Bornite Mountain from FR2060. The true summit (east) is seen on the left side. The scramble route follows the wooded ridge just to the left of the open slopes to the saddle, then follows the ridge to the east summit.
Ok - I really thought I was done peakbagging for 2013. Unfortunately, a streak of clear, cold, late November weather gave me one more case of the 'climber's itch'. Not wanting to embark on some terrible epic the day before Thanksgiving, I decided to go after Bornite Mountain, one of the peaks that has been on my 'dumpster dive' list for a few years. As it would turn out, Bornite Mountain would prove to be anything but a 'dumpster dive' - it was actually a quick, fun scramble with incredible views. In fact, had I not already given the honors to Beaver Peak
, Bornite Mountain would have been a contender for 2013's 'Under-Rated Peak of the Year Award'.
Bornite Mountain is the unofficial name given to a 3940' peak located eight miles south of Darrington, WA. With 840' of prominence, Bornite Mountain could be considered something of a 'Napoleon' - that is, a peak with short stature, but large prominence. Most 'Napoleons' tend to stand alone - Bornite Mountain is somewhat unique, as it is completely surrounded by significantly higher peaks. Bornite Mountain is also unique in another way - it is the only sub-4000' peak in Western Washington (that I can think of) that has a rocky summit with unobstructed 360 degree views. Most of the scramble up Bornite Mountain can be made in heavy timber - this makes it particularly attractive as an early or late season scramble. Assuming you stay out of the obvious avalanche gullies, Bornite Mountain can be safely scrambled most months of the year, as long as FR2060 is not snow covered. Bornite Mountain's name originates from the Bornite Mine, a large, but unsuccessful copper mining operation (started in 1903) that was located on the flank of Liberty Mountain
to the west.
From Darrington, follow the Mountain Loop Highway south for approximately three miles, and make a right hand turn on to FR2060 (Clear Creek Campground will be on the left). Follow FR2060 approximately 5.3 miles to a fork. Take the right fork (straight ahead - FR2065) for 0.5 miles to the Eightmile Creek Trailhead. If you have a low clearance vehicle, park here. If you have a high clearance vehicle (Subaru Outback or higher), continue another 1.3 miles on rough road, until reaching an overgrown spur that provides parking and turn around at N48 08.575 W121 37.387 Elev. 1780'.
Bornite Mountain west summit from east summit. The route basically follows the trees immediately below the bare slopes to the saddle between the peaks, then follows the ridge to the east summit.
From the parking location, walk another 100 yards up the main road, then turn left (south) and head directly towards Copper Creek. Copper Creek is just wide enough to present a crossing challenge, so look for a sizable log jam at N48 08.475 W121 37.471 (you should be fairly close to this spot if you went straight to the creek). After crossing the creek, continue uphill, straight south. The idea is to aim for the wooded ridge just to the east of the main drainage that originates between Bornite Mountain's east and west summits. The east summit will be very obvious as you leave the parking area - just aim slightly to the right of it and you'll be on route. For the most part, the woods will be fairly open, with occasional patches of devil's club. At about 3000', I decided to traverse west, and continue up the main gully to the saddle between the summits (not recommended if avalanche conditions exist).
Bornite Mountain west summit from 3200'. I decided to ascend to the saddle between the east and west summit on these open slopes. During avalanche conditions, one could easily take a tree covered route further to the east.
From the saddle (N48 07.824 W121 37.667 Elev. 3550'), turn left (east), and follow the obvious ridge crest for 0.3 miles to the east summit block - the scrambling will be easy class 2.
Bornite Mountain summit block. The first 10' are the most difficult, but there is no exposure. After that, about 30' of class 3 scrambling will put you on top of the summit block.
Now comes the crux of the climb. Upon arriving at the summit block, you will encounter about 10' of what would probably be considered low 5th class climbing. Thankfully, there is very little exposure, and most will feel comfortable climbing this unroped. If you have objections about downclimbing this section on the descent, 20' of rope will be more than adequate for hand line or rappel. After getting past this short climb, another 30' of Class 3 scrambling will put you on top of the summit block. Caution: The rock is very rotten in the Class 3 section - test every hand and foot hold before committing to it.
Upon arriving at the summit, I found the view to be much better than expected. It is kind of a neat experience to be standing on top of a peak, yet completely encircled by higher peaks. I did find a film canister summit register in the summit cairn (surprisingly enough, the contents were dry) - it had only the names of one party from 2005. If you do intend to sign the register, be sure to bring your own pencil.
Monte Cristo peaks from Bornite Mountain
Bornite Mountain summit pano
Bornite Mountain route map. Red line shows approximate route from 'trailhead' to summit.
Under normal conditions, Bornite Mountain round trip travel times should be in the 3-4 hour range. If you are finding yourself with lots of extra time after your climb, and you are into local history, spend a little time exploring further up the Copper Creek Road. Old artifacts from the Bornite mining camp can be seen along the way. Continue on fairly good trail to Bornite Falls, which is worth the trip if you have the time. Beyond the falls, the trail leading towards the Bornite Mine and Windy Pass deteriorates rapidly. I will assume anyone who wants to explore the 3200' mine shaft is properly equipped and experienced, and can locate the shaft without my help.
No parking pass is required to park at Eightmile Creek Trailhead or along FR2065 (Copper Creek Road).
When to Climb
As long as it is possible to drive at least part way up FR2060 (Clear Creek Road), Bornite Mountain can be safely climbed most of the year (assuming one stays in the timber if avalanche conditions exist).
There is really no good camping spot on the route itself. Bornite Mountain does have a relatively large, flat summit, which might make an interesting bivy for those who are so inclined. The nearest designated campground is the Clear Creek Campground, located across the Mountain Loop Highway at the start of FR2060.