Ascent of Mount Pilchuck on 2012-12-31

Climber: Chad Straub

Others in Party:Al-Rashid
Date:Monday, December 31, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Pilchuck
    Elevation:5340 ft / 1627 m

Ascent Trip Report

Ours was the only vehicle as we left the Heather Lake Trailhead at 8:30 am. Traction devices were donned early on to deal with the packed icy trench. We cut the first two short switchbacks then stayed to the road the rest of the way to the trailhead. Snowshoes were donned at the trailhead and we quickly made the shoulder under overcast skies.

My tracks from the day before kept us floating well above all of the powder surrounding us, and Al-Rashid and I made short work of the rest of the ascent. Shortly after reaching the summit the sky began to clear as the clouds dropped to the earth. It was well below freezing, but the lack of wind that had continued from yesterday made our stay surprisingly pleasant.

We enjoyed the longest sunset either of us can recall, then retreated to the warmth of our sleeping bags and a hot meal. Fireworks began to go off as before the sun was down but we opted to wait until midnight before emerging again to take them in. We agreed that one of us would need to get a better camera before we head to the another lookout for July 4th.

The next morning the sky had cleared, providing stunning panoramic views. Three Fingers Mountain stood out among the sights, as we discussed it as an option for a future overnight trip. A small plane circled the tower as we sat in the sun, and came in closer for a second swoop after they noticed us before continuing East into the Cascades.

We narrowly avoided several snow bombs on our descent as the trees above shed their icy crowns in the sunlight. A few small groups passed us on their way up, and the lower section of the road was busy with snowshoers and sledders.

This was an epic adventure, by far the most amazing backpacking trip I've ever taken. A lot of things came together to make this possible, including a perfect weather window, a well packed trench on the 5+ miles of snowy road, a well plotted route to the summit by a friendly stranger, and a few last minute snowshoe purchases.

Pictures at
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:4039 ft / 1231 m
    Elevation Loss:4039 ft / 1231 m
    Distance:13.2 mi / 21.2 km
    Grade/Class:Class 3
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Open Country, Snow on Ground, Exposed Scramble, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Snowshoes, Hut Camp
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Cold, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:4039 ft / 1231 m
    Extra Loss:80 ft / 24 m
    Distance:7.7 mi / 12.4 km
    Trailhead:Heather Lake TH  1381 ft / 420 m
    Time Up:5 Hours 20 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:3959 ft / 1207 m
    Distance:5.5 mi / 8.9 km
    Trailhead:Heather Lake TH  1381 ft / 420 m
    Time Down:3 Hours 20 Minutes

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