took their advice and went left.
Wind was blowing pretty good at the top, so I didn’t hang around too long, but spun around enough to take in the vast Middle Fork views.
Brrr! It was getting cold, but luckily it got a whole lot less windy coming down.
The snow covered trees and icy hills began to glow in golden light as the sun disappeared behind the cold haze of the horizon.
The light gave up the ghost with a few miles left to go. I draped my headlamp around my neck, but never turned it on.
A sliver of moon and the twinkle of stars glinted off the frozen road way; a ghostly, guiding iridescence in the indifferent cold of winter…
“Oh hey, headlights! Woot!”
Snowshoes were very handy, if not required.
A mountain bike could be used to reduce some of the walking time.
Many more miles of snowy road to explore, Pt.4965 appears to be a good snowshoe objective as well.
A Discover Pass is currently required to park at the sparse trailhead.
Travel to Barclay Lake via the popular trail of the same name.
Once at the lake continue towards it’s eastern end. Here you will likely find a multitude of trails and bootpaths heading uphill in a north-easterly direction.
The route here is fairly well cairn’ed but that’s not to say that it’s always easy to follow. When in doubt head up into the gap.
Stone Lake at 3875′ heralds your entry into the wide marshy lands of Paradise Meadows.
Eagle Lake lies a little over a quarter mile away to the northwest through the meadows. Obscene ruts stomped into this sensitive terrain stumble toward the lake. (Stay on a “trail”, please try not to exacerbate this tragic mess)
Another crude system of paths continue around to the north end of the lake to a campsite and up a narrow chute. Follow it to the base of some wide slabs.
BEYOND THE TRAIL
At the foot of the slabs, Townsend Mountain is effectively wide open to the consummate backcountry ambler.
The traditional route (which occasionally includes a climber’s trail) bears northwest toward the gap between Merchant Peak and Townsend Mountain.
The real hurdle (besides the elevation!) to gain the ridge is finding the holes through the thick brush. Stay in the open when possible
Once on the ridge you’ll find an established boot path running it’s entire span. (not that you need one now)
The main obstacle between you and the summit at this point is distance!
A mountaineers summit register awaits your scribbles under a cairn at the top.
TOP OF THE WORLD
To say the views here are nice would be a ridiculous understatement.
Baring, Merchant and Gunn peaks dominate the skyline south and west with Eagle Lake twinkling below like a daydream.
There exist some established flat spots along the ridge that could fit a small tent should you wanna ridge camp.
A NW forest pass is required for parking at the Barclay Lake trail head.
A wilderness self registration kiosk is along the trail.
This journey begins at the Bare Mountain trailhead, approx. 20 miles out of North Bend down the North Fork road.
Elevation gain: 4000’±
Mileage: 10mi RT±
Ice cold lakes mocking you on a blazing hot day:4
(fortunately Bear Lake is along the way, and pleasantly swimmable!)
The Bare Mountain trail begins upon a very unpleasant substrate of grapefruit sized rocks, which are just a pain in the butt to walk on, especially on the way down, and especially when wet.
The second obstacle of note is the Bear Creek crossing which can be very treacherous during the melt or other high water.
The trail continues along, passing over Bear creek once again, but this time across a steadily deteriorating bridge.
After the bridge, the trail surface turns to dirt and is much more agreeable to walk upon.
Forest gives way to open slopes of Bracken Fern and shrubbery. At about 2 miles you will reach an intersection consisting of a switchback sharply heading left at a 20˚ angle, or a rough hewn trail heading straight ahead.
Heading straight leads to Bear Basin, while the switchback leads to Bare Mountain. Go straight.
The trail leads over a few old bridges in varying states of decay, proceeds to pass some mining debris and aircraft wreckage before reaching another intersection. This time take a left.
This leads to a small open area with scattered debris. Look for a trail heading uphill into the woods. (At the time of this writing it’s marked by a purple dog poop bag)
Keep heading up, over a small bridge made of old pipe, then passing an established camp along the creek.
The trail continues uphill, becoming more rough hewn the higher you get.
You’ll break out of the woods and onto alpine shrubs and talus. Here you might notice the light colored tailing piles of a couple of mines above you. You’ll want to work your way up towards the one on the right.
Climbing the tailings pile will put you in front of an open adit. To the right of it follow the boot path heading up the hill.
Things begin to steepen up here, and in wetter years or during the melt, this area is more or less a waterfall. There is one section that has a helper rope. It comes in handy, but the user agreement clearly states that the rope accepts no responsibility should it break.
The next stop is Bear Lake.
If you intend to overnight, this isn’t a bad place to bivouac for the night.
