Let's get this straight right off the bat: Mt. Higgins is not
named after Jonathan Quayle Higgins III of Magnum P.I.. Mt. Higgins isn't even named after an ex-coworker of mine from a couple jobs back. Nope, this Higgins is named either for a Walter Higgins--a homesteader in the area in the late 19th Century--or a John Higgins--another homesteader in the region at about the same time. I don't know if these two Higginses were related, but I would have to guess they were.
Anyway, so what about who the mountain is named after. Let's get on with it...
Mt. Higgins is actually three summits along a two mile long crest all with enough prominence to be considered separate peaks. In fact, the 4,985-ft middle summit--second highest of the three--is more widely known as Skadulgwas Peak (for an excellent exposition on the origin of this name, click here
; the latter has pictures). The main summit is the easternmost peak. The west summit (4,880+ ft) is the third summit. This last peak used to have a lookout at the top of a southern promontory (4,849 ft) but it is now in ruins. A 4.5-mile trail leads to the top of West Summit promontory and it is a popular objective for hikers. The true high point of the West Summit is on the north side of the 4,600-ft notch where the trail comes up to. The true high point requires a short off-trail forest climb to reach. The other two summits are harder and require technical climbing.
The entire crest is plainly visible from Highway 530 to the south. The profile of the crest is nothing out of the ordinary. What will really catch your eye is the pronounced dip of parallel rock strata. Indeed, massive folding and erosion has exposed a spectacular palisade of steep ramps that appear to thrust in real time right out of the timbered slopes below. The rock of these dipping strata is metamorphosed sandstone shale. It joints and cracks well for rock climbing but it is too loose to offer a pleasant experience. That is too bad, for the impossibly steep 800-ft North Face of Skadulgwas Peak is a multi-pitch rock route waiting to happen.
Nearby to the northeast is Round Mountain
(5,320+)--highest peak in the area.
For the time being, Trail #640 to the West Summit, West promontory summit, and Middle (Skadulgwas) Summit is closed to facilitate logging activity. Access to the Main (East) Summit is not effected. For more information, click here
There are three summits so there are three routes to expound upon. The Main (East) Summit
takes a different approach and route than the Middle (Skadulgwas)
and West (lookout)
summits. The first order of business is to get you to the general area. The mountain is located near Darrington in the NE part of the North Cascades. The highway for approach is SR-530. One can approach from the North Cascades Highway (SR-20), turning left (south) at Rockport and continuing on to Darrington then beyond (west) from Darrington. From the west (from I-5), the idea is to drive SR-530 east from Arlington for 20 miles or so depending on the peak and route.
There is no red tape to be concerned with. The trailhead for the West Summit (Trail No. 640) does not appear to require a Trail Park Pass.
When To Climb
The West Summit Promontory can be climbed year-round. Access to the trailhead and the slower going in snow will be your biggest concerns. It is a snowshoe trip in winter. The true high point of the West Summit is steep but accessible.
The Middle Summit (Skadulgwas Peak) may be climbable in winter. I can't say for sure. In winter, snow may suitably cover the exposed slab, thus making it merely a steep snow climb. However, I wouldn't want to be on these slabs if avalanche conditions were bad.
The best time to climb the Main (East) Summit is probably when it is snowfree. The East Ridge would not be fun in my book in winter conditions. June to October seems like the right time.
This is a day-climb kind of mountain. If you have to camp and can do without the utilities (this should be ALL of you), then you can car-camp just about anywhere nearby where there is some seclusion from local yokels. Simply find the most suitable silent spur. If you need more amenities, then there are more official campgrounds near Darrington. One is Squire Creek County Park about 2 miles east along SR-530 from the Swede Heaven Road turn-off.
Darrington weather forecast
Views from the West Summit Promontory
Views from the Main Summit