Mt. Fremont

One more warm sunny day this year. We had hoped to get in a trip to the Sunrise area of Mt. Rainier via the path to Eleanor Lake and Grand Park. Recent snow had us unsure if the road would be passable. A recent NWHikers trip report to Mt. Fremont from the White River Campground caught our eye. That was necessary because early snow closed the road up to Sunrise at the campground turnoff. Just after the weekend the road would be closed back at Highway 410. We had a window to hike up to Mt. Fremont. The great weather forecast made it even better. We needed an early start to have plenty of time up high and to beat any possible crowds with similar ideas.

I drove south to pick up Gary at 6:10 am and then John. A dark drive with some fog. We headed to Highway 169 to Enumclaw and then on Highway 410 to Mt. Rainier National Park. The sun was finally up as we cruised down the road in the park. There were 8 vehicles at the Fryingpan Creek trailhead. Just before reaching the campground we pulled off where we had a great view of Mt. Rainier. The morning light really lit up the mountain. A few minutes later we pulled into the 4232' parking lot. It was 7:52 am. There were two cars in the lot and two more arrived soon after. We were on the trail at 8:01 am. On the trail meant a short road walk to the start.

The trail is the Wonderland Trail. The trail that goes all the way around Mt. Rainier over 93 miles. Surprisingly, none of us had ever been on this 2.6 mile trail section. Except when the road is closed to Sunrise few would choose this longer route. We started next to an old log cabin and quickly gained elevation. We expected a very cold start and it did not happen. A cool start quickly turned into a rapidly warming morning. Before long we had to take a clothing break. The other guys took off a layer or so plus gloves. I was a little more extreme. Off with gloves, pants legs, polypro upper layer and I exchanged a long sleeve shirt for a short sleeve one. Only a few days before November and at 5000' I was down to shorts and short sleeves at 8:20 am.

The first two miles were in dark forest. The trail comes to a big waterfall and crosses it. The water was low enough for an easy crossing but high enough to really show the long ribbon of water. I had not heard about this falls. We now had our first trail view of Mt. Rainier. The light had changed from our pre hike shots but it was still very good. We were almost to 6000' and finally had a little snow along the trail. The NWHikers report from four days earlier had snow at 5200'. The melting made our trip easier on several parts of the trip. At 2.6 miles we came to a junction. Right goes to Sunrise. Left would be our return route. The trail was now mostly on snow though it was only a few inches deep. Another half mile and we reached the the Sunrise parking lot. The parking lot is mostly full every weekend the road is open. it was strange to see it empty. The lot was bare with snow all around it.

We now had a great view of Mt. Rainier. We took a long break here. There was almost no wind and I was still warm even without moving. We arrived at Sunrise at 9:50 am. At 10:20 am we started moving again. The views at and above Sunrise are terrific. Even better when you are there early in the day when the lighting is best. Later in the day the mountain was largely washed out with glare. It's about an easy mile to Frozen Lake. It does not take long when the trail is bare. With snow it takes longer. The snow was a little consolidated and a little soft. Some steps held and many sank in. It was slow going. We were able to walk on a little dirt along the side in spots. We could see down into the valley to the route we would take on the way back.

We expected to see tracks in the snow but from where we left the Wonderland Trail to Frozen Lake there were no recent tracks. Frozen Lake did have a thin sheet of ice on top. We could see that the slope of Mt. Fremont was mostly bare. Bare except for where the trail is. The flat trail held snow after the steeper slopes melted out. There was much less snow than in photos from the very recent trip report. It's just 1.3 miles from the lake to the Mt. Fremont Lookout. We did a 9 mile hike with 2600' of gain on Thursday evening. Now after hiking up to near 7000' we did not have much get up and go. The sun on the snow was pretty hot too. We made slow steady progress on the trail to the lookout. The snow was not much of a problem. Much of the way was at least partly bare. We finally reached the lookout at 1222 pm.

It was almost November and after a short visit up onto the lookout we headed for the shade behind the building. We had a great view of Grand Park. There was just a small amount of snow there. Berkeley Park below us was mostly snowy. Skyscraper Peak across the way had snow on the northeast side. Such great views from the 7200' lookout. We saw one guy coming down a mile up the trail and nobody else to the lookout. One person in five hours on the trail. So much for the crowds. Soon Gary saw a mountain goat on the north ridge. Then another and another and another. They were not that close but with zoom lenses we managed some good shots. Later John noticed another 8 goats on the east ridge. The score was now we had seen 12 goats and one person. As it should be.

We would have liked to have spent the rest of the afternoon up there but we had over five miles left to hike down. We spent a full hour on top. Hiking down Mt. Fremont we met three hikers coming up. We also saw someone atop Burroughs Mountain. Not total solitude but still really good. We arrived at the trail junction near Frozen Lake just ahead of two hikers coming down from First Burroughs. We started down on snow and quickly found some bare trail. The other groups seen had come up the shorter route. We now had footprints to follow. While much of the way down to complete our loop was on snow it was not very deep. In places though I was able to bury my entire pole so it was up to at lest four feet deep. Mostly it was 3-8 inches deep. The trail down was half a mile shorter but had more snow. I doubt it was much faster.

There are a lot of trails near Sunrise. They are also signed. A map is a good idea. We took a short stop at Shadow Lake. My first visit. It was not frozen. We could see our route going up high on the slope above the lake. The trail held snow and it was visible as a white line. There were a lot of short ups and downs as we worked to close the loop. Finally we made it back to the junction. Now it was just 2.6 miles of trail back to the parking lot. Only the first bit had any snow. We made much better time on this bare trail. We were back at the car by 4:04 pm. It took just 52 minutes to come down the last 2.6 miles.

What a day! Short sleeves and shorts at the end of October. Not a cloud in the sky. Almost no wind. Recent fresh snow to highlight all the peaks. Conditions could hardly have been better. Add in a surprising amount of solitude and we had one heck of a hike. It was really strange to be at Sunrise and see no cars or people. The views from all along the upper route were outstanding. Hard to image much better. Soon it will be wet and cold hiking. For one last day we had spring time in October.

Morning Light On Rainier
Asphalt Start Of Trail
Big Waterfall
Mt. Rainier Close Up
View Of Rainier
Goat Island Mountain
Little Tahoma
Steamboat Prow
Little Tahoma Close Up
Snow On Trail Now
Nearing Sunrise
Bare Sunrise Lot
Rainier From Sunrise
Gary Takes A Break
Heading On
What A View!
Back Side Of Fremont
Glacier Peak
Snoqualmie Peaks
Trail To Frozen Lake
Frozen Lake
Hiking Around Lake
Wonderland Trail
Ascending Mt. Fremont
First Burroughs
Sun On Mt. Rainier
Approaching Lookout
Lookout & Grand Park
Skyscraper Mountain
Mountain Goats
Mt. Stuart
Closer Look At Goat
Mt. Fremont Lookout
Starburst Shot
Parkland & Peak
Heading Down
Some Bare Trail
Outhouse In Meadow
Shadow Lake
Snowy Meadow
Crossing Falls
Lot Mostly Full
Sunrise Without Any Other People
Mt. Rainier And Gary At Mt. Fremont
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2017