Keeping a Low Profile on Low Mountain / 低矮山上保持低調

Seven years had passed since our first trip on Low Mountain. At the time I mistook Point 5381 for the actual summit despite seeing a higher point north of where we were. Later I realized had we reached the true summit we would’ve had seen both Kaleetan Peak and Chair Peak rising high to the north.

The Low Mountain summit's calling
The Low Mountain summit’s calling

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The Lowdown on Low Mountain

Access: NF-5800/9034 road closure
Round Trip: 11 miles
Elevation Range: 1880′-5400′
Gear: Microspikes, snowshoes, ice axe
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The Hike

The fact that I had forgotten to check the latest road conditions before driving to the trailhead ended up costing us extra time on the approach. We parked under the Interstate 90 overpass by the gate and walked 2.7 miles to the trailhead on the incredibly icy service road.

Road walk
Road walk

See more trip photos here.

Full snow accumulation began in the last half a mile approaching the Franklin Falls and Melakwa Lake Trailheads. I used microspikes to get through this section and on the snow-packed trail leading to the Denny Creek crossing. The recent boot tracks ended here; I switched to snowshoes.

Two thousand feet of sweat ahead
Two thousand feet of sweat ahead

See more trip photos here.

The Climb

We picked up the summer trail on the other side of the creek and hiked to the first switchback before leaving the trail. Heading west into Denny Lake Basin in open terrain, we traversed across the steep boulder field below the cliffs. We then headed northwest and then north to get above the steepest section of the climb into the upper basin at 4000′.

Today's crew
Today’s crew

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Snow quality was poor, and it took a while to reach Low Mountain east ridge at 4900′. Here we got our first look at the high points above Denny Creek Basin, including Kaleetan Peak, Chair Peak, Bryant Peak, Hemlock Peak, and The Tooth. Unfortunately, the wind picked up as soon as we got on the ridge.

We continued to break trail in poor snow conditions while trying hard to dodge the wind through the dense forest. From the south ridge, I spotted a tiny bit of the true summit poking out from behind Point 5381. Trees began to thin out as views around us gradually came in, we continued to traverse north in wind gusts.

Ridge view
Ridge view

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We climbed to the top of Point 5381 as a sanity check. Sure enough, the true summit taller by 25′ was less than a quarter of a mile away. Quickly, we dropped down on the north side and continued to fight the east wind gusts to reach the summit.

The Summit

As soon as we tagged the summit, we retreated to the west of the summit ridge to hide from the wind. The wind continued to blow for the remainder of our summit stay. We savored the views all around (mostly on the west) on another glorious day in the Cascades!

Granite Mountain and Tusk O'Granite
Granite Mountain and Tusk O’Granite

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I remember on our first trip the views were limited to just the high points in the vicinity, like Granite MountainMount Defiance, and Silver Peak. However, the views today reached as far north as Big Snow Mountain, and as far south as Mount Adams. Then of course there’s the daunting view of the dynamic duo-Kaleetan Peak and Chair Peak.

Northeast panoramic view
Northeast panoramic view

See more trip photos here.

The Outro

Late arrival on the summit meant we’d spend a portion of the exit in the dark. We hurried and descended to the Denny Lake Basin and got back on the Melakwa Lake Trail before dark. I was not looking forward to the 2.7-mile road walk back to the car.

Outro
Outro

See more trip photos here.

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