Coleman Peak is the highpoint of the wedge-shaped plateau of mountains in the converging angle of Andrews Creek (on the west) and Chewuch River (on the east). The next-higher summit is a long way away (either 8,685-ft Remmel Mountain
six miles to the NW or 8,334-ft Windy Peak
to the NE or 7,828-ft Mt. Barney to the SW). As such, the summit of Coleman offers outstanding views of the Pasayten Wilderness.
Another special aspect of Coleman Peak is its remoteness. Or, more to the point, the solitude you'd surely experience if you chose to visit this peak. Sometimes peaks like this deserve recoginition on summitpost. Though the peak is closer to civilization than peaks farther (deeper) into the Wilderness, it nonetheless sees less traffic. While ordinary hikers will have classic destinations in mind like Remmel Mountain and the Horseshoe Basin area near Cathedral Peak and therefore occupy the trails leading that way, you can expect to see no one on Coleman if you choose the short(est) cross-country route.
The mountain is flanked by two lower summits--Reed Peak (7,523 ft) on the west and Kay Peak (7,555 ft) on the south. Together they form an arc around the head of Little Andrews Creek. The terrain is semi-rugged. The south slopes are more gentle; the north slopes steeper and "almost" cliffy. Each summit is comprised of a pile of rocks that make for fun though easy scrambling to mount. The rock on Coleman's west ridge looked like giant cinnamon rolls. This made me hungry as I was running out of food. We chose to climb these three peaks while doing a cross-country route back to the car.
90 percent of the terrain around Coleman Peak was burned by the Thirtymile Fire in 2001. For more information on this fire, see the Remmel page
A winter ski tour of Coleman Peak would be an excellent choice. The tree skiing through the burned out forest would be primo...in the right conditions.
The first ascent was most likely done by Lage Wernstedt in 1925.
This peak is located north of the Chewuch River Road. You can make cross-country approaches from the south (from the Andrews Creek Trailhead) or from the southeast (Chewuch River Trailhead at Thirtymile). Another approach that is quite a bit longer but trail 95 percent of the way would be from the north via the Chewuch River, Fire Creek, and Meadow Creek trails. You could also approach the peak from the Andrews Creek Trail in conjunction with the Meadow Creek Trail which connects with the former. However, because Andrews Creek was heavily damaged by the Thirtymile Fire, the trail up that valley is closed. This is not to say it isn't walkable. You would have to step over hundreds of burned logs. There also appears to be a massive swath of knocked over tree hulks (felled in a northward direction) a few miles up the valley that would present formidable log obstacles.
Ascent from the South
From Winthrop drive north on the Chewuch River Road for 23.5 miles to the Andrews Creek Trailhead (3,050 ft). Andrews Creek Campground is here.
The crux of this climb is finding a suitable route up the steep slopes north of the trailhead. Begin by hiking the Andrews Creek Trail for 0.5 miles to the crossing of Little Andrews Creek (3,500 ft). From here you have two choices to continue the climb. You can go up the ridge spur right (south) of the creek or the ridge spur left (north) of the creek. The former leads first to Kay Peak thence to Coleman's summit in ~6 miles. The latter first goes over or nearly over Wellie Peak (6,620 ft) then to Reed Peak and finally to Coleman Peak in ~5.5 miles. Note:
DO NOT attempt to hike directly up Little Andrews Creek. You'll be sorry. The fire damage in the valley bottom is horrendous.
The Rightward Tack
If you choose to take the rightward tack (east side of Little Andrews Creek) you'll probably want to mount the ridge before you arrive at the creek crossing. Climb 3,000 vertical feet directly up the ridge up and over Pt. 6465. Continue NE over Pt. 6635. Once you get up to these points the going is quite fast and easy through burned forest. You can often see where you're going way off into the distance due to the burned trees. Descend NE from Pt. 6635 to the 6,400+ ft saddle between Little Andrews and Kay creeks. Turn NW and continue 2 miles to Kay Peak (7,555 ft). A trail is shown contouring the west side of the peak. Ignore this. If there at all it traverses through a burned area. Instead, continue 0.8 miles northward to Coleman Peak by keeping as high as possible (approx. 7,400 ft). It is not necessary to climb over the two intermediate points between Kay and Coleman.
From this direction, climb around the back (right) side of Coleman's summit rocks
to find the easiest way up on the northwest side (Class 2/3). A short chimney can be climbed on the way around (Class 4 but not really exposed). The rock is abrasive. If the short chimney or the backside don't work, the southwest side would be fine (you'll have to drop a few feet to skirt the boulders).
The Leftward Tack
If you choose the leftward tack (west side of Andrews Creek) you need to climb northward up the serpentine spur 3,000 vertical feet to Pt. 6455. Continue up and over Wellie Peak (6,620 ft) if you feel like peakbagging or contour its east side if you don't. Descend or contour into the 6,440+ ft saddle immediately north of Wellie. From the saddle continue north then NNE along a forming ridge 2.3 miles to Reed Peak (7,523 ft). Coleman Peak is then a short ridge descent and re-ascent away to the ENE.
From this direction the easy way up Coleman's summit rocks is from the NW side (Class 2/3). Ignore the trail that contours the south side of Coleman. If it is there at all it goes through burned forest. The terrain is so open you don't need a trail anyway.
