Photos from this trip can be found here.
Given that the Suiattle River Road is now opened all the way to the end, we headed to the mountain that had been on the bucket list for quite a while. HikerJim on WTA wrote a fairly detailed report of this hike back in November, the snow conditions hadn’t changed much since.
The Sulphur Mountain Trail immediatelyshot straight up after leaving Suiattle Trail, with only a few flat areas in between. We crossed just one stream (the only water source) in the beginning where the trail dipped downhill for a short distance to a bridge. Snow level was at just below 5,000’, but soon the trail was fully covered and nowhere to be found. At 5,200’ there was a flat area where I saw some old boot tracks. Here I put on microspikes and wondered if leaving my snowshoes in the car was a dumb idea. Luckily I didn’t posthole as much by stepping into the old tracks.
When we finally broke out of the trees at 5,800’, mountains and ridges slowly came into view. There were virtually no views on the trail for over 4,000’ to this point, and it was hard to make out anything through the dense forest along the way. We followed the old tracks onto the ridge and up to the old lookout site at just below 6,200’. We traversed over another .1 mile southeasterly to the higher bump with better views and free of trees.
The summit ridge was another mile east and another 500 feet higher from where we were, and not seeing anything past the ridge line was quite annoying. It was still early in the day, so I decided to give the summit a go. The tracks we had been following turned around at the lookout site, and what do you know? The snow deepened the farther east we traversed, and I hated myself for not packing the snowshoes.
We stayed on or south of the ridge and made our way around the two ridge knobs as safely as we could, as the slopes were steep and full of nothing but crusty snow. Microspikes did fine on the slopes, but crampons definitely would have provided much better traction. The east slope didn’t have much tree coverage and looked to be prone to avalanches, so we stuck close to the ridge and moseyed our way up through trees and onto the summit.
Summit was covered in snow except for a few exposed boulders. We stayed far enough from the corniced west side, which was a sheer drop into the basin below. The pups and I enjoyed the 360-degree view on the summit for a little over an hour before making our way back down.