Crystal Mountain Peaks

Suzanne, Barry, and David are heading to the Enchantments in a week. The NWhikers Traveling Summit Register had been sitting on Crystal King Mountain for six weeks. They wanted to pick it up and take it to a number of peaks in the Enchantments. Suzanne and Barry had been up from the Crystal Mountain ski area side on Labor Day but rain and snow turned them back. This day looked to be mostly sunny. Instead of hiking up from the ski area we chose to come in from Chinook Pass on the Pacific Crest Trail. David and I met Suzanne and Barry in Seattle and we met Elle and Kolleen at the trailhead just east of Chinook Pass. There were already a number of cars in the lot at 9:15. By 9:45 we were on our way.

It was sunny but cold and windy at first. The trail begins paralleling Highway 410. It is a little less than two miles with minimal elevation change from the pass at about 5400' to Sheep Lake at about 5800'. There were still some huckleberries along the trail. I didn't expect any to be left since this trail is so popular. We passed a few groups who camped in the rain. They were all in good spirits. It took us only 34 minutes to reach the lake.

We waited a few minutes until everyone was together then headed on. The Crest Trail is always gently graded and this section is no different. It's about a mile to Sourdough Gap gaining another 700'. The wind ended a few minutes up the trail and it was warming nicely near the gap. Mt. Adams then Mt. Rainier came into view. Sourdough Gap is a nice viewpoint requiring minimal effort to reach.

We used a route description provided by Dean at Summit Post. As he mentioned, just below the gap the trail split. The Crest Trail switched back to the right and a trail not on the map continued straight ahead. This route will get you up to another pass in a very short distance then drops to the Crystal Lakes. Crystal King Peak was clearly visible from the gap and this pass. We followed the trail down from the passs then left the trail. We headed straight up to the ridge to our right.

The climb was on steep grass and some loose rock. We avoided any cliff bands and soon reached the ridge top. We then added views to the north. Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood were visible to the south and many more peaks to the north. The Crystal Mountain Ski Area was also below us on the north side of the ridge. We followed the ridge on top or just to the left side. One short drop and then it was all uphill. The last part to the summit of Crystal King was on talus but the footing was fine.

We topped out and found.... no NWhikers Traveling Summit Register. It was gone. Did someone else beat us this morning? Did someone take it and not report it at Did someone just take it? Was it really on one of the other ridge summits? We were pretty sure it was on the King as stated but it was still early. We chose to head over to the Throne. More ridge running with a drop then a short climb to the Throne. It is lower than the King. It was no surprise that the register was not there. It was still early. We chose to continue on to Crystal Queen Peak. That one has a ski lift building on top.

More descending then another climb brought us to the summit of the Queen. Elle has skied the ridge but the rest of us had not been there. It was a whole lot different than she is used to seeing in the winter. Nobody was interested in going further. With a little more planning we could have dropped a car at the ski area or the Crystal Lakes trailhead and had a one way trip. On the other hand it was a fun ridge walk out and back and the Chinook Pass trailhead minimized our downhill hiking. As expected the summit register was not at the Queen. It is officially missing in action.

Most all the ski area is in sight from the Queen. Across the valley we could clearly see the big open slope we use to reach the ridge in the winter on the way to Norse Peak. The trip back was fun as we had mountains all around. We took another short break on the King looking to see if the register might have been blown out of sight. No luck. Rather than follow the ridge from the King we angled right and down then mostly straight down and finally traversed back to the trail. We did meet the first folks since before Sourdough Gap along here.

Beyond Sheep Lake we began to meet some other folks heading in. There was some colorful leaves above the lake and in the last mile. This was my first trip beyond North Bend in the last four weeks so seeing any color was a plus. Hopefully I've get in a few more fall color and larch trips this season. We did not snag the register but it was a beautiful day, a new route, and one long ridge run. A terrific day in the mountains.

Start Of Trail
Elle & Barry At Lake
Silver King From Gap
Sheep Lake
Rainier Appears
Rainier Close Up
Upper Crystal Lake
Crystal Peak & Lake
Rainier & Crystal Peak
Scrambling Uphill
Crystal King
Another Rainiier Shot
Upper Crystal Lake II
David Below Crystal King
White River Valley
Ridge To Throne
Crystal Queen
Kolleen & Lupe
Crystal Ski Area
Crystal Lodge
Crystal King Again
Along The Ridge
Final Rainier Shot
Arch Again
PCT & Sourdough Gap
Red Leaves
More Color
Color Along Sheep Lake
Gusto Swimming
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2009