This page is for two peaks--Big Craggy Peak (8,470 ft) and West Craggy (8,366 ft). They are located in the southeast quadrant of the Pasayten Wilderness about 17 miles north of the town of Winthrop. Actually, to be exact, only West Craggy is part of the wilderness because it straddles the boundary. But for all intents and purposes both are Pasayten peaks. The reason I decided to combine the peaks is because they fit together well as a combination climb. Plus, I like the name "Craggies" better.
The Craggies are the two highest points of rugged Isabella Ridge, which extends for approximately five miles in a north-south orientation (the north end splits into two parallel ridges). Eightmile Creek runs the length of the ridge's east side. A little to the west is Lost River Gorge, a mostly unseen canyon just waiting to be explored by the fearless adventurer. Another summit of note on Isabella Ridge is Sherman Peak (8,204 ft). North Craggy (Pk 8205) is another notable summit. Some of the cliffs on the east side of the ridge are impressive juggernauts with much rock climbing potential. Isabella Ridge is also the alpine zenith of a triangular sub-range of peaks whose vertex is Eightmile Pass at the north end. Because this pass is at 5,400 ft, Big Craggy Peak has over 3,000 feet of prominence, making it among the top 50 most prominent peaks in the state (3070P). Additionally, both Big Craggy and West Craggy are among Washington's Top 100 in terms of elevation. A worthy dual status to be sure...for the lame peakbaggers among us.
A fair amount of mining activity took place on the mountains' flanks. In particular, a copper mine on the south side gave name to Copper Glance Creek and Lake. I guess the prospector of note glanced a thin seam of copper and thereby placed his claim. Even more copper prospects were placed near Eightmile Pass north of the summits.
Big Craggy and West Craggy are pretty straightforward Class 3 climbs, though the rock can be loose and rubbly (your typical Washington talus and scree slopes). Big Craggy can easily be done in a day from the car. A combination climb of Big Craggy and West Craggy might require a camp (or at least a very early start). Big Craggy would also make for a nice spring ski.
There are two approaches worth noting: the one from the southeast (my route) and the one from the north (from the trail to Eightmile Pass). Both will require cross-country travel but fortunately the terrain tends to be open (unless it isn't).
Southeast Approach & Climb
The southeast route makes use of the Copper Glance Creek Trail. To get to the trailhead, drive north from Winthrop (Winthrop is on Hwy 20 in the Methow Valley) on east or west Chewuch River Road (they later merge into one road) for about 9 miles. Eightmile Creek Road junctions off to the left here. Drive Eightmile Creek Road for 12.5 miles to the trailhead, which is merely a wide spot in the road (c. 3,830 ft).
Hike up the trail, which at first is an old mining road. In about 1.5 miles not too far after the first major switchback an old mine adit is encountered (c. 4,950 ft). Continue up the steepening trail for another 0.4 miles or so to where it rounds the subtle corner of the lower SE Shoulder of Big Craggy at 5,600 ft. From this corner, a direct climb up this shoulder can be done to reach the Big Craggy's summit. The shoulder will be forest at first, then sub-alpine forest, then talus and boulders.
Time = 3-4 hours from car. Gain = 4,500 ft. Distance = ~3 miles.
If you wish to continue to a camp in the basin between Big & West Craggy, then stay on the trail past the subtle corner for about 0.8 more miles. The trail crosses Copper Glance Creek at 6,080 ft and continues another half-mile or so to Copper Glance Lake (6,100 ft). YOU DO NOT WANT TO GO TO THE LAKE. Instead, leave the trail about 150 yards past the creek where it goes over a small hump. About 100 yards of light bushwhacking northward up and over this hump is necessary. You'll be aiming for the lower fringe of the talus slope that comes down to 6,400 ft just west of the creek. Nice open travel between talus and stream gets one to a series of ponds in a lower basin (c. 6,700 ft). Half-a-mile from the trail. Set up camp here.
The valley splits above the lower basin. The northwest valley continuance leads to West Craggy. The north valley continuance leads to the 7,640-ft saddle west of Big Craggy.
Route to West Craggy
From camp take the leftward basin to its head where talus or snow (depending on season) gives way to low-angle cliffs. West Craggy's summit is not visible from the basin. A ramp leads up to the right. This ramp provides a fairly safe route through the cliffs. There is some loose rock, so it's Class 3. The ramp dumps out at a talus/snow slope just below the ridge crest. Continue up to the crest, reaching it a ~8,000 ft. Cross to the other (west) side and contour up to the summit. No further difficulties (talus, boulders, or snow).
