The Brothers on Thanksgiving Day / 感恩節上兄弟峯

The Brothers summit block staring down
The Brothers summit block staring down

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The sight of The Brothers from Seattle is hard to miss. I first saw the double-peak feature from the old Alaskan Way Viaduct years ago. It’s long been a climbers’ favorite. So I’d stay away once a report popped up in the spring. It had barely snowed in the weeks before Thanksgiving. So I decided to give it a try now that it’s the end of the high climbing season.

The Lowdown on The Brothers

Access: Lena Lake Trailhead
Round Trip: 16.7 miles
Elevation Range: 660′-6842
Gear: helmet
GPS Track: available

Lena Lake Trail

In anticipation of a long day, we started hiking at a quarter to 5 in freezing yet tolerate temperatures. But the wind chill at the switchbacks added some discomfort. Before long, we were walking past Lena Lake. Too bad we couldn’t see the magnificent lake in the pitch black. Soon, we came upon the down Douglas fir and bypassed it on the left. The crew had put lots of effort into breaking down the tree. After two more junctions, we were at the Lena Creek crossing.

One report mentioned that the crossing was the crux of the approach. But it wasn’t the case for us. Though, the pup and I initially went farther upstream and hopped up to the big log jam. Even with a headlamp, it was hard to see across the creek. So we turned back around to the trail. Then I realized that we were able to cross the shallow water next to the dwindling trail. Though inconspicuous, the path continued on the other side.

The Brothers Wilderness
The Brothers Wilderness

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The Climbers’ Camp and Beyond

Not long after passing the wilderness boundary, we crossed the East Fork Lena Creek’s dry bed at 2200′. We were now in the so-called Valley of the Silent Men. The two subsequent bridge crossings were over the parts of the creek before the water went underground. Other than the moss-covered terrain, there wasn’t much to enjoy in the narrow valley in the dark. Even with the flagging, trail could be hard to follow at times.

We reached the climbers’ campsite in another 800′ elevation. Hard to believe we weren’t even halfway through the total elevation gain. In other words, we still needed to climb the remaining <4000′ over the 2+ miles distance. Behind the firepit was a faint path. So we followed it and traveled northwest. Soon, the trail disappeared under some down trees. But then we quickly located the next section of the path and continued uphill.

Through the old burn
Through the old burn

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Through the Old Burn

Cairns began to surface just as we went out into the first clearing. From there, I got my first look at the summit ridge. Once we went through the tall shrubs, it was then time to fight our way through more down trees. According to SummitPost, the area had undergone two fires in the past. The most recent one took place in 2003.

Fortunately, many cairns guided us in the general direction. The faint path under the massive down trees was visible and somewhat intact. But rather than trying to follow the fallen tree-covered trail, it was more comfortable to walk on the trees. Views behind us gradually came to light after we gained more elevation through this section.

Looking back
Looking back

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Scree Pathways to the South Gully

Beyond the down trees was the continuous scree terrain. Somehow I expected to see the remaining snow from September. But to my surprise, there was none. Throughout the basin, the sub-freezing temperatures had also turned small waterfalls into icicle drapes. Despite having a path to follow, at times, it was hard to keep my balance over the rolling rocks.

The path turned north at 4400′. Then it gradually took us up to the south ridge at 5200′. Following the cairns, the route then took a turn and headed west at 5600′. By doing so, we, in turn, avoided the cliffs higher up on the ridgeline. We went into the main gully shortly after. Then we began the most tedious part of the climb. Grr. Where’s the snow when we needed it?

South gully
South gully

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South Slopes to The Brothers Summit

The cairns somehow all disappeared the minute we went into the gully. So we continued to scramble through steep terrain. The giant rock steps at 6000′ forced us to move west and onto the scree slopes below the southwest ridge. The couloir was beginning to become steep. So this route ended up being a much better choice. Here I saw the dusting of powder below the summit block.

From the slopes, I also noticed the cairns I thought that had been missing. As it turned out, the snow-free route avoided the gully entirely. So that would be our route to go back down. Hooray! At 6650′ below the ridgeline, we made a right and entered a narrow, icy passage. Above the path was a short section of a snow-covered gully leading to the top. I didn’t bother to put on crampons in the soft snow.

Four volcanoes panoramic view
Four volcanoes panoramic view
The Brothers Summit and Outro

The pups and I had only been on a handful of summits in the Eastern Olympic Mountains. This one was the first and only with unobstructed views to the west. I knew Mount Olympus was somewhere in the lineup. But I couldn’t name any peaks to understand what I was seeing. There was a thin haze in the eastern horizon. But the volcanoes, Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier, and Mount Adams, were still visible.

Even under the blazing sun, temperatures never got above the freezing point. Getting back down the scree took a while. It would’ve been great to have snow coverage in the gully to speed up the process. Perhaps we could’ve even plunge stepped our way out. After getting through the annoying old burn, we went right back into the shade. Burr. Then back at the climbers’ camp, we began the uneventful, six-mile hike out to the car.

Thanks for another safe outing
Thanks for another safe outing

See more trip photos here.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Enjoyed all your trips in the Pasayten. We have packed in lots of times but not much fun since the fires. Our favorite spot is on Timberwolf Creek past McCall Gulch.

    1. Hi Rob! Thanks for the feedback. I, too, enjoy the Pasayten Wilderness. McCall Gulch also was one of my favorite places to camp.

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