2018/11/12 – Crystal Peak + Chinook Peak / 水晶峯+契努克峯

Crystal clear
Crystal clear

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Access: Crystal Peak Trailhead
Round Trip: 9 miles
Elevation Range: 3,520′-6,904′
Gear: microspikes; ice axe and snowshoes packed but not used

Saturday snow level along the Highway 2 corridor was around 3,000′; today the first patch of snow appeared just above 5,000′. The most amount we encountered on this trip ended up being only ankle deep, but I packed snowshoes just in case. Microspikes came in handy on trail ice in early morning hours.

Bridging the gap
Bridging the gap

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Having not set foot inside the Mount Rainier National Park boundary since our trip up to Muir Snowfield, I’d forgotten how nicely maintained the trails were in this national park. At most one to two inches of snow on the trail all the way to the top.

First clearing
First clearing

Photos from this trip can be found here.

A right at the 4,600′ trail junction quickly got us to the small bridge crossing over Crystal Creek. After zigzagging 1,700′ upward through dense forest, we finally got out into the first clearing at 5,200′; first view of Mount Rainier soon followed.

First sight
First sight

Photos from this trip can be found here.

At 5,400′ above timberline, rewarding views of Mount Rainier and innumerable high points to the west were incessant. Judging by the nice trail with no shortage of views, this had got to be a super popular destination during the high season.

Keeps getting better
Keeps getting better

Photos from this trip can be found here.

We’ve had a good run of sunshine for a few days and today was supposed to be the last. Where to even begin with the views?! Mount Rainier with its hundreds of surrounding high points filled the entire western skyline. To top it off, unexpected views of four volcanoes came as a complete surprise. 

Southwest panoramic view from Crystal Peak
Southwest panoramic view from Crystal Peak

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Besides Mount Rainier, I thought I’d only get to see Mount Adams. But apparently Mount Saint Helens and Mount Hood also wanted to make a cameo! The long-running ridge of Crystal Mountain filled the northern skyline, with upper and lower Crystal Lakes nestled in the basin below.

Mount Adams
Mount Adams

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Exiting via the south ridge, we began the one-mile, enjoyable traverse to Chinook Peak through open terrain and thin forests. By staying west and south of the ridge crest, we bypassed dense vegetation and steep drop-offs into the head of Crystal Creek Basin.

Crystal Creek Basin
Crystal Creek Basin

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Below the summit block at 6,800′, we negotiated outcrops and cliffs from the east and attained the west ridge for the short scramble to the top. Like Saturday’s outing, the second summit stood 300′ higher than the first, with a panoramic view of the entire region.

Southwest panoramic view from Chinook Peak
Southwest panoramic view from Chinook Peak

Photos from this trip can be found here.

On the descent, we traveled westbound on grassy terrain and came out at the south-pointing switchback at 5,800′. We continued to savor the views until we eventually got below the timberline. Back in the forest, we met two hikers as they were heading up.

Thanks for a fantastic day
Thanks for a fantastic day

Photos from this trip can be found here.

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