Leaving the lake, climb up the talus toward the gap to the NW. Here you’ll get your first view of Mt.Phelps, as well as the Paradise Lakes.
Let’s call this Paradise Gap. No wait, I got a better idea! Let’s call it Behr Gap! Gotta stick with the naming consistency!
Anyway, from here gain the ridge to the east. This is the western ridge of Canoe Peak.
Standing atop the ridge will reveal Lennox Mountain, as well as the long traverse you’ll have to surmount to get there. If you keep a good pace, the average hiker can expect to get to the summit in about 2-3 hours from here.
Descend the ridge until it’s more level and head east across boulder sized talus, traversing your way towards Lennox.
Soon you’ll come to a flat meadow area, which is also your last chance for water for some time. This is also a good place to assess the terrain and make your plan.
Gaining the ridge is obvious, but where?
Much of the ridge wall is sheer cliff as you’ll see. Stay low, but on the talus. There will be a treed portion which hides a gap after you ascend loose talus and steep heather.
This will put you on the ridge, looking down upon Coney Basin.
Now head NE, staying below the ridgeline itself.
For the most part this is just more talus travel, but there is a short section in which you’ll make use of narrow meadow ledges to cross some short cliffs.
Eventually you’ll run into a deep gully. Parallel it up the talus, looking for another heather gap.
This will put you on top of the ridge, as well as give you a look at lovely Coney Lake and your quarry; Lennox Summit.
At this point just aim yourself toward the summit and enjoy a walk on top of the world through alpine meadows, heather and world class views.
You made it!
If your legs aren’t noodles by now, the hike back will seal the deal.
If you are driving down the I-90 and spending more time looking out the window than on the road, McClellan’s Butte is hard to miss. It’s the big rocky spire, sorta looks like the Matterhorn from some angles.
Anyway, most rubbernecking hikers probably fall into one of two camps:
A: Man! I gotta climb that thing!
B: There is no F$%#ing way you’d catch me up there!
Well guess what? Ol’ Mac’s Butte is a win-win!
The prominent rocky spire doesn’t disappoint those looking for an airy scramble, and allows some decent bragging rights the next time you’re rubbernecking down the ’90.
Alternatively, if exposed scrambling isn’t your thing, the Butte provides a challenging enough hike and great views from a slightly less lofty perch just below the imposing monolith.
Distance:9-12 miles RT
Elevation gain:3700′ ft (1128m)
Difficulty:YDS-1 hike, YDS-3-4 scramble
Licks to get to it’s center:The world may never know…
McClellan’s Butte is named for General George B. McClellan, a civil war era general and moustache aficionado which history seems to hold in mixed regard.
In 1853, George was here in the Washington territory surveying possible routes for the coming railroad.
Ultimately, he came to the conclusion that Yakima Pass near Tinkham Peak would be the best option for the rails, however no one else of consequence shared his opinion and Yakima Pass was never used.
McClellan’s efforts were however recognized, and his name was bestowed upon the butte, perhaps, some speculate, due to their uncanny resemblance.
Later Ol’ George even made an unsuccessful presidential bid against the incumbent President Abraham Lincoln.
In the end McClellan died of a heart attack in Orange, New Jersey at the age of 58.
We start out just off the Tinkham Road exit on the ’90. The trailhead is just a little way south of the interstate up a dirt road.
(There does however exist cheaters parking area further along the FS 9020)
The trail briefly winds along through forest, then beneath power lines, meandering along old grades. Early along there is a split, either way you’ll end up at the John Wayne Trail (Old Milwaukee Road)
Heading west at the split along an old grade will take you along the “official” trail.
Reaching the Milwaukee Road, you’ll likely hear Alice Creek to your left and might see a bicyclist or two scoot on by, to continue up the butte trail, look to your right.
It’s within this next section that one can find the “old” trail which ambles past the Alice Claim , where one can view a handful of mining relics from an earlier era.
The next grade crossing is that of the FS 9020 (the cheaters parking area), not a lot to see here but a gravel road, and usually some parked cars. Press on!
You may have noticed by now that there are some pretty impressive trees along the trail. Somehow these giants were spared the lumberjacks unforgiving sawblade, while their less fortunate brethren are now only massive stumps.
These are some of, if not the largest trees along the ’90, so feel free to plop your butt down and view them with reverence and awe.
The trail now begins to climb, and soon, at about the halfway point, the next and most dangerous landmarks will appear…
THE AVALANCHE CHUTES
As is evident from the lack of trees (or most anything but rock and snow) avalanches regularly thunder down these gullies when conditions are right for it.
Avalanches don’t always happen when you might expect!
