Introduction: How One Great Trip Report Inspires Another Trip ReportIt is often funny when it comes to mountaineering one area’s hill is another area’s mountain. After being inspired by Klenke’s The “Mountains” in Florida trip report, Josh Lewis, Zephyr and I decided to look for some cool “hills” in the state of Washington. With the weather looking really good over the major passes on the eastern side, this looked like a great time to head towards Blewett Pass. Blewett is home to two hills, Old Pass Hill and Cairn Hill.
These are called “hills” because the summits are heavily overshadowed by their nearby counterparts of the Enchantments and the Teanaway. With both of these summits though being home to decent views of the surrounding mountains, and having 4743 and 4885 elevations, relief on two sides of well over a thousand feet and decent elevation gain on the other sides they might may other state top ten list. But for the state of Washington which home to thousands of excellent summits, alpine vistas, glacier terrain and pointy summits, these are just “hills“ by comparison. For this day when the avalanche danger was high but the weather was looking good these two peaks made for a perfect choice for mountaineering.
It was also a perfect trip in the fact that I had been sick for the proceeding week before the hike and was still struggling with a serious sinus infection and bronchitis. Any trip rougher than this trip would probably been too much for my body which was struggling with this infection. Both me and my partner were concerned about how I would do on the trip. With the trip only requiring only 1500 feet of elevation gain though and the fact that it was sunny, it seemed like the correct call. I was going to get some well needed Vitamin D to fight the infection from the sun no matter what the result.
Okay This Isn't Starting So WellThe trip did not start out so great. The weather forecast at least in Seattle turned out to start out wrong! Despite the sunny forecast it was raining at a decent clip in Bellevue and we started to get concerned about the pass. Strange thing is that by the time we hit the front range of the Cascades, 40 miles from Seattle, the clouds began clearing and by the time we hit Snoqualmie Pass it was sunny!!!! But then when we pulled into the Blewett Pass parking area we were greeted with a lot of snowmobiles. Hiking with a ton of snowmobile usually isn't to pleasant. Parking was quiet a chore. Luckily we never saw one on our entire trip to both summits.
We started out heading to the higher Old Pass Hill. We took the snowmobile road to the X-ski path. Luckily for us the snowmobiles decided to go the other direction. It is a road walk but there are decent views off to the west towards the Upper Teanaway and the Enchantments. As the trail continues towards Old Pass Hill the trail use becomes less and less. Once we made it around Old Pass Hill we put on our snowshoes on and Josh Lewis lead the way and busted an excellent trail all the way up from there. As we neared the upper slopes of Old Pass Hill we had to merge left twice on faint old roads in order to head to the summit. You could tell these roads don't see much use because we did at one point run into a small section of nasty slide alder. That short section of slide alder was quiet tough but we were able to navigate through it successfully.
Once we notice the summit above from the road Josh picked out a nice ramp and we decided snowshoe steeply pretty much straight up to the true summit of Old Pass Hill. It is funny how 80 feet can get quiet tough in wet soupy snow. I was a struggle for me due to my bronchitis but I was able to slowly make the last little it to the summit.
Old Pass Hill SummitThe summit did have trees but there were very large breaks in these trees and views here were dramatically better than what we were expecting. Because of this we decided to rest up their for thirty minutes and take in the sun and the views. To the east lied Diamond Head, the Lillians and Tronsen Ridge. To the west lied an excellent view of the Enchantments and the Upper Teanaway. You could even see the towering Mount Stuart from here. You could also see Mount Rainier but it did have a cloud on it and we could only see it faintly.
Heading Over to Cairn Hill
After sitting there for about 30 minutes we decided to follow a slightly different way back down to the road in search of more views which we ran into on the northern side of the ridge. We headed back down the road until we took a well used side path at the foot of Cairn Hill hoping it would lead directly to the summit of Cairn Hill. This path is on the western side of Cairn Hill but died out on an overlook. But the path did lead right to a gentler ridge which we followed all the way to the true summit. Josh did an excellent job following the ridge because once we were on the summit we realized that this was the only good way. The eastern way look and the due north way looked very steep and with some cornices on top it did not look like the best way to go up for today.
Cairn Hill SummitViews on this summit were good as well though the Enchantments shots were not nearly as good. We took another 30 minute break on this summit to soak in the nice sun. The views off to the south and the east though were very good. Diamond Head and the Lillian shined in the sunlight and we had a great shot looking into the valley to the south. On the summit we were thinking about hiking the ridge until we noticed that the east section of the ridge was going to be a little more interesting than what we came up. We decided to declined that way due to safety concerns. We decided to instead head back down the way we came up.
Heading Down and Conclusion
The rest of the way back to the car was smooth sailing. The road provided nice gradual terrain for a return trip back to the car. I felt quiet lucky that my illness did not act up on this trip and that all of us were able to make the most of beautiful day. It was great to be able to finally soak up the sun and enjoy another great day in the mountains. These “hills” really delivered on a day like today.
I want thank both Zephyr and Josh for coming on the trip and Josh for breaking most of the trail. I wish I was better off so I could have shared the trail breaking duties but my illness made me weaker than normal. As for these summits they are a pretty good choice when avalanche danger is a three, though no peak is ever avalanche proof and I would always proceed even these summit with great caution. These “hills” turned out to be a great call for the day in the summit choice and the excellent views made this place a great find.