Scrambling trails reward the healthy in Washington state
Peggy Goldman, the third woman to summit the 100 highest peaks in Washington, has advice on how to catch all the breathtaking mountain views: Learn how to scramble.
"You can get to almost every peak using the scrambling routes without having to carry all that climbing gear," said Goldman, whose guidebook "Washington Scrambles, Selected Nontechnical Ascents" (Mountaineers Books, second edition, $24.95), is out this month.
But you have to be prepared and be in shape. A physician at Group Health, Goldman offers this fitness test: Try to hike up Mount Si in North Bend, a four-mile hike with 3,800 feet of elevation gain, in under 21/2; hours.
If you can do that, here are five scrambles Goldman suggests for spring.
1. Lichtenberg Mountain, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest (8 miles, 2,000 feet elevation gain. 7 hours. Best time: March-October)
Road access to the trailhead is clear, which isn't the case with most mountains this time of year. It's good for a short day of scrambling. On your way to the summit, you can walk around Lake Valhalla and stare into the cliffy west face of Lichtenberg. Start at Smithbrook Trail.
2. Bills Peak, Bean Peak and Volcanic Neck, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest (11 miles, 4,900 feet elevation gain. 11 hours. Best time: May-October)
It's another safe drive up without having to worry about icy roads. But it's a challenging scramble with loose rocks in many spots. Helmet advised. A multitude of trails intersect the area and you can combine these peaks into a loop.
3. Hemlock Peak, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (8 miles, 3,300 feet elevation gain. 9 hours. Best time: May-October)
The scramble starts at Denny Creek trail, one of the most family-friendly trails in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. In the summer, the main attraction is a natural waterslide where the creek flows over a rock face. Families love to cool off in the water during the summer. June is a good month to scramble since most of the trails are clear and the snow is consolidating, thus less chance of an avalanche. Start on Denny Creek Trail 1014.
4. Mount Wow, Mount Rainier National Park (9 miles, 4,400 feet elevation gain. 10 hours. Best time: April-October)
"Wow" is what scramblers might say when they see the breathtaking sight of Mount Rainier while scrambling up the southwestern edge of the park. Mount Wow is also a good winter scramble since you can get to the peak any time of year on the Boundary Trail.
5. Mount St. Helens, Gifford Pinchot National Forest (12 miles, 5,800 feet elevation gain. 12 hours. Best time: April-June)
It's a perennial favorite. It's a hike when the snow is gone. But early in the season, most trails here are covered with snow. So you have to use navigational skills and snow skills, qualifying it as a scramble. Bring snowshoes.
The Worm Flows Climbing Route, from the Marble Mountain Sno-Park, is the best, most-direct early-season route to the summit. "You can get up to the crater, and if you're careful, you can look over the lips into the crater, which is an incredible experience," Goldman says. "It's like being on another planet. It's really beautiful."