Even during a nice, sunny spring day, so long as there is snow in the upper reaches, a slab of white death can break off and before you can say “Kalamazoo!” you’re history.
Avalanches aside, these gullies can also be dangerous to cross for the unprepared as when they are snow filled they can be extremely steep.
Furthermore they can be undermined by flowing water and a simple posthole could potentially put you in the drink, or worse.
Carry the right gear, and know how to use it.
AHEM, BACK TO THE HIKING…
So after the avalanche gullies, the trail continues up and up.
Eventually you’ll round the south end of the ridge and sparse views of the FORBIDDEN lands of the Cedar River watershed will appear.
The trail does a large sort of U-Turn and soon you’re traversing the west side of the ridge.
(Note: this is a good place to jump off trail if you wanna scramble the whole ridge)
Here is a nice pleasant respite from the singularly upward direction of the trail prior to this, and with westward views and mountain meadows to boot!
Soon you’ll find yourself passing below the large rock walls of the ridge before turning upwards, just below the summit block itself.
A steeper rocky section of trail is the last little bit to conquer before finding yourself at the landing beneath the imposing, monolithic block that is Ol’ Mac.
As you will certainly see, the block is pretty exposed.
Climbing out onto it, you might think that exposed is an understatement when you discover that the block essentially terminates into oblivion, and any resultant falls from here would likely result in death, or worse.
Stay within your comfort zone, this isn’t a place to screw around.
That being said, the block isn’t technically difficult, and affords many hand and footholds that have been tried and tested hundreds of times before. (Never hurts to double check)
I read somewhere that at one time there existed an aviation navigational light at the top of Ol’ Mac, part of a system of lights that guided aircraft to Seattle.
In those times there was also a handhold and more of a path to the top. (At the moment my book collection is in storage, so I’ll get back to you all about the specifics)
Along the scramble you can occasionally spy remnants of those days etched into the rock.
Once on the top you’ll be handsomely rewarded for your efforts (weather permitting) as you are standing upon one of the best viewpoints along the I90.
360º of unobstructed views!
In Cascade Alpine Guide vol. 1, Beckey describes a couple different routes;
One of them is ascending to the summit ridge via the upper south slopes by way of the second avalanche gully as a moderate winter or spring snow climb.
This one I can vouch for, as a couple friends and I took it one spring without knowing it was really a route. The slopes here are steep, but if you keep your wits about you, the ascent to the ridge is a piece of cake. Some light class 3 scrambling is the worst of it.
Keep in mind however, there are a lot of loose rocks, and you are climbing directly above a fairly popular trail.
Another is the East Spur, which I gather is essentially taking the first avalanche gully directly to the summit, I’ve looked at it and intend to give it a try someday, appears to be a long class 2-3 scramble.
The NORTH BASIN is more of a climbing route, popular when the basin is snow filled. I have read that the rock near the upper reaches is pretty loose and crumbly and may have been a factor in a 2005 fatality along this route.
McClellan’s Butte has a little something for everybody, and while a popular destination, thus far never seems too crowded.
Besides the summit block, the entire trail is YDS class 1, however, McClellan’s Butte, or any mountain should never be taken lightly; Steep Slopes, avalanche chutes, and George McClellan’s ghost are just a few hazards one may encounter while treading upon it’s flanks.
There is often water available along the route, so bring a filter etc and fill up along the way.
Anyway, be prepared, leave it better than you found it, see ya there
Take exit 42 West Tinkham Rd. and head south, you’ll pass a WSDOT facility and a gated road on your right before coming to another road veering up and right to the trailhead. Sometimes this is signed, other times not. Either way it is a very short drive from the freeway offramp, so if you can’t find it, you probably went too far.
Currently a NW Trailpass is required for parking.
Beckey, Fred, Cascade Alpine Guide vol.1 Columbia River to Stevens Pass. The Mountaineers Books, 1973
I’ve been up Mt.Teneriffe many times, with many people. It’s been a favorite of mine since I first trudged up it’s steep slopes, if not for the views and the challenge of getting to the top, then certainly for the lack of crowds.
I hadn’t been here in a couple years though, and was surprised this time around to see that some pretty significant changes have been made, namely a new trail to the summit.
While those in the know have for years known that an alternate to the Kamikaze route existed, slogging up old logging roads and faint boot paths between Mt.Si and Teneriffe, as of late summer 2014 the WA DNR turned it into an official trail.
How about that?
Great right!? A steady moderate grade on a nice even surface as compared to the stiff hike and light scrambling it used to take to get to the top, I’ll bite!
Hell, I can even loop it with ease now, and I do love a good loop.
