August 24-26, 2012
Chikamin Peak (7000′+)
——————– Trip Report Summary ——————–
Region: Central Cascades
Starting Point: Mineral Creek Trailhead (Cooper Pass Road #46)
Way Points: Kachess River & Mineral Creek & Park Lakes & Spectacle View Saddle & Glacier Lake (hike)
Campsite: Glacier Lake
Summit: Chikamin Peak (climb via Southeast Slope—South Ridge; descent via East Ridge—Southeast Slope)
Sidetrip: Chikamin Lake (hike & climb)
——————– Full Trip Report ——————–
For our second annual “family camping trip” this year, Eileen and I chose to climb Chikamin Peak in the southern Alpine Lakes Wilderness. We were joined by Derek and Luke. This was Derek’s first real alpine scramble, and it was not only Luke’s first alpine scramble but also his first backpacking trip. Despite their lack of experience, both boys handled the challenges gamely and had a great weekend in the process.
Day 1 – Trailhead to Glacier Lake:
On Friday, we drove over Cooper Pass to the Mineral Creek Trailhead and then started hiking up to Park Lakes. I was pleased to see that the first 3 miles of trail was recently brushed out to a width of 10 feet. The next couple of miles to Park Lakes was overgrown, as always, but still easy to follow. We continued past the lakes and up the Pacific Crest Trail a short distance until able to branch off to the right on a path leading to “Spectacle View Saddle” overlooking Spectacle Lake. The view of Lemah Mountain, Chimney Rock, and many other rugged Snoqualmie peaks is nothing short of breathtaking from this saddle.
We followed the path down a short mile to inviting Glacier Lake and set up camp. Other than annoying mosquitoes, it was a perfect summer evening. Even our ad hoc mascot, which we’d found along the way, seemed to be enjoying himself.
Day 2 – Summit Climb:
On Saturday morning, the four of us headed up Chikamin Peak via what could be called the southeastern slope and south ridge. Despite the banal name, this is a very scenic and interesting route that features babbling brooks, waterfalls, tarns, heather slopes, rock ledges, sandstone slabs, and jumbo breccias. There is also just enough exposure on the final ridge crest to give an alpine feel.
We reached the small summit just after noon (2.7 hours from camp) and ate lunch while marveling at the surrounding peaks and lakes. Luke took this opportunity to call his folks and let them know all was well…thus far.
Rather than descend our up-route, we decided to follow the east ridge down. We didn’t know whether this was a feasible option, but everyone seemed to be in an exploratory mood. After some initial zigzagging on high ledges, we headed straight down the narrow ridge crest, spurred on by faint boot tread. Several hundred feet lower, the crest transitioned into a steep face that dropped to a 6600-foot notch. We continued scrambling downward, ever so carefully, and we used our short “panic rope” for safety over the crux moves. This gave Derek and Luke some good experience down-climbing loose Class 4 rock into unknown terrain with just a hand-line. (Surprisingly, they had not learned this basic skill at church camp the previous week!)
Upon reaching the ridge notch, we were able to descend scree slopes southward and then traverse around the lower east ridge cliffs before climbing back over a 6000-foot snow saddle that gave access to the mountain’s northeastern slope. We traversed down to Chikamin Lake (3.1 hours from summit) and all took a dip in the frigid water, then warmed up on the grassy shore. In a vast wilderness that is blessed with an abundance of beautiful alpine lakes, I think Spectacle, Glacier, and Chikamin Lakes represent a trio of its finest gems.
By late afternoon, it was time to head back to camp at Glacier Lake. We followed a well-defined hiker’s path down through a splendid series of creeks, meadows, and cliff bands. Every turn in the path revealed some sort of unexpected alpine delight, and the low-angle sunlight extracted remarkable textures from ever-present Three Queens Mountain across the valley. We rolled into camp feeling both satisfied and moonstruck. Even the buzzing mosquitoes couldn’t spoil this mood.
Day 3 – Glacier Lake to Trailhead:
Sunday was another pleasantly warm, sunny day. We leisurely worked our way back to the trailhead, stopping at Park Lakes for a refreshing swim. By the time we arrived at the trailhead (4.8 hours from camp), both boys were ready for burgers, showers, and their next summit.
Approximate Total Stats: 17 miles traveled; 6900 feet gained and lost.
——————- Photo Gallery (click to enlarge) ————————-