Big Chief Mountain She da Boss / 大酋長山伊是老大

Onward to Big Chief Mountain summit
Onward to Big Chief Mountain summit

See more trip photos here.

Big Chief Mountain has been on the back burner due to its proximity to the Stevens Pass Ski Resort. Up until last night’s research, I was under the impression that the standard routes were higher in technicality. But this turned out not to be the case after a closer examination of the two popular approaches.

Despite feeling exhausted from yesterday’s outing, the pup I woke up early. Then we set out to enjoy another glorious day in the Pacific Northwest. I wanted something lowkey and not have to break trail; Big Chief Mountain was an excellent choice. With just over one mile and under 2000′ gain, this could well have been our quickest ascent this season.

The Lowdown on Big Chief Mountain

Access: Stevens Pass Ski Resort
Round Trip: 2.4 miles
Elevation Range: 4040′-5858′
Gear: microspikes
GPS Track: available

Steep and Forested Approach

The dwindling number of vehicles at the resort was a good indication of the tail end of the ski season. Lot E was empty when I pulled in; no other cars were in the lot later when we returned. Right away, behind the snow berm, I noticed some tracks in the forest and proceeded to follow them uphill. Spikes worked well on the firm yet slippery snow.

Apart from heading up steep slopes, the approach was virtually effortless with the help of the existing tracks. Some reports I read indicated that this was the go-to area for mountaineering field trips. And it was quite evident that a lot of groups were here in recent weeks.

See more trip photos here.

From the Southwest Ridge to the Top

We encountered soft snow in the two large clearings, but with minimal postholing to warrant the need for snowshoes. I got glimpses of Skyline Ridge while on semi-open terrain through the thin forest. Before we knew it, we were on the ridge looking south over the dozens and dozens of ridgelines.

While I was busy taking photos, the pup had raced down the ridge toward the faint voices of two skiers. He came back just in time before I started heading toward the summit in the existing tracks. There weren’t as many boot tracks on the ridge, as the field trip folks stayed down in the forest. We arrived on the breezy summit shortly afterward.

See more trip photos here.

Toasty Summit with Tasty Views

Morning temperatures turned out to be higher than in the forecast. It got warm quickly as soon as the breeze stopped. The two skiers I heard earlier came up 10 minutes later and joined us on the summit. They had taken the ski lift up and were on their way to ski in the Mill Creek Basin. What a great idea!

Like on any other day with good weather, needless to say, views were excellent on this vantage point! Jim Hill Mountain, Arrowhead Mountain, Middle Chiwaukum, Big Chiwaukum, Rock Mountain, and Mount Howard to the east. Views to the south included our recent ascent K9, the mighty Cradle, Mount Daniel, and the intimidating looking Bulls Tooth.

To the west were the usual suspects: Mount Fernow, Mount Sawyer, Spark Plug Mountain, Malachite Peak, and Bald Eagle Peak. Familiar peaks in the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness to the north: Lichtenberg Mountain, Labyrinth Mountain, Union Peak, and Jove Peak. These were just a handful of all the visible peaks!

See more trip photos here.

The Outro

It was surprising that no other hikers came up after us despite a short climb with abounding views. After a good half-hour conversation with the skiers, they traversed back down the ridge and into Mill Creek Basin. Pup and I stayed for another half hour to enjoy the views and the solitude before packing up.

Back down on the ridge, we walked farther down to check out the ski area. I contemplated snowshoeing over to Cowboy Mountain but decided to stick to the original plan. We stopped just short of Point 5675 and then retraced our steps back down the mountain to the parking lot.

Thanks for a nice and short day
Thanks for a nice and short day

See more trip photos here.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Love that photo of K9 Peak! Many years ago a group of us flew paragliders off Big Chief ridge from just outside ski area boundary signs. I couldn’t launch myself with my snowboard on so one of the guys grabbed my harness and threw me off the hill! I caught a thermal rite after launch and flew west along the ridge crossing over the chair lift. I thought I was going to have a perfect landing in a huge flat area near the power lines but did a huge face plant instead! Soft snow so no problem.

    Most of the group went to drink and watch football in the bar but me and a guy on skis went back up to fly again. We decided to leave our ski gear at the ridge top and get them later. We flew 2 more times but didn’t realize how early they shut down the back lifts! We were the only ones around and the lift guys were pissed! They almost made us hike out. Finally they let us take chair back to top but our ski stuff was still out of bounds on the ridge. None of the guys would let us hike over to get it. Finally this girl on ski patrol said she would ski over there and get our stuff. She skied down that steep backside run with my snowboard, a pair of skis and poles in her arms and brought it up the lift! She was amazing and kind beyond belief. That was one crazy day – we should have been banned for life from the ski area!

    Great photos as always!

  2. hey I have a lot of conflicting data on the GPS for the winter route. any way you could share the GPS you have for this one with me? I’d appreciated it!

    1. Hi Andru,

      Thanks for reaching out. Sure, feel free to contact me on here.

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