Russian Butte from Granite Creek/Revolution PeakOne of the possible approaches to Russian Butte is via the logging road up Granite Creek, starting at the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie. The route follows logging roads to a peak, 5124, at the head of the Gifford Lakes drainage and then follows the ridge first north-east to Revolution Peak (labeled 5454 on the USGS topos), then north, approaching Russian Butte from the ridge running south off the summit.
This is a long and arduous approach to Russian Butte. It is about 3 hours (1-way) of hiking to the end of the logging roads. After that, it took me 7 hours, round-trip to make the ridge-run cross-country/off-trail to Russian Butte and back to the logging road. Add in another 2 or 3 hours to hike back down the logging road.
The cross-country route is not trivial, with navigation and cliff-out difficulties that are not readily apparent from the topo map. Bushwacking is not bad for most of the off-trail section, with the travel consisting of traversing steep pine-needle covered hill sides under largish trees, or traversing open talus slopes. There are a few bushier sections, depending on route, closer to the north end of the route (closer to Russian Butte). Despite the relative lack of bad bush, the travel is hard work, with lots of steep side-hilling on slippery pine needles.
Route DetailsPark about 0.3 miles past the Mailbox peak parking lot, where a gated logging road (which eventually joins Granite Creek), leaves the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie.
Hike the logging roads to the end just below the summit of peak 5124, which is at the southern headwaters of Gifford Lakes. There is an odd log cabin (with some of the most tremendous views of Seattle and Mt. Rainier) at the end of the final left-fork road (just to the west of summit 5124).
The first section of the off-trail route is to make the traverse from peak 5124 to Revolution Peak (labeled 5454). Revolution Peak is the high-point of the entire hike. This traverse is, in my opinion, the most difficult section of the entire approach. This is because a large gendarme, not visible from afar (or from the topo), blocks the ridge just at the low point between 5124 and Revolution Peak. The ridge is very steep on both the north and south sides at this point and it's easy to traverse into some rather sketchy terrain, with sparse trees clinging to steep terrain that threatens to cliff-out.
Having done this section twice, I would not recommend the route as depicted on the enclosed GPS track, where a sharp jog off the ridge top (near the point labeled "ridge jct") shows one detour around the gendarme area. A better solution (still involves some steep side-hilling, no way around it), is to the avoid the summit of 5124 altogether. Rather than the final left logging road that leads to the log cabin, I would take the final right logging road, that traverses under the south-east face of 5124 a little above the 4800 foot level. Take this spur to the end and then traverse at the 4800 (or lower) level, below the low point of the ridge before climbing to gain the ridge past the low point and the gendarme area. This lower traverse avoids the worst of the cliffs around the gendarme area and avoids the ridge near peak 5124, which is not fast travel.
From the summit of Revolution Peak, follow the ridge north to Russian Butte, traversing on the east side of the ridge, avoiding some steep and cliffy ridge peaks. The only exception to the east-of-ridge travel is coming down off the north side of Revolution Peak, where another cliff band, not apparent from the topo but at about 5200, is passed on the skier's left by staying directly on the ridge crest. It's possible to link together some talus slopes to arrive at their end north-east of point 4932 before more side-hilling and bush is required on the rest of the trip north to Russian Butte.
I found the summit rock of Russian Butte to be confusing. Perhaps I had used up my navigational mojo by this point. I tried 3 separate routes on the final rock, only to encounter wet (dripping), mossy, down-sloping, polished rock with few positve holds. There was little of the "heather" mentioned by others. It was slippery and unpleasant. I did not make the summit. After looking at satellite photos, perhaps a more northly approach on final summit rock is called for.