Surprise Gap Snowshoe 


Weather predictions were promising for the weekend, though you’d never be able to guess by looking out of the rain spattered windshield as Nealbob and I drove by Skykomish.

In little time we were at the Surprise Creek trailhead, a few cars were parked near the kiosk. Wandering patches of rain and chilly spring temperatures persuaded me to throw on my rain gear.

Right off the bat I was wondering how long I’d be giving my snowshoes a piggyback ride up the hill, but before long the grade gave way to boot packed snow. I happily untethered the snowshoes from my bag and kept them on my feet the rest of the trip. They’d be totally indispensable later! 

Avalanche heaps bedecked the open slopes of the lower Surprise Creek Valley and a particularly large one reached down the eastern slope far enough that the footpath was forced to cross it’s undulating surface. 

Beyond the slide we passed two parts of a single party with about 15 mins in between them. Both had turned back at/or around the climb up the outlet stream. Another party we encountered along the way said they’d been to Surprise Lake and not much further beyond.

The climb up the hill was straightforward, but required crossing some decaying snow bridges and skirting a drop off or two which kept it fun. 

At Surprise Lake (4508′) we consistently started hitting deeper snow that made travel without snowshoes very difficult, which limited the further travels of Nealbob on this outing. 

Home is wherever you find it.


Adequately traveled for the day, we set up camp in a patch of trees near the outlet of the lake. 

After boiling up a bit of hot tea and some post hike conversing, I donned my snowshoes again to see if I couldn’t catch a break in the clouds up at Glacier Lake (4806′). Nealbob’s canine companion Dora decided to join me on the relatively short journey. 

In about a mile over crusty forest snow, the dog and I arrived at the north end of the lake. Conditions had improved to reveal views to Surprise Gap (5800′) but with a constant cloud cap right around the 6200′ level. 

 Jack London Calling


The night was cold, but after throwing on all my layers and wrapping tight in my 30°F bag, it wasn’t unpleasant. 

Above me, transient morning clouds were glowing with the promise of a sunny day as I fired some water for coffee to get the day caffeinated. 

Snores were coming from Nealbob’s tent as I ambled out of camp on my morning tour. Dora wasn’t far behind. 

Glacier Lake was the first destination and made for some stunning scenery as the clouds had now broken and let the blue of the sky tantalize us earthbound mortals.  

Trees are the view so saith the bumper sticker

Dora and I trammeled the untouched snow along the east shore of the lake, snapping pics and plodding along in the general direction of Surprise Gap. 

In a clearing we encountered a set of weathered ski tracks, the only tracks I’d seen since Surprise Lake, but opted not to follow.

Breaking out of the trees and into the vast avalanche bowl at the head of the valley, the change in contrast was blinding. 

I plopped my butt down near some squat trees right at the base of Surprise Mountain and took in the views and some nourishing trail sustenance. Dora tried to eyeball me out of my mixed nuts and granola. “I already gave you my jerky!”

Surprise Mountain slide


Refueled and rewatered, the two of us set off up the gap. The scenery grew wider with each crunchy step up the hard frozen snow. 

Along the east side of the bowl I again noticed the set of ski tracks, a small avalanche had covered a portion of the otherwise unbroken line. 

We headed for the shady side to make our ascent, crossing the ski tracks as they switchbacked to the top.  

At the top of the gap a light wind was blowing from the south, it felt good after the trudge. The ski tracks curiously continued on down towards the Deception Lakes. 

Wonder where they were headed…

Descending the gap


By the time Dora and I returned to camp, Nealbob had already broken down his kit and was snapping pics of the much improved scenery. 

I put on one last pot of coffee as I started packing my little home back into my bag. The light of the sun was now filling the entire Surprise Creek Valley, and turning the snow into mush. Glad I had my snowshoes! 

Just after descending the steeper section of the route, we passed a determined fellow headed up the hill in a pair of shorts and high tops. 

“How far is it to the lake?”, he asked. 

Oh, ya got maybe another mile or so and a bit of gain.” we answered “Good luck!”

With that, he postholed through the slush and off into the trees…


  • Trail is snow covered for most of its length. 
  • Snowshoes were helpful, and necessary for travel beyond Surprise Lake. (Unless you love to posthole)
  • Beware decaying snow bridges. 
  • Be mindful of ever changing snow conditions.
  • Avalanche is a very real danger in the mountains, educate yourself before traveling in avalanche terrain.
El lobo y el lago


      A camp site conversation touched on the possibility of adding instant apple cider mix to some oatmeal. Nealbob and I agreed it could be a winner.

