Mount Daniel (7,960+ ft) Date: October 4, 2003
Author: Dean Molen
Three of us, Bob Bolton, Bill Jacobs and I (all SP members) started at 6:30 a.m. at first light and truly lucked out on the weather; it was perfect. Hazy conditions from the Crystal Creek fire was the only flaw but it was T-shirt weather at the summit. Since the days are shorter at this time of year, we used head lamps out the last two miles to our vehicles after which we headed for Cle Elum and a nice Mexican dinner. While no ice axe or crampons were needed by us at this time of year, earlier in the year it would be wise to carry them or check with the local ranger station at Cle Elum for information on conditions.
How to get there: From I-90, take exit #80 that leads to Rosyln and Salmon la Sac. SR 903 takes you through Roslyn (where TV show Northern Exposure was filmed a few years back ) and then a wide spot in the road known as Ronald. A small grocery is in Ronald and is the last place you can pick up supplies. At 16 miles from Roslyn, you reach the Salmon la Sac area (left across a bridge) where you want to go right on FS 4330 12 miles on a washboard road that ends at two parking areas. One for Cathedral Rock (the one you want) and one for Deception Pass (you could park there, too). A Northwest Forest Pass is required for parking and the area gets checked frequently. One note of caution: Early in the season, the car ford at Scatter Peak can be a problem if the water is running high.
The Trail: The trail #1345 heads into the forest and makes a series of long and short switchbacks up the side of the hill until it meets another trail coming up from some lakes on the ridge crest. Go right and pass pretty Squaw Lake, which has some camping spots and is a good source of water. At the 4.5 mile mark, you reach the junction with the PCT. Go left over Cathedral Pass (5500 feet), then down the west side of the pass toward Deep Lake. At the first switchback as you go downhill, take the side trail instead of the switchback. The unimproved trail traverses under Cathedral Rock for about 1/2 mile and will lead you first to a little tarn on the left, but you need to keep going a bit further as Peggy's Pond is up the hill to the right. Peggy's Pond is actually a pretty little lake that is nestled right up to the west side of Cathedral Rock. From Peggy's Pond (camping allowed) you can either go up the southeast Ridge just to the west of Peggy's Pond or up the Hyas glacier route which is just up the valley from Peggy's Pond.
Southeast Ridge Route: The Southeast Ridge of Mount Daniel starts right at Peggy's Pond. It is not the ridge you see slightly north of the pond - that's the east ridge. The southeast ridge does not even look like a ridge when viewed from Peggy's Pond - it is the "hill" lying DIRECTLY west of the Pond. Multiple "social" or climbers' trails start at or near Peggy's Pond and converge together atop the ridge a few hundred feet above the lake. Generally, the north (right when viewed from the lake) side of the ridge provides a more gentle start. Once atop the ridge, the climbers' trail is well defined - where it vanishes temporarily in a boulder field, just look for numerous cairns. Follow the ridge westward passing Circle Lake far below on your left and the permanent snow field on your right below. The views on the ridge are spectacular, but unfortunately the Crystal Creek fire near the Enchantment Lakes caused heavy haze that limited our visibility. We couldn't see any of the volcanoes on this day, whereas in other trips to Mt. Daniel once can see Rainier, Adams, Glacier Peak, and Baker, as well as the always impressive Mt. Stuart to the east. The ridge gradually narrows as you climb, and a few class 3 sections are interspersed with mostly class 2 trail hiking. The highpoint you see ahead of you and to the right is the East Peak of Mt. Daniel, the one with the "Daniels" benchmark (7,899 ft) on its summit.
Follow the ridge as it turns north toward the East Peak. Here the climb steepens and the ridge narrows. Stay to the left of the ridge crest in a loose gully. From the high point on the ridge just south of the east peak, turn north and stay mostly on the left side of the ridge with one exception, a short section with a couple of tricky moves on the east side of the ridge just past the high point. After moving past a few minor gendarmes (class 3 sections), you'll reach the saddle at the foot of the south ridge of the East Peak (there's a medium sized cairn). From here you should move left off the ridge and begin traversing the snow or scree below (southwest of) the East Peak maintaining nearly constant elevation. The trail is very faint when you first leave the ridge but becomes very clear once directly below the East Peak.
All three Daniel Summits can be seen here. West is on the left
Follow the climbers' trail to the saddle between the East Peak and the south ridge of the Middle Peak. Climb steep snow or scree (approximately 200 feet) to reach the top of this ridge (opposite to East Peak). Once at the top, the Middle Peak is directly to your north and the West Summit is the highpoint to your left (northwest). Head toward the Middle Peak, but turn left and traverse to the ridge between the Middle and West Peaks. The true summit is atop the tallest of the rock spires on the West Peak (easy class 3).
This is the only cohp twofer in Washington. A mountaineer's register can be found nestled at the very summit, the standard Mountaineers brass tube with screw-on cap. Views down to Pea Soup Lake and the Lynch glacier are superb as are the views over to the Snoqualmie area peaks. Even if this weren't a county HP, it would be worth the effort.