McClellan Butte

McClellan Butte


3400’ gain

Class 3 scramble (easy but very exposed)

This weekend the weather wasn’t looking promising anywhere, so I hopped on Summitpost to see what was around I-90 that I hadn’t been to the top of yet. I was planning on running a mountain just as a workout even if I couldn’t see anything from the top in the clouds. McClellan Butte had been on my radar for a while – I had seen it in every proximity search but never clicked through to the page. Once I saw folks describing the route as a scramble at Class 3 or even Class 4 I knew that I had to give it a shot.

The trailhead is relatively close to Seattle, right at Exit 42. This was my first time checking out the south side of the valley but it all looks fairly similar. McClellan Butte’s trail gains elevation fairly gradually for the first couple of miles, crossing the John Wayne rail-trail at just before the one mile mark.

John Wayne trail

After the road crossing, the route gently pitches up until I ended up walking some of the steeper upper sections (the whole thing is runnable, I’m just not in my best shape right now). The upper mountain started to drizzle on me.

Cloudy hillside

After mile 4 or so, the trail crests a ridge and juts to the (south?) in order to avoid some cliffs. It traverses along the upper mountain until reaching the final summit scramble.

Cliffy from here (the route curves around to the much easier opposite side)

The clouds were mostly below this part of the mountain and the rock was dry so even though I was alone I decided to try the scramble.

It actually is probably closer to Class 2 in terms of scrambling. There is a very easy route that appeared to have been blasted out of the rock, with sidewalk-wide ledges running all the way to the summit. I only “had” to use my hands in a couple of spots. However, the slabs fall away hundreds if not thousands of feet into the nothingness below at a 70-ish degree angle on rock.

Looking back at the scramble route with serious fall potential to the left

This is a no-fall zone, folks. I would not be up here if the rock was wet or snowy.

Looking down into the abyss

The summit just peeked out of the clouds and I enjoyed some diffuse sun and glimpses of blue sky before turning around and heading down. Even though I knew the views wouldn’t be good on this particular day, I bet they would be spectacular on a clear day. I’ll have to come back to visit.

Summit peeking through the cloud deck!

The downclimb and descent were pretty uneventful except for an unfortunate ankle twister on loose rock a couple of miles from the trailhead. I was able to jog down the rest of the way without too much trouble but it’ll be less than stable for a few weeks I’d guess.

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