Lightning Peak by Lake Cushman via Copper Creek Trail / 閃電峯

  • Reading time:4 mins read

Lightning Peak rises high above Copper Creek outside the Olympic National Park boundary. It’s just two miles west of the well-known Lake Cushman. The trail exists today because of copper and manganese mining back in the early 1900s.

Spotting Lightning Peak
Spotting Lightning Peak

See more trip photos here.

Lightning Peak at a Glance

Access: Copper Creek Trailhead
Round Trip: 6.7 miles
Elevation Range: 800′-4654′
Gear: helmet, crampons, ice ax, microspikes
Route Info: Tom Girard
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no

Copper Creek Trail

A friend recently suggested Lightning Peak in the Olympic Mountains. So today, we came here after yesterday’s lowkey outing in north Sound. We started hiking on a sunny morning.

Soon, we walked through the lush old-growth forest. After crossing Cooper Creek to the north side, the trail climbed steeply. Then it was a sustained elevation gain for the next mile.

Bridge over Copper Creek
Pullout parking

See more trip photos here.

Lightning Peak North Ridge

Firm snow showed up at 2800′, where we saw days-old tracks. Then it was continuous snow after gaining another 200′. Later we lost the trail below the 3200′ saddle with the loop trail sign. The boot path later ended on the pass.

From there, we scrambled south on the ridgeline. The crest had fewer trees with expansive views. Mount Ellinor to the northeast was also visible. I put on snowshoes, and then we made our way back into the forest.

Northeast view from the ridge
Northeast view from the ridge

See more trip photos here.

North Gully

There was more powder in the trees, and so we postholed for a bit. But it was crusty in the open area at the bottom of the gully. We walked over the snowy boulders and began the steep climbing.

The higher we climbed, the firmer the snow. But as the forest thinned out, the slope became icier. So we stayed closer to the trees when possible. Meanwhile, we walked through a couple of places with old avalanche debris.

Clouds catching up
Clouds catching up

See more trip photos here.

East Ridge

By the time we made it up on the east ridge, the mist had taken over. And that was the last time we saw anything. The snow had turned into ice all of a sudden. So I put on crampons to go around the outcrops.

Cornices strewed the ridgeline. So we moved to the south of the crest. It was surprising to see lots of bare ground there. After a quick traverse on exposed rocks, we went up short steep snow to reach the east summit.

Lightning Peak east ridge
Lightning Peak east ridge

See more trip photos here.

East Summit and Beyond

So far, we had put in more work than necessary. “We could’ve waited until the spring and have views!” I thought. But I signed the register, and then we left the top. Though, not before we looked around for a decent spot to go down on the ridgeline.

The north side had continuous cliffs. So we stayed clear and crossed from the south to a notch. We climbed up and went down to the second saddle. Then that put us right below Lightning Peak’s real summit.

Off to the main summit
Off to the main summit

See more trip photos here.

Lightning Peak Main Summit

The snow had complicated things for this climb. Plus, the mist had also weakened the visibility. I first had the dogs try a couple of spots, but none worked out. So it was safer for them to wait for me to come back.

From there, the crux was going up through snow-covered krummholz. The combination of powder and ice made it challenging to gain solid footing. But in the end, ice ax and crampons made mixed climbing possible.

Kodak moment on Lightning Peak
Kodak moment on Lightning Peak

See more trip photos here.

Outro

Zero views, period. Too bad, because I had planned to see Lake Cushman and the nearby Mount Lincoln and Mount Washington. Alas, maybe some other time! A few moments of nothingness, and then I went back to join the pups.

The black lab had somehow got himself onto a narrow ledge while I was upstairs. But I was able to guide him down as the yellow pup watched intensely from the saddle. I knew he secretly enjoyed the entertainment.

Finding our way home
Finding our way home

See more trip photos here.

It grew dark when we were back at the trail. But that part went by fast with two dogs chasing after me.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.