Bootjack & Highchair Mountains
I have been up Bootjack and Highchair two times (
) previously. Bob and Kolleen wanted to head up there. I thought
it would be fun to spend the night below Highchair and they suggested we
do it this weekend. The forecast was for mostly cloudy and relatively
cool on Saturday, a chance of rain overnight, and partly cloudy on Sunday.
Better than the usual heat this time of year up Icicle Creek. We met at
6:45 in Kirkland and were at the trailhead by 9:15. By 9:25 we were on
The Blackjack Ridge trail is fairly flat for about 1/4 mile then
it gets down to work. The 3 miles up to the ridge top gains 3250'. The
trailhead is at 2850' and the ridge top is at 6100'. The trail is steep
but very smooth. There are few big steps, roots, or rocks. I had the lightest
pack and lightest boots. With that advantage I was able to pull ahead for
a change. The forest is dark and cool and we took no photos on this part
of the trip.
We made very good time. I stopped as we entered the burn after gaining
3000'. It took 1:45. There were only 4 or 5 logs down across the trail.
One required crawling under and the rest we were able to get over. The
walk through the burn was a nice contrast to the dark forest. There ware
still a few flowers left though not many. We soon reached the ridge top.
The real trail descends and we headed up the ridge to the right. The summit
of Bootjack was now in sight.
There is a reasonably good boot track up the ridge. Much easier
to follow than on my first trip up. In short order we were on top of
6789' Bootjack. The last bit is an easy scramble. From the summit we
had great views. Stuart, Cashmere, Ingalls, Harding, Daniel, and Highchair
were easy to pick out. The mostly cloudy day was in fact almost cloud free.
It was sunny but not blazing hot. We had lots of time to get over to Highchair
so we spent nearly an hour on the summit.
After Bootjack comes my favorite part of the trip. We dropped down
from the summit and traversed towards the first bump. The route is around
the left side then down and up to the second bump. This one we went nearly
over the top. Flowers were still blooming around here, especially indian
paintbrush. One more drop and the meadow, trees, and silver snags turn
to rock. The ridge over to Highchair is narrow and all red rock. It is possible
to traverse the very top of the ridge with only a few short drop downs.
The alternative is to traverse below the top on the left side. This is not
hard but requires a lot of side hilling.
We chose a little of both. Great views from the ridge top. The distance
from Bootjack to our campsite meadow is 1 1/2 miles. The sharp ridge portion
is a little more than 1/2 mile. As I said earlier, the ridge top scramble
is the highlight of the trip for me. Once across we dropped left off the
ridge and quickly reached the meadow. My previous visits were earlier and
the meadow was wet and filled with shooting stars. This time it was mostly
dry. The shooting stars were done but there were some elephants head and
some gentian. The tart was still 80% full.
The big question mark for this trip was whether or not we would find
water this late. In June and early July I found numerous creeks flowing
through the basin. The tart was filled with hundreds of polliwogs. They
seemed to cover the bottom from end to end. Not very appetizing but it
was clear water. We set up camp and took a rest. After 4100' of gain with
overnight backpacks we were all beat. We still had 800' to scramble up
to the summit of Highchair. Bob and Kolleen lightened their overnight packs
and I took out my Golite Dawn I had stuffed in my backpack.
Even with less weight we were still lethargic. Most any way will
get you to the top. We headed to the left in forest and soon found...
a running creek. No tadpole water after all. There was still a pretty
good flow. Higher up we angled to the right ridge and easily worked our
way up. From the ridge top it was an easy scramble to the summit. The
views are really outstanding from this vantage point. The Cradle is to
the west across the valley. Cashmere, Stuart, Ingalls, and the long line
of 6600 Ridge seemed close by.
I could see Bill and Teanaway Peaks in the saddle between Stuart
and Ingalls. Mt. Daniel now had clouds pushing around it from the west.
They were slowly making headway though not getting far beyond the crest.
It was warm but not hot and a gentle breeze kept the few bugs at bay. We
had seen very few bugs until reaching our campsite. The tarn water was
enough to keep a skeeter and non biting fly population going.
I could have stayed up there until near dark but Bob and Kolleen
eventually felt the call of dinner. We did spend at least on hour on
top. We took a steeper route down but it worked out just fine. Back at
camp I took a stroll to fill my water bag and we were all set. A head net
did come in handy to keep the bugs away. We lost the sun early since Highchair
was directly west of us. As the sun disappeared it cooled very fast.
After dinner we managed to hang around until about 8:30 when we headed
into our tents. By then it was already 43 degrees. Yikes! It cooled off
real fast. There was also dew on the tents and it wasn't even dark yet.
I closed my vestibule for warmth and by 11:00 pm I realized my mistake.
I opened the vestibule but everything inside and outside of my tent was
damp. The inside actually dried out by morning. My thermometer showed 38
degrees at 4:50 am inside my tent. It was the coldest night I have had since
early spring. It was also the best I have slept in the backcountry since
The flip side of losing the sun early was getting it back early.
By 6:30 my tent was bathed in the glow of the morning sun. Although it
was still only about 40 degrees it felt just fine in the sunshine. We got
up earlier than we planned and by 8:15 we were packed and on our way. I
was already sweating as we started back along the ridge. This time I suggested
we stay on the very ridge crest as much as possible. It was fun as we did
in fact manage to stay right on the crest almost the whole way.
Once across we had to climb back up to Bootjack. It was only 9:30
when we arrived. The west and north had been cloudy the day before but
now the sky was almost entirely clear. We saw Daniel with no clouds and
could also see Glacier Peak, Sloan Peak, the Monte Cristo group, and even
Mt. Baker. Mt. Rainier was also in the clear. It was getting hot though
it was still mid morning. I enjoyed our stay which lasted about 20 minutes.
The day before we found a big bird feather laying on the summit. This
day it was wedged vertically in some rocks. It seems someone did follow
us up on Saturday. This was my third time up this trail and once again
I did not see a single person.
The hike down was pretty fast. We took a very short break at the
end of the burn and another at the only flat section about 1400' from
the bottom. We dropped the 3925' from the summit of Bootjack to the car
in just under 2 hours. Losing 2000' per hour is a lot of work. Thankfully
the trail is soft and smooth making it much easier than on most trails.
We were back at the car a little before 12:00 noon.
This was as much fun as an overnighter as it was as a day hike. It
was nice to have more time on the summits and no pressure to hurry up.
5600' is a lot to gain and lose in a day but even with the heavier backpacks
it was not too bad over two days. We had good weather, minimal bugs, great
summit views, a really fun ridge ramble, good company, some flowers, and
total solitude. Not bad for mid summer up Icicle Creek.
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
Mt. Daniel Again
On The Ridge
Trees On Ridge
Clouds Coming In
Photo Page 2
Trips - 2007