Ascent of Mount Daniel on 2014-08-08

Climber: Samuel Hahn

Others in Party:James Barlow
Date:Friday, August 8, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Daniel
    Elevation:7960 ft / 2426 m

Ascent Trip Report

Mount Daniel is a day-hike to most fit climbers, but James Barlow and I decided to bag this peak over a two-day period since I had to be back to New Jersey on August 8. More specifically, we planned to hike to Peggy’s Pond and make camp, then summit and hike out the following morning. And although no climb ever goes as smoothly as it does on paper, few hikes are as visually rewarding as the one up Mount Daniel via its standard route.
Still, we got anything but a fortuitous start. The return journey from the Olympic Peninsula was typically time-consuming, and although we took the most expeditious route to Pagliacci’s Pizza before settling in Seattle for the night, neither of us was packed and asleep before 11 PM despite an early AM start winking at us from a short distance. Nonetheless, we both woke up eager for the trail and the promise of standing atop the roof of King County later that day.
Construction on I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass greeted us just after an hour of driving, but the forest roads past Roslyn are in excellent condition. The trail, too, leading to Cathedral Rock was well-graded and maintained. Just before arriving at Peggy’s Pond, we were treated to a sweeping vista of Snow Lake and nearby peaks, which, combined with the cool morning air, provided us with new vitality, and before we knew it, we had set up the first tents on the shore of Peggy’s Pond and were on our way to the summit of Daniel.
The climber’s trail is visible just beyond Peggy’s Pond by following the main footpath. It’s well-marked with cairns as it climbs steadily along a southern ridge that overlooks Snow (and eventually Pea Soup) Lake and Daniel’s main snow field. The hike features a bit of Class III scrambling, but it’s so brief that a few blinks is all it takes to miss it (almost!). And it’s fairly routine as well, essentially a straight line along that ridge and the southern side of the southernmost false summit. James and I mistakenly thought that crossing the snow field from the closest access point to snake around the northern end of the third false summit would save us some time, but that route is both inefficient and heavily exposed over loose rock.
Instead we should have continued along the ridge until its terminus at a scree slope overlooking Pea Soup Lake that eventually ends at a gently sloping, minimally exposed snow climb to Daniel’s summit block. It was on this penultimate traverse that we were treated to clear, beautiful-in-a-heart-stopping-way views of the Cascade Range extending all the way to Mount Rainier. Jagged glaciated peaks clawing above mild cloud cover seemed to sprout from innumerable alpine lakes at their bases and James and I could do nothing but stop and stare, mouths agape and silent.
The views did not stop, but instead grew inexplicably grander as we ascended towards the final summit block, a simple Class III scramble that served as a perfect vantage point to everything from the northernmost Cascades in Washington to Mount Adams. We lingered on the summit, taking a long lunch and many pictures, both of us wanting to prolong our time on this rocky lookout as much as possible. Eventually and with heavy hearts, we descended the way we came, parting ways only briefly; James glissaded down the snowfield, but I was compelled to draw out the return to camp by continuing along the ridge, knowing that this could be my last time in the Cascades for many years.
The rest of the hike features little worth mentioning. We cooked a quick dinner that night and packed out early the next morning to make it to the car 9 AM.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:5200 ft / 1585 m
    Trailhead:2760 ft / 841 m
    Grade/Class:Class 3
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble, Exposed Scramble, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads

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