Mother Mountain is one of the fun, easy scramble peaks above Mowich Lake in Mount Rainier National Park. An easy ascent from Knapsack Pass, First Mother Mountain surveys the beautiful meadows of Spray Park, and has front-row seats to Echo and Observation Rocks, as well as the Mowich Face on Mt. Rainier. First Mother Mountain is usually combined with a scramble of Castle Peak, but can also be combined with other easy Class 2 peaks in the area such as Fay Peak, Mt. Pleasant, and Hessong Rock.
This will not be a wilderness experience. Even while the trail to Knapsack Pass is not general knowledge, First Mother appears in guide books, and the trail to Knapsack Pass is well-known enough that you will probably encounter people along the way. In any event, this is a fun, low-stress climb with lots of rewarding views.
Approaching Knapsack Pass with Mowich Lake below
Final slope of First Mother
Drive SR-165 from Buckley through the old coal-mining town of Wilkeson. Continue to the fork with the Carbon River Road and take the right fork on the Mowich Lake Road. Drive to the end of the road at Mowich Lake, elevation 4929 feet. The most direct approach goes via old unmaintained trail to Knapsack Pass. The trail, which is not advertised by the Park Service, is accessed by taking the trail around Mowich Lake. Just past the old ranger station hut, look for a steep trail heading up through the woods. It doesn't take long for the trail to break out of the woods into a lovely basin coursing with creeks, snowfields, and talus fields. Take the trail straight up to Knapsack Pass, elevation 6200 feet. Here, the views of the northwest face of Rainier come into view. Go left on a climber's trail up to the Mother Mountain Ridge. The highest summit is the sheer fang which looks quite formidable from this vantage. Follow the ridge northeast, skirting a major false summit to the left and dropping to a notch. Climb up the timbered northwest backside of First Mother Mountain. Stats: 5 miles round trip, about 2400 feet elevation gain. Difficulty: Class 2 and route finding.
To park at Mowich Lake, you will need a day pass ($15/vehicle), or an Interagency Pass ($80/year) to be display on your dashboard. Other than this, no other restrictions are necessary.
First Mother from Spray Park
Mt. Rainier from near First Mother Mountain
For camping at established campgrounds, the Park Service is forcing camping to take place down at Eagle's Roost, a hole in the forest with no views located along the trail to Spray Park. There are also tent platforms available at Mowich Lake. With some investigation, one could probably locate some camping in the basin below Knapsack Pass. For camping here, or in the backcountry, contact the park service for backcountry camping permits.
For information including road closures and camping restrictions, you can contact Mount Rainier National Park at: Mt. Rainier National Park
Another great site is this excellent Mt. Rainier climbing blog, which gives up-to-date snowpack and road conditions on Mt. Rainier and the all of the roads: Mt. Rainier Climbing Page