Remmel Mountain is a lonesome heap of talus piled skyward in the middle of the eastern half of the Pasayten Wilderness. Okay, so it's not quite that uninspiring. It does have crags guarding, cliffs looming, larches clinging, creeks scouring, and lakes licking; but no permanent ice thawing. The mountain has a respectibility and even a beauty to it, but as a rock climbing objective it isn't worth the long trek to it. This mountain is merely a hike and viewpoint. Well, it is also among the 40 highest peaks in the state
. Furthermore, it is the 14th-most-prominent peak in the state
(4365P) and 102nd-most-prominent in the contiguous U.S.. These two factors alone make it a worthy choice for visitation. The peak is actually quite popular, seeing eight or nine parties per year according to the register. It helps there are many trails that approach the peak and another one that goes to its top--a top once disgraced by a lookout. No longer. All that remains are splintered boards and splintered memories.
According to some reports, due to its extreme local relief, Remmel Mountain was a nunatak during Ice Ages (Reference
). The mountain massif is located on the long South-North Divide between Andrews Creek to the SW, Spanish Creek to the NW, and Cathedral Creek on the east. East slopes drain to Four Point Creek on the way to Cathedral Creek. West Slopes drain to Andrews Creek. North slopes drain to Remmel Creek. Four lakes flicker for attention at the mountain's feet: Airview Lake (7,320 ft) on the west, Cornwall Lake (6,955 ft) on the north, Four Point Lake (6,850 ft) to the far east, and Lk 7088 closer to the east. Namesake Remmel Lake (6,871 ft) is also in the vicinity but farther away to the north.
In a 1901 reconnaissance George Otis Smith called the mountain "Methow Peak."
In July 2001 an incredibly destructive fire flared up from a careless campground cooksite (investigative information
) near the mouth of Andrews Creek some nine miles south of Remmel Mountain. High temperatures, dry air, and breezy conditions quickly turned what was a small incident into a full-blown disaster. When the fire was finally brought under control, approximately 9,000 acres of lush green forest had been turned into Count Dracula country. I have hiked through burned out forest before but never under such continual devastation. From one valley to the next were burned out hulks, bent over remnants of sapplings, and ash and charcoal strewn forest beddings. For all the hiking we did on that two-and-a-half day trip, I'd say 80 percent of it was through burned out terrain.
And yet, regrowth has begun to take place. Some stands of trees were miraculously saved. Moreover, grasses have begun to spread through the underforest (underburnedforest, if you will). To fully appreciate this regrowth and the scale of the fire itself, a trip into the area from the south (Chewuch River Trail at this moment as the Andrews Creek Trail is closed) is well worth it. There is something strangely fantastic about the largely lifeless terrain. Because there are no pine needles or exterior limbs, you can see quite a long ways through the trees. So while the desolation at times made me weep inside I was equally captivated by how it looked in a surreal sort of way.
More information about the fire can be obtained by doing a websearch under "Thirtymile Fire". Example: Regrowth
It should be noted that four firefighters lost their lives fighting this fire not too far from the Chewuch River Trailhead. On July 10, 2001, Tom Craven, Karen FitzPatrick, Jessica Johnson and Devin Weaver were overrun by fast-moving flames. Sadly, they were less than 100 yards from the safety of a creek. Although, submerging in this creek may not have saved them because they died of "asphyxia due to inhalation of superheated combustion products." (reference
) They were found under the fire shelter they had constructed in a boulderfield 30 yards from the Chewuch River Road.
A memorial has been constructed at the location in the valley where they perished about two miles before the Chewuch River Trailhead. If in the area, stop for a moment and pay your respects. If you go 20 yards behind the memorial plaques you can visit the exact spots in which the brave souls died. And if you feel so inclined, clean up some of the "trash" left there while you're at it. Some items are legitimate offerings but a lot of what I saw was not called for and needs to be removed (unopened cans of Mountain Dew fading in the sun, for example).
The first order of business is to get to the various trailheads. There are three worth mentioning here: Chewuch River Trail, Windy Creek Cut-Off, and Andrews Creek. The last of these had been closed due to fire damage. As of Summer 2005 the burnfall has apparently been removed (by chainsaw after a one-time exemption on use of such equipment in a wilderness). I will describe it anyway with the sense that it has re-opened. It is, after all, the shortest approach to Remmel.
Chewuch River Trail
Find yourself in the town of Winthrop (SR-20). Drive one of two roads (either West Chewuch or East Chewuch Road) north out of town. These two roads converge in about five miles. Continue north up Chewuch (aka Chewack--the name that appeared on maps in 1859) River Road. In 29 miles from Winthrop you will reach the end of the road and the trailhead (elevation 3,420 ft) on the west side of the river. A footbridge goes across the river where the trail continues northward up the other side.
First hike the river trail for 5 miles to 4,240 ft ("Mile 36" on map). From this point there are two options to continue to the peak: Cathedral Creek-Four Point Creek Trail or Fire Creek Trail. Both are about the same distance though the latter is through burned terrain. With a carryover you can do a loop trip going up one approach and down another.
Option 1: Cathedral Creek-Four Point Creek Approach
Continue 7 more miles up Chewuch River Trail to "Mile 43" on map (5,240 ft). From here take the trail leading west up Four Point Creek. In about 3 more miles the trail will come to the creek draining the SE basin of Remmel (c. 7,080 ft). The Remmel Mountain Trail starts here. The Remmel Mountain Trail extends about 1.5 miles to the summit. No difficulties. Although, in early season the trail may be snowcovered. Ice axes would then be recommended.
