Wolframite Mountain is a seldom summited, yet regionally significant and appropriately named, peak in the Pasayten Wilderness of Washington State. Rich in both history and intrigue, Wolframite Mountain would make a worthy summit destination for avid backcountry travelers.
Wolframite Mountain is named after wolframite, an iron manganese tungstate mineral that is the most important tungsten ore mineral, which is found on the peak and the surrounding area. Between 1898 and 1904, tungsten deposits were discovered on the slopes of Wolframite Mountain while the U.S.-Canada Boundary Line was being surveyed and slashed-out. In 1906, mining claim sites were developed and established. Herb Curtis, one of the crew members for the boundary project, realized the potential of the discovery and became part-owner of the mine that operated on the south side of the mountain starting in 1908. This mine had many names during the years, including Wolframite Mine, Boundary Mine, and Tungsten Mine. Other smaller mines were also established in the area surrounding the mountain, as well. The mines established around Wolframite Mountain were the only sites to produce any substantial tungsten ore minerals (including scheelite, for which nearby Scheelite Pass was named) in the Pasayten Wilderness. In effect, the mining operations at and around Wolframite Mountain led to the establishment of further exploration of the Pasayten Wilderness region and the creation of routes within it.
Wolframite Mountain Looming Above Tungsten Mine Camp
Between 1915 and 1918, mining operations at Wolframite Mountain boomed. An influx of workers and settlers entered the region. All materials used in and for the Tungsten Mine were hauled by horses, taking four days in each direction to travel. In 1915, during a winter of record snowfall at that time, an estimated $10,000 was spent to create a “snow road” from the nearest town (Loomis) to the Tungsten Mine at Wolframite Mountain; all grades, fills, and cuts for the road were completely built of snow. By 1916, 80 men were employed at the mine. By 1920, the mine had produced six carloads of hand-sorted wolframite and tungsten. Most of that ore was shipped to Germany as a steel hardener for the country’s munitions.
However, the ore production and operation of the mine proved too costly to maintain. The angle of the ore veins and the remoteness of the mining location greatly limited production. The mine operated periodically throughout the years, even shipping a record 30 tons of ore in 1936 (but at a financial loss). In the early 1940s, a newer 10-ton-per-day spiral concentrator was added to the mine camp. This allowed the mine to produce 300 tons of more ore, before the mine later had to cease its operations as a result of large tungsten deposits found in more-easily accessible locations in Colorado. When the Tungsten Mine first started its operations the price of tungsten was $5 per pound, but at the time the mine closed the price of tungsten had fallen to less than $1 per pound. The production value of the Tungsten Mine, had it continued it operations, would have been at a 5x loss.
Remnants of Tungsten Mining Operations
After the Tungsten Mine ceased operations, Wolframite Mountain and the surrounding area was mostly abandoned and ignored for many years. However, due to the popularity of hiking and climbing in the Pasayten Wilderness, Wolframite Mountain and its surrounding area has been increasingly gaining recognition once again. The defunct Tungsten Mine Camp, a semi-popular destination for hikers in the Pasayten Wilderness, is still located at the junction (6750’ elevation) of Tungsten Creek Trail #534 and Boundary Trail #533. Today, two large buildings remain at the mine camp, as well as some machinery, collapsed/sealed mineshafts, and brick remnants of the original mill. Old rusty remnants of the mining operations can be found throughout the vicinity of the Tungsten Mine Camp and the south side of Wolframite Mountain. The site of the Tungsten Mine operations is a short walk below the Tungsten Mine Camp, down the slope from the camp.
Summit of Wolframite Mountain
Wolframite Mountain is the 144th-highest mountain in Washington State that has at least 400' of clean prominence, or 172nd-highest mountain overall when including all peaks and sub-peaks in Washington. The mountain is located only several miles east of more popular hiking/climbing destinations Cathedral Peak and Amphitheater Mountain, both of which are Top-100 peaks of Washington State. This makes Wolframite Mountain an ideal "warm-up" hike for those peaks, and others, in the area.
View Of Apex Mountain and Tungsten Lake
From Tonasket, WA:
1) Drive Okanogan County Road 9437 (Hwy 7) north about 5.5 miles to County Road 9425.
2) Turn west on County Road 9425 and travel about 12 miles to Loomis.
3) From Loomis, continue on County Road 9425 for about 2 miles to County Road 4066.
4) Turn west on County Road 4066, which becomes Forest Service Road 39 (Toats Coulee Road), and continue for 20 miles to Long Swamp Campground.
5) Take FS Road 39-300 for 3 miles to the Chewuch Trailhead (~5600’ elevation).
NOTE: Road 39 is paved for most of the distance to the Road 39-300 junction. Road 39-300 is unpaved.
