Sunrise Lake from Summit Summit of Switchback
Switchback Peak is the unofficical name for Point 8321 south of Martin Peak
in the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth subrange of the Washington Cascades. It is also known as Cooney Peak in some guide books, apparently taking this name from Cooney Lake just below its summit. Whatever its name, Switchback Peak is the southernmost summit reaching over 8300 feet in that subrange of peaks near the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness. This mountain offers beautiful views of surrounding alpine lakes and can be reached via an easy, aesthetically graceful ridge from neighboring Martin Peak. As such, Switchback is probably ascended many times annually, but is not crowded in any sense.
Furthermore, Switchback Peak can be combined with Cheops
and Martin Peak
for one of the great alpine traverses in all of the Washington Cascades. Views extend all the way from Lake Chelan in the West, to the highest Peaks of the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness area in the North. With great camping located at a number of nearby alpine lakes and meadows, this area calls out for exploration and a multi-day trip.
Getting There: From the North
Cooney Lake from Traverse Traverse to Switchback View North from Summit TOPO! Software Image
From Pateros on the Columbia River, drive the Methow Valley Highway 17 miles toward Twisp. Just before crossing the Methow River for the 7th time, turn left on a narrow country road 1 mile to a Forest Service sign. Turn left on road No. 4340 (North Fork Gold Creek Road) for 6.6 miles to a junction. Turn left on road No (4340)300 for 6 miles to the Eagle Lake trailhead, 4,700 feet.
Take Crater Lake trail 1/2 mile, then taking the Eagle Lake Trail another 7 miles to Horsehead Pass. Drop 700 feet to Boiling Lake (6,900 feet). From Boiling Lake, take a way trail due South toward an obvious unnamed pass (7,400 feet), then drop a couple of hundred feet into the basin, still heading south on parkland for about 1/4 mile. Climb due east anywhere up to the ridge connecting Cheops on the left, and Martin on the right (easy, Class 1). Run the ridge due South towards Martin Peak. Stay on top of the ridge, but when forced off the top, veer to the right (west) side of the ridge. You can easily climb over the summit of Martin Peak
(Class 2 with short sections of Class 3). To avoid the summit would actually make the climbing more technically difficult. From the Martin Peak
summit, it is an easy 1 mile traverse over a broad open ridge (Class 1 and 2) to the summit of Switchback Peak.
Alternatively, one can bypass this ridge entirely by traversing through green parkland and meadows all the way from where you drop from the unnamed pass. Just hike south parallel to the ridge over easy terrain to the Northwest Ridge of Switchback Mountain for an easy (Class 2) ascent.
A great alpine traverse, easily done in one day from Boiling Lake, would be a Cheops
to Martin Peak
to Switchback Mountain high alpine traverse. All three peaks top out over 8,200 feet.
Getting There: From the South
Follow the Crater Lake Trail to the Eagle Lake Trail as described above, taking the cutoff at 2.5 miles (elevation 5700 feet) south away from Eagle Lake and head towards Martin and Cooney Lakes. Follow the trail 4.0 miles to Martin Lakes (elevation 6700 feet), and another 2.2 to Cooney Lake (elevation 7200 feet). Good camps abound at each location. Follow the trail above Cooney Lake for another mile until intersecting the easy Southeast Ridge of Switchback Peak. Climb easily to the summit. Class 1 and 2.
Summit View North Summit View Southwest
This area lies just to the South of Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness area. As such, it is subject to motorcycle traffic on the approach trail to Boiling Lake. Once beyond Boiling Lake, however, one is unlikely to encounter any such traffic.
A Northwest Trail Park Pass ($5/daily, $30/annually) is required to park at the trailhead.
Great camping spots abound at Boiling Lake, just over Horsehead Pass. Other good camping spots can be found in the meadows west of Cheops
and Martin Peak
, as well as in the meadows north of Boiling Lake under the slopes leading to Mount Bigelow. From the approach in the South, good camps are available at Cooney Lake.
You can get the latest information on road closures and trail conditions at the U.S Forest Service office.
U.S. Forest Service
Methow Valley Ranger District
Twisp, WA 98856