, Ptarmigan Peak
, and Mt. Carru
may be higher, but Monument Peak has all the chutzpah in this region of the Pasayten Wilderness. Monument Peak is the most rugged and most inaccessible peak in the Lago group of peaks. It is also more solitary despite its being closer to civilization to the south than Lago, Carru, and others. Its solitariness is mostly due to trail access, yet it does seem to sit off as an island amongst encircling valleys (Eureka Creek encircles Monument's north, west, and south sides while Monument Creek takes up the remainder to the east).
Double-nubbed Monument is characterized by a precipitous north and northeast side, a long but gentle slope on the south (at least for the top half of the peak; not necessarily down lower by Eureka Creek), a cliffy east face, and a rugged west face. A high, disheveled ridge connects it with 8,397-ft Blackcap Mountain
a 1/2-mile to the north. There are two outstanding escarpments on this mountain's east and SSE sides. The east escarpment comes down off the East Ridge and continues in a long southeastward trending arc to Lake Mountain
. The north side of this escarpment is very steep and effectively cuts off the Monument-Lake basin from the northeastern basin of Monument. The climbing to surmount this escarpment as close to Monument as possible is class 4 and 5. There is a very steep bowling alley gully of un-scarifiable dirt just east of Pt. 7688 on the escarpment. The SSE escarpment is equally as precipitous on its east side. Climbing up this may be easier than getting down it. I was able to find a very steep but loose gully to get down to the Monument-Lake basin so I could get over to Lake Mountain.
The Pasayten Wilderness is generally not as rugged as other regions of the Cascades to the west and southwest, but the terrain around Monument Peak is quite rugged, making the mountain hard to get to. There are four approaches to the peak. The shortest of these, though not necessarily the easiest, would be from 7,100-ft Pistol Pass on the Monument Creek Trail No. 484 (starts on Harts Pass Road six miles nothwest of Mazama). It is 11 miles to the pass then 3 miles of cross-country side-hilling to get to the Monument-Lake basin. The easiest approach, though not necessarily shortest, would be from 6,960-ft Slate Pass on Harts Pass Road. For this approach, you want to descend from Slate Pass to the Robinson Creek Trail No. 478 as it parallels the Middle Fork Pasayten River. Then once you get to about even with the large horse camp in a large meadow, look for the trail up to Ferguson Lake. In 7 miles, this trail descends to Eureka Creek just south of Monument Peak. From here, you can continue north up Eureka Creek to 7,480-ft Shellrock Pass or find a route up the south side of Monument Peak or find a route to the Monument-Lake basin. A third approach to the north side of the peak (to Shellrock Pass) would be to continue north on the Robinson Creek Trail to Berk Creek then ascend the Freds Pass trail up, over, and across the head of Eureka Creek. A fourth approach to the northeast side of Monument would be via Monument Creek Trail to a point maybe three miles before Butte Pass where Monument Creek turns west toward Monument Peak. One can easily travel cross-country to the basin northeast of the peak (good camping here if not overrun with marmots).
The following was kindly forwarded to me by Jorge López in December 2008:
"Perhaps the most memorable of my many solo hikes and climbs in the Pasayten (apart from ascending almost all the peaks in the Robinson Massif) was the ascent of Monument Peak on 17 August, 1986. I was familiar with the overgrown (wildly beautiful!) Eureka Creek Trail, but I did not use it. Instead I hiked ESE from Ferguson Lake to the head of its cirque. From there a clear game trail leads into the cirque just NE of Wildcat Mountain. From here I hiked up cross-country to the crest of the ridge between points 7470 and 6645 (open forest, pleasant) then directly down (3/4 mile of rough bushwhacking) to Eureka Creek, where I camped in forest. From there I ascended Monument the following day. Mine was, I think, the fifth or sixth entry in the summit register. I think a party had climbed the West Rib a couple of years previously. Awesome, solitary, memorable! This is probably the most direct way of getting from a vehicle (Slate Pass) to the summit of Monument Peak."
Permits are not required as far as I know, though signing a trailhead register might be requested. When I was out there for a week in August, I saw less than five people once I got back to the Shellrock Pass vicinity. You'll see more people (and horses and dogs) on the Robinson Creek Trail, which runs along the Middle Fork Pasayten River north of Slate Pass.
When To Climb
The peak could probably be climbed in every season except winter. Access depends on conditions for getting to the trailhead. The Slate Pass trailhead is ~6,900 ft up. In fact, the road to Slate Peak Lookout is the highest well-traveled road in Washington. Harts Pass Road is also one of the more exposed roads to drive on. Combine that with the many sightseers who use the road and it becomes a concentrating endeavor. The snowier the approach, the longer time you'll need to get in and out. The peak will probably require three days to get to, climb, and get back from, so plan accordingly. If doing the climb from Shellrock Pass or the northeast side or via the East Ridge, technical equipment may be necessary.
There are numerous campsites. Some I know of are:
1. At or near the horse camp where the Ferguson Lake Trail junctions off from the Robinson Creek Trail
2. At the intersection of the Robinson Creek Trail and Berk Creek (this is where the trail up to Freds Lake, Freds Pass, and Lake Doris begins)
3. At Freds Lake
4. At Lake Doris
5. At the eastern head of Eureka Creek immediately south of Mt. Lago
6. At a half-acre sized bench at ~7,500 ft just southwest of Shellrock Pass. This is where I camped for five days. It is a good staging area for climbing all the peaks in the region. There may or may not be a snowpatch there for water. Bring a filter.
7. In the basin northeast of Monument Peak (grassy terraces but a marmot metropolis)
8. In the Monument-Lake basin (prime bear country?)
When I was in there in August 2001, I was snowed on lightly for one night at my 7,500-ft camp. Knowing this, plan your clothing appropriately. It can be hot or cold or in between in the Pasayten. Ordinarily, you won't get much rainfall as the wilderness is far east of the Cascade Crest. However, when I was there, it rained for 36 hours straight. I stayed in my tent nearly the whole time.