IntroductionFor the first time in a long time warm sunny weather paid its visit to the Pacific Northwest. After have the third wettest March in Seattle history, April was starting out in similar fashion. The cool damp days were really causing havoc to us climbers and all of us were growing a sense of cabin fever. The trip ideas were mounting for zephyr2us. Then finally a good weekend started to come around for us. I got the idea to climb these two peaks because fellow SPer Eric Willhite gave these two summits a good write up on his website. Though these two peaks are so close to I-90 they don’t receive the traffic that the other peaks in the area do. From the weather report we had and we write up that we had on these two mountains we decided these two peaks would be our destination.
Initially Heading UpWe both met at the Ollalie State Park parking area and headed up to the unofficial Mount Washington trail. This is a steady, unmarked but well-traveled trail. We hit snowline at around 2000 feet. Because it was early morning and the trail was well packed we decided to put on our micro spikes on. On the way up there were a couple of nice views from the trail. We headed up about 2 ½ miles until reaching the lesser traveled Great Wall Trail. This trail was significantly less traveled than the Mount Washington Trail but the crust made the trail still doable in micro spikes. Soon up the trail we recognized why the trail was call the Great Wall Trail. The trail literally goes below the cliff and offers decent views north from that area. This Great Wall looks very dramatic especially in early spring. From there the trail continued on a fire road located up above.
We decided to put on our snowshoes on the fire road. After a short break we decided to continue to head on the fire road. Soon we broke around the hillside and finally saw one of our destinations, Change Peak. We stayed on the road until it looked to fade out by a large open gully from there were traverse to road that lead right to ridge around Change Peak. Feeling the rear sun beaming on sun was very refreshing and despite this mountain being located near I-90 many of the views made us feel far away from civilization. Soon we rapped around the ridge where our toughest obstacle awaited.
The Avalanche Slope
Everything up to this point was a lot effort but not very technically challenging. But once we hit the steep eastern slope of Change Peak we knew that we were going to have to use caution. The slope had avalanche debris on it and the slope angle was quiet dramatic. Because it was still early in the morning and the snow was very firm. We spaced ourselves apart on the crossing, tested the snow, took off our snowshoe and whipped out our ice axes. Slowly and cautious we crossed the three steep slopes testing the snow at each slope and listening for whooshing noises. This point got both of us nervous to the point that we both agreed not to head back that way (which only meant we had to summit Change Peak on the way back). After that nervous section we decided to get our bearings, eat lunch and enjoy our first views of the very distant Greenway Mountain. I was happy at this point because my gut was saying that this was the toughest and most dangerous part of the trip.
Slogging to the summit of Greenway Mountain
From the slope of Change Peak we continued the next nearly miles to Greenway Peak. The slope here was mostly level. But it was filled the true definition of a slog. Luckily for us there were a number of excellent views to motivate us to continue on to the summit of Greenway. Many of views gave a new prospective on a well-traveled hiking area in the Cascades. We continued our way up the mostly gentle terrain where we spotted the No trespassing sign on the right side of the road. This area is the watershed and we were sure to stay on the correct side of the road. About a half mile from the summit we got a good view of Greenway Mountain as well as the Chester Morse Lake located below. The last ½ mile up the road was only gradual moderate rise to the short bushwhack-scramble to the summit of Greenway Mountain. But after 7 miles in the sun and 5 miles it was pretty darn tiring. The last short scramble required us to head steeply up to the western ridge of Greenway Mountain. From there we bushwhacked up to the open summit of Greenway Mountain.
Once we hit the summit we were granted with some of the better views from this area including great views of the Chester Morse Lake and many of the I-90 peaks in the region including McClellan Butte, Defiance, Teneriffe, Washington, Webb, Putrid Pete’s Peak and many others. We also had an excellent view of Mount Rainier. On the summit of Greenway we rejoiced in the summit and enjoyed our accomplishment. What made this mountain most special was that the weather and the fact that we could finally get needed sun on us after a dreary March. But we knew though we were only ½ way on our trip and we had yet another summit on the way.
Slogging, Scrambling and Bushwhacking over Change Peak
From the summit we headed back down to the road and headed back to Change Peak. The slog itself was now loosing up a little and we did posthole from time to time on the road on the way back to Change Peak. Despite this condition of the slog we made excellent time back to Change Peak where decided to take the south ridge to the summit of Change Peak. We took another small break at the base of Change Peak where we got ourselves ready for the final push to the summit.
Once we started up Change Peak we were greeted with one of the thickest bushwhacks I had ever seen. Zephyr2us led us through some of the thickness growth I have seen in a while. When there was an open area was an open area we were walking a narrow ridge where on both sides we were dealing with steep slopes. Slowly we plowed through the posthole, thick brushes trees and the steep open slopes to our second destination Change Peak. When we made it to the top of Change Peak were greeted with another round of excellent views both to the east and the west. The sun now at a lower angle made all the mountains really stand out. We could also look down into the valley and many of the northern suburbs of Seattle from the summit area. Though the effort was a lot, the views and the feeling of accomplishment from summiting two peaks made this day well worthwhile.
But we still had to head home and the first part our trip back meant going down the north side of Change Peak.
We spotted a couple of boot prints that came from the north ridge of the mountain and decided to follow them down. Soon we ran into another excellent view north toward Mount Teneriffe and Mount Si. We also though were walking over some very tough terrain. At point we were literally walking on the edge of an incredibly steep but treed western slope. We cautiously headed down the mountain loosely following boot-prints. We hit a nice slope on the slope and were tempted to glissade down the slope but decided against it for fear we were going to our tracks. We therefore stayed with the footprint all the way until we hit the road below.
The Last Leg Back To the CarThe last leg back to the car was supposed to be the easiest, but it was emotionally the most tiring. After all we had already gone 12 miles mostly on slope, past avalanche slopes and over two summits. Our legs were burning and fatigue was really starting to set in. But I really knew that we had to stay focused on getting of the mountain safely. We followed our tracks all the way down the road. The mountains looked pretty with the lower sun angle but we barely noticed them. We were out of energy and still had 3 miles to go. Soon we hit the Great Wall Trail where we decided to keep our snowshoes on due to the loose snow on this section. Keeping our balance on this section of trail was tough at times especially around the Great Wall where there was the side of cliff on one side and a steep drop-off on the other. We took this section slow and quickly made our way back to the Mount Washington Trail.
We were so tired we kept our snowshoes down a good bit down the Mount Washington Trail. Though the snow was compact it was slippery and the traction from our snowshoes really helped here. But once we hit 2000 in elevation the snow ended and we finally took our snowshoes off. From there it was just trail walk down to the car. By this point zephyr2us were just happy to be on solid ground. Our cars were a welcome site to us 30 minutes later. After 15 miles mostly on snow and two summits my car seat never felt so good for we had another successful day in the mountains.
Conclusion and Special ThanksI want to thank zephyr2us for joining me on this trip. At one point at the avalanche slope I was wondering if it was smart to continue to Greenway Mountain. Thankfully we did and got to see the beautiful summit of Greenway Mountain. We worked well together in many of these tough situations and were able to tackle both mountains safely and successfully.
As for these two summits, they represent what is a growing amount of scenic yet rarely know mountains off of Interstate I-90. This list of special summits includes Bearscout, Scout Patrol, Little Saint Helens and now Change Peak and Greenway Mountain. Each of these summits is special and should be visited in winter and early spring.