      Happy Trails…

      AIARE 1

      Upward and onward!

      A couple of weeks ago I took an AIARE (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) course via The Mountaineers, and taught by the good people at BC Adventure Guides.

      We spent a couple lecture days in Tacoma going over the materials, watching videos and getting a handle on avalanches in general.

      Questions were asked and answered, coffee was consumed and one guy had the wrong classroom.

      The following weekend we met for the field portion at Snoqualmie Pass.

      Witchcraft, clearly.


      Checked NWAC before leaving the house.

      We marched up around Silver Fir Lodge to become acquainted with our avalanche beacons and to delve into companion rescue.

      It didn’t take long to realize just how screwed you are if you are buried without a beacon.

      In very little time at all we went from barely knowing how to turn the things on to locating buried beacons in the snow as a team.

      If we had to find the same beacons using only probes….we’d still be looking.

      Life and death right there. Seriously.

      “And on the first day he dugeth a test pit and saw that it was good”


      Checked NWAC before leaving (there is a theme here)

      Today was about putting everything we learned together into a mini tour of Mt.Hyak.

      We dug a couple pits and made many field observations along the way.

      Whichwaysthewinda’blowin’? Howhardisshea’howlin’? Howmuchsnosa’snowin’?

      With the NW slope of Mt.Catherine as our backdrop we focused on snowpack observations and field tests.

      Our Rutschblock Test was particularly amusing and insightful.

      Skiers curiously eyeballed us as they occasioned by, some even asked about our findings

      Oh that reminds me, our “avalanche victims” deserve a round of applause as well…Daytime Emmys for everybody!

      Through the woods

      As we traveled back to the parking lot some ideas started congealing in my brain:

      Reluctant to part with the money for a beacon…?

      Experiencing firsthand the difference an avalanche beacon makes when trying to locate an avalanche victim is stunning.

      If you don’t want to buy one, you could always rent one instead. BCAdventures offered rentals, as well as a list of retailers that rented beacons as well.

      Remember: Money… you can’t take it with you!

      “This is some serious s#!t buddy!”

      Winter time travel in the mountains is inherently dangerous and many of our familiar summer routes bear grave avalanche risk in the winter months.

      Sadly, some kill year after year.

      Any loaded slope of sufficient grade can slide and various terrain features can exacerbate that risk.

      Knowing how to choose terrain is probably the single greatest thing you can do to save your life.

      I probably could have learned this stuff on my own…

      Yeah I suppose you could, in theory.

      I knew a lot of things going into this class, but I left it with more than I probably would have ever learned by myself.

      Also, there is no substitute for learning from an experienced guide that can answer all of your questions… well, about avalanches anyway.

      Would you take this course again in hindsight?


      Der Rutschblock

      Do you know avalanche terrain?

      Maybe you are missing out on deeper backcountry because you are too cautious?

      Maybe you’ve had one foot in the grave for years without ever even knowing it?

      Do you know?

      I highly suggest taking an AIARE 1 course in your area if you ever intend to travel in avalanche terrain. (aka teh intir mowntens)

      If you don’t, you’ll be happy the person who digs you out did.

      If you get dug out…

      Happy Trails!




      Bitter Creek

      Index-Galena washout…again.

      Took a trip up to the Bitter Creek cirque via the abandoned forest service road (NF-6310 on google maps)

      Not really looking for anything particular this time, but there are mines in the area.


      I’d say this is a moderate, albeit brushy hike for most people in reasonable shape. If you are a vigilante trail worker you might wanna bring a saw or loppers.

      There are a couple of gully/creek crossings that may be difficult or impossible to pass in high water.

      Wildlife was abundant. Grouse on every other switchback, lots of bobcat “sign”, and even surprised some mountain goats at one of the gully crossings!

      Las cabras monteses

      There is also a great deal of old growth to see at the higher elevations of the road.

      Entering the cirque was like hiking in a whole new land.

      A light but heavily crystallized snow coated the grade and a steady cold air flowing from the mountain kept the cirque in a perpetually frosted state.

      This effect was more pronounced near the creek and in low troughs.

      The road splits near it’s end, the left route is said to take you to a gully in which are a couple of mines (I have not yet visited)

      The cirque head

      The right route heads toward the cirque head but terminates not long after the fork.

      I found flagging and evidence of a bootpath that may continue into the cirque, a climber’s route perhaps, but due to time constraints, this for me was the end of the line.

