In just a matter of days Chinook Pass was going to end up closing due to bad weather. Chinook Pass has been so good to me this summer and fall when I had to cancel on many bigger climbs due to my schedule of working two jobs. I am thankful I found this particular region in the Cascades and was able to summit many its special peaks. But like everything else in like all good mountain season must come to an end. And this would be the last good hike of the season.
Winter storm warning up in the mountains were slowly but surely becoming more of the normal and pass closures are the reality. Seeing the weather forecast on November the 9th I could see that my days of fall hiking were disappearing and I knew I was going to facing just one more good day of hiking before the weather patterns changed and winter would reality start making its full effect on the mountains. With the weather not looking good I knew I had only one last ditch effort in order to take full advantage of this region, Crystal Peak.
Like many of my trips I am usually walking right out of the door of my job and hitting the road. Especially at this time of year the trip usually ends up being a hike down to the valley in the dark. My buddy Jordan came along for this great trip up into the mountains. Over the past five months we have summited a lot of mountains and on every trip we have summited at least one mountain per trip. I picked Crystal Peak because it is known as a hiking peak and I was not too sure about the conditions heading up to Crystal Peak. We knew that we were probably going to have to need headlamp on the way down but the weather the day before the storms was a balmy 60 degrees and it was time for us to take advantage of the awesome weather.
Jordan reached the trail in near record timing for this last good fall hike of the season. The sky were clear and the temperature at the Crystal Peak Trailhead was actually quiet a bit cooler than back in Seattle. The weather was near perfect for a good solid fall hike. With that in mind without hesitation it was time to head up Crystal Peak for its beautiful summit.
Both of us were amazed that in how excellent condition the trail was. Both of us were also shocked by the amount of people on the Crystal Peak that day. It was a weekday and we figured many people would be at work but in Seattle there are like minded people and when there a beautiful day in November they will capitalize on it. As for the trail itself it was probably the most civilized trail I had been on all year. The trail such an even and easy grade all of the way up the mountain I felt that I was on a running trail. At first this trail mostly stayed in the trees so there were clear views from the beginning but just after the trail cutoff separating Crystal Lakes from Crystal Peak the views started to slowly come out.
At first there were was views in a gully before going back into a gully but soon those views really began to open up with Big Tahoma standing tall to the east of us. Slowly but surely both Yakima and Deadwood Peak started to come out to reveal themselves. The trail continued it trek up to the summit making a couple large switchbacks as we got closer to the summit. More and before beautiful scenery kept coming into view as we kept going up the mountain. The final 200 feet to the summit of Crystal Peak was a little steeper than the rest of what we came up. With two inches of snow and icy on the trail it made it a little more slippery but still very doable.
Soon we were on the top and able to enjoy yet another amazing view. Crystal Mountain, Chinook Peak, Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier, Mount Adams and Mount Saint Helens were all in views from this awesome summit. It was still fairly warm on the mountain, although the sun was starting to make its way down. You could definitely see all of the impressive sun angles on this mountain. We could only be on the summit for just a couple minutes due to the sun setting so early. This mountain did not disappoint though in terms of views though. Another mountain here in this region that has a lot of bang for the buck. This one though more discovered than the others with an excellent trail leading to its summit. With time though limiting us it was time for head down only after twenty minutes on the summit.
Like heading up heading down was quiet easy once you got past the last 200 feet. Even the last 200 feet though a little slippery with the snow left challenge for us heading down. We knew though we had to head down and fast to beat sunset. This trip obstacle was not the route or the trail but the views. As we went down the mountain many time one sunset view after another would be popping up in the distance. I had to remind myself not to take too many pictures because we were quickly losing sunlight and our last but of hiking was going to be in thick forest.
By the time we hit the thick forest the sun was almost already down and our headlamp were on. Even on a well graded trail with each person bringing two headlamps caution is needed when heading down at night. This trail was well used and graded but still was a little hard to spot at night. We though took our time in the last section and soon we were back the trailhead where it was time to race home to another day of two jobs.
As predicted the bad weather did move in dropping in some cases over three feet of snow. Nearby Chinook Pass closed for the season only four days later due to snow and avalanche issues for the season ending a great season along that pass. I tried to get one last fall hike only to find winter weather making its transition, so I had to head for a lowland peak of Cedar Butte. The snowline dropped quick dropped down the mountains at one point effect part of the season metro area. Though technically no snow accumulated in the city some of the higher outskirts of the metro area did get accumulating snow. Nearby Crystal Mountain opened its door for skiing.
In the end this was the last true fall higher summit I will be doing this year and a true end to the season. But with every end is a great beginning and that beginning is the snowshoe season with honest is my favorite time of year. Goodbye to the fall hikes and hello to the winter cornices flocked trees. It is now snowshoe and snow-climbing season so break out your snowshoe and your ice axe and climb away!