Spire Point by Dome Peak via Ptarmigan Traverse + Itswoot Ridge / 尖塔點

  • Reading time:10 mins read

Spire Point towers above the famous Ptarmigan Traverse. It ranks #112 on Washington State Top 200 Peaks list also. In the shadow of Dome Peak, climbers often overlook this high point as they make their way through the area.

The magnificent Spire Point
The magnificent Spire Point

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Spire Point at a Glance

Access: Downey Creek Trailhead
Round Trip: 28 miles
Elevation Range: 1440′-8264′
Gear: helmet, crampons, rope
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no

Happy Seattle Pride!

It’s been five years since our trip to Dome Peak and Sinister Peak. Back then, we biked eight miles to the trailhead only months before Suiattle River Road reopened. But I wish we could’ve enjoyed the new roadway.

We didn’t see much last week during our logistically involved trip. But with the excellent forecast this weekend, I knew we’d have plenty to enjoy on Spire Point. It was exciting to revisit our old stomping ground also.

Downey Creek Trailhead
Downey Creek Trailhead

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Downey Creek Trail to Sixmile Camp

The pup and I slept at the trailhead to start walking at 7 AM the following day. It was surprising to see only one other car in the parking lot.

The old-growth forest always had that distinct, refreshing smell this time of the year. The few big logs made the otherwise tedious hike somewhat enjoyable. Then at mile 6.5, we took a break at Sixmile Camp.

This way to Spire Point
This way to Spire Point

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Bachelor Creek Trail

The area was now more easily accessible since the road repair. In turn, Bachelor Creek Trail looked more defined since our last visit. The path was easy to follow, other than down trees and dense brush en route.

Soon, we were soaking wet from the vegetation covered in the recent rain. I had somehow missed the turnoff to the log crossing and made a left at the fork. So we ended up taking a path I didn’t know existed.

The first clearing
The first clearing

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Bachelor Creek Meadows to Cub Lake

The upper trail soon took us through dense alder. It was easy to follow until it came to an abrupt end before the trees. After circling for a few minutes, looking for a better way, we scrambled through the open forest.

We later went out into the clearing above 4400′ and roamed through the grassland. Then we crossed Bachelor Creek to the south side on big logs. Pretty soon, we joined the main trail before the meadows.

Light at the end of the debris
Light at the end of the debris

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Cub Lake

I remembered the avalanche debris straight past the muddy meadows all too well. So we took the sometimes faint path up to the 5400′ bench. Then it became more defined past the rubble.

We continued to the top of Bachelor Creek. Soon, we were looking down at Cub Lake from the 5900′ pass. Then we zigzagged our way down the talus slope to the east end of the water.

Cub Lake at last
Cub Lake at last

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Cub Lake Basin

To my surprise, Cub Lake was free of snow this time. Itswoot Lake Basin had much less snow compared with five years ago. Then I looked around and got my first sighting of Spire Point from here.

As we began to move through the basin, four skiers showed up quietly. They were nearing the end of the Ptarmigan Traverse. We were the first person and dog they saw since leaving Cascade Pass four days earlier.

Skiers finishing up the Ptarmigan Traverse
Skiers finishing up the Ptarmigan Traverse

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En route to Spire Col

Later we bid farewell to the crew and continued up to Itswoot Ridge. I wanted to shorten tomorrow’s trip by staying the night on Spire Col. We would also be a step closer to Spire Point that way.

It was snow-free terrain until 6800′, where I saw the bear tracks mentioned by the skiers. There I put on crampons and followed the ski trail. We were very low on energy, so it felt like taking forever to reach the saddle.

Spire Point above Itswoot Ridge
Spire Point above Itswoot Ridge

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Spire Col Camp

O. M. G.!!! What gorgeous scenery north of the saddle. Our Dome Peak and Sinister Peak trip was large cloudy with little views. But seeing the rest of the Ptarmigan Traverse at this moment was beyond words.

Without going up on the ridgeline, I only saw the tip of Spire Point from camp. But I wish I had more energy to roam around and enjoy the sunset before bed. The bear tracks crossed here and went down the snow.

One step closer to Spire Col
One step closer to Spire Col

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A Night on Spire Col

It grew windier as the night progressed. But we kept out of most of the gust and stayed warm by being behind the rocks. I’ve been putting off buying a 4-season tent, but one on this trip would’ve been helpful.

It was a beautiful starry night for photos of star trails. But the wind chills ended up keeping me inside the tent the entire time. I also couldn’t help but wonder if that bear would return sometime during the night.

North view from Spire Col
North view from Spire Col

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En Route to Spire Point

We stayed in bed until after sunrise. I also wanted things to dry out and the wind to die down. So glad we made the push to Spire Col yesterday. This morning I was happy only to walk .25 mile to the starting point.

