Sunset from Chain Lakes
Chain Lakes Basin
Chain Lakes and Summit Chief
Talus above Williams Lake
Mt. Hinman, along with Mt Daniel, is the second glaciated giant of King County, Washington. Its modest elevation belies the fact that its slopes hold three substantial (and rapidly retreating) glaciers. The preponderance of glacial ice here at such a low elevation is probably due to the high, dome-like structure of the peak which allows a very large accumulation of snowfall. Like its cousin, Mt. Daniel, the glaciers here are in head-long retreat. The USGS quad of 1925 shows no lakes with long glaciers. At the present time, there are lakes at the termini of each glacier that are at least 1/4 mile long, if not longer.
Mt. Hinman is truly a beautiful climbing objective. It is, however, remote by any approach route. Count on a three-day excursion by either approach, especially with the closure of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Road above Dingford Creek. From the south, one can travel up the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Valley, past the Dutch Miller Gap peaks, past Williams Lake, and up the long, white talus fields into Chain Lakes Basin. This is truly a beautiful camping spot. The other approach is from US Highway 2 in the north, up the Necklace Valley. Either way, be prepared for some really nasty mosquitos, but also for some wonderfully isolated climbing. The remoteness will ensure that Hinman is climbed by only a couple of dozen parties a year.
Above Hinman Glacier
Mount Daniel-Pea Soup Lake
**Update: As of the summer of 2017, the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Road has undergone a major renovation. Enormous resources have been expended to improve and pave the road 9.7 miles all the way to milepost 12.4 (Middle Fork Campground). New Campgrounds have been established and large new parking areas have been built at improved trailheads. What had been notoriously known as one of the worst roads anywhere and the home to meth labs and automatic weapons fire is now one of the best.**
There are two distinct approaches for this climb. From the South, one can drive I-90 to Exit 34, driving past Ken's truck stop and continuing north until merging with the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Road. Drive the excellent paved road 12.4 miles to the Middle Fork Campground near Taylor River and continue over the river. From here the road becomes decidedly dicey. High clearance vehicles would be best for the final 1.6 miles to Dingford Creek. The Forest Service will not repair the washout above Dingford Creek, and the permanent new road end will remain there at Milepost 14 (elevation 1400 feet). To reach the old road's end, hike a spur trail of 5.8 miles arrives at the old trailhead at an elevation of 2200 feet.
From Dingford Creek, it is a 13.3 mile hike up to Chain Lakes Basin at 5500 feet, which makes an outstanding base camp. Not only is it spectacular, but you will have great proximity to the summit. The basin is filled entirely with white granodiorite and a host of tiny lakelets, which reflect the moonlight and gives the basin an eery, luminescent aura at night. You won't need your headlamp to go potty at night.
For reaching the summit of Hinman, climb 1/2 mile due east to reach the summit of La Bohn Gap, elevation 6000 feet. The gap is a beautiful mixture of grassy heather slopes and rock. Once reaching the Gap, turn due north and find a climber's boot track which is surprisingly well-defined and climber-friendly, switchbacking up steep heather slopes to gain access to Hinman's Southeast Ridge. You are now contouring at the head of Hinman Glacier, elevation 7000 feet. From here, the climb to the summit is an exercise in traversing the heads of two glaciers, past a long, sharp ridge, to reach the summit at the eastern most mound of rocks. The long ridge seems every bit as high as the "summit," and it would be interesting to know which is truly higher. There should be no need for a rope, even though you are traversing glaciers, as you are skirting the very tops of them. An ice ax is advisable, but one could probably get away from using a helmet or crampons. There is minimal rockfall danger here.
An alternative approach can be up the Necklace Valley. Drive US Highway 2 East of Skykomish 1.8 miles. Turn right at the Foss River Road #68 for 3.6 miles to thee Tonga Ridge junction, and continue to the East Fork Foss River trail at 4.2 miles (elevation 1600 feet). Hike past numerous beautiful lakes to reach La Bohn Gap in 10 miles.
Both the Necklace Valley and the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Valley lie within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. A Northwest Trail Park Pass ($5/day, $30/year) is required to park. Wilderness permits are required but available on a self-service basis at the trailhead. An interagency pass, good at all Forest Service trailheads and National Parks, is available for $80/year.
Wilderness permits are required for travel into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Permits are available at the trailheads on a self-serve basis.
There are countless places to camp on this trip. As you hike up the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Valley, Pedro Camp (at 6 miles from road-end) is the first established area, but great sites abound at Williams Lake and higher up at Chain Lakes Basin. From Necklace Valley, there is great camping at the several lakes in that valley. Jade Lake, which is directly below La Bohn Gap, is probably the best base camp from this direction.
TOPO! Software Image
For an approach from either I-90 or Highway 2, check the Washington State Department of Transportation set of webcams for the latest conditions at this site:
Washington State Highway Webcams
Information on US Forest Service road conditions and closures can be found here:
US Forest Service Information