Starting out at the Blackhawk mine spur road this trail starts off easy to follow although quite steep. Once you reach the mature forest treeline things get dicey. I never did find the real turnoff point from the main trail to traverse to the saddle. Despite having a few maps and pretty good navigational skills I just ended up taking whatever path looked less painful. Their isn't one. They are all painful. The route to the ridge includes a LOT of very steep faces and cliffs. Without a good route it would be easy to get stuck somewhere unsafe.
After I got to the ridge I also got turned around a few times with the path being not too easy to follow. Once I finally made it to the summit the views were quite impressive. I was continuously thinking about the route down. I ended up following the standard ridge down and made it close to the saddle before contouring toward the other trail. This proved to make things go a LITTLE bit more smoothly. I still ended up grabbing trees to keep myself from sliding off the mountain almost the entire route back to the main trail.
I would add two necessary pieces of equipment for this mountain.
1. GPS unit. Their is no easy route to find and having that would at least give you a chance to find the main route.
2. Hiking Poles. Your knees will thank you on the way down.
Trip report at http://peakbagger.com/climber/ascent.aspx?aid=529924
A quick 3000 feet with great views. Worth the long drive.
I am mystified as to why this peak has developed something of a 'tough' reputation. It was one of the easiest scrambles I have done in recent years - 1.5 hrs up/1 hr down. The road was open all the way to the 'trailhead', but anything lower than a Subaru will want to park about 0.4 miles from the 'trailhead'. We found a very well defined path starting about 200' to the right of the mine, which was well flagged all the way through the clearcut. We were on trail and game trail for about 90% of the climb, and never had to use the ice axe (very low snow year). Our route followed the south ridge, and judging from the flagging and cairns, this is the route most commonly used - route map has been added to photo gallery.
Thanks for the beta, and posting your route up the South ridge (purple route on my map). It's helpful to know the road has been repaired, and the route goes nicely even w/o snow. In June, 08, we had to park a couple of miles from the TH because the road was blocked by snow, and the route had snow about 2/3 of the way up the clear-cut section. In June '09, the hardest part was getting through the wash-outs and to the TH.
Very fun trip, Harry all brushed about the extensive bushwhacking. Also Phil L., Big John, Neal. Fine views from the snowy top
Trip report with pics and map here http://www.willhiteweb.com/washington_climbing/north_fork_snoqualmie/mcclain_peaks_079.htm