The Objective; Mt Pugh seen on July 17th, 2010 from the summit of Painted Mountain.
So where do you hike when you have to be at your Brother In-Law's wedding by 3pm that afternoon? Maybe try a quick visit to Mt Pugh’s summit? As risky as that sounds, this is exactly what we did.
After talking with my good bud Cham (SouthernYokel) we decided to leave my place at 2:30AM Saturday morning. The day was expected to be hot and we wanted to travel the snow while it was still firm. We didn't really know the conditions beyond Stujack Pass, other than one trip report (on NWhikers) a couple weeks ago that showed a picture of someones foot next to the summit benchmark in the fog. The report was not very helpful for conditions.
We knew there would for sure be snow right above Stujack Pass, but we weren't sure about some of the more technical highlights. If the chimney climb and class 3 rock had lots of thin snow and moat, it could serve for a difficult ascent. I guess there is only one way to find out, and it’s always the most interesting way. So, we left my house in the early hours of the morning and got to the TH after about an hour drive. We signed the register and started hiking up the trail around 4am.
We could not believe how warm it was on the trail that early. Usually the morning in washington are pretty cool, but not that morning. There were no breezes and the air was stale. In the dark forest just before the lake we heard a large tree fall. It was the most odd thing I have ever heard. It fell about 200’ from us and I'm talking LARGE tree. Like at least 3'+ in diameter and in the pitch dark. I started to think that my chances of getting hit by a tree in the woods just went up a couple percentage points. It let out a very loud breaking sound and a thundering crash. We got to the lake just before 5am. Took a quick breather here and headed on up to Stujack Pass.
Stujack Pass 5,700'
Soon we broke out of the timber around 4,900’ and looked up at Stujack Pass 5,700’. This was my 3rd time up on this trail and the other past times I had made this same mistake. We always start out by going to the left and end up down climbing steep boulders. The trail is to the right when you enter out into the basin. If you’re down climbing 12' boulders, you’re in the wrong spot.
We headed up to the pass in the early morning light. Every step higher, the views began to grow. I kept looking over to the right at Sloan Peak, which always catches my eye up in that area. So back and forth, back and forth on a series of switchbacks on loose rock and we were finally to our short break spot. There were also flowers growing out of the rocks making this a great destination spot for not only views but flora. We put on crampons here and started our ascent.
Knife Edge, Chimney Scrambling And Steep Snow Traverse
Just around the corner we hit our first long series of steep snow. We gave it a go and headed straight up following very faint tracks. It felt so good, because this is where we turned around last year. Last year we got to this section and didn't have crampons, which are needed. Soon after a couple hundred feet of this we found the trail. The dry trail went for awhile with steep snow patches here and there.
Eventually we entered the small glacier that runs along the Straight Creek Fault. We skirted the edge of a long moat. The snow was still firm at this point. We stayed on the snow for the most part, then jumped across the moat onto a rock when the trail became visible. This ran along what is known as the knife edge.
We were soon to the notch and everything looked really dry. We talked about taking our crampons off here, but I’m so glad we didn’t. Scrambling the solid rock is really annoying in crampons, but taking them on and off is even more annoying. We continued to follow the faint boot path scrambling slabs, ledges, loose rock and what not. We stayed close to eachother, not wanting to kick up a rock and have it gain speed. Also, not getting to close scrambling with sharp crampons. We found that sweet spot, working as a team.
We then got to the chimney section which wasn’t as bad as expected with crampons.
We blazed through that and then hit our next patch of steep snow. We traversed slowly making sure to get good purchase with our ice axes. The snow was firm and spectacular. We encountered a serious of snow fields that were very steep with no run offs, just killer cliff bands. This reminded me on how I will probably not do this one again until late summer. It made traveling slow and it also gave you the feeling to get back quickly before the snow warmed up. As much as a love snow climbs, I would have more fun on this one in the late summer. I would also love to feel the scramble on my boots and not on my awkward crampons.
Views From The Top 7,201'
With that said we neared in on the summit and became stoked. Soon we were on top around 9am.
We didn’t stay long and decided to eat back down at Stujack Pass. I didn’t want to cross the steep snow after it being sun baked the last couple hours. We were also on a time restraint with my wedding engagements. This summit really does deserve more time than we gave it (15min) but you gotta do what you gotta do.
We headed down and were surprised that only one of the steep snow traverses was in the snow. The other few were still in the shade. We made poor time going down, trying to be extra careful. It was also a real treat down climbing all the rock with our crampons still strapped on.
We saw the first hikers just above Stujack. They were kicking in steps with their low-cut sneakers. We told them how steep some of the snow was, but they continued up. We got down to Stujack around 11am. Had lunch for about 30 minutes and jogged down the mountain.
On our way out we passed a couple hikers here and there. We stopped and quickly chatted with a bunch of ladies heading up; their goal was Stujack Pass for the day. We wished them luck and continued on down. By now it was getting warm, but we kept a steady pace back to the car. We Finally reached the car, put on the flip flops, took off the shirt and were down the road around 1:30pm. Made it home in time to take a shower, look real nice and sit in an outside, hot wedding all afternoon. My wife didn't know why I wasn't out dancing with her at the wedding. I told her that I was so tired that it was taking everything out of me to JUST crack the fresh Crab and flake off pieces of the fresh Salmon. It was a long, beautiful day to say the least.
10.5 Miles R/T
5,300' of elevation gain
Solid Class 3 Grade