Silver Peak and Mount Catherine

On this cloudy day, I set out to get my blood pumping with a mountain run (or two). I saw Silver Peak as a good candidate for views and easy access on Summitpost, and noted that the short Mount Catherine trail is nearby. They’re both located near the Hyak ski area off of FR 9070 in the Snoqualmie National Forest.

About 4.5 miles in, I came to four or five vehicles parked by the side of the road and a trail. I parked here and started following the trail, but got pretty confused – it was gaining elevation much faster than I had anticipated for Silver Peak, and heading in the wrong direction. A quick check of my GPS app revealed I was actually climbing Mount Catherine instead. No matter, I pushed ahead and summited the 5052′ peak anyway. At only 1.5 miles one way, it took me just 23 minutes from car to summit at my decidedly lackadaisical trail “running” speed (more like a power walk given the steepness) for around 1200 feet of elevation gain. This is a good peak for those lacking the endurance for a more stout vertical gain like Mt. Si. And the views are actually pretty outstanding. GPS log here

Mt. Catherine summit

After a quick descent, I moved my car another 1/4 mile down the road and found the Pacific Crest trailhead at Windy Pass. This is what I had originally been looking for. I headed in the direction of Stampede Pass on the PCT. GPS track here

Windy Pass

The trail is just beautiful, winding through conifer groves, talus slopes, and numerous creeks, although the surface is quite muddy right now. At exactly Mile 1.7 the turnoff to Silver Peak via an unofficial but fairly clear trail goes to the right, splitting off from the PCT at a spot marked with visible cairns. After gaining several hundred more feet, I reached a saddle between Silver Peak and its neighbor to the south, Tinkham Peak and headed to the right.

Silver Peak from the saddle

The trail skirts a sub-peak to the east, then proceeds directly up a scree field, gaining the remaining elevation steeply and crossing a couple of false summits along the way. I summited in a leisurely 53 minutes – real trail runners could do it a lot faster but I felt good knocking out my second mountain of the day in under an hour.

I was really impressed with the views given what a short hike this is from the trailhead (just around 5-6 miles round trip).

I-90 east of the crest

On a clear day, the Rainier views would be great. However, the cloud layer covered the summit. It was very cool to see evidence of recent fresh snow – the dirty old snow from last winter is exposed lower on the mountain, while above the crisp snow line from these recent storms  it gleams bright white.

Cloud-shrouded Rainier but with cool fresh snow line

I noted some rain clouds forming to the West so I made a careful descent down the scree slope. This would be much more pleasant in hiking boots or dedicated trail shoes which would do a better job protecting the bottoms of my feet.

Fun ridge run

On the way down I wasn’t quite ready to cut my pleasant run along the relatively flat PCT short – so I continued another mile or so down the trail to a pass where the PCT meets up with the Mirror Lake and Cold Creek trails.

Beautiful PCT

The run back to the car was fairly uneventful except for a graceful fall in a muddy patch which scraped up my arm a little bit. I’ve gotten in the habit of sacrificing my body to protect my iPhone which gets zipped into my handheld water bottle for easy access when I take photos.

Better view of Silver Peak on the run back
I’ve found that the bushes along the trail cushion my fall
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