Skyscraper Mountain

Back in 2003 October floods took out a number of roads and trailheads. We are still dealing with the damage 7 years later. Our first choice  back then gave way to a last minute decision to enter Mt. Rainier National Park via the back door route. Highway 410 was washed out farther along so we did not expect to see many folks. That trip was a roaring success. We crossed Grand Park, dropped to Berkeley Park and scrambled up Skyscraper Peak. The score that day was 15 goats and 0 people. In 2006 Bob, Kolleen, and Suzanne joined me for a second visit. Gary was interested in visiting again and I was easy to convince. John joined us for this trip.

In 2003 we started hiking at 8:30, spent an hour on the summit and returned to the car just at dark. This time we wanted good early morning light at Grand Park and a return in daylight. We met at Gary's place in Kent at 5:30 am (groan). We drove up Highway 410 in the dark turning at Forest Service Road 73 and following it to the trailhead. I was surprised to find no other cars in the lot. We were on the trail at 7:05 with just a little early morning light.

It took only 21 minutes to cover one mile and reach Lake Eleanor. It was now completely light out. Now we were on nice official park trail. The route climbs a little then drops to the first meadow. Here we had our first look at Mt. Rainier. There was not a cloud in the sky. The early morning light had the trees dark and the snow cone of the peak was lit up. The 4:20 alarm clock setting was worth it. It was just above freezing when we started and warmed slowly. We were looking forward to some sunshine when we reached Grand Park. from the first meadow we went back into forest and began to climb.

The onset of wooden steps heralded our nearing Grand Park. Soon the grade leveled and forest gave way to open brown grass. It was only 8:30 am when we reached the park and lighting was excellent. Progress slowed dramatically. Miles of brown grass and one huge snowy volcano sat right in front of us. There are not a lot of October weekend days when the mountain is this clear. No clouds and no glare were a rare fall treat. My GPS recorded 1.8 miles across Grand Park. It takes a while.

Skyscraper soon came into view. Fremont lookout sits across the valley of Berkeley Park from Skyscraper. We took a short break at the junction with the Northern Loop Trail. Meadows continued for a bit then forest and the descent to Berkeley Park. There was a break in the trees that provided a clear view of our route up Skyscraper. On the first trip we did not know if the route would go to the summit and we made all the right route finding decisions. On my second visit we went too far right and had to side hill across a talus and scree field to get back on route. Having another look did help us on this trip.

The descent went fast and soon we were crossing Lodi Creek. A short walk brought us to the small meadow. We found the animal track through the thick brush and small trees and soon were climbing higher. Sun was shining on us and I stopped to remove one layer on top and my pant legs. Shorts and short sleeves felt great especially just a few hours after mid 30s cold. The meadow is at about 5500' and the summit is at 7078'. High on the slope is a rocky basin. We stopped to enjoy the views of Mt. Baker, Glacier Peak, Cascade Crest summits, Mt. Stuart, and Grand Park.

On the first visit Gary and I went over the east ridge and contoured below the ridge to the summit. On the second visit we went straight uphill and went right and around a rocky point. This route has some boulder scrambling and leads to the north side of the summit block. I suggested that we do the second route since Gary had not done it. A steep climb from the basin brought us to the north ridge and a break in the rock allowed us to cross over. The boulder scramble went fast and soon we were under the summit. I moved ahead through the boulders and scoped out the summit. It looks hard but a ramp goes around to the south side and it's easy from there. A few minutes later we were all on top.

It was almost noon and time for lunch. The wind was light and with a jacket we were comfortable. Comfortable to spent a full hour on the summit. Really fantastic views from Skyscraper. One of the main reasons to do the trip now is that the road to Sunrise closed four days earlier. The usual crowds were nowhere to be seen. After a while we saw tiny spots that seemed to be moving on Burroughs Mountain. I took a maximum zoom photo and we could verify that they were a group of hikers. Likely they came up from White River. Since they were several miles away it did not affect our solitude.

Down below Gary picked out a lone goat. Hmm... more people than goats... not what I expected. At 1:00 pm we packed up and started down. No not the way we came up, down the trail to Skyscraper Pass. We followed the Wonderland Trail and then the trail back down to Berkeley Park. We did see two hikers at less than half a mile but did not get close to them. Lodi Creek is formed by several springs. In twenty feet the creek comes out of the ground and is five feet wide and flowing fast. When the two branches meet it is a roaring creek. We stopped one last time just before going back into forest. It was not all that warm but in the bright sun it felt great. There won't be sunny short sleeve hikes again for some time.

One more climb and we were back in Grand Park. Mt. Rainier was now a pale white blob as the afternoon sun made it almost impossible to photograph. We were glad our early start gave us hours of really good light. A little head wind cooled us considerably crossing the park and once out of the sun it was much colder. Gloves back on and a jacket for Gary. We reached the lower meadow and climbed back to Lake Eleanor. There were some fresh boot prints in Grand Park but we never did see any hikers. The last mile went fast and we were back at the car at 5:30 pm. The temperature was back in the 30s.

This was a fantastic fall hike. After great leaf color at Mt. David and larch colors at Cutthroat Pass the brown grass and huge white volcano was yet another terrific sight. We saw 4 more goats on the way out so the score was 5 goats, two people in sight, and 8 or 9 more visible several miles away. Pretty good solitude over a long day. The totals per my GPS were 16 miles with 3700' of gain. I'm sure Gary and I will be back in a few years. John had a good time. He'll probably join us too.

Starting At Sunrise
Lake Eleanor
First Look At Rainier
Early Light On Glaciers
Changing Light
Grand Park View
Steamboat Prow
Half A Mountain
Grand Park & Mountain
Two Tracks
Hikers & Rainier
Close Up Above Trees
Little Tahoma
Trail To The Mountain
Vast Grand Park
Lone Tree
Skyscraper & Rainier
Mid Morning Light
Skyscraper Route
Marshy Meadow
Heading Up
View To Grand Park
Gary & Starting Meadow
Grand Park
Cold Basin
Rocky Basin
Steeply Higher
Summit Block
John's Scramble Shot
Scrambling Summit
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Photo Page 2

Trips - 2010