Malcolm & Johnson Mountains
I had planned a weekend in the
north Cascades but a forecast of unseasonably cold and damp weather sent
me back east to the Teanaway. I had a group trip scheduled for Sunday and
needed a trip for Saturday. I finally settled on two easy scrambles in a
very seldom visited area. After a quick stop to set up camp I was on the
Johnson Creek trail by 9:30. I wasn't able to find my camera so there are
no photos of this trip. A sign at the trailhead warns that the trail is closed
at 4 miles due to wildfires. This proved to no longer be true. As of now,
the trail is open. At .7 miles the trail splits and I took the left fork.
The trail was initially a little brushy but otherwise in great shape. There
is one log down on the trail for about 30'. It should block any motorcycles
from passing. I had never seen a tree land right along a trail. The surprise
of the trip was about one mile in. There were lots of huckleberries and they
were ripe and sweet. This caused me to have a very slow trip back out. I
have not previously seen berries anywhere near ripe this year.
Just before the ridge top where the Jungle Creek Trail goes down, I passed
2 motorcycles. They verified that the trail is not closed ahead. They were
the only 2 people that I saw the entire day until the last half mile coming
out. This trail is great with two motorcycle related exceptions. Several
of the switchback corners are deeply rutted with small rocks everywhere and
several spots have very steep sections which are loose dirt and rocks. With
one person the dust was not too bad. With a group be prepared to kick up
dust on your hiking partners. The other 90% of the way is fine.
The first ridge top is at 4500'. The next mile has a
number of ups and downs and only nets 300'. The second ridge top is where
the Way Creek Trail descends back down to the Jungle Creek Road. A left here
steeply climbs the ridge to the summit of Johnson Peak. I continued on the
old Sheep Driveway which heads west to Malcolm Mountain, Medra Pass, Koppen
Mountain, and finally the DeRoux Spur Trail. The route is either a very poor
trail or a very good scramble route. There are many ups and downs. At the
end of the ridge I took a what turned out to be the real trail west traversing
an open slope on the barest of tread to reach the ridge heading north from
Malcolm. I left the trail here and turned left following the ridge on a way
trail. The route passes several hunters camps complete with stacked firewood
and reaches the base of Malcolm Mountain. The real trail traverses around
the mountain and ascends the back side. It is so washed out that it is a
much harder route than scrambling straight up the front. Where the trail
begins to traverse right, I headed straight up in forest. The route is steep
but has no exposure at all. 250' later I was on top. The day was mostly sunny
with a few high clouds. I had a clear view of Rainier, Adams, Stuart, all
the Teanaway peaks, and to the right of Jolly Mountain was a low ridge giving
views of the Lemah, Chimney Rock area. I spent about an hour on top and headed
back. On the way back I missed my route up and followed a very nice trail
which was to the south of the ridge I traversed on the north side while ascending.
When you reach the end of the ridge from Johnson, passing the trail on the
right and heading straight up the ridge brings you to the trail I came down.
Either way will get you up Malcolm.
After hiking back on the ridge towards Johnson I found
two trails. The correct one heads straight up the ridge to the summit. The
better looking one heads to the right of the ridge. On my previous ascent
of Johnson we took the trail on the right. It was a bad choice. We ended
up climbing the south face when that very nice trail suddenly ended.
The ridge route turned out to be much nicer. While it is a steep scramble,
there are no problems. It goes directly over one false summit and then up
to the real summit. Johnson, at 5220' is 200' lower than Malcolm. The views
are good but definitely better from Malcolm. The trip down was uneventful
except for all those berries. I expected views and they were great. I expected
solitude and I certainly had that. I did not expect ripe berries and that
was a great bonus. All totaled, the trip was 11 miles and about 3500' gained.