Prairie Mountain from Illabot Peaks
Prairie Mountain is a seldom climbed peak located just six miles east of Darrington, Washington. I am really at a loss to explain why - the mountain boasts great views, and 1378' of prominence. I had put this peak off for a number of years, based mostly on the fact that there was so little information available on routes. Even my Cascade Alpine Guide has no information on this mountain - very strange for Mr. Beckey to not at least take a wild guess on how a mountain should be climbed! Prairie Mountain's flanks are covered with a number of logging roads, most of which are old and overgrown. I chose the south route based on the fact that one can drive to 3300' on well maintained roads. The north road network is gated at 600', while the east road network (I've heard) is impassible to vehicles beyond 1100'.
Follow SR530 east until reaching the town of Darrington. Follow SR530 another 0.3 miles north from Darrington's main intersection, and turn right on Sauk Prairie Road. Follow Sauk Prairie Road 1.9 miles east, and turn right on FR24, a well defined gravel road. Follow FR24 8.0 miles, until reaching a major three-way intersection - turn left onto FR2430. Stay on the main road, crossing over Decline Creek after 2.5 miles. Continue on the main road, ignoring spurs, for another 3.1 miles past Decline Creek, where the road will abruptly become undriveable (N48 15.198 W121 29.236 Elev. 3300').
There will most likely be some temptation to continue following the old road bed to 4000', as shown on the USGS maps. This is, in fact, what I did on the way in, and I have the scratches to prove it. Were I to do it all over again, I would have gone straight east from the end of driveable road, until reaching the 4850' saddle between Point 5028 and Point 5260. If you insist on following the old road bed, follow the hogsback SE from the road end at 4000'. Continue to the top of Point 5260. The photo below looks north from Point 5260.
Prairie Mountain summit on the left, Point 5586 on the right. The temptation may be to scramble through the meadows on either side of the ridge, but it's much easier to stay near the ridge crest (Please, take my word for it!).
Follow the ridge crest north towards Point 5586. On the way in, I dropped a few hundred feet below the ridge to the east, thinking that travel along the ridge would be difficult. As it turns out, traversing the 30-40 degree meadow slopes was a much more difficult proposition. The photo below looks south, back towards Point 5260.
These meadows may look inviting for travel, but traversing the 30 to 40 degree slopes was an exercise in frustration. I followed the ridge crest on the way out, and had a much better traveling experience.
As I would discover on the way out, there is a game trail that follows much of the ridge crest (deviating slightly east for small gendarmes) that is actually not too bad to travel on. Continue north to Point 5586. The photo below looks north from Point 5586 towards the summit block of Prairie Mountain.
The scramble to the top goes basically up the center as seen in this photo - mostly class 2 with a couple class 3 moves.
From Point 5586, you will have a pretty good view of your objective. Nothing too difficult here, just some class 2 scrambling (maybe a couple moves of class 3) to put you on the top. It will be necessary to drop down about 200' from Point 5586 before starting your scramble to the top.
Prairie Mountain summit pano
White Chuck, Pugh, and Sloan from Prairie Mountain
Plaque on summit
I'm not sure if I've ever seen one this small before - only about the size of a quarter.
This view looks back at the south approach. Just left of center is Point 5586. Just right of center is Point 5260. The best route is up and over both points, deviating slightly east for any gendarmes. A game trail may be followed for a good portion of this route.
Prairie Mountain route map. Continuous line shows my route up the old road (nasty brush). Disconnected line shows what would probably be a much better alternative.
None that I am aware of. Watch out for fast moving logging trucks on FR24.
When to Climb
May to November.
This climb would probably be best done as a day climb. There are, however, no restrictions on camping in this area that I am aware of.