Black Tusk located in the south side of the Crystal Mountain area is yet another great Crystal Mountain area summit. Like many of the other nearby Crystal Mountain summits Black Tusk makes a great winter and early spring snowclimb. The peak itself is seldom climbed and usually combined with one of the other mountains in the region.
Black Tusk is very similiar to many of the other mountains in the Crystal Mountain area in that on a clear good views of the nearby mountains can be seen from it's summit. Mount Rainier as well as Mount Adams tower over the many dozen of peak seen in the area. There is also a great view of the other summits in the Crystal Mountain area.
The summit of Black Tusk is best done in early spring just when the Crystal Mountain ski area has closed down. That because the lift that goes up the main valley of Crystal Mountain heads very close to Hen Skin Lake where the true snowclimb to the top of Black Tusk begins. From there you are at the foot of Black Tusk. Take the gully to the left of the summit block up to the snowbowl. From there head up the snowbowl up 30-40 degree snow to the ridgeline. From there make a right and traverse the ridge to the true summit of Black Tusk. Once there enjoy the views.
It should be noted that Black Tusk should not be attempted in high avalanche conditions. The route described above is home to frequency avalanches and still was showing some of it's debris in mid June when I was there. There is also a number of open area that where about 30-40 degrees that clearly make good avalanche chute. I personally would save this peak for late winter or early spring, literally just after the ski resort has closed.
Getting ThereVIA THE CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN SKI AREA: From Enumclaw take 410 east for 33 miles until just before reaching the gate of Mt. Rainier National Park. In winter this road will be gated just passed the Crystal Mountain Road. Make a left on Crystal Mountain Blvd (7190) (paved) go roughly 6 miles to the main ski area.
Red TapeWHEN GOING INTO THE BACKCOUNTRY YOU ARE REQUIRED TO CHECKIN WITH THE SKI PATROL AND SHOW YOUR INTENDED DESTINATION. IN ADDITION IF YOU PLAN ON STAYING OVERNIGHT YOU WILL HAVE TO PARK IN A DESIGNATED SPOT OVERNIGHT WITH YOUR INTENDED ROUTE LISTED ON THE VEHICLE.
No fees required at Crystal Mountain to park. However you must stay off the established ski trails at all times.
CampingIt is required that if you plan on camping in the backcountry and park at the Crystal Mountain Ski Area that you check in at the Ski Patrol before planning any overnight trip and park only in the designated lots that they give you.
External LinksThe best page to find local weather and local conditions on Pickhandle Point and neighboring mountains in the region.
The best website for trip report on Pickhandle Point and other Cascade Mountains in the region.