Time = 4-5 hours from car, 2-3 hours from camp. Gain = 4,400 ft from car; 1,700 ft from camp. Distance = ~4.5 miles from car, 1 mile from camp.
Route to Big Craggy
See this picture for a good view of the route.
From camp take the rightward basin (a smaller depression than the leftward basin) to the crest of the ridge (c. 7,660 ft) about 0.4 miles west of the summit. Turn right (east) and follow the easy Class 2-3 shoulder to the top. No difficulties. A false western summit will be passed on the way. A direct route up or down the south slope is also possible but will surely be more tedious.
Time = 4 hours from car, 2 hours from camp. Gain = 4,500 ft from car; 1,800 ft from camp. Distance = ~4.5 miles from car, 1 mile from camp.
Big Craggy-West Craggy Traverse
See this picture for a somewhat representative view of the traverse.
Apparently a high traverse between the summits is possible. There are several gendarmes on West Craggy's east ridge that pose some difficulties. However, they can be circumvented by contouring lower down on the south side of that ridge. Expect a fair amount of scrambling in and out of rocky, loose gullies (Class 3). The portion close to Big Craggy is easy (same as preceding route description).
Time = 2 hours between summits Loss/gain = approx. -800 ft, +800 ft from low point of traverse. Distance = 1 mile between summits.
Northside Approach & Climb
This route makes use of the trail to Eightmile Pass, which is 2.5 miles north of The Craggies. To get to the trailhead, drive north from Winthrop (Winthrop is on Hwy 20 in the Methow Valley) on east or west Chewuch River Road (they later merge into one road) for about 9 miles. Eightmile Creek Road junctions off to the left here. Drive Eightmile Creek Road for 16.4 miles to its end (about 0.4 miles beyond a major switchback). Billy Goat Corral is located here. This is the trailhead (c. 4,740 ft).
Take the Eigthmile Pass Trail. Be sure you don't accidentally get on the trail to Billy Goat Pass. That trail starts from the same trailhead. You basically want to be heading northwest to the head of Eightmile Creek, not north up a lesser drainage.
From 5,400-ft Eightmile Pass (2 miles from the car) leave the trail and head south for 0.5 miles along the pass divide then turn slightly east to get into the valley leading south to The Craggies. Eightmile Peak (7,840+ ft) is west of the valley. North Craggy (Pk 8205) is east of the valley. Reach No Dice Lake (6,541 ft) in 2 miles from the pass and 4 miles from the car. There may be good camping at this lake. Or it could be too rocky.
Time to lake = 3 hours max (but there could be brush to contend with). Gain = 1,900 ft.
In another mile past the lake one should be able to reach the 7,640+ ft saddle west of Big Craggy (Class 3?). See the right fringe of this picture for an idea of the terrain one should expect to reach the saddle. From the saddle you can then continue east to that summit or traverse the ridge west then north to get to West Craggy. For the latter, see the traverse route described above.
Note: A direct route to West Craggy could be done but its East Face is cliffy Class 4/5 with routefinding difficulties (see this picture). A route up West Craggy's North Ridge looks feasible but loose rock and Class 4/5 climbing should be anticipated.
I can't remember off-hand if the Copper Glance Creek trailhead requires a Trail Park Pass. Since it's not much of a "trailhead" but merely a wide spot in the road, it may not require one. However, it's a pretty easy trailhead to patrol, so you take your chances. Surely, it seems to me, the Eightmile Pass Trailhead at Billy Goat Corral will require one, if for no other reason than for the equestrian need.
Also, West Craggy straddles the boundary of the Pasayten Wilderness. Points west of the crest are in the wilderness; points east including Big Craggy are not.
When To Climb
The best time to climb these peaks is probably early summer when snow covers talus. However, the peaks could be climbed year-round provided you could get to the trailheads, which are both over 3,800 ft.
Mosquitos will be prevalent in the lower basins in the heat of summer, particularly near the lakelets. Also, summer thunderstorms can be a problem for this area.
With a car-camp and a very early start, Big & West Craggy could be done in a single day. However, if camping in the woods is your game, then at 6,700 ft in the Copper Glance Creek basin between the peaks is a quaint location. Beware of mosquitos, though. For the northside routes, a possible camp would be at No Dice Lake (6,541 ft) though it may be too rocky for this. There is another small lake a quarter-mile NNW of No Dice Lake that could offer flat ground.