OverviewWant to hike up nearby Mt. Pilchuck, but just can't stand the idea of sharing the summit with 100 other people? Consider scrambling up Pilchuck's east summit, which the Cascade Alpine Guide refers to as the "East Knob". The East Knob lies just 1.4 miles east of Pilchuck's west summit, and has views (in my opinion) that are more impressive (unless you think downtown Granite Falls is really impressive). Despite receiving only a tiny fraction of Pilchuck's visitors, the distance and elevation gain to the summit of the East Knob is almost identical to that of the west summit trail. So, if you're not scared off by a little class 2/3 scrambling and route finding, give the East Knob a try.
Update: I have recently been advised that the East Knob is also known as Hermans Peak by some local climbers. The following comments are credited to Harry Majors, from the book "Monte Cristo Area":
"Hermans Peak commemorates the pioneer land surveyor Emery J. Hermans who, during June and July 1895, made the first survey of Township 30 North, Range 8 East, about present Verlot. Hermans discovered and named Bear Lake and Pinnacle Lake in 1895. The peak was first climbed by Louis C. Fletcher of the U. S. Geological Survey."
Update to the update: I have begun to realize lately that only old-timers like myself use the Cascade Alpine Guide. For this reason, I have dropped the "East Knob" designation from the title for this page.
The easiest and shortest approach to the East Knob is via the Bear and Pinnacle Lakes trail, and that will be the approach described here. There are other approach variations that come from the Mt. Pilchuck trail to the west, and more information on these routes to the "Bathtub Lakes" can be found in trip reports on the main Mt. Pilchuck page. One popular option is to arrange a car shuttle with another party, which allows two groups to do a full mountain traverse in opposite directions.
Drive the mountain Loop Highway east from Granite Falls for 15.5 miles to the Schweitzer Creek Road, FR4020 (4.5 miles from the Verlot RS). Turn right on this road, and follow it 2.3 miles to Bear Lake Road, FR4021. Turn right on Bear Lake Road and continue 3.4 miles to the Bear Lake trailhead. Take FS trail #703 0.2 miles to a junction (0.1 miles on the right fork leads to Bear Lake). Take the left fork (trail #703.1) 1.8 miles to Pinnacle Lake (do not confuse with the large pond 500' before Pinnacle Lake - it has been done!). Cross Pinnacle Lake's outlet, and follow the shoreline clockwise for 0.2 miles to the obvious inlet creek. This creek originates in "Iodine Gulch", which will be your route to the Bathtub Lakes and summit. There is a fairly well defined path (assuming it is not snow covered) paralleling the inlet creek at this point. At an elevation of about 4100', veer slightly to the right and into Iodine Gulch. Going left would take you to a lower saddle in the ridge ahead, but it is steeper and more difficult. Iodine Gulch will get steep at this point, but rich rewards lay ahead as soon as you top out on the ridge at 4700'. At this point you have reached the east end of the Bathtub Lakes, also known as "Twenty Lakes Basin".
You will certainly want to make some time to explore these hidden gems before leaving the area, but for now, you have a peak to climb. Shortly after crossing the ridge crest, look up and to the right, and your objective should be obvious. There are a number of variations possible in the final scramble to the top, and if you choose your route carefully, none should be more difficult than class 3. Upon arrival at the top, looking straight down at Lake 22 (2800' below you!) will take your breath away. This is certainly no place to hang out if you are afraid of heights.
Looking to the west, you can plan your Bathtub Lakes excursion, and watch the throngs of people scrambling around on the west summit. Just one half mile to the W/NW, you will notice another minor summit called the "Eagles Nest" (elev. 5118'). If you have not had enough peak bagging, you can combine this with your Bathtub Lakes explorations. I have seen mountain goats on a few occasions in this area, so have your camera ready.
Looking below the Bathtub Lakes to the south, you will see Summit Lake. For those with way too much extra energy, a scramble is possible from the ridge separating Pinnacle Lake and Summit Lake. There is some brush to deal with, and it will add 800' of extra elevation gain to your trip. Do not attempt to go straight down to Summit Lake from the Bathtub Lakes - you will get cliffed out. From looking at the maps, it appears that one could approach Summit Lake from the west side, but this route has not been tested by yours truly.
A short scramble to the east side of the summit will give you a look at the lakes you passed on the way up, Bear and Pinnacle.
I don't have any good summit panoramas from the East Knob, as it seemed a little redundant after my west summit Pilchuck trips. If you would like an idea of the mountain views from the East Knob, please refer to the image gallery on the main Mt. Pilchuck page.