Well after being back in Washington State for a week it was good to finally get out to enjoy the reason why I live in this state. I was trying to get to Sun Top before I went out on vacation but due to have to get ready for my big trip to Southern California I wasn’t able to quiet make it. During the whole time I was in California, Seattle was being hit with snowstorm after snowstorm after ice storm after snowstorm. When I finally got back much of the snow in the Seattle area had melted off but many of the trails and trailhead were left with an incredible amount of damage. Luckily for me Sun Top was not one of them.
One of the biggest factors that prevented me from doing this peak earlier was because of the Sno-Park Pass. I have been wanting to do this peak for a long time but I just could not bring myself to purchase a Sno Park Pass. It is hard to pay $21 just to take a snowshoe up a mountain with an unmentioned trail and a trailhead that pretty much needs chains to get to. But the sun was shining and I was very eager to get this peak. Well I just could not take it anymore and I had to find out about this peak. The pictures that I have seen from the summit just really made me want to go there.
Heading UpI purchased my Sno-Park Pass, invited good friend Zephyr and headed right down there to the Sun Top parking area. It was a very rare pretty winter day in the Pacific Northwest and I was glad just to be outside. On the way there you could see all of the fallen trees on the side of the road. When we finally got to the road to the trailhead we saw that it was an icy mess. We strongly deliberated on if we should break out chains or not. We didn’t and luckily made it to the trailhead without incident.
Once at the trailhead we put on our snowshoes and headed up the trail. There is not much to say for the first four miles except that it was a long boring slog with very limited views. Up we went on the snow covered road as it switch backed up the mountain at grades of roughly 10-15%. It was a good moderate incline and clearly was giving both of us a good workout. Luckily the trail was basically kicked in for us making or trip up a lot easier. We did have a fun time passing a lot of people on the way up. I am hardly in good shape but seeing this did help my ego a little.
There were a couple of things that we noticed while we were going uphill on this long slog. The snow conditions literally changed every quarter mile and the difference between the sun and shade was dramatic. The temperature difference between the sun and the shade were also quiet dramatic. We found ourselves constantly taking off and putting back on the same layers over and over again. Add the 30-40 mph wind and figuring out what to wear was no easy task.
We ran into a number of people who claimed they reached the summit (Later we found out they didn't). Once we reached the saddle we followed a number of snowshoe tracks what looked to be a summer trail up Sun Top. Finally we got to something interesting other then that long boring, unmotivating slog we were on throughout most of the trip. The snowshoe track gave way to a semi-open steep 30 degree snow-climb up to a solar panel and a bend the road where the others thought they were at the summit. There was clearly higher land but it seemed like other hikers were missing what was obvious.
The SummitFrom there we continue on the road until Zephyr broke out onto the obvious ridge that rose right to the Sun Top Lookout. This last section here really made the trip. It is what all winter hikers and climbers want, solitude, open slopes, and amazing views. There we enjoyed awesome views of Mount Rainier, Mount Stuart, the Olympics and many other mountains in the region. We were tried from that slog of a road that seemed to take forever but hitting this view on the end put a smile to our faces. It made that awfully boring slog up the road well worth it.
After lunch the winds were finally getting the best of us. Twenty minutes on this summit was enough and it was time for us to head down in order to avoid the wind. So from there we decided to head on back. On the way back we ran into yet another person who thought he was on the summit. It seemed to be a reoccurring theme to this trip. The only thing I can think of is that snow create some illusion and because the road stopped people though they couldn’t go any further. We showed him the way to the true summit and he was happy. We quickly may our way down the way we came up and then followed the long road all of the way back to trail.