Gothic Peak

Gary and I were looking for a scramble on the last day of Labor Day weekend. We didn't want a long drive with possible traffic jams coming home. We settled on the Mountain Loop Highway and finally chose Gothic Peak. Each of us had been to Gothic Basin but neither had scrambled Gothic Peak. We met in Bothell at 7:15, drove to Barlow Pass, and were on the route by 8:45. Barlow Pass is at an elevation of 2361'. We quickly hiked the road to the Weden Creek trailhead. It had been a few years since we had been down the road to Monte Cristo and we were surprised to see that the old twin bridges are now one much less rickety bridge. Only a few groups had signed in as overnighters from the day before. There was one group of 10 right before us. A short way down the trail we began to pass the group. The connector trail along the river is in very good shape. When it reaches the old Weden Creek trail it begins to climb. The old "straight up" miners trail has switchbacks in the lower sections. The trail is steeper than most but is easy to hike.

We passed 8 of the 10 and the last two kept up a fast pace ahead of us. When they stopped to take a break we went on by. The trail gets more and more rocky higher up. We passed a couple of backpackers coming down and thanked them for knocking the dew off the brush. Some recent work has removed much of the encroaching brush. Once past the waterfall the trail really reverts to it's miners origins. Roots and rocks are continuous. It wasn't that bad heading up but we sure felt it coming down. In a few spots the trail is a rock slab. We got a head start on our scrambling. One very strong hiker zoomed on by at that point. The upper trail also had ripe berries. We were surprised that there were still berries easily in reach of passing hikers. The sweet treats slowed us down but were well worth the diversion.

We entered the basin at about 11:00. From there it was a fun hike up to 5200' Foggy Lake. The rock slabs make for easy travel. There were a few tents near the lake as we sat down for a food and water break before tackling Gothic Peak. The morning was cool and although we had on shorts we also had long sleeve shirts. Just a few weeks ago it was brutally hot and this day we headed out with the temperature in the low 40s. It was a little chilly at the lake but the sun was out and there was no wind. Looking up at Gothic Peak the long rock field looked more promising than the ridge. I found minimal route info so we were more or less on our own.

From the lake it's easy to ascend the rock and heather slope of the ridge to the south. We saw several hikers on top of the bumps to our left. Gothic Peak was to our right. The top of the ridge is actually a meadow. A boot path rose up the rock and heather towards Gothic. Soon I saw a party coming down the rock field of Gothic Peak. We soon met the three women and one small dog. When I learned that the dog had summited it removed any possibility that we would be turned back. They confirmed the route I planned to try. We continued up to the base of the rocks at about 5700'. The rocks were not difficult but were tedious. We ascended at the far left side of the rocks. At the top is a headwall and a slightly sloping slab which connects with the southeast ridge. We were now only about 100' below the summit.

The only option was straight up. The first 30 feet was the worst. Although it is steep there are good foot and hand holds. There is significant exposure but we had no real problem scrambling up. The 6213' summit feels plenty airy. It drops off dramatically on all sides. The view south was fairly cloudy but the other directions were mostly clear. Glacier Peak had a dusting of fresh snow. The south side of Sloan Peak looks very different than from any other angle. The complete lack of ice or sharp features leaves it looking most unspectacular. Vesper and Sperry stood out and even the lake between them was visible. As almost always I had a clear view of Mt. Stuart. Mts. Daniel and Hinman were easy to pick out. Del Campo, just across the basin and 400' higher, was the closest peak.

We arrived at the summit at 12:30 and spent a full 1 1/2 hours on top. We earlier saw the group from the ridge top bump following us. I thought I heard them at the base of the scramble but we did not see them again. Sounds carry in strange ways up high and we clearly heard a couple of scramblers over on Del Campo. They were tiny dots without binoculars but their voices carried all the way over to us. The women who had summited before us wrote in the register about rain, sleet, and frigid temperatures the night before. This day we had mostly sunny skies. Clouds did begin to blow over us just before we left the summit. I'm glad we had an early start and generally good views.

Down climbing is always trickier than ascending but the scramble down presented no problems. As we began to climb off the ridge Gary suddenly remembered that we had left our poles at the base of the scramble. I would likely have left them there and hiked on down. The rock field was just as slow to descend as to climb. Once back on the lower ridge we made better time dropping back to the lake. There were a dozen or so folks at the lake by this time. Perhaps it was the less than inspiring weather forecast but I expected to see more people at this popular spot on Labor Day weekend.

We avoided trails and dropped directly down the slabs to pick up the trail where it exits the basin. Heading down we were amazed at just how rocky the trail is . It didn't seem that bad coming up but we felt every jarring jump down rocks on the way out. This is one of the few routes were the trail is harder on ones knees than the scramble. We passed several groups backpacking up. With the holiday weekend over they should have lots of solitude in the basin. At long last we reached the Monte Cristo Road. Now we joined the multitudes of hikers and bikers coming out. Monte Cristo must have been really crowded this day. At 5:15 we arrived back at the car.

This proved to be a really fun scramble. The weather cooperated with mostly sunny skies but not too much heat. The crowds were much smaller than anticipated. The scramble was challenging without being death defying. The summit had great views. Throw in some beautifully glacier carved rock and a barren shored lake and it was a great trip. Totals for the day were about 12 miles with 4100' of gain.

First Basin View
Sheep Gap Mountain
Gothic Peak
Gary In Basin
Lower Basin
Del Campo Peak
Foggy Pass
Gothic Closer
Del Campo & Lake
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Photo Page 2

Trips - 2005