Total Miles Roundtrip: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1300 feet (100 on final pitch)
YDS Rating: 1 or boring walk up if just going to the formerlookout; 3+ if heading to the true summit
Crew Details: Final push from the lookout features an interesting bump that you have to ascend and descend to make it to the true summit. This bump contains a 40 degree slightly exposed ledge and a somewhat tricky knife edge. DO NOT AVOID BY TAKING THE GULLY. IT IS THE SAME DIFFICULTY AND DANGER AND MUCH MORE WORK!!!!
Sunday September 28th was a beutiful day in Seattle. It is time to pick a mountain with good views with little effort. As for Jason, Todd, Fran and I, it was Sauk Mountain. Sauk Mountain is traditional easy hike up to the former site of the lookout which has great views of hundreds of mountains in the North Cascades. The mountain is recommend for children to go hiking up. Obviously they are not talking about the true summit but the lookout tower. The trail starts out at a very high elevation goes up a steep hillside via 29 easy to moderate switchbacks and then continues around where you can either take a Class 2 bootpath up through a boulder field surrounded by many marmots which access some rocks for bouldering; or stay on the trail to the lookout. I won't bore you with details except we took the bootpath up and took the main trail back. The trail was in decent condition up to the lookout.
The lookout is not the true summit. This is the section that shocked me. This mountain is well known for being a childrens mountain. Obviously they are not talking about the true summit. There are two ways to get to true summit roughly 500 yards away. The first way is up over a YDS Class 3+ bump that contains a short 25 foot 40 degree ledge to the top of the bump where you have to decend a knife edge down the rock to pick up a boot path to the summit. Fran, Todd and Jason choose this way.
The knife edge was a quiet interesting so I decided to try to hit the summit going down the a scree field and around the bump by going up a gully covered by heather bushes. This also just as dangerous (Class 3) as the knife edge, if not more, and a heck of a lot more work. Actually to be honest my nerves were on fire taking this route. THe footing in many areas was very poor and ascending the heather field was no fun. Plus the danger factor was more real than physcological as it was in the knife edge. When I do this mountain again I will choose the knife edge and I will RECOMMEND AVOIDING THE GULLY TO GULLY ROUTE TO THE TRUE SUMMIT!!
That being said I made the summit along with the rest of the crew and we sat back and took in the great views. It was kind of funny watching all of the other hikers stopping on the false summit. It appeared that the knife edge and the bump actually prevented us from seeing any sort of crowd. And the view from the true summit was much better than from the former lookout tower. Though my nerves were going crazy from the gully to gully scramble. I did get a chance to settle them down and enjoy the summit with my good friends Fran, Todd and Jason.
On the way back I realize that the knife edge wasn't as bad as first appeared. There were a couple interesting move but the scramble was very doable and as long as you could get the exposer out of your mind and forget about the dropoff the trip across wasn't really that bad. Still caution had to be used and the 30 foot section really tested my nerves . Once past the section the only other obstacle was the 25 foot angled angled ledge with very questionable footholds. This was not much of a problem for me but raised the nerves for the others in the group after that we were all home free and heading on back.
The rest of the trip was uneventful and we spend most of the time heading down while enjoying the stellar views that Sauk Mountain provided us. Sauk Mountain is a great peak, which if you want it, has a great YDS 3 scramble to the true summit. Often some compare it to Tomyhoi which is home to a very sharp scramble to the true summit, while most go to the false summit and consider that their final destination. You will only find solitude on the true, summit so if you are confident then go for it.