West McMillan Spire of Picket Range in Terror Basin / 西麥克米蘭尖塔

  • Reading time:15 mins read

West McMillan Spire is the 9th tallest peak in the Picket Range after Phantom Peak. This unique rock above Terror Creek Basin is well-known among climbers. Meanwhile, it calls the least technicality while offering a stunning vista of the area.

West McMillan Spire from camp
West McMillan Spire from camp

See more trip photos here.

West McMillan Spire at a Glance

Access: Goodell Creek Cross-Country Zone Access Trailhead 
Round Trip: 24 miles
Elevation Range: 600′-8000′
Gear: helmet, rope, rock
GSP Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no pets

July 30 – August 31, 2016

Day 1 – Saturday, July 30
Approach to Terror Creek Basin
Night 1 – McMillan Camp at 5800′

Day 2 – Sunday, July 31
West McMillan Spire
Night 2 – McMillan Camp at 5800′

Day 3 – Monday, August 1
Exit


Day 1

Approach to Terror Creek Basin

Overview > Day 1 Day 2 > Day 3

The Preface on West Mcmillan Spire

The top of Sourdough Mountain was where I had initially noticed McMillan Spires. On that trip, I also saw Picket Range for the first time. Back then, the place seemed out of touch for this novice scrambler.

Fast forward today. After my first taste of Picket Range earlier this season, I couldn’t wait to see what else was in store. Ann wanted to do a conditioner for the trip, so she and I went up to Mount Pugh together.

The road less traveled
The road less traveled

See more trip photos here.

Goodell Creek Trail

I learned that West McMillan Spire was the least challenging peak in the Southern Pickets. Then I invited Anne and Eileen along since they had canceled their picket traverse. It was our first time on the Goodell Creek Trail.

It took some time to go over down trees in the lower trail. Then from the junction with an arrow cairn, we went up the steep hillside. The path later flattened in the meadow. Then we had incredible views of the eastern Pickets above the trees.

Through rocky terrain
Through rocky terrain

See more trip photos here.

En Route to Terror Creek Basin

We couldn’t see the other half of the Southern Pickets from here. Because The Barrier, the steep ridgeline extended from Mount Degenhardt, had blocked it from view. In turn, the ridge separated Terror Creek Basin from Crescent Creek Basin.

We had lost the trail at one point, but later, the path appeared in the upper meadow. Then we followed it to the access notch for Terror Creek Basin. Views improved the higher we went on this gorgeous day.

Taking the scenic route
Taking the scenic route

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6250′ Access Notch

The final mile to the notch over 900′ altitude was mild as we strolled the scenic hillside. Soon, we took a break on the pass to prepare for the final stretch into the basin. Then we saw Eric coming up the other side.

Dang, “All of that in one day, Eric? Epic!” I said. He gave me kudos on finishing the Bulger List and asked about my next move. “You could go for the T200,” he said. Then he pointed at the spire behind him, “That one is on it.”

Meeting Eric on the notch
Meeting Eric on the notch

See more trip photos here.

West McMillan Spire Camp

We passed a couple of tents below the notch on the way to camp. I thought there would be more people here, being that it’s the most popular area in the Picket. But we were the only ones here, it seemed.

We spent the rest of the day hanging by the camp. I also walked around taking photos of the breathtaking scenery. Mount Triumph was another notable peak here in the national park.

West McMillian Spire's dreams
West McMillian Spire’s dreams

See more trip photos here.


Day 2

West McMillan Spire

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Whiteout in Terror Glacier

Dark clouds gathered at the horizon after dark. It was a clear night sky until the mist crept into the area at night. Our goal was to start on Inspiration Peak and West McMillan Spire early the following day. 

We awoke at 4 AM to a basin full of clouds and waited three hours before we started moving. The hope was that the weather would improve when we reached Terror Glacier. The low mists later shifted, but the high clouds stayed.

Inspiration Peak above Terror Glacier
Inspiration Peak above Terror Glacier

See more trip photos here.

West McMillan Spire Climb

By now, we had burned much daylight, so climbing Inspiration Peak was too ambitious. Not sure if we had under-researched, but we couldn’t pinpoint the precise starting location after much effort. So we decided to skip it.

I was perfectly ok with the decision as I had initially only come here for West McMillan Spire. Regardless, we would still get one mountain out of the trip anyway. Shortly, we traversed to the east end of the glacier.

West McMillan Spire west ridge
West McMillan Spire west ridge

See more trip photos here.

West McMillan Spire Summit Views

Going from the snowfield up to the southwest ridge took some time. It took even more effort to climb steep snow, but we reached the crest. Then it was the typical scramble in scree and choss up to article at the summit.

Views were spotty, but we never saw the adjacent Inspiration Peak. Also, depending on the wind’s direction, Luna Peak, Mount Prophet, and Mount Fury would appear at different times. We left the too after visiting for over an hour.

Mount Prophet from West McMillian Spire summit
Mount Prophet from West McMillian Spire summit

Back to McMillan Camp

Going down the steep snow was nerve-racking as it was still firm. But I wish I had my ice tools to move more efficiently. So instead, I hugged the buttress and made my way down through rock ledges.

As the day progressed, the views improved. Before coming off the snow, Goodell Creek Valley was in full display. Then we traversed lots of step slabs right before crossing the 5600′ tarn.

En route back to camp
En route back to camp

See more trip photos here.


Day 3

Exit

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Final Morning in Terror Basin

It went back to sunny again on the third day. So Anne and I went up on the ridgeline between Terror Creek Basin and Stettatle Basin for views. But we also wanted to look closer at the East McMillan Spire and Little Mac Spire.

We saw Azure Lake at the head of the Stettatle Basin from the ridge. There wasn’t enough time to savor the vistas. So I will have to take another trip to climb other peaks here at some point.

Anne with Glee Peak
Anne with Glee Peak

Outro

We later took our time packing up at camp; it was hard to leave this place behind. Alas, the show had to go on with mountains we needed to climb. Before long, we had gone over the 6250′ notch and down the other side.

Moving through vertical places in reverse would be hard for people with knee problems. The walk through the lower Goodell Creek Trail was uneventful. And now Eric had me start thinking about the T200 peaks. Dang you, Eric!

Finding my way home
Finding my way home

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

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