The Sulphur Mountain Massif (my own made up name) is a large area of high ridges, peaks, meadows, and small lakes located roughly nine miles north of Glacier Peak, and 22 miles east of Darrington. It is bound on the north by Sulphur Creek, on the east by Bath Creek, and by the Suiattle River/Canyon Creek on the south and west sides.
Defining which high point in the area qualifies as the summit depends on who you ask: For 95% of the hikers on the Sulphur Mountain Trail, the summit is the 6200'+ Sulphur Point (once an old lookout site in the 1930's - likely no permanent building at this location) located at the end of the trail. For USGS cartographers, the summit is prominently labeled as the 6735' high point located less than one mile SE of the old lookout site. Unfortunately for both of these peaks (despite their great views), they don't even get so much as a mention on the ListsofJohn website, as neither breaks the 300' prominence threshold.
For the 'professional peakbagger', the obvious choice for the Sulphur Mountain summit would have to be Point 7140. It is (just barely) the highest peak in the area, offers enjoyable scrambling, incredible views, and a generous 1280' of prominence. In fact, it has the unique distinction of being the most prominent peak in Snohomish County without a name, either official or unofficial.
Just why exactly Point 7140 has received so little attention over the years is something of a mystery to me. Perhaps some are put off by the total elevation gain (7000') or distance (14 miles RT). Perhaps some are put off by the notion of climbing a 'no name' peak. Oh well - everyone else's loss can be your gain - an easily accessed, brush-free scramble in the Glacier Peak Wilderness with great scenery and almost guaranteed solitude.
Update: Thanks to John Roper for providing some more information on peak names in this area. Sho-ghud-ope was the name given to the north 7140' peak by the Suiattle Indians and means 'gray earth'. The south 7140' peak (the main subject of this page) has received the John Roper designation of 'Kaiwhat Peak' - Kaiwhat was the Suiattle Indian name for Sulphur Creek. For this reason, I have added Kaiwhat Peak to the title for this page. Additionally, this peak has also been called 'Shower Mountain' by others in the past. There seems to be some disagreement as to whether Kaiwhat Peak or Sho-ghud-ope is higher. Klenke has assured me he will settle this debate when he heads into this area. If someone beats him to it, could you please take GPS or theodolite app readings from both summits?
Sulphur Mountain Route Map
From Darrington, take Highway 530 north for 7.5 miles, then turn right on the Suiattle River Road. Follow said road for 23 miles to the end (first 10 miles are paved), at which point you will be at the Suiattle River Trailhead.
Sulphur Mountain Route Map Closeup
Follow the Suiattle River Trail for only 1/8th mile, then turn left onto the Sulphur Mountain Trail (#743). Now settle in for five miles of boring, monotonous switchbacks, and no views. This is the price of admission for easy, brush-free access to the high country. Personally, I found the Sulphur Mountain Trail to be one of the best trails I had hiked in recent memory: consistent grade, no rocks, no roots, and just a few annoying blowdowns - no thinking required! This trail lends itself well to trail running shoes and Ipods if you are so inclined. Also, this trail works well for a 'headlamp start' for those who wish to make a one-day mission into this area. Take my word for it - you are not going to miss any views if you hike it in the dark. It is worth mentioning that the Sulphur Mountain Trail is bone dry - please plan accordingly.
As you approach the ridge crest, the views finally start to open up. For those so inclined, a spur to the left will lead down towards Sulphur Mountain Lake.
Sulphur Mountain Lake and Point 6438 from Sulphur Point
For everyone else, continue on the main trail to the right, which will lead to Sulphur Point after a short distance (6200'+).
Sulphur Point from Point 7140
Views here are fantastic, and for many people, this is far enough.
For those who want to scramble up the 'official' (per the USGS) Sulphur Mountain, a fairly straightforward, one-mile ridge scramble will put you on top (green line on route map). Please see Eric Willhite's page for an excellent description.
