Gilbert Peak in Goat Rocks / 山羊石區的吉爾伯特峯

Happy first backpacking trip of the season! Gilbert Peak was a great excuse to try out the new two-person, or, one-person/one-dog, tent. For years, we have been snuggling in my solo tent. But it was time to expand! I had high hopes for this weekend’s forecast after last week.

Gilbert Peak patiently awaits
Gilbert Peak patiently awaits

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Gilbert Peak at a Glance

Access: Conrad Meadows Trailhead
Round Trip: 21 miles
Elevation Range: 4040′-8184′
Gear: helmet, crampons, ice ax
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: with guidance

Conrad Meadows Trailhead

Gilbert Peak was my goal two years ago. But that was until we drove up to the closure sign before Conrad Meadows Trailhead. Not wanting to add seven miles of road walk, I looked for something else to climb. So overnight, we drove another six hours up to Freezeout Ridge.

As I looked for a trip feasible for the pup, I came across a recent report on Gilbert Peak. Upon research, I discovered that the Forest Service had restored the road to Conrad Meadows. But the scenic 3.5-hour drive to the trailhead ended up taking one extra hour. Thanks to the directions from Google Maps.

Conrad Meadows Trailhead
Conrad Meadows Trailhead

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Hiking through Conrad Meadows

I read the maps before the trip, and the trail looked mostly flat. The path took us through beautiful meadows in the open landscape before entering the forest. Along the way, I saw Klickton Divide in the distance. But I didn’t see Gilbert Peak. The handful of down trees on the trail was easy to bypass.

The crooked bridge over Conrad Creek had a few loose boards due to missing nails. But I was glad it was still functional to provide access to the other side. Later we overshot the Warm Lake Trail junction by .25 mile. Then I realized we had gone too far. Interestingly, Trail 1120 split at the fork and later rejoined in the upper meadow.

Expansive meadows
Expansive meadows

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Trail 1120 to Warm Lake

We retraced our steps back to the junction. Then we proceeded to hike on the down tree-infested trail. The terrain has been mostly flat for the first four miles. But glad we began to gain elevation at 4300′. The sometimes muddy path wound its way up through the open forest. Then it reached the head of the valley later. The views were not yet grand, and they primarily comprised the lowlands below.

A long stretch of the trail stayed at the 5400′ elevation on snow patches before re-entering the forest. But then we lost the path to full snow coverage in the trees. So we started scrambling and came out into the clearing by the upper trail junction. Then I noticed something moving downhill from the Klickton Divide. It looked like a black bear. Eek!

Lowlands
Lowlands

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Getting up to Warm Lake Camp

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

The semi-frozen lake was much smaller than I imagined. I found a dry spot behind a tree by the lake and set up our tent in the windy basin. Afterward, I looked around for Gilbert Peak. I was hoping that the dark cap behind Point 7508 wasn’t the one. Alas, it was, and it seemed much farther.

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 traveled southwest toward Point 6882. There were fresh ski tracks on the slopes. As I stopped to take a photo, we both noticed a mountain goat on the ridge, staring us down. Later, we bypassed the high point and made it up to Klickton Divide. The ski and goat tracks dwindled here.

Most of the snow on the southern half of Klickton Divide had melted off. The northern half of the ridge alternated between snow and rocks. We stayed on snow for as long as we could and traversed mostly on the crest. I’d keep crampons on and walked through small sections of snow-free areas 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.

There was another steep snowfield below the summit that I didn’t expect to find. So we got through it before we were entirely on the rocks. I left my gear by the snow and then scrambled the rest of the way to the ridge. A short, westbound traverse plus a quick, exposed class 3 climb put us up on the summit.

Gilbert Peak the final stretch
Gilbert Peak the final stretch

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Gilbert Peak Summit Views Plus Three Volcanoes

Earlier down by Point 6882, we got our first view of both Mount Adams and Mount Saint Helens. But the real excitement came about with the anticipation of seeing Mount Rainier from the summit for the first time. To top it off, seeing all three volcanoes at once had intensified the thrill greatly.

Nearby high points included those to the northwest. Among them were Goat Citadel, Big Horn, Ives Peak, and Old Snowy Mountain. To the north of Conrad Glacier on the ridge were Tieton Peak, Devils Horns, and Bear Creek Mountain. I wasn’t familiar with the rest of the mountains.

Three volcanoes panoramic view
Three volcanoes panoramic view

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Descent to Warm Lake Camp

We followed our ascent route to get back down. The steep snow slopes had become a tad slushy but not too terrible. I looked back at Gilbert Peak, and the shady side made it look even more mysterious. I have seen many fall photos. But this place looked much prettier with a coat of white.

I kept the crampons on for most of the descent except through a section with mostly rocks. Just past Point 6882, we cut the slopes and went straight down toward Warm Lake. We enjoyed a relaxing evening before bed. But it was a restless night for both of us. Later, I woke up at 1 AM to find a starry sky, including the spectacular Milky Way.

Evening flow
Evening flow

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Hiking out through Surprise Lake

The pup must have heard or smelled something during the night. He sat up most of the time in full alert mode; it was unnerving. We got up at a quarter after 5, and then enjoyed a lazy morning before heading out. At 500′ below the lake, we met a couple with their pup. They came in the night before and were getting ready to ski up in the basin for the day.

I wanted to check out Surprise Lake on the way out. So back in the forest, we continued east on mild terrain. Then we arrived at the west lakeshore in one mile. The lake still had a layer of snow on top but with edges thawed out. The trail through the northern shore was snow-free. So we made a brief stop on the east end and then left. 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 just a handful of down trees. Once we crossed the creek flowing out of the lake, the rest of the path was nearly snow-free. Later we went back to the junction down in the wetland. Then we hiked the rest four miles out to the meadows. Along the way, we met a few horses and a couple of hikers.

One of the highlights on 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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