Option 2: Fire Creek Approach
At "Mile 36" point on map (5 miles from car), you can either continue up the trail 0.5 miles until the Fire Creek Trail junctions with the Chewuch River Trail (may be a corral here) or go cross-country west to cut off some of the distance (approximately half-a-mile). The cross-country route travels through open burned out forest so it will not slow you down. The idea is to descend to the river, cross a log, and then bear WNW crossing Fire Creek en route. You should pick up the Fire Creek Trail switchbacking its way up the north side of the creek in the 4,500-4,800-ft vicinity. The farther you veer north from Fire Creek the quicker you'll pick up the trail.
At first the trail is hard to negotiate due to windfall, burnfall, and new trees in the way, but later everything gets quite nice for a few miles. In about 3 more miles the Fire Creek Trail will come to an unburned meadow on the left (c. 6,000 ft) that makes for a nice camp with year-round running water. A climb of Remmel takes about 7 hours round-trip from there. If you continue up-trail another 10 minutes you will arrive at the Meadow Lake Trail junction (6,040 ft).
To get to Remmel, continue west all the way to the 6,600-ft saddle at the head of the creek. The trail can be boggy at times through the meadows. At some point it crosses to the south side of the creek. The saddle is about 1.8 miles from the meadow camp. The trail then turns right (north) and contours along the west side of Coleman Ridge. In 3.2 miles from the Fire Creek saddle the trail arrives at 7,200-ft saddle overlooking the head of Four Point Creek. The trail arcs 0.5 miles around talus below the South Ridge of Remmel and crosses a creek at 7,080 ft. The Remmel Mountain Trail starts here just across the creek. The Remmel Mountain Trail extends about 1.5 miles to the summit. No difficulties. Although, in early season the trail may be snowcovered. Ice axes would then be recommended.
Windy Creek Cut-Off
This trail start takes longer to drive to and requires an elevation loss and re-gain but is 3 miles shorter than the Chewuch River Trail start. To get to the cut-off start point, drive to the Windy Creek Trailhead as per the Getting There
section on the Windy Peak page
The trail starts at 5,560 ft but quickly descends 1,200 ft in 2.2 miles where it junctions with the Chewuch River Trail just before "Mile 36" on the map. If coming from points south (most of you), the time it takes you to drive around to the Windy Creek Trail will be equal to the time spent hiking an extra hour up the trail. Plus, you'll have to pull that 1,200 ft on the last day to get back to your car. It's a push in my book. The Chewuch River Trail is not hard on the body. I can't speak for the cut-off trail.
Andrews Creek TrailNote: Andrews Creek was heavily damaged by the Thirtymile Fire. The trail was closed for a few years but the burnfall has apparently been removed (as of Summer 2005).
Drive 23.5 miles north out of Winthrop on the Chewuch River Road. The trail starts at 3,050 ft. Andrews Creek Campground is here.
The trail reaches the Meadow Lake junction (4,590 ft) at Ram Creek in 5.5 miles. Continue north on Andrews Creek Trail. In 3.1 more miles (5,340 ft) the Peepsight Creek Trail junctions off and goes west. Continue north on Andrews Creek Trail for about 0.6 miles to where a creek is crossed (c. 5,860 ft) just over 9 miles from the car. This creek drains the west side of Coleman Ridge. You can leave the trail and follow this drainage (burned) up to the trail contouring the west side of Coleman Ridge and take it to Remmel Mountain (see Fire Creek Approach above). This would be the easiest route to the summit.
A second option is to continue 3.4 miles up the Andrews Creek Trail to 6,680+ ft Andrew Pass (or nearly to it). From here you can take one of several Class-3 west-facing gullies to the top Remmel. This way would be a good option if your desire is to continue on deeper into the Pasayten (or if coming back this way later in the trip).
A Trail Park Pass is required at the Chewuch River Trailhead. I don't know about the other trailheads. There is a toilet at the Chewuch River Trail (Thirtymile). At that trailhead you are asked to fill-out a wilderness permit. Remmel Mountain and its approaches are within the Pasayten Wilderness so Leave No Trace ethics should be applied. You could ride a bike up the Chewuch River Trail at least to the wilderness boundary sign, which was passed at someplace in the first few miles. It would be possible to ride all the way to Mile 36 on the map. The trail is not steep up to that point.
When To Climb
You could climb this peak year-round. The problem would be access and avalanche danger. Andrews Creek Trail starts at 3,000 ft. Chewuch River Trail starts at 3,400 ft. From either of these you could ski (with ample snowcover) up to the summit.
Other than that, summer and early fall are best. The recommended time might be early October when the larches have turned color. When we climbed the peak in mid-October the larch needles had already fallen off. The meadows are also more colorful in the red and orange hues.
Good camping can be found at several cleared out spots along the Chewuch River Trail. The terrain is open. You camp where you think you can make it to. However, please try not to trample vegetation.
For Fire Creek, good camping can be found in the long meadow that starts at 6,000 ft and extends nearly to the saddle to the west. However, it seemed to us the meadow was boggier the farther west we went. Camp could easily be pitched in the trees too.
A camp in the meadowy area west of Coleman Ridge at the head of the drainage there would be nice--especially if you intended to do a carryover from there.
There is also camping in the basin just up (NW) from the start of the Remmel Mountain Trail. Or try Four Point Lake.
Mountain ConditionsPinpoint NOAA forecast for Remmel Mountain area
There are sevaral peaks south and southeast of Remmel that we climbed on this trip. Pictures of two of them will be presented here.
(7,459 ft)--semi-forested top 3 miles ESE of Remmel
(7,621 ft)--grassy top 2.5 miles SE of Remmel
Also climbed were:
--treed summit (burned and unburned) 4 miles SE of Remmel
, and Kay
peaks 6 miles SE of Remmel. These last three have their own summitpost page. Click here
to go to it.
Other Surrounding Peaks