Category Archives: Trail Running

Abiel Peak

Abiel Peak


Class 3

Abiel Peak is a fun scrambling peak off of I-90. I attempted this two ways – once in a failed attempt to see if we could finish an unusual route from Annette Lake, and one the easy way from the PCT.

Abiel from Annette Lake – The Hard Way (Sep 12)

On an overnight camping trip at the lake, a friend and I tried to scramble up the rugged, tree covered west ridge of Abiel by gaining a saddle in a talus-filled ravine southwest of the lake. We ambled around to the southwest edge of the lake, left the trail, and travelled on open talus to the steep treeline at the westerly of two saddle points on the ridge. This one looked more open and less forested than the east saddle point, but it turned out to be a bad move. The terrain was steep, loose dirt with very few hand and footholds. We found it too dangerous to continue and turned around. I bet the more easterly saddle marked on the map would go but we haven’t tried it; nonetheless, it was a fun adventure.

Looking at the talus gulley from Annette Lake’s north shore
Silver Peak on the ascent

Continue reading Abiel Peak

Where There’s Smoke…

This is it. I’m declaring Blog Bankruptcy. I’ve gotten so behind with summer travel and outings that I can’t possibly dig out of the hole. So here’s what I did this weekend. I may go back and cover selected trips from June-August, highlights of which included 2 weeks in Turkey and Romania, summer skiing at Mt. Rainier, and backpacking near Glacier Peak.

Mt. Howard and Mt. Mastiff

7063′ peak elevation

12ish miles

6000′ gain

7:40 car to car

DATELINE: Chelan, WA. After one of the driest springs and summers on record and with a minuscule snowpack, Washington is burning. Lake Chelan, the Methow Valley, and Mt. Adams are ablaze and the Okanogan Complex is the largest in the state’s history. With the North Cascades Highway closed due to fire, the options for getting in the high country are more limited than usual. Looking for a fun summer scramble, hiking pal Becca and I settled on a doubleheader near Stevens Pass, hopefully sparing us most of the smoke: Mt. Howard and Mt. Mastiff. Mt. Howard happens to be a 2000′ prominence peak, a nice bonus.

On the drive in we noticed a puzzling haze in Monroe – it couldn’t be smoke, could it? We were 100+ miles from the closest fire. As we continued along US 2 it became evident that the forecasted NW wind hadn’t materialized – Easterly wind was pushing the smoke our way. Despite the potential for disappointing views, the smoke wasn’t thick enough to irritate our lungs or eyes so we elected to do the trip as ash fell from the sky like a dusting of snow.

Howard-Mastiff Loop

Our plan was to do a loop route starting and ending from the Merritt Lake Trailhead, climbing Mt. Howard first before continuing on to Mastiff and descending off trail on Nason Ridge. Fully half this route is off trail, so decent routefinding and navigation skills are definitely required.

The Merritt Lake trail has nice efficient switchbacks through mostly shade. The Nason Ridge trail though needs some work – it’s brushy and loose in places but easy to follow. It continued through a looong traverse over to Crescent Lake including several hundred feet of elevation loss (beware to those doing the counterclockwise loop!) There are several little bowls that look like the S. face of Howard – make sure you’re in the right drainage (ie. not Royal Creek) before you head upward.

Crescent Lake

Crescent Lake is big and shallow. It looked like elk bed down in the long grass nearby – comforting, as we had just been startled by some sort of large mammal in the woods and we were really hoping it wasn’t a bear. We filled up water and started up the South face of Mt. Howard (about 2000′ vertical) off trail. We took the talus field at the head of the lake (directly below the obvious cliff band) then brush bashed through some woody plants without too much hassle before reaching an upper talus field where we drifted right to get around the cliff. There are several gullies here – we picked the one we thought was easiest and it was easy but loose, dirty class 3. I wouldn’t want to have to descend this part if I could help it.

Above this crux band of 100′ or so it was easy cruising on talus and dirt climber’s trails to the summit. Continue reading Where There’s Smoke…

It’s a Hard Knox Life

Route map here

18.5 miles (from GPS – missed some switchbacks in the Hillmap route)
7000′ gain
7.5 hours car-to-car

French Cabin Mountain – North Peak, South Peak, West Peak (attempt)
French Chin
Hard Knox
Thorp Mountain

After hanging up the skis for the foreseeable future and successful summits of Adams and Baker over the last few weeks, I was ready to return to my main activity: mountain running and peakbagging. The Salmon La Sac area has been on my shortlist for exploration for a long time. Nestled between Snoqualmie Pass and the Teanaway, I had only been through once on the way to an attempt on Mt. Daniel. After consulting Summitpost, I decided to piece together a big loop trying to tag as many summits as I could. As far as I can tell nobody has written a TR on this loop before – now I see why.

The route ascends the Domerie Divide trail (1308) from French Cabin Creek and FR 4308-115, going off trail to tag North Peak and South Peak of French Cabin Mountain before cutting west along the Silver Creek tie trail (1308.1), crossing the south ridge of West Peak and offering a summit of that peak as well. Then the trail drops steeply into Silver Creek basin where it connects with Kachess Ridge (1315) heading north across the pass into French Cabin Basin and offering summit attempts on French Chin and French Tongue. From there, the trail climbs steeply again to gain Kachess Ridge proper, offering easy access to Hard Knox (pt. 5841) and undulating for 3 miles or so until the spur trail to Thorp Mountain, before picking up the Thorp Lake trail (1316) for a gradual 4-5 mile descent back to the car (including a  ~2 mile road run).

Cle Elum Lake

The devil is in the details. I parked my car, loaded with 3L water and survival essentials in a running pack, and promptly soaked both of my shoes in the river ford. Great start. From there, I ran/jogged the road 700′ vertical to the Domerie Divide “trailhead” which is easy to spot as it begins where the road is blocked with a mound of dirt – there’s also a sign tucked back in the trees. The heat was already getting to me not 20 minutes into the trip. This would be a recurring theme.

The ridge gaining elevation to French Cabin Mountain looked gentle enough on the topo, but it was too steep for me to run, so I got out my poles and speed hiked my way through, trying to keep my HR low considering how long a day I was expecting. After breaking out onto the upper ridge, good views of Cle Elum Lake and the boats below were afforded.

Along the ridge to North Peak

From there, the ridge undulates a few times before dropping below the north peak. I left the trail as soon as it was clear the ridge was diverging and navigated forested but open slopes up to the summit. There are little rock steps on the ridge proper but if you stay left (south) it goes at Class 1. Continue reading It’s a Hard Knox Life

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)

Continue reading McClellan Butte

Dumpster Divin’: Blowdown Mountain and Lake Twentytwo

Hiking trips aren’t always spectacular, magazine-worthy endeavors. Here are a couple of examples from a recent weekend.

Blowdown Mountain (4/18/15)

I wanted to go for a mountain run for exercise and decided to explore a little bit higher on the Mt. Si ridge without doing the slog that is Mt. Teneriffe in the snow, so I found this little “gem” on Summitpost, described as a “Peakbagger’s peak, nothing more, nothing less”. I found this peak has a lot to recommend for itself.

For one, the approach follows the Mt. Si for most of the elevation gain (one of the most crowded trails in the I-90 corridor). Here’s nwhikers poster Angry Hiker’s artistic rendition:

Credit: The Angry Hiker

From the Haystack, proceed through the trees along a faint foot/deer/old Jeep trail up the ridge. How is there snow here still?? I was, of course, in running shoes and shorts with no gaiters and promptly packed my shoes full of snow.

The Haystack

Continue reading Dumpster Divin’: Blowdown Mountain and Lake Twentytwo