Gilbert Peak in Goat Rocks Wilderness via Conrad Meadows / 吉爾伯特峯

  • Reading time:15 mins read

Gilbert Peak in Goat Rock Wilderness is the highest point on Klickton Divide. The scenic east route winds through Conrad Meadows and Warm Lake. Its famous neighbors also include Old Snowy Mountain and Ives Peak.

Gilbert Peak patiently awaits
Gilbert Peak patiently awaits

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Gilbert Peak at a Glance

Access: Conrad Meadows Trailhead
Round Trip: 20.6 miles
Elevation Range: 4040′-8184′
Gear: helmet, crampons, ice ax
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: with guidance

The Preface

Happy first backpacking trip of the season! I had wanted to visit Gilbert Peak for the fall colors, but it’s probably too busy to seek solitude then. So we came to the area while the snow was still around to avoid the mass.

It was also a perfect time for trying out the two-person, or instead, one-person/one-dog tent. We have been snuggling in a solo shelter for years to save weight. But I decided it was time to expand our sleep quarters!

Conrad Meadows Trailhead
Conrad Meadows Trailhead

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Conrad Meadows Trailhead

Gilbert Peak was my goal two years ago until we drove up to the closure sign before Conrad Meadows Trailhead. Not wanting to add seven miles of road walk, I looked for a backup plan. Then we drove six hours to Freezeout Ridge overnight.

As I looked for a trip feasible for the pup, I saw a recent report on Gilbert Peak. Upon research, I found the Forest Service had restored the road to Conrad Meadows. But the 3.5-hour scenic drive ended up taking one extra hour because of Google Maps’ wrong directions.

Expansive meadows
Expansive meadows

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Hiking through Conrad Meadows

The lower trail was mainly flat, and it took us through the open meadows before entering the forest. The handful of down trees over the path was easy to bypass. I saw Klickton Divide in the distance but not Gilbert Peak.

The crooked bridge over Conrad Creek had a few loose boards due to missing nails but was still working. Later, we overshot Warm Lake Trail junction by .25 mile before knowing we’d gone too far. But Trail 1120 split at the fork and would rejoin in the upper meadow.

Crooked bridge over Conrad Creek
Crooked bridge over Conrad Creek

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Trail 1120

We quickly retraced our steps back to the junction. Then we proceeded to walk on the down tree-infested trail. The terrain has been mostly flat for the first four miles. But glad we began to gain altitude at 4300′.

The sometimes muddy path soon wound its way up through the open forest. Later, it reached the valley’s top as the snow slowly appeared. Views weren’t yet grand, and they primarily comprised lowland hills down below.

Lowlands
Lowlands

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En Route to Warm Lake

A long stretch stayed at the 5400′ altitude on snow patches in the open before the trail re-entered the forest. But we soon lost the path to continuous snow in the trees. Then we started scrambling in the way of the summer route.

Afterward, we went out into the clearing by the upper trail junction in flat terrain. Soon, I noticed something walking or rolling downhill from Klickton Divide. Then it registered that a black bear was gliding through the hillside. Eek!

Seeing Klickton Divide
Seeing Klickton Divide

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Warm Lake Camp

After putting on crampons, we went straight up one of the steep gullies to Warm Lake. Excellent snow conditions leading up to the lake. But the next time I glanced at the ridge, the bear had disappeared. Not sure if it ever saw us, but the bear stopped a few times when I first noticed it.

I found a dry spot behind a tree and set up our tent in the windy basin. Afterward, I looked around for Gilbert Peak and saw the dark cap behind Point 7508. But it seemed so much farther than on the map! The semi-frozen lake was smaller than I pictured.

Gilbert Peak poking out from behind Warm Lake
Gilbert Peak poking out from behind Warm Lake

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Gilbert Peak via Klickton Ridge

From the lake, we went southwest and saw fresh ski tracks. Then a mountain goat on the ridge stared us down as I stopped for a photo. We bypassed Point 6882 en route to Klickton Divide, where ski and goat tracks dwindled.

Most of the snow on the south half of the Klickton Divide had melted; the northern half alternated between snow and rocks. We traversed mainly on the crest and walked through a few dry areas with crampons to save time.

Long-running ridge to Gilbert Peak
Long-running ridge to Gilbert Peak

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Gilbert Peak Climb

Since Gilbert Peak sat far back on the ridge, our first full view wasn’t until Point 7508. It felt so good to see the intimidating side of the peak up close finally. But I swear the long-running ridge was one mile too long! Soon we reached the summit block at 8000′ and crossed over onto the southwest face.

I didn’t anticipate the steep snowfield below the top, so we went through it before going on the rocks. I left my gear by the snow and scrambled the rest up to the ridge. A short, westbound traverse and a quick, exposed class 3 climb put us on the summit.

Gilbert Peak the final stretch
Gilbert Peak the final stretch

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Gilbert Peak Summit Views Plus Three Volcanoes

I first saw Mount Adams and Mount Saint Helens down by Point 6882. But the excitement came about when seeing Mount Rainier from the top for the first time. Then the view of three volcanoes intensified the thrill greatly.

Nearby high points included Goat Citadel, Big Horn, Ives Peak, and Old Snowy Mountain to the northwest. North of Conrad Glacier, along the ridge were Tieton Peak, Devils Horns, and Bear Creek Mountain. Then the rest looked unfamiliar.

Three volcanoes panoramic view
Three volcanoes panoramic view

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Descent to Warm Lake Camp

We used our up route to go down the steep slopes that were now a tad slushy. I looked back at Gilbert Peak, and the shady side had made it look spooky. The place looked much prettier with a coat of white despite many beautiful fall photos I’ve seen.

I used crampons most of the way except for an area with rocks. Then past Point 6882, we made a beeline for Warm Lake and enjoyed a relaxing evening. It was a restless night; I woke up at 1 to find a starry sky with the dazzling Milky Way.

Evening flow
Evening flow

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Hiking out through Surprise Lake

At night, the pup had heard or smelled something and sat up in full alert mode. Then we woke up at a quarter past five and enjoyed a lazy morning. We met a couple with their dog a while later, who came in last night to ski for the day.

I wanted to see Surprise Lake on the way out, so we continued east back in the trees. We reached the west lakeshore in one mile, with a layer of ice but thawing edges. The snow-free north shore took us to the east where we briefly stopped before leaving. There were bear tracks near the campsite.

Surprise Lake east shore
Surprise Lake east shore

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Back to Conrad Meadows

Surprise Lake Trail had only a handful of down trees. Once we crossed the creek flowing out of the lake, the rest of the path was almost snow-free. Soon, we were back at the fork in the wetland.

We later hiked the rest four miles out to the meadows. Along the way, we chatted with a few hikers and horse people. One of the highlights of this trip was the absence of mosquitoes!

Back to Conrad Meadows
Back to Conrad Meadows

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Brian

    Hey – thanks for the super helpful trip report. My son and I are going up mid-week to the Goat Rocks range via Snowgrass Flats and plan to climb Old Snowy, Ives, and Gilbert. Good to know that there is snow above 5000 feet. Doesn’t look like you needed snowshoes. Did you need your helmet? We’re definitely bringing micro spikes and our ice axes, but I’m hoping we won’t need much more equipment than that. Thanks, and BTW, for the last several years I’ve always appreciated your trip reports on WTA. Brian

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