Koppen Mountain

Time for another trip to the Teanaway. My first time up the North Fork this year. Gwen joined me for a return hike to Koppen Mountain via Medra Pass. Rain on and off driving east then nearly zero visibility driving over Snoqualmie Pass in the clouds. Blue sky was seen not far to the east. The forecast for "partly sunny" proved to be very pessimistic and wholly inaccurate. We saw clouds around us but had sunshine all day long. As we headed up the Teanaway Valley Mt Stuart was in the clouds. That too changed as the morning wore on. We arrived at the Johnson-Medra trailhead, just beyond the Beverly campground, at about 9:00 am and were on the trail a few minutes later. Plenty warm enough for shorts and short sleeves.

At was already near the forecast high for the day. The previous few days had had some thundershowers and rain. The brush was wet. And there was brush! The trail had almost no logs down. The creek was running low enough to make for easy rock hops on the four crossings. I recall a little brush form previous trips but not like this. After an easy first mile or so things began to get more interesting. The first trail junction is very obvious. A new post is awaiting new trail signs. I've seen the junction when it is lost in brush. Not so now. The brush began to get taller then to encroach on the trail. It is not sticker bushes. Mostly ferns and cow parsley. The parsley is up to 7 feet tall. The recent heavy rain caused much of the brush to law down across the trail. We had to lift it up in places to get by. This is a motorcycle trail and it would be an adventure to ride one when you can not see the ground.

The real problem was that we were soaked almost at once. The warm morning plus the water made for a humid jungle. On the way down the brush was bone dry and not much of a problem. Much worse when soaking wet. After about 2 1/2 miles the trail began to climb away from the valley bottom. The brush lessened dramatically at that point. There is a piece of plastic tape with "end of brushing" written on it. I hope they will be doing that brushing this summer. Gwen commented on all the dead trees in the valley and there are plenty. Logging is being done all over the North Fork and cleaning out all the dead trees should help. From high on the ridge the dead areas and thinned areas are stark in contrast.

One of my favorite parts of this trail is the immediate change from green jungle to arid rock garden as the trail climbs to open rocky slopes. It may be mid July but we found many flowers blooming in the rock garden. There was vanilla leaf, queens cup, cow parsnip, and columbine in the valley bottom. Higher up it was mostly scarlet gilia, lupine, larkspur, paintbrush, onion, buckwheat, stonecrop, Columbia lewisia, arnica, balsamroot, penstemon of various colors, and more. Far more color than I was expecting. No glacier lilies in bloom but lots of seed pods. We passed two hikers coming out a mile or so up the trail. At Medra Pass we saw two others scrambling down a ridge below us. That was it for the day. A typical crowd on this trail. I stopped in the sunshine to squeeze about a cup of water out of each sock. All that water from the brush ended up in my boots.

The trail switchbacks up to a ridge perpendicular to the main ridge above From there we had our first views out to Mt. Stuart, and the Ingalls Peaks. Iron and Teanaway Peaks were across the valley from us and in site once out of the valley. The clouds had departed Stuart leaving it in the clear for the rest of the day.We left the ridge and switchbacked below Medra Pass. We reached the pass at about 12:05 pm. Three hours up 4.1 miles at a leisurely pace with many photo stops. We debated looping over Malcolm and Johnson Peaks but chose to head right to Koppen Mountain. It was too nice a day not to stay high on the ridge.

At one time there was a sheep route along the ridge top from Near Koppen to Malcolm, Johnson, and down to Jungle Creek. What is left is trail in some spots and rocky scramble or brushy in others. It is not a maintained trail. One should not expect it to be. On my last two visits to Koppen via Medra I took a wrong turn and began to descend a wrong ridge. Make that three times in a row. When the trail either continues straight or climbs steeply go up. At least I quickly realized the error and how to get back on route. The flower show on the ridge was outstanding. Most of the balsamroot was there. Much past its prime but some doing just fine. More penstemon and scarlet gilia to really light up the rocky ridge.

The route climbs steeply up a grassy bump with some snow still on top. From there a short drop and the scramble part. The route crosses the left side of the ridge before dropping to a saddle right before Koppen Mountain. The old route is now barely visible in places. The slope is quite steep. Lots of loose rock and scree. This part will not appeal to most trail hikers but is fine with some scrambling experience. Getting this far is well worth the effort. Once across we just had the last 300 foot climb to the summit. The trail is disappearing in places. Plants are growing right in the tread. We managed to follow it to the top. Really great views from the summit. Much of the Stuart Range now was seen over nearer Teanaway peaks. Some puffy clouds enhanced the views. Great look at Hawkins and Esmerelda Peaks nearby. At the crest we could see clouds pouring over between gaps in the peaks. All sunshine overhead for us.

Our slower pace had us arriving a little after 2:00 pm. We stayed around until 3:00 pm. Some flys on the summit. Not biting and with enough wind to keep them at bay. I hated to leave but we had 5 3/4 miles to travel on the way back. We picked up the pace heading down. Fewer photos, gravity working for us, and no more wet brush. What took 5 hours coming up took 3 1/2 going down. By 6:30 pm we were back at the car. A short food stop in Cle Elum and I was home by around 9:00 pm.

I really enjoy this hike but it turned out better than expected. Great mid summer flowers, warm with a cool breeze, good company, and almost no other hikers. Throw in great views from the long ridge walk and summit and it was another great day in the Teanaway Valley.

Muddy Teanaway River
Brushy Jungle
Dying Forest
Find Gwen
Silvery Limbs
Cow Parsnip & Columbine
Scarlet Gilia
Lone Gilia
Lit Up Gilia
Sick Tree
Indian Paintbrush
Medra Pass Above
Valley Below
Another Paintbrush
Sherpa Peak
Mt. Stuart
Dragontail Peak
Jolly Mountain
Elbow Peak
Humorous Hill
Bright Pink Penstemon
Gwen & Stuart
Yellow Daisies
Flowers & Mt. Stuart
Gwen At Work
Route To Koppen
Balsamroot & Koppen
Bunch Of Balsamroot
Ascending Bump
Ridge To Summit
Traversing Loose Rock
Middle Of Traverse
Flowery Ridge
Looking Back
Approaching Summit
NF Teanaway Valley
Clouds Over Stuart
Thinning Dead Trees
Jim On Summit
Ingalls Peaks
Hawkins Mountain
Our Route
Gwen Descending
Down Off Bump
Small But Old Tree
Gwen Atop Ridge
More Penstemon
Big Rock Wall
Penstemon Close Up
Lewisia & Gilia
Peak A Boo Deer
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2012