      Bitter Creek

      I’d definitely recommend this to the more adventurous hiker seeking to explore some new ground, but it’s difficulty is low enough that most reasonably healthy people could make the trip.

      That being said, it is overgrown and has enough deadfalls that it could pose problems to less experienced hikers.


      The road less traveled…


      Distance: 8 miles RT ± (13km RT±) from roadblock

      Gain: 1,640ft ± (500m ±)

      Difficulty: YDS 1-2


      Take the US-2 to Index-Galena Rd. continue along Index-Galena Rd. until roadblock at Lewis Creek. Hike approx 1 mile to NF-6310.

      RED TAPE

      I think you might need a NW Forest Pass. The Index-Galena Road is currently (DEC2015) closed at the Lewis Creek parking area, so you’ll have to hoof it from there.








      Ol’ Blewett


      Rain, rain and more rain was on the forecast today. Despite that, armchair enthusiasm was running high!

      We headed up for Snoqualmie Pass, bolstered by rumor that there was enough snow to make it worth the effort to break the snowshoes from their long, long hibernation.

      Well, there was snow, but it was a lot higher than any of us really cared to hike in this sorta November slop.

      So instead Blewett!

      If it’s rainy on the west side, it’s usually a little less so over there. The fact that the place is absolutely steeped in mining history is another selling point, at least so long as I’m concerned.

      The arrastra
      The Arrastra

      We got to the old townsite and took a quick tour.

      First we swung by the arrastra, a curious artifact sandwiched between the US 97 and Peshastin Creek just south of the Blewett historical marker.

      The crushenator
      The Crushenator

      The second site we visited was the remains of the old stamp mill, which is in surprisingly good condition considering the proximity to the highway. Definitely a gem hidden in plain sight for the history minded road tripper.

      Briefly we headed back down the highway thinking that a hike along Negro Creek would be fun, but with the high water, didn’t seem worth the treacherous crossing. So…back to Blewett.

      We built this city on Rock n’ Roll

      We followed the little footpath which passes the Keynote Tunnel and followed it to it’s end before beginning  uphill.

      Two thick metal cables were stretched down the hillside, inviting us upwards to find their source.

      Gaining the ridge granted us some beautiful views of the surrounding hillsides partitioned by low, soggy looking clouds.

      Nuclear Moss
      Nuclear Moss

      Continuing up, we passed countless collapsed adits and cuts, sometimes marked by small piles of shattered, milky quartz left behind by those who still search these hills for precious metal.

      One small cut even contained a pick axe and shovel. Modern no doubt, but waterlogged and weathered.

      Old tram something probably

      The ridge made a nice stopping point and allowed us ample views up and down the US97 corridor.

      Leaving the ridge, we opted for a more direct path to the car.


      Blewett can be a fun place to visit, but be aware that there is a lot of privately claimed land in the area and many potential hazards in the form of open shafts and deteriorating tunnels.

      Respect all private property postings, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because many sites are full of hazards, and… some people can get pretty weird when that funny yellow metal is involved. Just a friendly word of caution.

      As always PACKITINPACKITOUT!, leave it better than you found it, take only pictures leave only feet prints, and especially in the Blewett area: STAY OUT, STAY ALIVE

      It is in these hills that Juan Valdez and his trusty mule...
      It is in these hills that Juan Valdez and his trusty mule…

      Happy Trails!






      Greenwater’s Area 51 or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the Cold War


      Did you ever happen to catch The Prisoner? If you are an American I’m guessing probably not.

      I happened to have a grandma who was hooked on BBC shows. Consequently I was just as likely to be sat down in front of Monty Python as I was Sesame Street.

      Bad rover! Bad!
      Bad rover! Bad!

      Anyway, on the show The Prisoner there was this strange white orb called The Rover. It kept the prisoners from escaping “The Village” by incapacitating them, I seem to recall that it could even kill people.

      Get walkin'
      Get walkin’

      It made an impact on me as a kid, and the bizarre thing continues to dwell somewhere in my psyche.

      Then one day driving down the Hwy 410, there it was. Looming white in contrast to the stately evergreen blanket beneath it. What was the Rover doing here in real life? and in Washington State?

      I decided to do some internet research…and then the story got a little weirder.

      Turns out that the mysterious white orb was a “gap-filler” radome built during the cold war to detect low flying Soviet Bombers. While that’s not incredibly remarkable, the fact that it is even there may be…

      я покажу вам Кузька и мать!
      я покажу вам Кузька и мать!

