Kaleetan Peak during wildfire season
The trip reports that I have researched describe two routes from Melakwa lake to Kaleetan peak: one approaches from the south, following a trail up and over point 5700; the other follows the valley beyond upper Upper Melakwa Lake to Melakwa Pass. The faint bootpath here ends about 1200 feet below Kaleetan's east face. I wanted to explore both routes, and decided scrambling up the east face would be safer and easier than going down it. I took the trail on the west side of Melakwa Lake, then crossed over to the east side of Upper Melakwa Lake. Several paths come and go, but stay steady to the north to Melakwa Pass at the saddle between Kaleetan and Chair Peaks.
From here I followed the ridge, occasionally dropping down on the south side to avoid thick vegetation, which is eventually released by crumbling rock a the south face becomes the steep east face of Kaleetan Peak. At first i planned on traversing to a sharp SE ridge with trees all the way to the saddle above to avoid exposure, but scrambling up the wide open rock face was way too fun. I rounded over the ridge at about 5800ft and turned North , the steepness ever increasing to the summit.
This is by far the most satisfying summit I have achieved so far. The northeast and northwest faces drop of sharply, going nearly vertical for at least 2000 ft. The Mountaineers have deposited a summit log and someone installed a beautiful plaque listing the elevation and pointing toward a few nearby mountains. I spent about 2 hours surveying the hundreds of surrounding peaks, and about a dozen alpine lakes.chair peak lake was 90% covered in snow and ice, the brilliant blue radiating through the few holes and around the edges. Five separate wildfires were blazing between Wenatchee and Mt Rainer. Two of the smoke stacks rose up dividing Mt Tahoma and Rainier.
I took my time carefully scrambling down and was glad to have a trail when I reached it. At the south saddle I ran into a group of the Tacoma mountaineers who had approached via the trail from the south. We exchanged route descriptions before heading our separate ways. The trail was a little faster going, although I did lose it once where several bootpaths spread out.
After a quick rest and water refill at the lake I hurried back down the trail and made it back to the car just after 4 o'clock making it 9 hours car to car with plenty of time for pictures (about 7-8 miles round trip). I left the dogs behind on this one, but they could easily have made it up to the last 500 ft. if I could have convinced a friend to join me and take time watching them below. I saw 3 groups of 2 on the way up, and about 60 people on the way out. If you make the trip to Melakwa Lake be sure to stop by Snowshoe Falls about 1.5 miles South of the lake.
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