Well all is not as it seems, for what the new trail offers in easy grade, it doles out distance in spades.
The new trail is 7 miles to Teneriffe summit! Yowza! That’s compared to the steeper old path which is only a couple miles from trailhead to mountaintop.
Well lets throw on some boots and see what this thing has to offer…
The Teneriffe trailhead is little more than a dirt turn out a little ways further down the road from the much more popular Mt.Si trailhead. While the Mt.Si trailhead is tantamount to a Wal*Mart parking lot, the Teneriffe trailhead really can’t hold more than a dozen vehicles at best.
There are “No Parking” signs along the road and I understand that the neighbors WILL call the towing company.
During peak season, the strategy here is to get in early, or get lucky, oh and a Discover Pass is required to park.
The trail begins uneventfully enough down a DNR road passing through young forest, most likely logged in the early 80s. The road comes to a fork that until very recently wasn’t marked.
You’d just have to know which way to go, but now there is a shiny new sign directing hikers to bear right to “Teneriffe Falls”.
The left fork as of this writing is still unmarked, this is the “new” trail between Mt.Si and Mt.Teneriffe.
THE “NEW” TRAIL
Heading left, the trail continues along the DNR road passing little rivulets cascading down the mountainside before climbing up into denser forest.
The grade is mostly modest but long. However it does travel through pleasant forest and every so often slight views will open up in thinner stands of trees which breaks up the monotony a bit.
When I was passing through, the forest was alive with the songs of black-capped chickadees and Varied Thrush, which made me wonder why in the hell anyone wears headphones while they hike, I mean really!
Just about then a trailrunner jogged by with headphones on, eh, to each their own I guess. Which reminds me, I imagine this would be a great trail for trailrunning as the grade is mostly very even and the path is broad.
Ahem…. So after about four miles or so of long switchbacks the grade relents a bit and the views start to be revealed.
A fork will appear in the road around this time. As of this writing it is marked with a blue ribbon, but really it’d be impossible to miss whether or not that shred of plastic was dangling there.
Going left will result in arriving at Mt.Si in a half hour or less, while going right is approximately another three miles to Mt.Teneriffe. Alright, come on, my legs are aching too, lets keep going….
Thankfully the grade remains mostly light and/or level for awhile giving you a chance to recuperate. The views here really start to open up as well, including an interesting view of “The Haystack” jutting forth from the conifers, seemingly eyeballing you like an immense and hungry Golem.
The tread seems to go on forever until finally reaching a viewpoint to points northward, the first views of such available thus far.
Take a minute to rest up because the trail begins to climb from here yet again.
The switchbacks begin immediately through the upland forest, and you can’t help but feel like you are really getting close now. Then you gain the ridge and start up! Yes, finally, almost there….er, or not. Nope, instead we find ourselves atop the high point more or less northwest of the Teneriffe summit.
Even my legs are aching good now.
Next the trail winds about along a very steep, forested drop off and eventually begins to climb again.
This has got to be it… I think I see blue between the trees, yes it’s sky alright! Phew!
The trail breaks out of the woods and dumps you out about mid-point on the Teneriffe summit block. If you have any gas left a light scramble will take you the rest of the way up. You did it!
The summit is a nice perch offering great views in all directions.
WARNING: In snowy conditions Mt.Teneriffe can have a nasty cornice on top, if it gives way, or you slip, it’s a long ways down to your certain doom.
When it’s time to head down you can either go back the way you came for a 14-mile roundtrip, or cut down the mileage but increase the difficulty by heading down the old trail.
THE OLD TRAIL (KAMIKAZE FALLS)
So beginning from the fork in the DNR road this time we bear right in the direction indicated by the nice, new and shiny Teneriffe Falls sign.
The road ambles along, crosses an ephemeral creek and starts gently climbing, becoming more and more of a trail the higher you get.
Small views begin to open up as you climb above the treetops before the road comes to something of an end marked with a sign. A boot path continues on along the road, but ignore it and head up onto the open talus above you.
After a few switchbacks the well built trail really starts to climb, and the T/A truck stop at the exit 34 really starts to become a fixture of your southern views. Try to look beyond it.
The trail continues to switchback up and up through conifer forest and talus with occasional views opening up along the way. This is a decent workout for most people, but every step is worth it when you finally reach Kamikaze Falls (Teneriffe Falls).
I first knew this place as Kamikaze Falls, I don’t know what the history behind the name is, except maybe that Kamikaze is said to mean “Divine Wind” in Japanese, and usually a divine wind does seem to issue forth from the falls.
Maybe it’s being changed because of Kamikaze’s WWII connotations, or maybe it was Teneriffe Falls this whole time, hell, I dunno. A rose by any other name I guess…
This is a great destination in itself.
