OverviewIf you climb this peak in December and the weather and conditions cooperate, then you are right to quip that the price is right.
Mt. Price--readily seen but unknown to most. Anyone who has climbed up Snoqualmie Mountain or peaks nearby such as Kaleetan Peak, Lundin Peak, or Mt. Thomson and has looked northward across the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Valley has probably seen Mt. Price and its long, gullied south slopoe rising steeply above the river.
Although the mountain is timbered down low and subalpine up high, it has enough rock exposures to have visual appeal--especially from the northeast (the Hester Lake side). Furthermore, the peak has a fair measure of prominence (1467P) and therefore stands somewhat aloof in its own setting: it is the highest--and only--peak in the area bounded by the Snoqualmie River on the south and the Dingford Creek drainage on the west, north and northeast. A ridge connects Mt. Price with higher Big Snow Mountain (6,680 ft).
Mt. Price is located in the heart of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and this association is apt, for there are three named lakes and a few other unnamed ones on the mountain's various slopes. The most notable of these is Hester Lake (3,886 ft) on Price's northeast side. The lake is actually quite large--over a half-mile in length and over 100 acres in size. A little further up the drainage is Little Hester Lake (4,220 ft). The last named lake is diminutive Price Lake (4,000 ft) northwest of the summit. This lake resides in a canyon that is suggestive of a geologic fault line. On a map, the creek draining the lake courses nearly due north all the way to the valley below. I wish I could have seen it in person but we didn't go over that way.
Getting ThereAll approaches to this peak are by way of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Road (FR-56). This road used to be in incredibly poor shape and often flooded and/or washed out. In fact, driving to one's destination "trailhead" was often the crux of the climb. However, the road was graded in 2004 and so is now in pretty good shape. The reason for this? Well, supposedly a million dollar campground is to built up the valley. I also heard that the whole road may be paved in the near future!
There are three known ways to climb this peak for sure. Other routes from other directions (say from the west going directly upslope from the Dingford Creek Trailhead) could be possible but I leave that to your whims. The most-often used route would be via the trail to Hester Lake on the northeast side of the peak. Another route takes the southeast slope. And yet another route goes up the northwest basin. The Hester Lake Route is detailed here. The southeast route and the northwest route will be briefly discussed below.
Southeast RouteNote: a trip report from Mike Collins is available for this route and is worth the read. Click here.
Drive Middle Fork Snoqualmie Road to the Dingford Creek Trailhead (see the Hester Lake Route for how to get to that trailhead). From this trailhead (c. 1,500 ft), continue walking or biking the closed continuance of MFSR eastward. Keep going for 4 miles until you arrive here (c. 1,800 ft) at the short spur to the parking area for Goldmyer Hot Springs.
Leave the road and hike north then NNW. The route veers left to mount the North-South spur ridge forming here. At about 4,400 ft forest gives way to an obvious talus slope. This talus can be ascended directly or on its left (west) side to the East-West ridge crest at c. 5100 ft. Take the path of least resistance. Once on the crest, turn left (west) and follow it on its steep, forested north side all the way to the summit. Some rockiness and gendarmes should be expected. Class 3 but with steep terrain to negotiate. Time: 3-5 hours. Gain: 3,700 ft. Distance: 2-3 miles depending on directness of route and routefinding issues.
Northwest RouteDrive Middle Fork Snoqualmie Road to the Dingford Creek Trailhead (see the Hester Lake Route for how to get to that trailhead). Take the trail for ~2.2 miles to its crossing of Goat Creek (c. 2,600 ft). Leave the trail and cross the valley southward to gain the obvious basin rising up the other side. This is the basin in which Price Lake resides. Mt. Price's summit should be visible above (provided you can see it through the canopy). There are four cliffs bands to pass through--one at 2,800 ft, one at 3,200 ft, one at 3,600 ft, and a final one at c. 4,500 ft. With diligent map reading and on-site routefinding, all three can be negotiated. The slopes between these bands are easier. They could be talus or forest. It appears it would be best to stay east of the creek draining Price Lake. Time: 4-6 hours. Gain: 4,100 ft. Distance: ~4 miles.
Red TapeA Trail Park Pass is not needed at the trailhead, which is merely a wide spot in the road. There are no facilities.
The Alpine Lakes Wilderness boundary runs along the East-West Mt. Price crest. Hence, the Southeast Route is not within the wilderness. The Northwest and Hester Lake routes are within the wilderness. In all cases, wilderness ethics should be applied, forgetting for a second the illicit meth lab activities which take place in the valley.
When To ClimbSince the trailheads for this climb are fairly low (all below 2,000 ft), you could conceivably do the climb at any time of year. Winter ascents have been done. Winter and spring ascents will see brush covered by snow but the trail will be covered too, making things slower in that regard. Further, the trail tends to be muddy and boggy in rainy or snowmelt conditions. All told, I would say the following:
The peak makes for an ideal snowshoe climb but give yourself plenty of time to complete the job. If snowshoeing is not your thing, then summer and fall would be great. As for skiing, in my opinion, it wouldn't be all that great.
CampingThis climb can be done in a day from the car by all routes. However, if you'd like to stay in the area (on the Dingford Creek side), then camping sites could be found even though there are no designated areas. If you can find open, flat ground, have at it. There is a moderately marshy area at 3,300 ft on the trail to Hester Lake (0.5 miles NNE of the lake). Camping at Hester Lake could be problematic because it's pretty rocky. This is rugged country. It is wilderness, after all.
Mountain ConditionsLocalized Forecast.
NOAA Forecast -- Central Cascades, West of Cascase Crest.
Views from the Mountain I
Views from the Mountain IISome other views from the summit that day:
Chimney Rock, Mt. Thomson, Snoqualmie Mountain, Chair Peak, Kaleetan Peak.