Koppen Mountain

I had hiked up Koppen Mountain twice before via Medra Pass. The old sheep highway has not been maintained in many decades but some tread remains all the way to Koppen and beyond. Suzanne, Barry, Brewmaster, and Elle completed the group. All of us and Suzanne's dog Gus squeezed into one vehicle for the drive over. This weekend provided an unusual forecast as unsettled weather presented the chance of thundershowers in the mountains. The best weather was in Seattle. Still, flowers are great now on the east side of the crest and rapidly melting snow provides the chance to hike on dirt once again.

We arrived at the Johnson Creek Trailhead, just beyond Beverly Creek Campgrounds on the NF Teanaway River, at about 9:00 am. There was one other car there. The trail crosses the Teanaway River on a bridge and begins a gentle climb up the valley. In less than a mile the junction with the Jungle Creek Trail is reached. The valley is really green right now. A few trillium remain though far past their prime. Vanilla leaf lines much of the trail. We also saw columbine, violets, and numerous other flowers. Ell noticed a small snake in the trail. It was brownish in color and yellow on its belly. It was not moving but not dead either. We moved it out of the way. I don't know what type of snake it was.

The trail crosses the creek four times. At peak snow melt in the spring these can be very difficult. Today the crossings were not too bad at all. The crossings were at about half of the maximum creek width. Soon after the final crossing the grade begins to steepen. The trail is open to horses, hikers, motorcycles, etc. It gets steeper but remains pretty smooth. When switchbacks begin the creek is left behind and the real climbing begins.

Soon deep forest gives way to trees and open rock gardens mixed together. Lupine, paintbrush, waterleaf, penstemon, larkspur, arnica, and more dotted the hillside. The flower show looked to be right near its peak. We drove over with clouds overhead most all the way. It began to clear past Easton and the sky was blue when we began. A few clouds began to drift in. We were still a mile or so from Medra Pass when the first "boom" of thunder caught our attention. Maybe we wouldn't be going to the summit after all. We decided to continue to the pass and make a decision then.

Up at the pass we could see one big and very black cloud to the east near Table Mountain. It was raining heavily there. Lighter clouds were all around though we still had some sunshine above us. We decided to head on towards the summit keeping an eye on the direction of the thunderclouds. The ridge has some ups and downs on the way to Koppen. There are two high bumps near the peak. On my previous visit I made a mistake. There is a spot where the trail goes straight ahead and a smaller trail turns off right. The correct route is to the right. Just like last time we headed straight and began to descend. This side ridge drops then gets really steep. It is obviously not the correct route. It just feels like it at first.

We trudged back uphill to the junction and turned onto the correct route. For the most part the trail is just to the left of the ridge. A lot of the ridge still has some snow on the very top but the route avoided most of it. We heard a few more thunderclaps but the weather seemed to be staying the same. The heavy rain to the east looked to be dumping on the same place for hours. As usual, Barry, Suzanne, and Elle flew ahead and David and I hiked together. Balsamroot and douglasia joined the flower parade on the ridge top. Where the old trail traverses a rocky slope the route is hard to see. David and I went too high at first before finding the old tread, such as it is. This part is not an easy trail walk though its not a difficult scramble either.

We crested Point 5806, dropped to the saddle, and began the final climb to the summit. The views were outstanding. Clouds were high but all the summits were in the clear. Iron, Teanaway, Stuart, Ingalls, Fortune, Esmeralda, Hawkins, Daniel, DeRoux, Jolly, and more were all around us. Koppen makes an excellent viewpoint of all the Teanaway area peaks. We were the second party to sign the summit register this year. Soon the usual route up the DeRoux Trail will be snow free and many more folks will visit.

Weather was still a concern so we did not stay on top as long as we would have wished. All too soon it was time to head down. I wasn't excited about the uphill on the way back to Medra Pass but it wasn't too bad. One positive of the clouds was that it kept the temperature down to a reasonable level. Still warm but not too hot. As we neared the pass we met the only two hikers we were to see all day. They were heading in the direction of Koppen.

The group sprinted down from the pass. I chose to take more photos of all the wildflowers and fell behind quickly. I hike alone on the way down but very much enjoyed the flower show. It was warming up and I was glad to reach the more heavily forested valley below. Within the last half mile I met two mushroom pickers. They were the only other people on the trail. Another day in a popular hiking area where I see very few people. I'm amazed that most of the hikers in the Teanaway Valley are all on the same two or three trails. So much the better for me I guess.

We came all the way down from the summit in about two hours. Not bad at all. For the day David's GPS recorded 11 1/2 miles with 3500' of gain. That includes about 100' on our accidental detour. We braved the thunder and lightning and came out just fine. It never did rain on us. It did rain all around us and the sky was dark for most of the drive home. Just before Seattle the sky turned blue and 65 degrees turned to 80 degrees. For once, Seattle turned out to be the warm sunny corner of Washington state. We had a nice climb, some scrambling, great views, and the usual near total solitude. Throw in more than thirty varieties of wildflowers in bloom and you have a very nice day in the mountains.

Suzanne trip report is here: Nwhikers Report & Photos

Vanilla Leaf Everywhere
Small Snake
Into The Jungle
Open Slopes
Fortune & Ingalls
Mt. Stuart
Balsamroot & Stuart
Summit In Sight
Summit Above
Almost There
Tall White Clouds
Looking Back Along Ridge
Raining Hard
Mt. Daniel
Jolly Mountain
Hawkins Mountain
Heading Down
Ridge Back To Pass
Balsamroot On Ridge
Rocky Slope
Biggest Snow Patch
Drop Off Left
Hikers & Balsamroot
Paintbrush & Lupine
Orange Panitbrush
Yellow & Orange
Lush Green Valley
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2009