During the summer you can indulge in a cooling shower beneath it’s cascading waters, or marvel at ice formations during winter cold snaps. Kamikaze Falls is incredibly photogenic destination any time of year.
With low mileage, open views and a beautiful waterfall at the end, Kamikaze Falls is a great goal for someone in kind of the low-middle range of hiking endurance looking for a new challenge and a huge reward.
At this point if you feel like trudging up to Teneriffe Summit be warned, the rest of this hike isn’t for the timid or out of shape. It’s steep, relentless and often nothing more than a faint boot path.
Look for a trail on your right, it’s a lot more well marked these days so you ought not to have trouble finding it.
The trail basically takes off like a rocket here, gaining the ridge in little time.
Get used to this grade, it’s the norm from here on out.
The route mostly follows the ridge spine, only deviating here and there. Occasionally light scrambling may be necessary up rock outcrops.
Most of the way you will find the trail is big on gain, but short on views. However that all changes rather suddenly as you break out of the trees. On a clear day the views are fantastic! Rainier dominates the south while the burgeoning Puget Sound mega-sprawl stretches along beneath the Olympics to the west.
Here you will find yourself on even steeper terrain, up mountain meadows and patches of trees before coming out near the bottom of the summit block.
During winter months it is advisable to bring some form of traction aid along with you, such as micro spikes or poles (or both!) it can be treacherous around here.
The final climb is little more than a light scramble when snow free and offers ample room for all you summit apes to enjoy a picnic surrounded by 360° of the kind of stuff some people can only dream about.
Now that you are familiar with the Teneriffe trails, from here the world is your oyster, well, if you still have some gas in the tank.
Make it a loop, take a stroll to Mt.Si or come back the way you came!
As always, leave only footprints and take only pictures, oh take and any garbage you might find along the way too. Not to get preachy but just because orange peels and banana wrappers are “biodegradable” doesn’t mean they should just be tossed on the ground. If you can’t pack it out, don’t pack it in.
As one of the first mountains one encounters heading eastbound on the I90, you’d think Mt. Washington would be one of the more popular hikes in the area.
Although it does see it’s share of people everyday I’m sure, it just doesn’t draw the crowds like it’s more famous neighbors Mt.Si and Mailbox Peak.
A few possible reasons for this are that it doesn’t really have it’s own trailhead, instead branching off of the Iron Horse trail and when viewed from the ground it doesn’t appear very spectacular.
It lacks an impressive summit block like Mc Clellans Butte or “The Haystack” and when viewed from just about any angle it really just looks like a non-descript lump of green.
Also at a scant 4420′, it seems like the runt of the I90 litter.
I’m guilty of it, I’ve driven by countless times and not really given it a second thought. I’ve passed it up for years, seeking more exciting and open looking mountain slopes along the road when the day-hike bug bites.
Well my friends, I was wrong. I said it, wrong. Turns out Mt.Washington is one hell of a hike.
Yeah, who knew, right?
Oh, and don’t let it’s unassuming demeanor and modest stature fool you, when the bell rings, this one comes out of the corner swinging!
The first part of the trail is an unrelent…. Let’s go back and start from the beginning.
We start off the exit 38, at the John Wayne trail/Twin Falls trailhead. There is usually adequate parking here and FYI, a Discover Pass is required. (Ranger Rick was handing out tickets when I pulled into the parking lot today)
Follow the trail up to the John Wayne trail and bear right, (westward) you’ll be looking for a trail on your left, heading up into the woods. You might be confused when you find it but, yeah, thats it. Hell of a trailhead, huh?
This is where I was going before…
It doesn’t take long before the trail starts beating on you with an unrelenting, steep grade, often capped with loose, jagged rock. This section of trail will devastate the legs of the uninitiated. The one encouragement I can give you is that this, at least in my humble opinion, is by far the most arduous section of the whole hike.
Along the way it passes a cut-off to Sallal (sic) Point. I haven’t yet visited the place so, no comment.
The thigh attrition finally begins to subside right around the “Owl Spot” lookout. Now, thats not to say the rest of the hike is cake or anything, but from here on out, I feel the worst is over. This is also your first real clear view of the world below. Take a breather, soak it in, you’ve earned it.
Not long after, you’ll catch your first glimpse of the summit….aaand it’s still a long ways away, keep the faith!
You’ll pass the Great Wall Junction which is an alternate route to the summit, or perhaps the tail end of a loop. I’ll talk more about it later.
