For trail hikers who want a taste of off-trail scrambling, these two routes are best done from early August up until the snow flies. No special equipment required.
BATHTUB LAKES BASIN
About a mile before the summit, cut left over the north face of the mountain, leaving the trail, and heading east through the year-round snow fields. You'll be about 1,000 feet directly below the summit lookout cabin. As you traverse over the north side, stay as high as possible, otherwise lower vertical cliffs will thwart your route. You will come to a saddle. Yellow arrows painted on rock, and cairns lead the way to an easterly two-mile hike on a high and exposed ridge to the Bathtub Lakes ("Poor Man's Enchantments", "Twenty-Lakes Basin"), a favorite overnighter. In the early years, saw mountain goats several times above the lakes.
The 15-20 crystal-clear Bathtub Lakes are in a hanging valley, all set in granite basins. They vary from literally bathtub-sized to an acre. Fabulous views of the Puget Sound basin to the south and west, and grassy meadows to pitch your tent. Plenty of fresh water for cooking, bathing and swimming. Not many visitors because of the difficulty of access. Enjoy, but don't tell anyone else about this pristine hideaway!
Another favorite hike was going from the aforementioned saddle directly up the very steep "Gunsight" to Pilchuck's summit, approaching the summit from the southeast side. As you step onto the saddle ridge, look to the right for the Gunsight--a very narrow near-vertical canyon leading about 1,000 feet up to join the main trail at nearly the summit. A painted yellow arrow with the word "Gunsight" can be found on a nearby flat rock for confirmation of direction. Only when you reach the very bottom of the canyon can one detect a barely-discernible goat trail which switchbacks its way from bottom to top.
Always enjoyed the look of the trail hikers when I popped up over the top of the Gunsight onto the main trail just below the summit. "You came from THAT?" was the evident look in their eyes as they peered over into the abyss from which I had just emerged. From the top, it looks exposed and daring. From the bottom, no big deal--just keep your eyes on the goat trail in front and don't look back!
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