Often mountains here in the Cascades are often better to do in the winter that they are to do in the summer. The reason for this is because rocks are covered up by solid firm snow, bushes are under snow. Paths are much better defined and steep scrambles are now protect-able snow chutes. That holds true for many mountains in this region.
Based on my trip report and Josh Lewis's trip report that actually happened on the same trip Wright Mountain right by Snow Lake and Gem Lake, Wright Mountain is clearly not one of these mountains. Because it is near a lake the slopes heading over to Wright Mountain are heavily wind loaded and there is no distinct path heading over there. Snow Lake is also in a high precipitation zone which leaves it highly vulnerable to freak snowstorm and heavy rainstorms. I experienced one of these rainstorms while summiting Avalanche Mountain. The result caused me to be rushing to the hospital and it me to a part of a branch removed out of my arm.
But all that being said when the weather is right in this region the Snow Lake and Gem Lake area is spectacular. Once the snow has completely melted in this area which is usually August, the approach to Wright Mountain becomes dramatically easier because it is basically a well-established trail all the base of Wright Mountain. This mountain then really does become the Wright Mountain to go to when all the conditions are good.
Such was case for Magellan and me this past August. We picked this mountain hoping to make there and back as quickly as possible. I had work at 5 pm so time for us was of the essence. It did help that we met up 30 minutes later than expected but from the car we made all the way to the trailhead by 9:00 am. Once we hit the trailhead we were off to the races.
Heading UpFrom here we charged up the Snow Lake Trailhead in short order. My weight gain from a few summers ago was clearly evident on the way up but speed through it in good fashion. Within an hour we were at Snow Lake. The humidity in the air was impacting me a little but we were still making good time. But like haunting times before the weather at Snow Lake decided to play its card with a quick sprinkle. "Oh no" I thought to myself. Luckily though within 5 minutes this ghost showered disappeared and only benefited us by cooling us down.
We quickly traversed past Snow Lake and up the well-defined trail to beautiful Gem Lake. When we got to Gem Lake I quickly found out why they called this lake Gem Lake. This lake is downright beautiful and from the trail looking west you could see the pointy peaks of Kaleetan, Roosevelt and Chair. To add to the beauty of this lake was the beautiful ice chunk that was floating in the water. Being just at the lake was quite simply a wonderful treat. But I am a summit-bagger not a lake-bagger and my goal peak was just around the corner.
Soon we ran into the boot path that headed to the summit of Wright Mountain. There are actually multiple boot paths but we choose the one that clearly looked the obvious. I was expecting more a scrambling heading up to the summit but the only challenge here was a talus slope that was actually quite easy to cross. Other than that we were on a well-established boot path all the way to the summit of Wright Mountain.
The views on the summit were spectacular. With the fog below covering most of Snow Lake the valley to the north of us we felt as if we were truly above the clouds. It was like we were in one of those heaven style commercials where the only things that we could see in the background were amazing mountains in the distance. We also made to the summit in very good time (2 and a half hour). Though Magellan and I were covered in sweat we were able to enjoy that summit for at least 45 minutes. The view from this mountain was clearly sensational with the fog below. Clearly we hit this mountain at the right time which is dramatically better than what I can say happened during past experiences.
The Zoo heading backBut I was on a timeline and we had to head on back. On the way up we might have ran into 10 people the whole trip up. Heading back was quiet the different story. Just getting back to Snow Lake we ran into 40 people (some who we actually knew). Often on the way down our faster paced was slowed just by the sure numbers of people heading up. But we zoomed past many of the people and outside of a quick break by a watering hole we took a constant pace all the way from the car.
From Snow Lake back to the car we pasted at least 200 different people. Many of the people we ran into were not your typical hikers. We ran into everything from large church and temple group, people in canes, to sorority girls that just wore sports bras and tight jeans. One group of girls was even actively drunk on the trail and drinking Coors Light and actively trying to flirt with Magellan and me. Both Magellan and I are happily married men and have great wife and basically let them know that we wanted no part of them. The last little bit was clearly a zoo. But we did our best to maneuver past the crowds and by 2:50 we were back at the car and on our way back to the Seattle. By 4:00 I was at work and an hour early for work.