The trail steadily becomes more pleasant, passing through open areas and affording views of the mountainsides. You’ll soon find yourself at a tranquil mountain pond and a fork in the road. It may appear that turning right here is a viable option, crossing the little creek and making a beeline towards the summit. This however, as I found out first hand, is not the case.
Not long afterwards you’ll encounter a strange gate. What is it’s purpose? Is it keeping us out or in? Is this the Canadian border? I’m still scratching my head. I have no idea what in the hell this thing could possibly have been built for. Whatever…
The trail now rounds the inside of the bowl between Mt.Washington and the high spot to the east. (Great Wall Peak?) Soon it begins climbing up Mt.Wa’s flanks though forest and talus. Rounding the bend you think you are almost there and then… crap.
Up and up, keep pressing on.
The trail crosses an old logging road before the final push to the summit.
As you wind up the backside of the summit, views open up to the south, Rainier, Rattlesnake Ledge, Chester Morse Lake and points beyond. Not much more than a stroll through the high meadows will bring you some even more commanding views from the summit.
Oh and a weather station, which kinda just lives there, and hungry birds, they live there too.
The Great Wall Loop
Going down can be as easy as retracing your steps back to the car, or you can turn it into a loop. I love a good loop, so lets go that way.
Perhaps when you were heading up the meadows, you noticed a lightly trodden trail heading down the ridge towards the southeast. It leads back to the last logging road the trail crossed.
Maybe too you noticed the open spaces across the bowl on your way up, or that little cliff above a flat spot over yonder. The logging road you crossed will take you over there. This to my knowledge is the Great Wall Trail.
You’ll follow it along the rim of the bowl. To the south side of the road you can’t help but notice the Cedar River Watershed’s no trespassing signs stapled to the trees, occasionally you may see red reflectors tacked to the trees on the north side.
Considering what it took you to get up here, this is paradise! Strolling along a flat road grade on the top of the world, you’ll probably dance a jig!
Jig your jolly self down the road a ways you’ll come to a “Y”, I don’t know where going forward leads, but taking the hard left and down will lead on along the Great Wall trail.
It gets better!
Soon huge views open up of McClellans Butte, Putrid Pete and many other I90 peaks to the east. The Change Creek basin appears like an abyss below, as the little logging road carries you along, across perilously steep slopes.
You might be thinking just who in the hell would have ever driven a truck on this!
“Tell em’ Large Marge sent ya…”
One thing to note here is that this section, due to it’s steep and open slopes could be potentially dangerous in adverse snow conditions. That is to say, looks pretty slide prone to me. Be sure to check: http://www.nwac.us/ for the current avalanche forecast.
Despite that, this in my opinion is the best part of this entire hike, ambling along a gentle grade, and being inundated by majestic views.
There is a kind of tricky part coming up in store for you though, as you’ll hit another junction.
One way switchbacks to the north, the other seems to enter low growing alder saplings. The natural tendency is to continue down the switchback, but upon closer examination one may see a small cairn near the dead end alder. This is the correct way down the Great Wall trail.
If you turn around you may see a small sign which indicates that the trail down the switchback leads to Change Creek, which is another viable way back to the John Wayne trail, but not the subject of this review.
Following the route as marked by the diminutive cairn, the trail again enters old, steep, logging grade through young forest of alder and mixed conifer.
Eventually you will pass by a dramatic cliff which I think is the “Great Wall”. The trail becomes narrow here and there is a drop off, but nothing to worry about.
Continue on and before you know it you are back at the Mt.Wa-Great Wall Jct. All thats left to do now is head back to the car. Congratulations, you did it! Hopefully you displayed the right pass and won’t find a ticket waiting under your windshield wiper.
I greatly underestimated Mt.Washington for years, but now have discovered just what a gem in the I90 Crown that it really is. There is much to discover along it’s forested slopes.
The trail is often flanked by subtle yet imposing cliffs which really adds a certain atmosphere to this hike, some of which have interesting caves and grottos as well.
The views, I have to admit, are fantastic and even surpass those of it’s more famous neighbors (not going to name names here so as not to hurt any feelings)
While it is a physically demanding hike with steep, long grades and an 8.5 mile roundtrip while hiking the standard route, it doesn’t offer any technical challenges to get to the summit. Given enough time it should be attainable for most people of reasonable physical constitution.
Don’t make the mistake I did for years and just poo-poo Mt.Washington as you drive on by, seeking bigger and better things.
After all you might just be driving by your new favorite hike!
This isn’t a recent report, rather just some reflections and a general guide to one of the most recognizable behemoths off the highway 2, Baring Mountain.
