Banshee Peak

Gary and John were free for a weekend hike. Saturday had a chance of lightening. Sunday would be cooler than recently but dry and electrocution free. We chose Sunday. I have been tryng to get up to Trappers Peak for about two decades. It has never worked out. It did not work out this time either. A cloudy morning up north with a chance for some afternoon clearing. Not good enough for my first visit to spectacular North Cascades views. A loop on Kachess Ridge-Silver Creek was also discussed. We chose a trip the three of us did in 2012. I had done it three times, John twice, and Gary just that one time. Banshee Peak it would be. I met Gary at 6:10 am and we picked up John on the east hill of Kent. The traffic was much lighter than a trip in the same area just a few weeks earlier. It was overcast on the drive with a little mist much of the way. We drove out Highway 410 from Enumclaw to the White River entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park (MRNP). No line of cars at the pay station. We arrived at the Fryingpan Creek trailhead at abut 7:40 am. The lot was full and there were just a couple spots open alongside the road on the other side. It was overcast and chilly but not raining. We were on our way by 7:48 am.

The trail quickly reaches the Wonderland Trail (WT) which circles Mt. Rainier. The route is wide and smooth making for easy hiking. It was cold enough at first that I put on a thin pair of gloves. That has not been necessary in many months. We warmed up soon and I went with short sleeve shirt and pant legs zipped off. It was a little cool still but I kept the shorts all day. The other guys stayed with long pants and long sleeves. We met one woman who was already coming down. She started hiking at 5:00 am. She did confirm that there are plenty of open parking spots at that hour. There were very few wildflowers in bloom through the forest. That did minimize our photo stops.

We came out of the thick forest and there were a few patches of pearly everlasting in bloom. At the bridges over Fryingpan Creek I have always seen a good display of monkeyflower in bloom in August. Not this year. Just a few flowers here and there. From there the route has open meadows with some wildflowers. Fireweed was especially brightly colored. Mt. Rainier came into view. Clouds came and went. It was not really totally in the clear at this time. Soon we reached the spot where the route begins many switchbacks as it climbs to Summerland. This is forested and generally has some avalanche lilies in bloom. Not this year. We saw just a few shriveled ones left. There were a few lupine and paintbrush in bloom but not many.

So far we had not seen many folks. We arrived at Summerland at 9:42 am. 4.3 miles down and about 2.7 miles to go. The smooth trail was about to end however. The meadows were well past prime flowers. There were some asters, paintbrush, and a good display of lousewort, western anemone, and gentian, a late season bloom. We dropped down to the creek to find it lined with monkeyflower. Mostly pink with a few yellow too. It was time for a food and water break. There was another group there. After a short ten minute break we headed on. The route quickly enters the moraine. Lots of rocks from here on to Panhandle Gap. We saw a small baby marmot but he scurried away before we took any photos.

We came to the log crossing to see the new one in place. Reports say it was only put in a few weeks ago. Checking a photo at that spot form 2012 I found that none of the rocks and boulders are the same. A raging creek completely changed the look at the crossing as well as washing out the log bridge. The main difference from the bridge to the gap vs. my previous visits was the lack of snow. We had very little on the route. It would have been possible to avoid most of it if necessary. The way was partly in clouds. We could see out pretty well but it was misty gray.  Just before Panhandle Gap there was a snow finger crossing the trail. It was very hard snow. Most folks seemed to have dropped a little to a narrower spot to cross. We went up and dropped behind the top of the snow and then back down to the trail. The rest of the way was on dirt.

There were a couple groups at the pass. The summit of Mt. Rainier was now mostly in the clear. We reached the gap at 10:45 am. We took three hours to hike 5.6 miles. We set a steady but not fast pace. Still, with an early start it was still morning. After some photos we headed on to Banshee. The trail soon ended and we headed up the slope. Again, some flowers in bloom but far less than on any other August visit. Harebells were plentiful. Part way up we could see a couple folks on the summit. As we arrived they were just leaving. Perfect timing. Banshee's 7400' summit provides some great views.  We arrived at 11:42 am and settled down for a long stay.

Cowlitz Chimneys are close by. The view of Rainier is outstanding. Little Tahoma is right in line with the summit. Below the summit is a near vertical drop to the Sarvent Glacier. On the other side is a gentler drop to a green meadow. A close look there showed a goat herd. We kept seeing more and more of them over time. The maximum number we counted was 55 goats. There were a lot of kids among them. Later, we noticed two climbers on the left most Cowlitz Chimney. We watched them climb down and follow the ridge towards the next Chimney. It did provide info on the route. At 14 miles round trip with 4000' of gain to Banshee, we had no interest in going farther. The conditions were excellent on top. With a windshirt on and a light breeze it was very comfortable. Not as hot as most other hikes this summer. After 2 1/4 hours on top we packed up to leave at 2:00 pm. At the low point before climbing up to the gap we saw a tent. Nearby, a marmot patiently modeled for us. Back at Panhandle Gap we had a bit of solitude.

Looking down we could see a steady stream of folks coming up. The summit of Rainier was now much more in the clouds. The hike through the moraine was easy walking. The two tarns are snow free. There were a number of big waterfalls dropping down from the Rainier side. We made it back to the small creek near Summerland at 3:30 pm. Time for another break. The monkeyflower lining the creek was impressive. The rest of the way back was on smooth trail. The surprising part was the relative lack of people. We saw a few groups heading up. We passed a couple folks heading down. The normal summer crowds were not there. Perhaps it was the rainy day before. Perhaps we were just lucky. We certainly saw people but not the number that we expected.

We made it back to the trailhead right about at 5:30 pm. That is very close to the time I finished on my previous three trips to Banshee. I seem to be pretty consistent on this trip. The views were good but not with sun and blue sky. The heat was never a problem. The misty gray did provide a very different look than my other visits. That was fun. This has become a favorite trip. This day did not disappoint. We had a great time.

Parking Lot
The Guys On Trail
Low Clouds
Wonderland Trail
Fryingpan Bridge
Meadow Flowers
Pink Monkeyflower
Little Tahoma
Mt. Rainier In Sight
Heading Uphill
Rainier Over Meadows
Western Anemone
Bunch Of Gentian
Pink Along Creek
Heading To Moraine
Cloudy Cascades
Gary Crossing Bridge
Wispy Clouds
Tarn Reflection
Moraine & Rainier
Rainier Close Up
Crossing Hard Snow
Panhandle Gapers
Towards Indian Bar
Banshee In Sight
Colorful Bouquet
Gary & Rainier
Mt. Adams
Cowlitz Chimneys
Misty Mt. Rainier
Peaks To The South
Chimneys From Banshee
Climbers Descending
Climbers On Ridge
John & Chimney
Tamanos Mountain
New Tarn
Small Lupine
Yellow Flower
Blooming Gentians
Orange Paintbrush
Panhandle Gap View
Descending From Gap
Colors On Tarn
Crazy Colors
Big Waterfall
Back To Grass
Monkeyflower Lined
Summerland Ahead
Colorful Meadow
Pearly Everlasting Patch
Looking Back To Summerland
From Cowlitz Chimneys At Left To Mt. Rainier At Right
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2018