      On paper the thing was planned, but never built. Yet there it is, boldly standing in defiance to it’s own non-existence along the Hwy 410.

      According to the information I found, the site’s ID designation was to be P-1B

      I was also able to get my hands on a current flight planning map, on which it is simply marked as ‘radome’.

      Nothing unusual here...
      Nothing unusual here…


      1. Bond villain hideout
      2. Aliens bro!
      3. Exclusive nightclub?

      The site is hemmed in with barbed wire topped chain-link and to add a little bit to the mystery, the private property signs are completely devoid of any information as to identity of the operators.

      It's not flying, so it's not a UFO
      It’s not flying, so it’s not a UFO

      An L-shaped building with blacked out windows is also within the fenced area.

      Numerous security cameras watch your every move with silent vigilance. A tin foil hat might help keep them out of your thoughts.

      Tin Foil Cat

      Honestly if I were to guess I’d bet this is a Boeing site, but admittedly I base that on very little.

      Firstly they are the largest aviation company in the area. (…and the second largest defense contractor on the earth.)

      Two-stly, the private property signs look very much like the ones posted around Boeing property.

      Shaky? Maybe, but I think it holds up to Occam’s Razor better than Bond Villain nightclub staffed by Aliens. (But I want it to be so badly!)

      RED TAPE


      So far as I could tell there is no legal reason you cannot visit the area, so long as you do not attempt to enter the enclosure itself which is clearly marked as private property.

      The Hancock gate at the bottom does not state that a Hancock Forest Pass is required for walk-in entry, but this could be out of date, or subject to change at any time.

      Is it just me, or does this look...dirty?
      Is it just me, or does this look…dirty?

      Know before you go. Trespassing is trespassing, and usually moreso if you are being a general nuisance.


      If you are driving SE on the SR 410 during the daylight hours, you will probably notice this thing hanging out on top of the hills north of the highway.

      You’ll have to deduce which logging road you will have to take to get you up to the thing. The correct one has a rather large open area to park, and past the gate, starts climbing immediately.

      If you get to Federation Forest, you’ve driven too far. (but Federation Forest is another great place to go roaming around!)

      When walking up the logging road there are a couple of intersections, when in doubt, stay right.


      Oh, and if you ever plan to have children, don’t hang around this thing too long.

      Avon calling!
      Avon calling!

      Happy Trails!



      Copper Lake 3961′

      Heaven ain't got nothin' on this place!
      Heaven ain’t got nothin’ on this place!

      Copper Lake is typically the second lake one will reach on the West Fork Foss Lakes Trail #1064, the first being Trout Lake.

      Comparing the two though is like night and day.


      As previously mentioned, you can get there by way of the Foss Lakes trail. You could feasibly get there all kinds of ways, but the trail is by far the easiest.


      Copper Lake is one of the more popular destinations along the Foss trail, and being more or less the middle point, provides a decent base to explore the surrounding peaks, lakes and “whathaveyas”.

      A lake in the sky

      There is a collapsed adit at the south end of the lake, in fact the trail utilizes the tailings pile as it heads to Little Heart Lake.

      According to DWHM#1 there may exist a claim “1 mile south of Malachite Lake on a ridge west of Copper Lake”.  It is described as a “Caved pit and caved adit”.

      I’ve heard speculation that these may be the same claim.


      I’ve caught both Cutthroats and Brook Trout out of Copper Lake. The most convenient fishing access is at the north end of the lake, but the intrepid may be able to find access to less accessible shoreline.

      If you are so inclined, you could hike up an inflatable raft and ply the azure waters until your heart is content.

      “Point 5890”


      Copper Lake is pretty big, and the trail ambles along it’s eastern shore for it’s entirety. This affords many campsites to choose from.

      The north end of the lake hold the lion’s share of campsites, but others exist along the trail, and between Copper and Little Heart Lakes.

      There is a backcountry toilet available for use here, so please, if nature calls, use it rather than a cathole.

      Campfires are prohibited at Copper Lake and any point over 4000’ft in the Alpine Lakes wilderness (west).

      Other regulations may apply.

      Malachite Peak


      Uh, not going that way.
      Uh, not going that way.

      Despite the flood warning today a couple of us Bipeds decided to head for the hills.

      Due to the inclement weather being particularly inclement, our mine search was called off in favor of a dry hike: The Snoqualmie Tunnel.

      Being an abandoned train tunnel, it really fits the bill for a rainy day hike, and when better to visit an abandoned tunnel full of ghost trains and ectoplasmic hobos? Halloween!