The first time I tried to climb this beast, I wasn’t quite prepared. It was still early August 2012 I think. In most of my other trips to the high country that summer, the snow was already long gone, and after all, the mountain didn’t look snowy…
So I’ll just take it from the top, the trip starts out at the Barclay Lake trailhead, which is really gaining in popularity, so parking can sometimes start a distance from the actual trailhead/kiosk/porto dumpers. A NW Trail pass is required to park at the trailhead, and vicinity.
Instead of heading down the Barclay lake trail, continue forward, over the gravelly berm and up what I imagine was probably an old logging road.
Here’s the trick now, you gotta keep an eye on the hillside to your right, sometimes the “trail” is flagged sometimes it’s not, really I use the term trail very loosely. Actually lets just go with route.
Eventually you’ll see the narrow boot swath near a rivulet coming down the hill. Things become immediately brutal from about this point onward.
It’s pretty difficult to describe the route with any great detail, sometimes there is a worn boot path, sometimes it disappears, I guess it’s best to say it goes up, and damn does it ever.
You are trying to gain the west ridge extending from doppel-lith that is Mount Baring, and unless you are a decent routefinder, it’s best to go with someone who has been up there before. Although there is only a bit of light scrambling along the way, it’s a steep, often muddy, thigh destroying slog up to the ridge. Coming down can even be worse, especially in the fading light, not the kinda place you wanna be hiking down in the dark.
Once you finally gain the ridge, you begin heading east toward the summits. This part of the route actually has a followable trail along much of it’s length, and although there is elevation gain, after what you went up through to get up here, it feels like a walk through woodland paradise.
However, then steep gain starts again, this time switchbacking up and up, at one point you’ll pass the remains of an old camp, marked with a coffee can.
Eventually you’ll end up crossing into a large bowl and the alpine terrain finally begins to open up. The initial view is breathtaking, and possibly terrifying for some. After that long, long slog… you have the colossus looming before you. Really though I find this next bit less exerting, and I think it’s because the views are so vast.
I like trees, don’t get me wrong… but for me there is just something a little more rewarding and less tiring about sweeping, majestic views. Maybe it’s because you really feel like your toils are resulting in real distance gained, or maybe it’s because those airy regions have a pain killing effect, whatever the reason, on to our next section.
Depending on the time of the time of year you’ll immediately notice either a huge snow filled gully seperating the two summits, or a huge boulder and talus gully performing the same act. The first time I came here it was the former, but it was breaking apart and quick.
You’ll need an ice axe here. The moment I saw the gully, I realized this, and realized my journey was pretty much at an end. I decided to amble over just to check it out and have a little fun in the snow along it’s lower regions. However, the snow field was dotted with large pits, some fairly deep. Even with an ice axe, it wouldn’t have been the best time to try and scale the thing.
So…..I came back a month or so later and the gully was ice free! The talus scrambling wasn’t the best, lots of it loose and pretty steep, but made it up. At the notch there is a minor scramble to get onto Baring’s north peak. There is a trail here in place and really only light scrambling the rest of the way to the summit. I was surprised really, I thought it’d be a lot more airy and exposed. You can get all the terrifying heights and exposure with just one glance off the north face though.
The next time I went up Baring was in late June, a friend of mine wanted to go and it was a beautiful day to boot. This time we were prepared with crampons and ice axes. The route was totally snow free by that time until you enter the bowl beneath the huge gully.
I gotta say, this is the time of year/conditions you wanna take this beast on…
The climb up the gully was so much better on the snow, and with the contrast of green trees and blue skies makes it just that much more satisfying. There is however an added obstacle that comes with snow being left on the mountain…
At the notch there is a snow wall instead of a scramble, and depending on the time of year this thing can be pretty damn big so I’ve heard. When we got there, it was dauntingly steep but not as tall as I have read it gets. We didn’t have too much trouble with it, but I’ll tell you it is most definitely perilous. It’s sharp grade would put you in a severe world of hurt or worse if it got away from you. Certainly not for novices.
After the snow wall the rest of the route is cake, even on snow. When we got up to the summit, the block had long been melted out and provided light scrambling to the summit.
There are not a lot of views like the one from Baring Mountain, especially like the completely vertical drop down to Barclay lake. Wave to all the campers! I get a kick at looking down at Der Baring store (a favorite breakfast stop) from over a mile above. It really is a spectacular perch.
Baring Mountain is a great trip for those that are starting to move away from the more trodden trails and want a more mountaineering sort of experience. It offers much, but also demands much, it is not for the timid or out of shape, but for the alpine hiker, it is an unforgettable experience.
Mt.Pugh is a beast. That pretty much sums it up, thanks for reading…..
