Gary and I were looking for a scramble on the last
day of Labor Day weekend. We didn't want a long drive with possible traffic
jams coming home. We settled on the Mountain Loop Highway and finally chose
Gothic Peak. Each of us had been to Gothic Basin but neither had scrambled
Gothic Peak. We met in Bothell at 7:15, drove to Barlow Pass, and were on
the route by 8:45. Barlow Pass is at an elevation of 2361'. We quickly hiked
the road to the Weden Creek trailhead. It had been a few years since we
had been down the road to Monte Cristo and we were surprised to see that
the old twin bridges are now one much less rickety bridge. Only a few groups
had signed in as overnighters from the day before. There was one group of
10 right before us. A short way down the trail we began to pass the group.
The connector trail along the river is in very good shape. When it reaches
the old Weden Creek trail it begins to climb. The old "straight up" miners
trail has switchbacks in the lower sections. The trail is steeper than most
but is easy to hike.
We passed 8 of the 10 and the last two kept up a fast pace ahead of
us. When they stopped to take a break we went on by. The trail gets more
and more rocky higher up. We passed a couple of backpackers coming down
and thanked them for knocking the dew off the brush. Some recent work has
removed much of the encroaching brush. Once past the waterfall the trail
really reverts to it's miners origins. Roots and rocks are continuous.
It wasn't that bad heading up but we sure felt it coming down. In a few
spots the trail is a rock slab. We got a head start on our scrambling. One
very strong hiker zoomed on by at that point. The upper trail also had ripe
berries. We were surprised that there were still berries easily in reach
of passing hikers. The sweet treats slowed us down but were well worth the
We entered the basin at about 11:00. From there it was a fun hike up
to 5200' Foggy Lake. The rock slabs make for easy travel. There were a few
tents near the lake as we sat down for a food and water break before tackling
Gothic Peak. The morning was cool and although we had on shorts we also
had long sleeve shirts. Just a few weeks ago it was brutally hot and this
day we headed out with the temperature in the low 40s. It was a little chilly
at the lake but the sun was out and there was no wind. Looking up at Gothic
Peak the long rock field looked more promising than the ridge. I found minimal
route info so we were more or less on our own.
From the lake it's easy to ascend the rock and heather slope of the
ridge to the south. We saw several hikers on top of the bumps to our left.
Gothic Peak was to our right. The top of the ridge is actually a meadow.
A boot path rose up the rock and heather towards Gothic. Soon I saw a party
coming down the rock field of Gothic Peak. We soon met the three women and
one small dog. When I learned that the dog had summited it removed any possibility
that we would be turned back. They confirmed the route I planned to try. We
continued up to the base of the rocks at about 5700'. The rocks were not difficult
but were tedious. We ascended at the far left side of the rocks. At the top
is a headwall and a slightly sloping slab which connects with the southeast
ridge. We were now only about 100' below the summit.
The only option was straight up. The first 30 feet was the worst. Although
it is steep there are good foot and hand holds. There is significant exposure
but we had no real problem scrambling up. The 6213' summit feels plenty
airy. It drops off dramatically on all sides. The view south was fairly cloudy
but the other directions were mostly clear. Glacier Peak had a dusting of
fresh snow. The south side of Sloan Peak looks very different than from any
other angle. The complete lack of ice or sharp features leaves it looking
most unspectacular. Vesper and Sperry stood out and even the lake between
them was visible. As almost always I had a clear view of Mt. Stuart. Mts.
Daniel and Hinman were easy to pick out. Del Campo, just across the basin
and 400' higher, was the closest peak.
We arrived at the summit at 12:30 and spent a full 1 1/2 hours on top.
We earlier saw the group from the ridge top bump following us. I thought
I heard them at the base of the scramble but we did not see them again.
Sounds carry in strange ways up high and we clearly heard a couple of scramblers
over on Del Campo. They were tiny dots without binoculars but their voices
carried all the way over to us. The women who had summited before us wrote
in the register about rain, sleet, and frigid temperatures the night before.
This day we had mostly sunny skies. Clouds did begin to blow over us just
before we left the summit. I'm glad we had an early start and generally
Down climbing is always trickier than ascending but the scramble down
presented no problems. As we began to climb off the ridge Gary suddenly
remembered that we had left our poles at the base of the scramble. I would
likely have left them there and hiked on down. The rock field was just as
slow to descend as to climb. Once back on the lower ridge we made better
time dropping back to the lake. There were a dozen or so folks at the lake
by this time. Perhaps it was the less than inspiring weather forecast but
I expected to see more people at this popular spot on Labor Day weekend.
We avoided trails and dropped directly down the slabs to pick up the
trail where it exits the basin. Heading down we were amazed at just how
rocky the trail is . It didn't seem that bad coming up but we felt every
jarring jump down rocks on the way out. This is one of the few routes were
the trail is harder on ones knees than the scramble. We passed several groups
backpacking up. With the holiday weekend over they should have lots of solitude
in the basin. At long last we reached the Monte Cristo Road. Now we joined
the multitudes of hikers and bikers coming out. Monte Cristo must have been
really crowded this day. At 5:15 we arrived back at the car.
This proved to be a really fun scramble. The weather cooperated with
mostly sunny skies but not too much heat. The crowds were much smaller than
anticipated. The scramble was challenging without being death defying. The
summit had great views. Throw in some beautifully glacier carved rock and
a barren shored lake and it was a great trip. Totals for the day were about
12 miles with 4100' of gain.
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
First Basin View
Sheep Gap Mountain
Gary In Basin
Del Campo Peak
Del Campo & Lake
Photo Page 2
Trips - 2005