The Knife’s Edge 

The hike out of White Pass into Goat Rocks Wilderness is a long steep climb, switch backing up into the mountain and then all the way back down before heading up to the Knife’s Edge. At the top of the first climb we were able to see into the snow coated mountains beyond. Snow continued to cling to the sides of the mountains beyond, hiding in the concaves and divets from the sun. We couldn’t yet see where we could wind through the peaks on the Knife’s Edge but it was exciting to see so much so after so long. We knew the Knife’s Edge itself was in good shape thanks to a picture posted to Facebook, but we were still anxious to get there. 

After our second climb of the day we found ourselves up in the high parks of Goat Rocks. Huge expanses of open grasses, scrubby pine trees, snow patches lingering and wild flowers covering the slopes. Water was everywhere and we filled up before a break on a ridge where we had an incredible view of Rainier, dense clouds building and dissipating around it.

After our break we began Knife’s Edge. Basically the trail follows a ridge line up and down through the snow covered peaks and towards Old Snowy, before ending up in the mellower flats on the other side. The ridge it follows has steep drop offs on both sides for most its length. Far bellow a river cuts a steep canyon into the crumbly volcanic rock. That same rock makes the trail narrow and unstable, especially on the downhills where it can often feel like you are attempting to stay upright on a trail covered in marbles. Just as we were entering the Edge we could see that far on the other side we would have at least two patches of snow to cross which didn’t look like they had great run out, but often things look better close up than they do from far away. A man we met coming off of the Edge told us it was the most terrifying day of his hike, he was scared of heights, and that he wouldn’t have been able to do the snow without his spikes, but after the Sierras in trail runners little worries us when it comes to snow, especially in the middle of the day when the snow is soft. 

The Knife’s Edge was exhilarating, providing a lot of pucker factor as we traversed its airy windy length. The pictures don’t quite do it justice, so I just highly recommend it to everyone, a truly special stretch of trail. There is an option to hike Old Snowy but on a thru hike you rarely take side trails and I would rather tag Old Snowy in the snow so we continued on. The two snow patches turned out to be no big deal, although getting onto the first one was tricky, requiring a little bit of a hop off of the unstable volcanic choss above and over the moat that was forming between the rock and the snow. After the last snow patch we came over a small rise to an incredible sight of Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens. From that spot we could see all three volcanoes. We stood in awe of everything that surrounded us. We had a hard time leaving that spot. 

We made our way down slowly, gasping at the sight of Goat Lake and all the amazing parks that surrounded us. We decided to eat dinner by a little stream with a good view of Adams and even though we were supposed to go further we had to stop when we found an amazing campsite where we would see every shade of sunset on Adams’ slopes.  We vowed to get up early for a long thirty mile day after stopping early for a great camping spot, but sometimes you just have to take advantage of the beauty around and decide to stay. 

P.S. As you can see Kyle’s shirt is growing in a mini dress. So that’s weird.

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

17 thoughts on “The Knife’s Edge 

  1. First of all, I love the book The River Why. I have to see if I can find my copy, I may have given it away. Second, WOW! Your photos blew me away. Just looking at them gave me a natural high. Thank you so much for teaching me about the PCT. You are awesome!

  2. So you skipped what you called the Old Snowy Alternate? That is too bad, as in my opinion that was really the most dramatic part of the trail. I am not sure that it is an alternate, (the sign at the top still says PCT) but the lower route is what I think is really the Equestrian route. I could be wrong. Maybe the Old Snowy route is like the Rim trail at Crater lake. You would still want to do it even if no longer ‘officially’ designated the PCT.

    Still you have some very good pictures here. It is a spectacular area. The best of the whole PCT, imho. It was a bit smoky for me northbound last year. You were very fortunate, as Puff Puff went through there a few days earlier in fog and rain. 🙁

    1. I think the equestrian trail is a different option. I believe that the “scramble” to the top of old snowy is an optional alternate, at least we were on the GPSed track on Guthook the whole time and they call the old snowy route an alternate. I mean, if we have learned anything about the PCT it is that it dose not summit mountains. But there were a lot of people up on the summit that we could see! We simply went right below it? It looked very tempting but at that point we thought we had a lot more to accomplish that day and, like I said, living and mountaineering in the area I would rather summit it in the winter with snow. But that’s cool that it was so awesome! We loved that part of the hike, totally the coolest part to date and we did have great weather!

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