August 12-14, 2016

Mount Daniel: East Peak (7899′)
Mount Daniel: Middle Peak (7960′+)
Mount Daniel: West Peak (7986′)

——————– Trip Report Summary ——————–

Region: Central Cascades

Starting & Ending Point: Tucquala Meadows Trailhead (Cle Elum River Road)

Way Points: Cle Elum River & Squaw Lake & Cathedral Pass & Peggy’s Pond & Circle Lake  (hike)

Campsite: Circle Lake

Summit: Mt. Daniel: East Peak (climb via South Ridge)

Summit: Mt. Daniel: Middle Peak (climb via Southeast Slope)

Summit: Mt. Daniel: West Peak (climb via East Ridge)

Approximate Total Stats: 16 miles traveled; 6300 feet gained and lost.

——————– Full Trip Report ——————–

Over the past weekend, I tagged along with Deb, Sandra, Steve, Eileen, and Derek on a trip to Mt. Daniel.

Day 1 – Trailhead to Circle Lake:

We hiked in via Squaw Lake and Peggy’s Pond on Friday to establish a camp at Circle Lake, closely southeast of the mountain.  A banal name such as “Circle” might lead on to think that this lake is plain-Jane, but don’t believe it.  Circle Lake is neither circular nor plain; it is a beautiful 6000-foot gem with a curvaceous shoreline and delightful meadows.

Camp At Circle Lake

Cathedral Rock dominates the skyline to the east…

Alpenglow On Cathedral Rock

…and The Cradle can be seen highlighted by evening sun a few ridges away.  The lake’s shoreline consists of light-colored conglomeritic sandstone, which contrasts nicely with the dark green heather meadows.

Cathedral Rock and The Cradle From Circle Lake

Day 2 – Summit Climb:

On Saturday morning, we all headed up to the southeastern ridge of Mt. Daniel.  Only from this higher vantage could we fully appreciate the whole of Circle Lake.  The Citadel, a prominent rock knob, seemed to stand guard over the lake.

The Citadel Above Circle Lake

Farther along the ridge, Venus Lake and Spade Lake came into view.  The latter was particularly enticing.

Venus Lake and Spade Lake From Ridge

The southeast ridge gets progressively more sharp and jagged as you approach the east peak of Mt. Daniel, but it never involves more than Class 3 scrambling.  At the last saddle below the east peak, the middle and west peaks (shown below) look quite far away.

West Peak and Middle Peak From SE Ridge

We continued up to the east peak (“Daniels” benchmark) for a late-morning break.  This sub-summit provides a striking view of Bears Breast Mountain, with its steeply dipping sandstone layers separated by snow chutes.

After descending from the east peak, we gained a climber’s path leading up to the middle peak.  The lunar-esque landscape here seemed out of place with an alpine mountain in the Central Cascades.

West Peak and Middle Peak From East Peak

The climb of the west peak (true summit) finishes with a pleasant little Class 3 scramble.  Considering that Mt. Daniel is the highest summit contained within the polygon formed by Glacier Peak, Mt. Stuart, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Olympus, one would rightfully expect outstanding views.  We were not disappointed.

Scrambling Up West Peak

This climb served as an annual birthday trip for both Deb and Sandra, and Mt. Daniel was indeed a worthy birthday summit.  I didn’t ask how old they are, but judging by the spring in their steps, I would guess that Deb just turned 21 and Sandra just turned 22.

Summit Of West Peak

The last time I climbed Mt. Daniel (30+ years ago), Pea Soup Lake looked very much like split-pea soup.  It was a small, homely, opaque, milky green puddle half-filled with dirty ice chunks.  Now, perhaps due to glacial recession, it is just another large, gorgeous, azure, alpine lake.

Dip Top Gap and Pea Soup Lake From West Peak

We headed back to Circle Lake in the mid afternoon and spent a couple hours basking on the shoreline.  Eileen made mountain margaritas, using snow from a nearby snowfield.  A couple of those will take the edge off an 80-degree day!

Circle Lake From SE Ridge

Later in the day, some thunderheads started to build over Mt. Stuart, but they dissipated before creating any havoc.

Storm Clouds Over Mount Stuart

Day 3 – Circle Lake to Trailhead:

On Sunday morning, we all packed up camp.  Steve, Deb, Sandra, and Eileen headed south to Lake Vicente as part of a 5-day peak-and-lake loop.  Meanwhile, Derek and I hiked back down to Peggy’s Pond and out to the trailhead.


——————– Photo Gallery (click to enlarge) ——————–