A Slam Dunk on Duncan with Larches

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Trip Report
Washington, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Oct 4, 2009
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A Slam Dunk on Duncan with Larches
Created On: Oct 5, 2009
Last Edited On: Oct 6, 2009

General Stats

Total Distance Roundtrip: 13.5 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 3000 feet
YDS Class: 1
Total Amount of Forest Fires Blocking Views: 1 :(
Equipment Used: Trekking Poles, 10 Essentials

The trip report

Duncan Hill

It is finally fall in the Pacific Northwest and the trees are changing. Right now it is larch season in the Cascades and right now they are really beginning to take off in the Lake Chelan region. After getting a couple good shots last weekend with Pyramid Mountain I decided to head up to nearby Duncan Hill this weekend.

During the week there were a number of nasty day down in Seattle. At times it was snowing as low as 4000 feet in Seattle and one of my friends was hiking up Camp Muir and said it was miserable. Some other spots reported a foot of snow in the mountains. I was thinking this would be the perfect ingredients for the classic snow-larch photos many people take in the Cascades. With Duncan Hill being at 7819 feet I expected some good snow and had my camera ready.


For a partner I decided to invited an old friend and his brother. Over the summer he was having some bad luck on some ill advised trips and I thought this would be a great redemption hike for him. After having to turn around on Rainier twice, Columbia and Sahale, and getting very ill on Baker and Jolly Mountain, I wanted to change his luck on a less difficult mountain but a mountain that was similar in elevation to what he was trying. Also I wanted to help council him and possibly help train him for his chance next year up Rainier.

Him and his brother decided to pick me up at my place of work and we headed off for a four hour drive to the trailhead of Duncan Hill. For the driver of the trip, this was the crux of the trip. The drive there from Seattle is a solid four and a half haul to the trailhead. Along the way we had noticed some leaves changing but clearly nothing is quiet in peak except the larches. It should be noted on the western side of the mountains Sunday morning there was only a couple of inches above 5000 feet. And that snow was in Snoqualmie Pass which is usually a target to many snowstorms.

As we drove further east we noticed that some mountains had received a far amount of snow while other mountains of similar elevation didn't receive any. From what I could see it looked like our mountain was not going to have too much in the way of snow. But of course you never know until you are up on the mountain. We did notice a forest fire high on a ridge about 15 miles before the turnoff to Duncan Hill. You could actually smell the smoke from the forest fire on the road.

The road, Forest Road 5608 was not overly rough but did present a little challenge to my friends older Buick car. The car did touch the bottom slightly in parts but held on strong. We turn on the first Y intersection near the trailhead but only found very rough road, so we headed on back to the main road and went up to the true trailhead. The car held up very well and with a couple minute we were on our way.

When we got out of the car we all had the same summit fever so we shot out like a cannon for this mountain. I decided to lead the pace and I wanted this mountain. My friend, who used to be much slower due to asmatha, kept up with the fast pace even when it was an all out run. As for the trail it was very gentle at first and very easy on the knees and the legs. It actually made for a good trail to do some trail running for the first leg up. The condition of the trail really helped up make great speed at first. Everyone stuck together as we flew through the woods which were mostly spruce and fir at the lower elevation.


We kept a quick pace until we entered the larches. Then the camera had to come because views were breaking out all over the place. The larches were much more in color this week than last week and the color of these larches really was very welcoming. There was though very little snow on the mountain. We were very bummed about this until we ran into the last section of trail that actually does a side traverse of some avalanche slope that were easily 50 degrees. I at this point was very glad there was no snow because I did not have my axe here and these slope would have been a little trickier with some snow and ice. Luckily none was around and we easily made it through that section.

We picked up the spur trail to the summit and Duncan Hill and quickly hike it to the summit. The summit seemed to have some sort of antenna that I think was a snow measuring tool or small transmitter of some sort. Along the way we only ran into four people who had stay overnight the night before and said that the day before had light blowing snow and no views. Thankfully we had much better weather on our trip. We check the clock and we made it in right around two hours. I must have to say, I know that trail was easy but that has got to be a record for me, who just two years ago would have only gone half as fast.

LarchesThe forest fire that eliminated southerly views

As for the views, they were terrific to the north. Glacier Peak was in clear view along with Saska Peak, Cardinal Peak, Mount Maude, and Mount Fernow. Pyramid Mountain to the east was very clear and Crow Hill was clear as well. Unfortunately that forest fire knocked out views to the south so I could not see Mount Stewart and Mount Rainier and could barely make out Daniel. But this is not time to complain about what I didn't see but be thankful for the excellent views I did have and the great company I had along the way. There were no issues on the way up and everyone on this trip was having a great time on the summit.

Views from the top

Views from the top

Dunkin Donuts on Dunkin

After spending about an hour it was time to head down. I wanted to get back at a decent time so I decided to run a good but of it except the area with the steep avalanche slopes. We made a little better time getting down and were able to keep a good running pace on the downhill section and a fast walk pace on the uphill section. Personally I wished I had carried as much as a did or I would have moved even faster. Still though we moved quickly down the mountain and ran into no other people on the way down. It was great to get a little additional cardio on this section of the mountain.

In about an hour and 30 minutes we were back at the car. Unfortunately it was going to be a long ride home. But this time it was going to be a team effort as a couple of us kept taking turns on the way back. We talked about future plans including possible training trips for Mount Rainier, Mount Hood and Grand Teton. Though the drive back was long, this trip completely went perfect and I want to thank my friend and his bro for coming on this trip. I hope we can setup many more exciting adventures.


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A Slam Dunk on Duncan with Larches

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