OverviewA breathtakingly large mountain named for an early explorer in the area, and located just above Naches, WA - just to the northwest of Yakima - Cleman Mountain is clearly visible from nearly anywhere in the Yakima or Naches Valleys. It is by far the tallest landform nearby - a fact particularly evident at the summit which offers panoramic 360 degree views showcasing the Cascade range including Mt. Adams, the Goat Rocks, Mt Ranier, the William O. Douglas Area, and the Goat Rocks.
The mountain was formed by early volcanic activity and has now been weathered away into a rocky transition area between forest and desert. The 17 mi of the ridge-line boast what seems an almost limitless area of potential exploration. During the winter especially, herds of Goats and elk as well as other animals roam the vast expanse of public land and are easily found - though not followed!
This climb may range from very difficult to relatively easy depending on the weather and how far climbers plan to go. A simple stroll through the canyon is suitable for nearly any interested party, while reaching the summit at just over 4500' requires stamina and some physical preparation. Similarly, the length of the climb depends on those who plan to go - though for all but the most active, a climb to the summit is an all day commitment.
Getting ThereOne of the most commonly used entrances to the area is the gate at Waterworks Canyon. To begin there, navigate to highway 12 from Yakima heading toward Naches; at the "Y" when highway 12 becomes highway 410 continue straight on highway 410 towards Chinook Pass for less than a quarter of a mile. The entrance will be IMMEDIATELY after the first, very short, bridge with guard-rails on either side. Directly after the guard rail ends on the right hand side is a very bumpy turn off and parking area of sorts with a gate. The area is not marked in any way, though on many weekends other cars will be around. If you have hit the double lane section of hwy 410, you have gone too far and will need to turn around.
Google "Place Page" for the spot. with directions link near the bottom of the text. Street view shows a red car parked in the parking area.
Red TapeLittle or no red tape to speak of, the area is a mixture of public lands with little restriction.
When to goAs the area is partially in a desert environment, weather conditions may be extremely hot during the summer. Though one can certainly reach the summit in the hot sun, I would recommend bringing a lot of water when doing so! Rattlesnakes may also be a slight hazard during the summer months.
The best season to go, good weather permitting, is in the fall or early spring/late winter. It is a great pre-season climb to start out with and conditions on the mountain are easily in view the entire drive toward Naches. Snow often lingers near the summit, so plan appropriately if climbing in the winter.
The fall often has the benefit of both clear and cool weather, but without the chance of snow.
HERE is a link to the forecast for the summit area by the NOAA.
How to climbAs the mountain has few or no established trails, getting to the summit via the rocky canyon and ridgetops can turn into an endeavor of sorts.
The first of two recommended routes is to immediately climb the ridgeline on the right when first beginning from the gate, going across the small gulley and up the very steep slope. Following the game trails along the ridge will lead to a smaller peak about 2/3 the height of the summit. From this excellent view of the Yakima Valley, head down the other side toward the visible spine of the mountain - losing an unfortunate amount of elevation in the process - and then back up. From this point, continue straight to the highest visible area (not crossing any canyons) until you can see the semicircle formed by the summit area. Head towards it and then follow the easy to find road along the top to your heart's content :)
The second option is to follow what appears to be an established trail from the gate along the canyon, weaving through brush and the seasonal creek from time to time. When this trail becomes faint, and eventually almost impossible to follow, head across the remaining scree fields (NOT INTO THE DENSE BRUSH) until a draw appears on your right hand side. Begin the arduous climb there up the side of the ridge (still heading more forward than to the right) until it levels out and the summit becomes visible once again. Continue up after the flat-ish area to the local summit (I eat a big lunch here) and then across a suddenly visible bridge to what appears to be the semicircle formed near the summit. You will stumble across an unimproved dirt road (you won't miss it as it runs along the entire spine) which you may follow easily to the true summit, Naches Peak.
Either of the previously mentioned ascents will work for descending as well. Descent on the mountain goes very quickly - too quickly on occasion - and I would advise caution on loose rock and grass. The game trails will be a life-saver on many areas of the descent!
HazardsLoose rock, scree, and talus slopes are the primary concern across the mountain. Coupled with the steep slopes, it is very easy to fall badly - but not if care is taken not to do so!
Make sure to note time in and wear a watch so you know when to turn back, descent is faster, but getting trapped in the dark is much slower.
Mind rattlesnakes in the summer, they'll usually let you know they're there well in advance, but watch your step anyway.
Heat can be very excessive, so bring plenty of water and sunscreen.
Don't let these hazards deter you from a beautiful climb, just be able to cope with whatever mother nature throws your way!
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