Spire Point was a class 4 to 5 climb from the reports I’ve read. So that meant the pup would need to wait until I came back. He knew not to follow me after seeing the exposed terrain up ahead.

South view from camp
South view from camp

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Spire Point Climb

I used Matt Lemke’s excellent write-up on SummitPost for the climb. So I’ve learned that the top had enough seating for only one person. It sounded like a tiny summit! But I couldn’t wait to see what the top had in store.

Things moved smoothly from the scree up through the class 4 chimney. Soon, I walked past the lower rappel station on the southeast ridge. Then I went onto a ledge on the east face. The actual climb began here in the final 50′.

The pointy Spire Point
The pointy Spire Point

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Route Finding on Spire Point

The route descriptions pointed out the friction climb on a slab as an option to reach the upper ledge. But I think the last time I friction climbed anything was on the summit of Big Snagtooth.

But I knew I shouldn’t try that move here on the more exposed terrain. So instead, I looked around and found decent holds left of the slab. Then I used a small crack and inched my way through the crux.

Below the 4th class chimney
Below the 4th class chimney

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The Final Stretch

I had two options with the summit now 15′ above me. I could try going up the overhang (gulp!) or return to the southeast ridge by traversing the narrow ledge. Hm, “May I please buy the second option?”.

But the battle was far from over, even from the ridgeline. I kept wondering which side of the arête was the better option as I straddled the summit ridge. Well, neither! So I slowly inched forward to reach the narrow top.

On the southeast ridge
On the southeast ridge

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Spire Point Summit Views

It was a pure adrenaline rush! I quickly situated and anchored myself into the summit rock adorned with webbing. Oh, wow, the views I had missed last weekend, I gained them all back on this climb.

Dome Peak was even more gorgeous than I remembered since I couldn’t even see it during our climb. But before checking out the views, I took deep breaths and oriented myself. What a stunning peak!

North-to-west panoramic view
North-to-west panoramic view

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Deep Thoughts on Spire Point

Now it all made sense why people would come out here and do the Ptarmigan Traverse. Words couldn’t describe the incredible emotions as I looked north. I had planned to climb this peak as part of the traverse.

But I had also wanted to climb two other peaks along the way. Sadly, most of my trips this season are two-day outings because of work. Ugh, work, what is that???

West-to-north panoramic view
West-to-north panoramic view

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Leaving Spire Point

I stayed on top for over an hour. But it was too gorgeous to leave this place. The best part was seeing the cascading peaks along the Ptarmigan Traverse, including Sentinel Peak and Old Guard Peak.

Mount Formidable, Spider Mountain, and Johannesburg Mountain were other notable peaks along the classic route. The pup was either napping or playing in the snow. Alas, it was time to go down and join him.

Getting down
Getting down

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Back to Spire Col

Two 60-meter rappels later, Mr. Cody and I reunited down by the scree. I hope that he got to enjoy the view of Dome Peak while I was away. The sun blasted down as we hurried back to camp.

I kept turning around and stared at Spire Point’s profile–what a vantage point! Hard to fathom I was on top of something that gnarly looking and pointy only minutes ago. But it was good to be back on the solid round.

Leaving Spire Col
Leaving Spire Col

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Back to Bachelor Creek Meadows

We spent an hour at camp while packing up to head out. Oh, time for the long way back to the car, 14 miles, to be exact. I was happy to be back on the snow-free terrain on Itswoot Ridge.

Afterward, we enjoyed a quick lunch break at Cub Lake. Then we climbed 500′ back up to the pass above Bachelor Creek Basin. Since we lost parts of the trail yesterday, I opted to go back through the log crossing.

One final look at Spire Point
One final look at Spire Point

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The Storm’s A-Coming

The rain came unexpectedly before the trail made its way into the slide alder. And soon, it turned into a thundering rainstorm. So the pup and I hunkered down in the trees and waited awhile.

The thunder stopped at some point, but the downpour persisted. But we needed to start moving soon before it was too late in the day. So after putting rain covers on everything, we braved the weather and continued.

One more for the road
One more for the road

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Back to Sixmile Camp and Out

Shortly after we arrived at Sixmile Camp, the rain stopped. But even with rain covers, everything came out damp still. So we took a water-wringing break before walking the rest 6.5 miles back to the car.

It was a memorable trip with the pup and one for the books! Someone had left a note on my windshield asking whether I had seen a missing GPS device. But too bad I didn’t find it.

Finding our way home
Finding our way home

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Jefferson

    Another good one! Thanks for the great trip report and photos.

  2. Blosite

    Amazing. Magnificent landscape. I feel like being there!

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