Snowking Mountain may well be the largest mountain under 8,000 ft in the Washington Cascades. As such, it is a distinctive sight from most alpine viewpoints in the Northwest Cascades of Washington. Strangely, though, the mountain is not really visible from any highways. Parts of it can be seen from SR-20 near Concrete, but the summit itself remains hidden. The Snowking massif is spread out over roughly 10 square miles and contains several sub-summits. The Snowking Glacier clads most of the mountain's north slopes. This glacier drains northeast into a basin occupied by four lakes, the most prominent of these being Found Lake. The south side of Snowking is very alpine but does not cradle a glacier, despite the abundance of snowfall received every year. In late summer, the whole of the south side has transformed to the light gray tone of metamorphosed granite. This side drains into Illabot Creek. Other drainages serviced by Snowking are Otter Creek on the northwest, Found Creek on the northeast, and Mutchler Creek on the east.
In opposition to its rocky neighbor Mt. Chaval to the southwest across Illabot Creek, Snowking is a fairly popular objective that is not too technically demanding. In early season, it is merely a long snow slog. Later in the season, crevasses on the north and talus/slabs on the south are the defining features underfoot. There are three main summits and about five or six subsidiary points--especially if you include Mutchler Peak, which is merely the alpine high point of the long, curving Southeast Ridge. None of the summits are hard to climb, though the Middle Summit is probably the most difficult (class 3 and 4).
Snowking Mountain can be climbed in a long day but two-day trips are probably most common. Our party climbed it in roughly 14 hours. Our Route was from the west. The most used route is that of Kindy Ridge (the Northeast Ridge). There are four standard routes: Kindy Ridge, Northwest Route, West Route, and Illabot Creek Route.
Probably 75 percent of parties choose this route. It is the least technically demanding but has the disadvantage of starting at a lower elevation (2,350 ft) and not touring the whole of the mountain. It simply ascends the Northeast Ridge all the way to the summit, which itself is the culmination of said ridge. From Marblemount, drive 14.2 miles up the Cascade River Road and turn right on Kindy Creek Road (FR-1570). Drive as far as possible up the road. Logging on the slopes often determine how far you can go. It may be possible to drive as far as 4 miles. Whatever can't be driven must be walked. When the road gets to 2,350 ft in elevation, leave it for a steep path into old growth. Trend southwestward up onto the ridge. There are various places to camp en route. A pond at 4,500 ft is a possibility. From here, the basic idea is to stay on the ridge as much as possible. Impediments may force detours. Beckey gives an adequate description in his Cascade Alpine Guide. The ascent to the summit is not too terribly difficult. Crevasses and steep slopes on the glacier can be avoided. The last bit arrives at the summit from the SSE.
See here for a trip report for this route.
A good route, though probably the most technical due to a fair amount of class 3 sidehilling. Take Illabot Creek Road for 21 miles to the Slide Lake Trail (circa 2,800 ft). Hike into Slide Lake (3,110 ft) in 1.5 miles and later Enjar Lake (4 hours). There is supposdely a fisherman's trail on the north side of Otter Creek. A good camp location would be at Enjar Lake or at nearby Hamar Lake. From Hamar Lake, trend southeastward (avoiding a cliffband on the right) to the saddle immediately east of Pk 6743. This is where the steep sidehilling is located. Make a long arcing traverse first southwestward then southeastward up onto the Snowking Glacier. Avoiding crevasses and moats, continue toward the Main Summit, which should feature quite prominently to the east. The main summit is defined by a steep buttress on its north. Ascend to the saddle immediatlely west of the Main Summit. A short steep snowbank or class 3 rock gets one to the saddle. From there, turn left and scramble the broken ridge to the summit.
This route is all cross-country. It is the route we took. Start as per Northwest Route (c. 2800 ft), but instead only walk about 300 yards up the trail. Or, start directly from the trailhead. The idea is to immediately start bushwhacking modest forest brush southeastward to gain the ridge that forms. This ridge leads to Pt. 5465 in about one mile. Continue along the ridge or on its south side over to the 5,400-ft level southwest of Pk 5897 ("Ottabot Peak"). Contour below Ottabot Peak to the 5,200+ ft saddle on its southeast side. (Note: Ottabot Peak makes for an interesting diversion. It is a class 3 scramble with one short class 4 slab.) From the saddle, climb southward up the ridge a short distance. Now, there are two ways to continue: 1) south slopes, or 2) north slopes. If you would like to see the south slopes of Snowking, then choose the first option. If you want a more direct route that offers less views, choose the second option. It is certainly possible to go up one way and down the other. We went up via Option 1 and returned via Option 2.
Option 1: Continue up the ridge from the saddle. The ridge becomes more distinct to the southeast of the obvious lake down below. Continue up the ridge. Some scrambling around crags and steps should be expected. The south side of the ridge starts out forested but the vegetation soon abates. Higher up, a steeper section of the ridge can be avoided by trending farther below the crest. This is in the vicinity of Pt. 6100. Continue contouring around the slope. Rounding the southwest spur of Pt 6597, you will next see Pk 7015. (Beckey calls this the "Northwest Peak" but its really not situated to the northwest at all.) Ascend to the saddle between Pt. 6597 and Pk 7015. Climb over the top of Pk 7015 then continue on to the long spur leading north off of Pk 7425 (West Summit). Drop down onto the upper reaches of the Snowking Glacier. The first view of the true summit will be gained here. A steep snowbank will need to be descended (glissaded). Traverse below the north side of the precipitous Middle Summit. Beyond the Middle Summit, take the easiest route possible back up to the ridge line then turn left (east) and scramble class 3 terrain to the Main Summit (some crags along the crest may pose routefinding issues).
Option 2: From slightly south of the 5,200+ ft saddle southeast of Ottabot Peak, make an angling ascent eastward across the north-facing basin to the spur ridge coming north off of Pk 7425. Continue as per Option 1.
This route took us roughly 14 hours round trip. Prepare for a long day whichever route you choose.
This route ascends from the road bridge over Illabot Creek to the small lake immediately south of Pk 5897 ("Ottabot Peak"). From the east side of the bridge, the idea is to hopefully find a fisherman's path to the lake. We couldn't find the path. But, if it is there, it supposedly follows above Illabot Creek for a spell then proceeds eastward in a rising traverse. When the canyon southwest of the lake is encountered, bear directly uphill (northward) to about 4,600 ft then resume going east to the lake. From the lake (est. 4,780 ft), continue southeastward to the ridge forming above at about 5,400 ft. Continue as per West Route (via Option 1 or 2).
Snowking Mountain is in the Glacier Peak Wilderness so standard wilderness policy applies. Only the Slide Lake Trail has an official trailhead. As such, that would probably be the only place a Trail Park Pass is required. However, the drive to it is so long (21 miles on logging road) that your chances of being caught without one are reduced. The rangers writing tickets tend to stick to the easily accessed, more popular trailheads.
You could conceivably climb this peak at any time of year provided you could drive to the "trailheads." The West and Northwest routes start at about 2,800 ft. The Kindy Ridge Route starts at as high as you could go drive up the access logging road. It is possible to do this climb in a very long day (14+ hours), but two days is more leisurely. In winter and spring you have shorter days and definite avalanche dangers. Probably the route most amenable to winter ascents would be Kindy Ridge.
Good camp locations:
On the northeast side: Kindy Ridge, Cyclone Lake
On the northwest side: Enjar Lake, Hamar Lake
On the west side: the lake south of Pk 5897 ("Ottabot Peak")
There are certainly others, but as this is a cross-country peak and because I haven't been all over it, alpine camping should be expected (i.e., at non-designated sites that might suit your tastes).