The baby brother of the Skykomish River Group (bigger siblings are Gunn Peak and Mount Baring), this one is often overlooked as it is a bit more difficult to obtain and there is no true nice path to the summit. Smoot calls this Class 3 and I guess it is true but there are some pretty exposed parts and very steep bushwhacking to do on this one. Routefinding and scrambling on this one can be tricky and make it a very worthy climb. Chances are you will have this one to yourself. Through half of 2005, there were only 4 other parties that had made the climb so it is definitely not a crowded climb.
The summit is incorrectly noted on maps (and on the Topozone Link on the left of this page as well for that matter) on the East Peak at 5831 feet. The true summit is about 300 feet higher to the northwest.
The peaks in this area are part of the proposed Wild Sky Wilderness. (click here for another link to that topic) The area is characterized by some amazing alpine flora and the upper reaches remain treeless in areas that are blasted by ice and snow and normally are under a long-enduring snowpack. This makes for a short growing season but the heather and wildflower displays are breathtaking. Both Beckey and Smoot talk about the snow in the gullies remaining late into the season (and Beckey mentions that most of the mountain can be glissaded into late Spring) but the climb was snowfree in July of 2005. Granted this was a low-snow year but don't count on snow being there.
The peaks in this area are an outcropping of the Index igneous, granitic batholith and this climb is characterized by lots of loose rock gullies with varying sizes of granite boulders until you get to the alpine region above about 4000 feet. This mountain is named after Andrew Merchant who made many claims in the area (per Beckey).
You'll get great views on clear days of many of the North Cascades. This climb is only 3 miles one way but you gain 3800 feet and that comes in mile 2 and 3 (the first mile is flat). Smoot claims this will take you 3-4 hours, Beckey says it's 6. It took me 5 and 1/2 but some time was wasted routefinding and downclimbing to safety. See the route page for details.
You need to get to Highway 2 in Washington. From Seattle you can take 405 to 522 to pick up Highway 2 in Monroe, WA. Take Highway 2 east to the small town of Baring (More like a couple buildings at a junction than a town but it's on the map. It is 5.6 miles east of the Index-Galena Road and 7.7 miles west from Skykomish.). Turn left onto Forest Road 6024 (also called Barclay Creek Road) just across from a small general store. Drive this road a bit over 4 miles to its end at the trailhead.
Northwest Forest Pass required to park at the trailhead.
When To Climb
Could conceivably be done year round if you can get to the trailhead at 2320 feet. Spring climbs have significant avalanche danger in the gullies. Smoot states that late Spring climbs after avalanche danger has passed and before the snow is undercut by melt would be ideal as the rock gullies would be easier to climb when snow-covered. Summer climbs include some significant bushwhacking.
There are established campsites at Barclay Lake (one mile further on the approach trail from where you turn off to start the climb). It is a very popular campground in summer so be prepared if you camp there.
It is also conceivable to camp in the upper heather slopes of this peak.
Skykomish Ranger District