Enchantments from South Wedge Mountain
Starting out towards South Wedge on the old Forest Service Road
South Wedge Mountain (Point 6,885) is the high point of McClellan Ridge overlooking the Enchantments in Washington's Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Many authorities, including Fred Beckey in his Cascade Alpine Guide, Volume I
, state that the 6,885' high point of McClellan Ridge is actually Wedge Mountain, and the Mountaineers also consider this point to be Wedge Mountain. The Wedge Mountain summit register is also on this Point 6,885. However, maps place Wedge Mountain at the lower summit of 5,356 on McClellan Ridge. Whatever the true summit of Wedge Mountain is, this peak will afford great views of the lengendary Enchantments of Washington's Eastern Cascades.
The beauty of the Enchantments is well-known; hence, obtaining a permit to camp there is competitive and requires lengthy preparation. To quickly get into the Enchantments, a day climb of peaks like Dragontail or Cannon Mountain is also possible, but will require substantial effort and time. Therefore, if you want to see the Enchantments without a permit and with the least amount of sweat and pain, then South Wedge Mountain's summit does offer an excellent viewpoint over Nada and Snow Lakes and other high lakes of the Enchantments.
The main difficulty in climbing South Wedge Mountain is not the scramble itself; rather, it is following the maze of logging roads to the correct high parking area. Once this is accomplished, a scramble of South Wedge is quite straightforward and entails few difficulties, other than hopping through fallen charred trees from an old forest fire. For a moderate scramble with killer views, this one is a great choice.
Climbing through the old burn
Arriving at summit ridge with the Enchantments coming into view
Drive I-90 East from Seattle to exit 8. Follow SR- 97 over Blewett Pass to close to US-2. Find FS 7300 (Mountain Home Ranch Road) 4 miles south of the intersection of 97 and US 2. Follow FS 7300 to a right turn up a steep hill, signed “Mountain Home Road/Leavenworth” and continue another 2.5 miles to the intersection of FS 7305, on your left. This road is pretty rough, but stay on on the road with the most obvious use. At around 4000 feet, you will come to a fork; Go straight ahead and do NOT take the right hand fork. Follow this road to a large parking area at about 4500 feet. High clearance vehicles may be advisable to drive all the way to the parking area, but regular vehicles can and do make the trip. The road will also become quite brushy and narrow, so if you want to avoid scratches on your paint job, take an old beater.
From the parking area, hike up the steep, well-used road going up the ridge to the southwest which becomes a trail. Continue on the trail to 5200 feet and see horse packers’ campsite and corral. Take the path through the horse packers’ campsite and up the ridge. Break into open burn area recovering from the Rat Creek fire. A fairly obvious boot path, often overlain by fire-fallen trees, ascends to about 6200 feet to point overlooking the Allen Creek Basin on the east and Nada Lake. Continue to the south and scramble to an overlook just before a notch in the ridge. The true summit is on the other side of the notch. You will need to descend the notch, and climb up a gully system of granite and trees up to the true summit of South Wedge just on the other side of the notch. The quality of the rock here is the wonderful granite for which the Enchantments are so legendary. Even though the ascent is steep, it never feels very exposed due to the trees which line the gully.
Difficulty: 5 miles roundtrip. Elevation Gain: 2400 feet. Mainly Class 2 with Class 3 at the notch and true summit.
Red Tape & Camping
Climbers on the Final Summit Scramble
Heading up to South Wedge Mountain from the old burn
You will be parking on a Forest Service Road, a Northwest Trail Park Pass ($5/day, $30/annually) is required to park here. An Interagency Pass ($80/year) good at all US National Parks and US Forest Service trailheads will also work. However, it is extremely unlikely that any ranger will be coming all the way up these roads to check, and you'll probably be OK without one.
This is an unprotected area, so there are no restrictions on camping on access. However, the ridge is entirely dry, so unless you will be coming in early season when snow banks still exist, or you are willing to carry a lot of water, camping is not practical.
When to Climb
So long as the logging roads are open, this peak is easily accessible in spring, summer, and fall. A word of warning about the fall, though. Since much of the route lies over deadfall and brush, it is likely that this area has the potential to pose a major yellow-jacket hazard in the early fall. If climbing in the fall, mid to late October would be better than September in the hope that most of these beasts will be dead for the season.
South Wedge Mountain in the distance from the parking area
The closest year-round Forest Service ranger station is in Leavenworth, about 10 miles from Forest Service Road 7300. For information, contact:
Lake Wenatchee Ranger Station
Star Route, Box 109
Snow conditions heading over Snoqualmie Pass and Blewett Pass are available from the Summit at Snoqualmie Ski Areas at the following website:
Summit at Snoqualmie Snow Conditions
Also, webcams are available from the Washington State Department of Transportation at:
Washington State Highway Webcams