Sometime a good mountain trip is not an intense epic or life altering event. Sometime it is a trip that requires less than average effort that gives enjoyment to a scrambler or climber. In Washington State there are a number of excellent smaller summits that require comparatively little effort but absolutely amazing reward. Mother Mountain in the northwest part of Mount Rainier National Park is a clearly an example of this special type of summit. What the mountain lacks in difficulty, height and elevation gain, it gives back in views, wilderness and overall quality.
Jordan, CascadeCohen and I all wanted to do a decent summit but none of us wanted to get up so early. The weather the night before was quiet severe with heavy rain and lightning flashing all over the city of Seattle. Because of this all of us want to leave later in the day. Due to the time and weather issues Mother Mountain turned out to be the perfect mountainto go. I picked this peak because it looked like it had a lot of bang for the buck. The result was that was meeting the most beautiful mother in the world.
Heading Up to Knapsack Pass
CascadeCohen, JordanH and I reached the Mowich Lake trailhead at right around noon. The clouds pretty much were covering the mountains but the sun came out in spots. We saw a number of campers at Mowich Lake trying to dry out their gear from the night before. It was obvious that the severe storms from the night before had drenched this area. They did notlook too happy about having to dry out all of their gear. We head up the trail up to Ranger Cabin. This maintained section around the lake was easy but beautiful. Once we got past the Ranger Cabin we hit the “unmaintained” section of the trail. Soon the trail got steeper and started to head uphill. The rains the night before made this trail an absolute mud pit in place and a puddle in others. Still the trail though trail was in good shape despite not being “maintained”. Soon we were at the foot of Fay Peak another nearby summit that JordanH and I did three years ago in six inches of snow.
The beautiful landscape started here with Knapsack Falls being one of first amazing sight we saw on the way up. We continued at a slow pace so that we could enjoy this pretty area. On the way up I got to snack on some the beautiful blueberries that dotted the trail. We ran into some fog part of the way up this mountain but by the time we hit Knapsack Pass the cloudswere clearing up to east. We got a little concerned that we might get fogged out on the summit. So we took a break and got ourselves ready for the final scramble to the summit.
The Scramble: Dramatic Yet Barely Class 2
Once we were done with our break we headed up to the summit of Mother Mountain. There was a very good bootpath from Knapsack Pass heading toward Mother Mountain. On the way up we were in out of the fog. When the fog did lift the peak of views we did see made us know that there was something dramatic coming up. We got to the one of the false summits and finally got our first view of Mother Mountain. All of us looked at this summit and really wondered how this mountain could be so easy. Luckily none of us were intimidated by the dramatic views of the summit of Mother Mountain.
This is one mountain that looks much scarier from a distance than it is. There was a little exposure on this route to Mother Mountain but the scramble was mostly protected. I wore a helmet but this was clearly overkill for this mountain. I just did that because a couple of weeks ago I nearly lost a very dear friend in small part because he did not wear a helmet on another scramble. He is now recovering but he may not climb for a good year or so. The scramble itself was barely that at all. Only once or twice did I use my hand to assist me to get to the summit. JordanH lead the way and soon we were on the summit.
The Summit: Waiting For The Magic
We were greeted on the summit with more clouds and fog. Because this mountain was so easy to get up we knew we had a lot of time to head down so we decided to wait an hour for the clouds to clear. All of us took a thirty minute summit nap. While we were resting the weather slowly began to clear. Soon we were able to see nearby summit with some covered with herds of mountain goats. After an hour Mount Rainier to the south opened up briefly to show its magical beauty. For such a low level scramble this summit really delivers in terms of alpine terrain and epic beauty. All of us felt that we were a lot higher than the 6400 feet that we were. We took some great pictures then began our journey down the mountain.
The Trip Down
On the way down the clouds really began to burn off and the views really began to open up. We took a lot longer on this section because we kept stopping to take excellent pictures of all the mountain views that we missed on the way up. In thirty minutes largely due to picture taking we were back to Knapsack Pass.
From there we made our way down slowly to Irish Cabin. We took long stops at first by the berry bushes in the fields below Knapsack Pass. Down in these alpine fields CascadeCohen and JordanH caught sight of a large marmot. The tame marmot let us come up moderately close to take a picture of it. We only got up to 20 feet it, took pictures then continued down the mountain. The mud and the puddle had dried up considerably and our footing was much better even on the slippery sections. We took 30 minutes to pick some blueberries and huckleberries and then headed back to Mowich Lake.
For all us Mother Mountain truly delivered just what we needed, great views, dramatic landscapes and a sense of nature and adventure. Though it is wonderful to hit the monsters of the Pacific Northwest and have an epic adventure, sometimes it is good to take some time to enjoy some of the smaller summit in this region. These peaks can have the same dramatic views as there larger neighbors and features the same wildlife. They can be just as amazing as some of the larger summits in the state.