Mt. Pugh is a scramble that has
been on my to do list for years. I finally crossed it off the list. Three
friends were going up. They met in Arlington for breakfast. I decided to
sleep in a little longer and still get an earlier start by missing the restaurant.
The day was forecast to be foggy by the Sound all day but sunny in the mountains.
The fog was fairly thick until Verlot but completely clear to the east.
There was one other car at the trailhead when I hit the trail at 8:20. It
was already warming towards the forecast high in the mid 70s. The lower
trail is terrific. There are no roots or rocks. The trail must be fairly
steep to gain 3800' in 4+ miles up to Stujack Pass but it doesn't seem so.
At 1 1/2 miles I reached Lake Metan. From the lake I could see above the
forest to the area of the summit. It looked every bit of 4000' above the
lake. The trail continues to climb at a reasonable rate with many switchbacks.
At about 4900' is a campsite at the end of the forest. Stujack Pass came
into view. The trail is a little poorer as it switchbacks up through talus,
dirt, and gravel towards the pass. There was a little fall color along this
stretch but it wasn't great. I reached the pass at 10:45.
Once above the forest views began. They improved at
the pass with easterly views added to those to the west. Whitehorse and Three
Fingers were most obvious to the west. Low clouds and/or fog was below in
the Stillaguamish valley up to about Darrington. Now the real fun began.
I had heard and read much about the route from the pass to the summit. Some
said it was a tough scramble with much exposure and others describe it as
an easy trail. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. It is not a
difficult scramble but it is not a trail walk either. I thoroughly enjoyed
From the pass the trail switchbacks quickly up to the
ridge top. There are small trees, lots of heather, and lots of rock. The
trail reaches the narrow ridge section and crosses it on one side, the other,
and along the top. There are spots with a considerable drop along here but
the trail is wide enough for enough security. At one spot I saw the old tramway
used to winch materials up to the summit for construction of the old lookout.
After crossing the ridge I reached the first scramble section. The route
has several scramble sections and ends with an easy walk to the summit. I
found poles here left by the only person ahead of me. Both hands were needed
for a short section. In the middle was a huge old bolt standing vertically
in the rock. Above this the route reverted to a nice trail again. Several
high points seem to be the real summit but are not. There is 1500' gained
from the pass and it felt like at least that much. Although sketchy in places
the route is not too tough to stay on. I contoured around another high point
and startled a ptarmigan. It moved a few feet off of the trail and froze
making for an easy photo opportunity. A few minutes later the real summit
came into view. I saw the early hiker just starting down. Not long after
passing him I reached the top. It was 11:50 and I was just in time for lunch.
3:30 up seemed to be a reasonable time for me. I was slowed a little by taking
40 photos from the pass to the summit.
The views are outstanding from the summit. It was a
little hazy this day and I can imagine how nice it would be on a perfectly
clear day. Pugh is over 7200' and has no equally high peaks close by. Sloan
is the closest peak that is higher. Glacier Peak finally was visible from
the top. It is very bare. Whitechuck Mt. is to the north with Baker on one
side and Shuksan on the other. I could pick out Big Four, Vesper, Sperry,
and Del Campo to the south. El Dorado and Dome still had lots of ice showing
on their south sides. I had about 15 minutes along before another hiker arrived.
He had passed three others at Lake Metan so I was fairly sure that my friends
were on the way but still a ways away. When he left I again had the summit
to myself. Part of my reason for leaving early was to have a long summit
stay before the others arrived. That's exactly how it worked out. At 1:00
Ed arrived. Emory was next and then John arrived. It may have been early
October but it was quite warm. After that much work the guys had earned a
rest and we stayed on top until about 1:50. I had a nice two hour stay.
The climb down turned out to be much easier than I
expected. Even the steep scramble spots were no problem. I went last to
make it easier to take more photos. I really liked the upper sections of
the mountain. It was mostly heather and bare rock with tremendous views
of mountain peaks. We passed several more groups still coming up. It's a
little bit of a knee grinder getting back down to the nice trail where it
enters the forest. Still, it wasn't anywhere near the worst that I have
done. We were in no hurry to get back to town and took our time coming down.
We arrived back at the trailhead at 5:20. I took the road back via Darrington
and by the time I reached it the low clouds were overhead and remained that
way all the way home. It was a good day to be in bright sunshine above the
clouds. This scramble proved to be all that I had hoped it would be. It's
a fun route with great views along the way and especially on top.