The 'official' Sulphur Mountain from Point 7140
For you strange peakbagger types (if you've read this far, this means you), Point 7140 will be looming in the distance, begging to be climbed.
Point 7140 (left of center) from Sulphur Point
You may notice at this point that two basins and a ridgeline separate you from the summit. Do not be afraid - it is not as bad as it looks. In fact, if you practice your Julie Andrews routine in the meadows along the way, you may even enjoy it!
The start of the route towards Point 7140 closely matches what is known as the 'Bath Lakes High Route'. For those interested in completing this arduous, but interesting journey, a pdf link to the book 'Routes and Rocks' may be found here.
From Sulphur Point, follow a faint path SE - in about 1/4 mile, you will arrive at an obvious saddle located just SE of Lookout Lake. Now drop down steep heather slopes to Lookout Lake, which will likely be dried up in late season.
Lookout Lake on Sulphur Mountain (dried up)
From Lookout Lake, travel N/NE 1/4 mile (rising slightly, then dropping slightly) to the base of a steep ravine. Please note that there is a likely shortcut (untested by me - shown in blue on map) to get to the base of the ravine if you have no interest in visiting the lookout site.
Ravine leading from Lookout Lake to second basin on Point 7140 scramble
Scramble up the ravine (goat trail on left side) to a saddle in the ridge crest south of Point 6438. Give yourself a pat on the back for all the altitude you gained in the ravine, then immediately give it up as you drop into a second basin on the east side of the ridge. The disappointment of dropping will soon be forgotten as you enter into what is arguably one of the more beautiful spots in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. (Note that there are two other possible routes to the second basin - we took what appeared to be the easiest route).
Meadow in second basin on way to Point 7140
Meadow in second basin on way to Point 7140
Point 7140 (far left) and Sulphur Mountain from second basin
If you intend to camp on this route, may I highly recommend you do it here. Even if you have a large party, everyone will be able to have their own private meadow, and the rest can be used for volleyball and putt putt golf. It appears that water is available all year at this location.
After soaking in the meadowy goodness, continue due east across the basin, and start up the obvious slope that terminates just south of Point 7140's summit. At about 6300', you will need to make a choice between going straight ahead (steep class 2), or making a slight turn to the right, then taking a gully to a 6600' saddle. Going straight ahead will likely work most of the time, but we chose to descend via the second option due to a couple inches of wet snow (our descent shown in yellow on route map).
Point 7140 route at 6300'
Looking west toward Sulphur Point from 6500' on Point 7140
Point 7140 (far left) from 6600' saddle to the S/SW
However you decide to get there, you will eventually end up on the gentle ridge extending south from the summit. From here, easy class 2 scrambling will lead to the base of the summit block.
Point 7140 summit block and 'Sho-ghud-ope'
The final scramble will involve a few class 3 moves, but nothing too difficult. It seemed to us that staying a little to climber's right was easier than taking the summit head-on. Watch your step on the final traverse to the summit, as there are a couple spots with big exposure. From the summit, you will get a good look a 'Sho-ghud-ope', which is very close in elevation to Point 7140's summit. It does not appear to be too difficult of a scramble, but I am unsure if it can be done directly from Point 7140's summit. It did appear that dropping off of Point 7140's south ridge to access the peak was possible in a couple locations.
Point 7140 summit with 'Sho-ghud-ope' in background
It appears that views from the summit would be amazing under clear skies - unfortunately for us, a high cloud layer obscured views of the 'big boys'.
Point 7140 summit pano
Downey Mountain and Bachelor Peak aka Pilot Peak from Point 7140
A Northwest Forest Pass is required to park at the Suiattle River Trailhead.
When to Climb
I am guessing that May to October would provide the best conditions, as well as ample daylight to get the job done.
There are many excellent camping locations on route - Sulphur Point, the first basin (Lookout Lake), the top of the ridge between the basins, and my personal choice of the second basin. For those who want to car camp, there are several locations on the Suiattle River Road - the closest being the Sulphur Creek Campground adjacent to the trailhead.