Scrambling for the Sky While Blessed with Colors
For the first time in a long time it was a beautiful weekend day in the western Cascades. After surviving last week’s downpour and earning a couple hours in the emergency room due to a fall on wet heather, I was looking at taking on a couple of summit that had nice scrambles but were otherwise low impact. I had noticed from a lot of trip reports last week that the berry bushes in the western and northern Cascades were really beginning to show their fall color and that the peak up so this weekend that was my aim provided the weather looked good.
One look at the weather and the plan was lock for Saturday. The news was announcing that the skies were supposed to be very clear and the temperatures were supposed to be in the 70’s in Seattle, we knew it was time to head to Stevens Pass home to some of the most colorful berry bushes in the Cascades. For this trip we decided to do Skyline Ridge and Sky Mountain which is located just north of Stevens Pass. This specific area is rarely visited during the summer from fellow hikers but it has received a good write up from those who have been up to the area. For Redwic, Zephyr (from NWHikers) and I it was time to explore this beautiful area and see how it was. Our intention was to check out all the peaks of Skyline Ridge and get Sky Mountain as well on the very end.
From the parking area we followed the road up to the steep boot-path head up to Skyline Lake. We decided to detour from going directly to Skyline Lake and instead go up to Point 5447 on the eastern side of the ridge. So instead of us finding the obvious dirt road to Skyline Lake we remain on the main road up to the end. From there we went up the steep forested ridge all the way to the summit of Point 5447. Since there is no data concluding that this is a truly separate summit from Skyline Ridge it will not be posted on SummitPost. However this sub summit is well worth visiting and gives excellent views to the north and the east with Rock and Howard Mountain looking incredible from this viewpoint and many of the northern peaks really catching the eye.
For me bushwhacking was a little more nervous after last week’s fall and subsequent emergency room visit. I really had to shake those falls out of my head and stay focus on my balance in the steep terrain. Soon we bushwhacked down to Skyline Lake, where we caught glimpse of our next destination, Skyline Ridge. We took a faint boot-path to an old foundation of a cabin and then head up to the right of the cabin where we picked up another faint boot-path to the Skyline Ridge scramble area. By the cabin was where I really noticed the beautiful fall colors that have hit the berry bushes in the region.
Once we hit the scramble area, we decided to put our helmets on for safety and scramble up to the summit of Skyline Ridge. The scramble itself by easiest route was Class 2, though if the route was slightly adjusted you could easily make it Class 3 or more. It was a fun scramble to the top and there was a lot of good bouldering to check out why hiking around the summit area. The views from this summit were very fulfilling with great peaks such as Mount Stuart, Mount Daniel, Glacier Peak and Big Chiwaukum all visible from this viewpoint. We signed the register on the top of this rock and then proceeded on to Sky Mountain.
We first try to get to Sky Mountain from the north. Zephyr decided to head down a gully but after going down 100 feet he quickly realized that the gully was not the proper way to get to Sky Mountain. Add to the fact that I am now much more cautious on very steep heather and we decided to bail on this idea. We decided to go south of the summit of Skyline Ridge. It started out as a nice boulder scramble but turned into steep dirt, rock and heather traverse over to a gap that leads to Sky Mountain. With there being no trail we had to do a lot of route-finding here which took a lot of time. We took our time side traversing the south side of this area until we hit a false summit between Sky Mountain and Skyline Ridge. On the way over there we decided to stay high on the ridge. To get to the gap we had to do some maneuvering right over a steep gully. Being on top of the gully was a little unnerving for but we finally made it to the true gap between Skyline Ridge and Sky Mountain. From there we just headed up through the berry bushes all the way to the summit of Sky Mountain. At first the way up was steep but the closer we got to the summit the easier the grade for us.
Once we go the summit of Sky Mountain we took another round of awesome views. From this summit was an excellent view of Glacier Peak as well as Daniel and the others. Though Sky Mountain is listed as being only 20 feet higher than Skyline Ridge, it clearly looked larger than that. Unfortunately their was no summit register here and it was doubtful that this summit is visited by many people despite how close it is located to Highway 2 and Stevens Pass. Add on that there is not even a footpath to the summit and you are looking at maybe a handful of people a summer visiting this summit. Still the views here make the effort to get to this peak well worth it.
We only spent 15 minutes on the peak because all of us need to get back in town early. On the way back we discovered a simpler way to the gap between Skyline Ridge and a false summit. We decided to take the low angle gully where good footing was to be found and there were no drop-offs or little risk of serious injury. From there we took roughly the same way we came to Sky Mountain back, side traverse steep forested slopes and heather fields. It took us much less time here due to the fact that we were now familiar with the terrain. We took that back to the boot-path and soon we were on our way down to the car. Because we were now familiar with the terrain we were back to the car in a little more than an hour and a half.
I want to thank both Redwic and Zephyr for coming out on this trip. These summits which see very few travelers in summer surprised us both in the effort it took to attain them (especially Sky Mountain) and the stellar views that can be seen from them. Add on the great fall colors the huge mixture of terrain and this adventure was well worth it. Both Redwic and Zephyr showed great route-finding here and slowly I began to regain confidence in my steps. Plus the weather stay very beautiful and the mountains really glowed for the first time in a month and a half. It was an awesome trip and I hope we get more awesome weekend days like today.