      That's not bogeyman, is it?
      That’s not bogeyman, is it?


      The trailhead was flooded when we arrived, so we parked along the road near the freeway on-ramp and made our way down an embankment to reach the eastern portal.

      The tunnel was pretty much as expected; cool and a little damp. Perfect for a day when the alternative is; cold, and sopping wet.

      The sound of rushing water bounced off the walls as we approached the western light.

      Rockdale Creek, which flows over the top of the portal was raging. We hiked up and around to take a closer look.

      Yeah, it's raining out
      Yeah, it’s raining out

      At the top, large chunks of wood barreled down the swollen waters. An eerie deep rumble accompanied by a slight tremor, signaled a boulder tumbling through the culvert below our feet.

      Heading back to the shelter of the tunnel we saw a group of bicyclists preparing for the trip down to the exit 38. “Beware the bogey man”, they warned as we walked by.

      “They were just kidding though, right?”

      Rockdale Creek rip roarin'
      Rockdale Creek rip roarin’


      Little Heart Lake 4204′

      Little Heart Lake
      Little Heart Lake

      To get to Little Heart Lake you’ve most likely passed Copper Lake, and while extremely diminutive by those standards, Little Heart is nonetheless an alpine gem and a destination unto itself.


      Little Heart Lake can be reached by taking the West Fork Foss River Lakes Trail #1064


      There is a gap high above the south end of the lake which could be used to reach the remote north west arm of Big Heart Lake.

      from the NE
      from the NE

      Camp Robber Peak is also attainable via this route.

      Note: You may have to get wet…


      I can personally vouch that there are Cutthroat Trout in this lake.

      Wide open and reasonably accessible boulder shores in the north-east corner of the lake provide ample room for fly-casting.


      There are a few established campsites at Little Heart Lake and along the trail that connects it to Copper Lake.

      There is little opportunity to camp between Little Heart and Big Heart.

      Campfires are prohibited at Little Heart Lake and at any point over 4000′ along the trail.

      Other regulations may apply.

      All kinds of talus!
      All kinds of talus!

      McClellan’s Butte 5162′

      Ol’Mac looms…

      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!


      Hanging out along the ridge
      Hanging out along the ridge

      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…

      THE NAME

      Spittin’ Image!

      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.


      Biggest trees on the '90!
      Biggest trees on the ’90!


      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.

      Off trail scrambling
      Off trail scrambling

      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.

      Lotsa big ol' trees
      Lotsa big ol’ trees

      The trail now begins to climb, and soon, at about the halfway point, the next and most dangerous landmarks will appear…


      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.

      Just food for thought…. be aware!

      Always check the Northwest Avalanche Center website for current avalanche conditions. (…and donate!)

      Post thaw avalanche chute
      Post thaw avalanche chute

      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.


      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.

      The forbidden lands
      The forbidden lands

      (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.

      Ol' Harry up on the block
      Ol’ Harry up on the block


      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.

      “The Closer” ascending the block

      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.

      Ascending the south slopes
      Ascending the south slopes

      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.

      The ’90 snaking across the land


      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

      Happy Trails!

      Jack "The Bulge" at the summit
      Jack “The Bulge” at the summit


      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










      Mt.Teneriffe 4788′

      Kamikaze Falls in the alpenglow
      Kamikaze Falls in the alpenglow

      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.

      Right this way...
      Right this way…

      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.

      Thems a lot of trees
      Thems a lot of trees

      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.


      Heading left, the trail continues along the DNR road passing little rivulets cascading down the mountainside before climbing up into denser forest.

      Nice wide trail
      Nice wide trail

      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!

      Lots of green
      Lots of green

      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.

      Teneriffe Summit
      Teneriffe Summit

      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….

      The Haystack
      The Haystack

      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.

      Up along the top
      Up along the top

      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.

      Out of the trees for a bit
      Out of the trees for a bit

      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.



      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.

      High terrain along old trail
      High terrain along old trail

      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.

      Mt.Rainier looms
      Mt.Rainier looms

      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.

      Summit block winter 2011
      Summit block winter 2011

      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.

      On the ascent!
      On the ascent!

      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.

      Trail shot "Old Trail"
      Trail shot “Old Trail”

      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.

      Takin' in the views!
      Takin’ in the views!

      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.

      Old trail-trail shot
      Old trail-trail shot

      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.

      Happy Trails, Harry Biped

      Badass old man sighted in his natural habitat
      Badass old man sighted in his natural habitat