6) Hike Cathedral Driveway Trail #510A for 2.2 miles, to the intersection with Chewuch Trail #510 (~4200’ elevation).
7) Hike Chewuch Trail #510 for 3.6 miles, to the intersection with Tungsten Creek Trail #534 (~4700’ elevation).
8) Hike Tungsten Creek Trail #534 for 6.2 miles, to the intersection with Boundary Trail #533 (~6750’ elevation). This intersection is located at the site of the Tungsten Mine Camp, on the south side of Wolframite Mountain.
9) Hike approximately one mile west along Boundary Trail #533 to where the trail bends south (towards Apex Pass), then ascend off-trail and northeast along the gentle-sloped west side of Wolframite Mountain to its summit (8137’ elevation).
NOTE: Initially, the western approach is the safest, least steep, and most recommended way to summit Wolframite Mountain. If done correctly, the off-trail section is YDS Class II, but different variations or locations might require some low-level YDS Class III scrambling. All other side of the mountain would require serious and competent rock climbing skills.
Leaving Trail To Ascend Western Slopes
From Winthrop, WA:
1) Drive north on Okanogan County Road 1213 (West Chewuch Road) until it joins Forest Service Road 51.
2) Then drive for 29 miles to the Thirtymile Trailhead (~3600’ elevation).
3) Hike Chewuch Trail #510 for 8.8 miles, to the intersection with Tungsten Creek Trail #534 (~4700 elevation).
4) Hike Tungsten Creek Trail #534 for 6.2 miles, to the intersection with Boundary Trail #533 (~6750’ elevation). This intersection is located at the site of the Tungsten Mine Camp, on the south side of Wolframite Mountain.
5) Hike approximately one mile west along Boundary Trail #533 to where the trail bends south (towards Apex Pass), then ascend off-trail and northeast along the gentle-sloped west side of Wolframite Mountain to its summit (8137’ elevation).
NOTE: Initially, the western approach is the safest, least steep, and most recommended way to summit Wolframite Mountain. If done correctly, the off-trail section is YDS Class 2, but different variations or locations might require some low-level YDS Class 3 scrambling. All other side of the mountain would require serious and competent rock climbing skills.
Ascending Western Slopes
Due to hiking distances, unpredictable weather patterns, and long winter seasons, Wolframite Mountain is best recommended to be attempted between late June to early September. Check with the Okanogan National Forest's Tonasket Ranger District for current trail, snow, and weather conditions at Tungsten Mine Camp.
Wolframite Mountain, and the major routes leading to the peak, can be determined on Green Trails Map #20.
What is Wolframite?
What is wolframite? Wolframite, along with scheelite, is the most important tungsten ore mineral. “Wolfram” is actually the German word for tungsten, and the reason that the Chemical Symbol for tungsten is “W”. Wolframite contains both iron and manganese. Wolframite richer in iron than manganese is a black-colored mineral referred to as ferberite, and wolframite richer in manganese than iron is a brown-colored mineral referred to as huebernite.
Wolframite is found in quartz veins and pegmatites. Both examples are found throughout Wolframite Mountain and the surrounding area. Because of the strong, dense properties of tungsten, wolframite mines were strategic assets for many years due to militaries across the world using tungsten for munitions and industrial purposes. However, with the increased use of uranium, the demand for tungsten has considerably dwindled over time.
Backcountry camping is allowed in the Okanogan National Forest and Pasayten Wilderness. However, a backcountry permit must be filled-out (which can be done at any of the major trailheads) prior to entering the area.
Backcountry campsites can be found throughout the area, along any of the major established/maintained trails. Campsites are on a "first come, first served" basis, with no reservations.
There are two cabins located at Tungsten Mine Camp, available for overnight stays. The larger cabin has multiple rooms: an entrance room, two bedrooms, and a dining room. Most single-occupants prefer to sleep on the table in the dining room (see "Red Tape" section for the reason why), and the bedrooms would most likely require sleeping on the floor. The smaller cabin, just up the hill and behind the larger cabin, has a single room containing two single beds and one bunk bed. Cabin sleeping spots are on a "first come, first served" basis, with no reservations. Campsites are found in many places around Tungsten Mine Camp, outside of the cabins.
A backcountry permit (free) must be filled-out at any of the major trailheads prior to entering the area.
, Wolframite Mountain lies within a "Fee Use" zone. As of 2009, the fee has been $5 per day, and total amount must be submitted at the trailhead prior to beginning the hike.
Tungsten Mine Camp: There are two cabins available at Tungsten Mine Camp. Please note that field mice are notoriously present in either cabin, even if apparent entrances and openings are closed. It is recommended to try to store food by hanging from various nails in the ceilings and posts within the cabins, or use the "caged" storage box on the outside of the upper cabin. Remember, mice are not afraid to gnaw through gear that has the scent of food. Store gear off floors, as a precaution.