Snoqualmie Scrambles

Because I am gone most of the week and usually return home Thursday night completely pooped and complaining of new aches and pains in my upper body (all thanks to Mt. Rainier National Park) Kyle and I have been limiting our adventures lately to day climbs in Snoqualmie pass.  As an avid outdoorswoman living in the teeming hustle and bustle of a city I count myself lucky that the city I live in is Seattle.  Our access to climbing just outside the city, and often within the same county, is superb.  It takes us barely thirty minutes to penetrate the mountains via I-90, and we can be down a forest service road and heading up a trail in forty-five minutes if we drive fast.  These are trip reports from our last couple of weekends.

Kaleetan Peak

Elevation: 6259ft

Points of Interest:  2nd highest peak in Snoqualmie Area

Kyle and I usually decide what to climb by combing Summit Post and reading the comment sections, searching for things like “best scrambles in washington”.  That is how we found Kaleetan Peak, which came up frequently on different people’s lists of most fun class three scrambles and day climbs.  Having taken a climbing class in the spring neither Kyle nor I has done much scrambling.  As such we don’t really know the extent of our comfort zone.  Kaleetan is described as a long hard hike but the scramble itself was supposed to be a rather mellow class three with little exposure until reaching the summit.  Kaleetan itself looks like a wickedly unapproachable summit, perched high above Melakwa Lake and providing a killer view of Chair Peak across the valley.  All the sites said that the climb would take twelve hours, ten if you booked it, so we headed out early, arriving at the trailhead around six o’clock in the morning.

We started our climb in the dark, but it felt great to be moving so early in the cool fall air.  The trail was nicely graded and switchbacked in and out of trees and avalanche chutes, choked with vine maples and salmon berry bushes, all of which were beginning to turn with the onset of autumn.  We reached the lake in good time and stopped to fill up our water and eat a snack.  We then proceeded up towards the privy and there, right behind the tree with the toilet sign on it, is the climbers trail, heading straight up hill.

The climbers trail is pretty easy to follow, often branching off into four of five different trails but always leading to the same spots.  It climbs mercilessly uphill until it reaches an unnamed peak, labeled simply 5,700 on the map.  At this point you can see Kaleetan peak for the first time and the approach gully is visible.  It does, in fact, look crazy impossible intense.  It looks steep and technical.  I remember my nerves throbbing a bit upon seeing it but then smoothing them by reminding myself what everyone on summit post had said: “You’re going to see it and think, I can’t climb that, but when you get right up too it, it’s super easy!”   I forced my fears from my mind and we continued.

From the unnamed peak the trail traverses and then drops sharply down so that it can traverse beneath a craggy ridge.  Once on the other side it ascends back up a boulder filled gully and heads up towards the peak on your left.  We climbed over rocks and around scrubby pines until suddenly, we were at the base of the scramble.  We both snorted, looking at each other incredulously.  This was a class three?  We had done harder things on the AT.  We clambered up it easily, only the fact that it was labeled a class three made me nervous and careful about my hand and foot placement.  It was a short scramble and we were soon on the summit.  Summit Post had gotten their description of the summit right as well, it was very exposed.  Nothing more than a five by five jumble of rocks with thousand foot cliffs on all sides.  It took a lot of resolve for me to stand up on it and have my picture taken.  I sat back down quickly but stayed up there long enough to write in the log before retreating a little bit lower to a comfortable ledge.  How the log manages to stay up there and not get blown off is a mystery.

The climb down was uneventful, we saw other climbers until we were back at Melakwa Lake.  The only other exciting thing that happen was Kyle making us sprint the last half mile back to the car so that we could say we completed the climb in eight hours.  Since we have been trying to get into the habit of cooling down on the last mile of the hike sprinting was fairly counter intuitive and although I pointed this out I went no further because running felt so good.  We were back in Seattle by three, sore and ready to stuff our faces with Thai food.

Silver Peak

Elevation: 5065ft

Points of Interest: 119th most prominent peak and only prominent peak in Snoqualmie Area

Last weekend I was more tired than usual.  My last day of work at the Park had included a nine mile hike up to Cataract Camp to help the helicopters pick up buckets of poop (yes, that is how they remove some of the poop from backcountry camps) and a rescue/carry out for a man who had collapsed on the Mine Trail, just a short distance from the Carbon River Entrance.  I wasn’t feeling up to a fourteen mile hike, to say the least.  But with good weather waining and fall colors popping out everywhere I am unable to give up weekend adventures just yet, so we decided to just do a short hike up to Silver Peak.  Even though this is considered a scramble I hesitate to call it a climb.  Even once you leave the marked trail the climbers trail is very easy to follow and there is no scrambling to speak of.  Regardless, it was beautiful and a great option for people who are just beginning to venture into the world of scrambling and climbing.

We got a late start after having a hearty breakfast with my dad at a local cafe.  By the time we made it up to Snoqualmie pass it was ten o’clock.  We navigated our way through the Hyak Ski area using pictures of descriptions taken on our phones and a fair bit of good-natured yelling ensued before we found the right road and it, reassuringly, turned to dirt.  The road continued up into the mountains until it crossed the PCT and we pulled over to the side of the road and parked, unnerved to find our car smoking and smelling of burnt oil.  Well, I was unnerved, Kyle was gleeful, muttering that he hoped we returned to it in flames so he could finally buy a Toyota Tacoma.

The hike in to the cut off for the climbers trail is short, 1.7 miles.  When we thought we were getting close we slowed down dramatically, worried we had missed it but, a word to the wise, don’t bother slowing down.  It is so obvious that as long as your aren’t completely oblivious you will see it.  Although it isn’t marked it is a well-defined trail on the right leading up hill.  It switchbacks feebly, making it a rather mellow climbers trail, and eventually reaches a saddle between Tinkham Peak and Silver Peak.  Here we headed right, occasionally glimpsing the summit above us but often seeing it covered in clouds.  By the time we summited it was clear but clouds swirled all around us in that magical way they do in the mountains, forming in the corner of your eye and disappearing the moment you try to get a good look at them.  Bellow us, practically Mediterranean on the edges and deep ocean blue in the middle was Annette Lake.  Although it isn’t the most impressive summit Silver Peak was lovely.  It is easy to get to and I highly recommend it for beginners or people who have guests in from out-of-town who want to go on an awesome hike.  Oh, and our car was still there when we got back.

Tomorrow we plan to head up to Snoqualmie to climb none other than Snoqualmie Peak itself.  Stay tuned for a future trip report as we continue to conquer different Snoqualmie Scrambles.

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As Edward Abbey said, "An indoor life is the next best thing to a premature burial."

13 thoughts on “Snoqualmie Scrambles

  1. Nicely done and nicely photographed. Silver Peak makes for a fun snow scramble too if you ever looking for something close to home during winter time.

  2. We will be in Seattle Nov 17 trough Dec 1. Would love to take the two of you out to eat. We met you at Murray’s cabin in 2013. David was from Weldon. Ruth and David Shade and Shadow

  3. Your pictures are great and the hikes/scrambles sound really awesome. I was actually just in Seattle (for the first time) this week. We, unfortunately, were only there for 2 nights – but the city and surrounding areas are beautiful. I definitely plan on a return trip to do some adventuring in the mountains!

  4. I come home at the end of every week with aches and pains too. But that’s because I’m stuck sitting on my fat ass behind a desk all day everyday! I envy your lifestyle. Looks and sounds amazing.

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