Kachess Ridge Scramble

Joey of nwhikers.net invited me to tag along on a hike of the scramble route up Kachess Ridge to the old beacon and beyond. Joey has done it a number of times. There is a spur trail off the Silver Creek Trail that goes to the ridge top beacon. The problem is that the Silver Creek Valley is still snow covered. The south ridge melts out much earlier. We took the first Easton exit from I-90, crossed the highway, and took a left then a right on the Dam Road. The sign post is still there at the "Y" but the sing is gone. Take a right to the trailhead. Not surprisingly, we were the first to arrive.

I have hiked the trail over Silver Creek then up to Baldy, Domerie, and Thomas Mountains many times. What I had never done is to hike the Silver Creek Trail. The two trails leave from nearly the same point. We were 20 feet into the route when Joey pointed out a calypso orchid. Last week on the Monument Creek Trail I saw more calypsos than ever before. This day was a close second. Must be the year for them.

The trail is in fine shape. There was one log down on the way up but it was sawed out when we came down. Must have been a trail crew up there. The calypso orchids kept up and a number of other flowers are in bloom to. I noticed some trillium, larkspur, and Indian paintbrush among others. A few openings had blooming rock gardens. Silver Creek is actually not seen on the part of the trail we hiked. I could hear it but not see it.

The trail is a little steeper at first then more gentle. We crossed one season creek and hit a few snow patches. Soon Joey pointed out a big rock wall appearing on our right. This narrow ridge separates the trail from Silver Creek. Shortly we came to the junction. We were hiking to the left. An obvious trail kept going left. A less obvious one switched back to the right. The right trail crosses a rock at the junction. It is the real Silver Creek Trail. Twenty feet up the trail it is obviously the real trail. There were no branches blocking the scramble route. Joey put one across. On the way down the scramble route had even more branches blocking it.

The first thing Joey noticed is that the scramble route is more defined than last year. For the most part it can be followed until the ridge moderates near the beacon. It even has switchbacks. There are a few logs down higher up but there are really no spots where hands are needed. This is a nice off-trail trail. As we ascended we could see that the rock wall we saw earlier is a long narrow ridge. We were on a second one. To the west is still a third one. Numbers two and three merge into Kachess Ridge.

The ridge route is sometimes in forest and sometimes in the open. There are lots of flowers in the open sections. I was a little concerned about the steepness since my knee is still not fully healed but the route was just fine for me. Never too steep. We did see a fresh pile of bear scat but not the bear. Views begin quickly and improve all the way up. At first we could see over to Lake Easton then Mt. Rainier came into view. It was as clear as I have seen it. No haze at all.

Soon after the route moderated the beacon came into sight. It is a small building with a tower on top. At one time long ago there was a light to help aircraft cross the mountains. I couldn't resist the temptation and climbed up onto the building. I climbed the ladder on the tower to the crows nest but did not go up into it. I did not trust my life to the old wooden floor boards. From the beacon on the fun really begins. There was some snow in the trees but most of the ridge is already snow free.

The ridge is mostly wide and grassy. We had seen some glacier lilies and spring beauty on the lower ridge. Now it was everywhere. Thousands of spring beauties. The trailhead is at about 2250'. The beacon is at 4615'. We dropped down a little then climbed again. much of the ridge is a grassy meadow with trees on the side. We did cross through several forest sections. We climbed to another high point with views now open to Mt. Stuart and points northeast.

I was up for a little more and Joey led down a short scramble to the left of the ridge to a saddle. From there it is up the ridge to the final summit, point 4952. This part of the ridge was snow on the left and bare on the right. We did most of the climb avoiding the snow. Point 4952 is a great viewpoint. Stuart, Hinman, the West and South Peaks of French Cabin Mountain, Rainier, Goat Rocks, the tip of Adams, Three Queens, Snoqualmie, Silver, and more. It was getting hot but we had a nice cool breeze on top. We had a nice long lunch before packing up to head down.

We managed some standing glissades on the snow coming down. Up, down, and up again to the beacon. On the way we were surprised to meet a couple hiking up. They mentioned doing the ridge many times before. Just below the beacon we met two more people. Seems they were there because they read Joeys's trip report on nwhikers. Small world! Lower on the ridge we met two more. I did not expect to see three other groups on the route. The rest of the descent went by quickly.

For the day I estimate that we traveled about 7 miles with 3100' of gain. This is a fine early season route. It allows for a good elevation gain on a ridge that melts out early. I had a good look at most of the Silver Creek - Thomas Mountain - Domerie Divide loop. I would like to do the whole loop at some point soon. Thanks to Joey for inviting me along and showing me the route. I'm sure I'll get back up there fairly often.

Joey's trip report is here: Nwhikers Report & Photos

Calypso Orchid
Rocky Ridge
Heading Up Ridge
Mt. Rainier
Lake Easton
First Glacier Lilies
Patch Of Glacier Lilies
Old Beacon
Open Ridge
Peaks In Sight
Back Lit Glacier Lilies
Joey At Work
Snow Patches On Ridge
Point 4952 Ahead
Ridge Top View
Starting Up Point 4952
Thomas & Baldy
Kachess Ridge Route
Nearing Pt. 4952
Joey Looking West
W. Pk French Cabin Mt.
Mt. Stuart
Stuart Range
Three Queens
Looking Back
Spring Beauty & Lilies
Pocket Meadows
Shaded Lilies
Spring Beauty
Back To Beacon
Going Down Ridge
Indian Paintbrush
Last Break
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2009