Really, that is all one needs to know about this behemoth, at 5300′ of gain in not much more than five miles it’s a thigh burner to say the least. It’s also not a place for acrophobics, the upper reaches are abundant in dramatic drop offs, airy perches and scramble routes snaking along impossible looking rock.
The Mt.Pugh trailhead is found at the very east reaches of the Mtn Loop Hwy, and a NW trailpass is required to park.
There isn’t much of a parking lot to speak of, but that being said, it shouldn’t be impossible to find parking. The road in, at the time of this writing, is more or less suitable for all vehicles.
It’s easy to miss the trailhead if you’ve never been here before, so keep an eye out for other cars and if there are none, a trailhead kiosk on the right after taking a wide left bend in the road.
The trail gets going through fairly dense forest, modestly climbing up to Lake Metan. It’s not much of a lake, and has very limited shore access.
The waters are still here and of a dark tea color, the result of tannins leaching from the fallen coniferous debris. I think Lake Metan is an endorheic lake and it’s waters have a distinct taste, even when filtered. It is however your last chance for water until much later in the hike, and that is only if you know where to hop off the trail to get some snowmelt.
Lake Metan also affords some established camping spots if you poke around.
Leaving Lake Metan the trail begins to climb in earnest, switchbacking beneath the tall trees and mixed brush. There isn’t a whole lot to do or see along this section but climb, though keeping an eye out might yield some mushrooms.
After what probably seems like a lot longer than it should have taken you’ll break out into a large boulder and talus field, the “knife edge” ridge looming above you. I always kind of think of this as the first part of a trick the mountain pulls on you,
“Oh, well I guess thats not too far to the top”…..
The trail continues up and to the notch to the north, across mixed talus and boulders, some of them loose and infested with evil screaming Pikas. Don’t let them get in your head man, they’re waiting for you to roll your ankle, then they’ll strike!
You’re heading up toward the grassy gap in between a pair of rock buttresses, this is known as Stujack Pass. As far as passes go, I don’t know what ol’ Stu Jack was trying to pass here. He could have just saved a lot of time and elevation by going around the mountain.
Climbing up to Stujack, switchbacking up through steep meadow, the elevation disparity begins to increase dramatically. I imagine right around here is where acrophobics may begin to get uncomfortable. Near the top of the pass meadows give way to crumbling rock which will henceforth from here become common grade.
The trail then snakes up more steep meadow, alpine trees and rock until you begin to gain the “knife edge” ridge and get your first view of Mt.Pugh proper, or the second part of the trick I like to think,
“Wait…what the hell is that? We’re climbing THAT!?”
You’ll now begin to make your way across the “knife edge” ridge, which is full of those aforementioned dramatic drop offs, airy perches and snaking scrambles. To your right and about 1000′ below you is the boulder field you recently ascended from. In many places it would only take one misstep to get right back down there.
On your other side is a narrow glacier occupying a fault which bisects the mountain. I’ve read that this is known as the Straight Creek fault, and thusly, without any other proper given name, the glacier by default could be called Straight Glacier. Sounds good to me. It’s interesting to note the distinct change in the rock type when you cross the fault where the knife ridge and Mt.Pugh meet.
She blinded me with science! SCIENCE!
Not far into the ridge you might see some heavy bolts jutting out from the rock, and if you investigate the area further you’ll discover the remains of the old tram winch that used to supply the fire lookouts on the summit (both long gone) The winch spool is still fully wound with cable. Enjoy the history and leave it how you found it.
You’ll continue along the ridge, up and over rock, across perilously narrow paths with hair-raising drop offs and finally to the moment when you are looking across the fault, face to face with Mt.Pugh’s steep rock face.
Even right in front of you, the path is still obscured and the rockface unclimbable. With no where else to go, you cross the fault and then a scramble path, blown into the rock many years ago, reveals itself.
The scramble itself is not difficult and feels a lot more protected than some of the stuff you experienced along the ridge.
You’ll now begin to hike again along steep airy meadows, the Sauk Valley thousands of feet below. There is one more scramble section ahead, across a slab that isn’t too wide, but is often covered with loose rock. Be careful.
The rest of the way is very pleasant, (unless you are terrified of heights) switchbacking up the heather and jutting rock as you make your way to the summit, on a clear day drinking up the incredible views of the Mtn. Loop neighborhood and beyond.
When you finally reach the summit you will be greeted by Glacier Peak dominating the eastern horizon, Whitechuck to the north and Sloan Peak to the south. The entire 360° panorama is amazing and is sure not to disappoint!
The summit is pretty spacious, providing much opportunity for your own little private picnic. There would be places to sleep up here with a bivy sack, and could probably set up a tent on the old Fire lookout platform. Maybe I’ll try that next time