A Loop Tack?
It is not inconceivable that a loop trip can be made for the above two tacks. One route may appear better for the ascent than the descent and visa versa.
Ascent from the Southeast
This cross-country route starts from the Thirtymile Trailhead (Chewuch River Trail). From Winthrop drive north on the Chewuch River Road for 29 miles to the trailhead (3,420 ft). On your left (west) in the last few hundred yards before the parking lot a creek comes down. This is Kay Creek. Your ascent route will be up the right (north) side of this creek. There is actually a very old trail that switches back and forth up the slope north of the creek but good luck finding it. We only found it on the way down but it is very rough. Cairns were helpful. Suffice it to say, if you keep about 100-200 yards north of the creek you will eventually come across it. Continue up the trail if you find it as far as you can. The crux of the climb from this direction will be finding the trail and/or getting up to easier, flatter terrain above. Most of the elevation gain is in the first mile-and-a-half from the car.
Do not hike in the bottom of the Kay Creek valley (lots of windfall and burnfall). Instead, when feasible, veer rightward up to Pt. 6165 or contour just below its south side. Continue NW over Pt. 6483 finally arriving at the rounded East Ridge of Kay Peak. Bear directly up to Kay Peak (7,555 ft) in ~4 miles from the car. The entirety of this climb once you get up to about 5,500 ft is through heavily burned forest. As such you can see quite a ways through the "forest."
A trail is shown contouring the west side of the peak. Ignore this. If there at all it traverses through a burned area. Instead, continue 0.8 miles northward to Coleman Peak by keeping as high as possible (approx. 7,400 ft). It is not necessary to climb over the two intermediate points between Kay and Coleman.
From this direction, climb around the back (right) side of Coleman's summit rocks
to find the easiest way up on the northwest side(Class 2/3). A short chimney can be climbed on the way around (Class 4 but not really exposed). The rock is abrasive. If the short chimney or the backside don't work, the southwest side would be fine (you'll have to drop a few feet to skirt the boulders).
Ascent from the North
The Meadow Lake Trail extends from the Fire Creek Trail north of Coleman Peak. If you happen to be in the area of Fire Creek then you can make an ascent of Coleman from that direction or do it as a carryover back to the car going down via Kay Creek as noted above (this is what we did). For the directions to Fire Creek, see Option 2 of the Chewuch River Trail
section on the Remmel page
. The Meadow Lake junction is at 6,040 ft about 3.5 miles up Fire Creek from Chewuch River.
The Meadow Lake Trail first climbs up and over an intermediate ridge to Vic Meadow (6,250 ft) in 0.7 miles. The trail fades through the meadow but starts again in the trees directly across (south) of where it enters the meadow. Look for sparse flagging on trees. It helps.
The trail then climbs up (pant pant pant!) to Pt. 6942. After this grass has overtaken the tread. We lost it several times and had to improvise a open-country route to Meadow Creek. We arrived there just east of Meadow Lake (never seeing it). If you stay close to the North-South ridge crest you might do a better job than us. It is about 3 miles from Fire Creek to the 6,361-ft lake.
Now a trail supposedly goes up the north side of Reed Peak but we never saw it. It would be another 1.5 miles or so. We wound up climbing the steep slopes somewhere east of where the trail ought to be. The upper north slopes of Reed Peak (7,523 ft) are grassy. None of the climbing is technical.
Coleman Peak is then a short ridge descent and re-ascent away to the ENE. From this direction the easy way up Coleman's summit rocks
is from the NW side (Class 2/3). Ignore the trail that contours the south side of Coleman. If it is there at all it goes through burned forest. We never saw it. The terrain is so open you don't need a trail anyway.
A Trail Park Pass is required at the Chewuch River Trailhead. I don't know about the Andrews Creek Trailhead (since that trail is closed). There is a toilet at the Chewuch River Trail (Thirtymile). At that trailhead you are asked to fill-out a Wilderness permit. Coleman Peak lies within Pasayten Wilderness so Leave No Trace ethics should be applied. If doing the north approach to the peak, you could ride a bike up the Chewuch River Trail at least to the Wilderness boundary sign, which was passed at someplace in the first few miles. It would be possible to ride all the way to Mile 36 on the map. The trail is not steep up to that point.
When To Climb
It is my opinion (unverified) that Coleman would make for an excellent winter ski provided you could get to the trailheads and the avalanche danger was acceptable. Andrews Creek Trail starts at 3,000 ft. Chewuch River Trail starts at 3,400 ft. I think it would be a good ski because of the open burned forests. Tree skiing galore ending with a steep final descent to the car (if the snowcover down low is ample enough).
Other than that the best time to climb would be early spring or July until the first significant fall snows. I suspect the terrain would be exasperating in June when the snow depths get too low to suitably cover the myriad burnfall you'd have to step over.
For the south and southeast routes you should be able to do this climb in a day. If you will be coming from the north, good camping can be found in the meadows of Fire Creek, in Vic Meadow, and at Meadow Lake (probably). Other than that the terrain is quite open. You could camp anywhere but it wouldn't be very aesthetic to camp in the ubiquitous burned out forests south or southeast of the peak.
Pinpoint NOAA Forecast for Coleman Peak area