Wintertime in the Cascades can be tough at times. Roads are often sclosed and trailhead are snowed in and require much more time that they do in summer. Often winter climbing involves going out in areas that are away from cell phone reception and they usually involve a long difficult drive to get to. If none of these obstacles interest you than you are probably suck climbing in the I-90 corridor. The I-90 corridor is scenic and very pretty but there is another place with 6000 foot plus peaks each with stellar views. And the effort need for them is about the same as to do one of the easiest of the I-90 peaks.
The Bullion Peak Crown Point Traverse in the Crystal Mountain is a very highly recommended traverse located in the Crystal Mountain area. This traverse is home to three volcano views as well as shots of many other peaks in the area. It is a way to get winter summit bagging and usually have the summits all to one self. And the effort required on these mountain when snow conditions are right is minimal compared to many other peak in the area.
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.
Note: In summer you can take the F. S. R. road roughly 1.8 miles from the ski area and take it up to the Bullion Basin Trailhead at 4800 feet. The road is rocky and steep (4WD highly recommended) and a Northwest Forest Pass is required.
The route starts of taking a number of side roads from the ski area up to the Bullion Basin Trail. Depending on snow depth there should be a mark on your right for the Bullion Basin Trail. If worse comes to worse follow the cross country ski path east. Continue on Bullion Basin Trail to Bullion Basin where you will see Bullion Peak to your right
From there head to the eastern ridge just to the left of the 400 foot north facing avalanche chute. There might be an alternative western ridge rise to the summit but both times I went up Bullion Peak I took the eastern ridge which connected to Platinum Peak. From there take the ridge all the way to the true summit pf Bullion Peak. From the summit of Bullion Peak you will have great views of Crown Point.
You will also pretty clearly see the route from Bullion Peak to Crown Point. From there drop into Blue Bell Pass before rising back up to a moderate grade to Crown Point. The east side of Crown Point is rather steep and can contain a number of cornices so be cautious on its edges. You can make this a look by going down Crown Point to Pickhandle Gap. Rise carefully up the ridge to the summit of Crown Point where more stellar views of surrounding peaks await.
Once on the summit of Crown Point then head down to Pickhandle Gap. The slope here is moderate and on some parts not exposed but the same caution used going up Crown Point should be used here as well. Very going down this ridge are very rewarding on a clear day! Take the ridge all the way down to Pickhandle Gap.
From Pickhandle Gap head down carefully to Pickhandle Basin, which either could be a nice glissade if the avalanche danger is decent or a steep treed decent if there is an fear of avalanches. You will know you are in Pickhandle Basin if you are in open area that looks like either a tran or a bowl. The area also looks somewhat similiar to Bullion Basin. From there bushwhack down to the ski area lift. Make sure to decend to ski area from the gully right next to Pickhandle Ridge. Be sure not to hit the ski run during the hours of operation which is 9-4. There is though a side road though that will take you all the way back to the road that lead you to the parking area if you hit the road before 4 pm.
Essential GearFor this climb and traverse, an ice axe, snowshoes and some sort of traction devices are needed. Because this route come closeby some avalanche slope an avalanche beacon is recommended. My personal advise is to hit this traverse when the avalanche danger is a 2 or below and there has not been precipatation in the past couple of days.
External LinksThe best page to find local weather and local conditions on this traverse and neighboring mountains in the region.
The best website for trip report on this traverse and other Cascade Mountains in the region.