McClain Peak by Mount Phelps in North Fork Snoqualmie / 麥克萊恩峯

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McClain Peak and Mount Phelps share a saddle on the ridge between North Fork Snoqualmie River and Tolt River. Meanwhile, the peak ranks #8 in the Index-Tolt Area before Salmon Red. Plus, the ridgeline extends east through Lennox Mountain and Cleveland Mountain down to Skykomish, WA.

First sighting of McClain Peak
First sighting of McClain Peak

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McClain Peak at a Glance

Access: NF-5730-113
Round Trip: 6.2 miles
Elevation Range: 2240′-5162′
Gear: helmet, microspikes
Route Info: Andy Boos
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no

Road 5730-113

The only other time I had been on this road was nine years ago on my way to Mount Phelps. Back then, going through a rocky road like this one in an SUV was painless. But being in a compact car now has changed my perspective on accessibility.

Later I parked by the junction with Road 113 and started walking at 8 AM. In retrospect, I could’ve continued on the semi-rough road and parked by the pullout before the waterfall. But high clearance vehicles could quickly drive to the fork at mile 1.2.

A small waterfall by the road
A small waterfall by the road

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Blackhawk Mine Trail

From the spur road, it’s another 500′ uphill to the trailhead before Bluehawk Mine. I had almost missed the trail because it initially swung back into the brush. But glad I had the old track that kept me from going to the mine.

Soon, I zigzagged up the steep hillside adorned with cairns to 4000′. Like Andy, I had lost the trail not long afterward. Interestingly, my old track split off at 3600′ and went northwest up to the pass. So perhaps I was on another path then.

Below Box Ridge
Early winter

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McClain Peak-Mount Phelps Saddle

The faint trail took me up to 4150′ before it disappeared into the fresh snow entirely. Then I started going west toward the 4200′ pass. During this, I went through a rock field that let me avoid most of the brush.

To my surprise, below the pass, a faint trail came up through a few cut trees. So I thought I’d try going down that way on the way out for a direct descent. I didn’t look at my old photos, but the woody saddle was just how I remembered it.

North view from the pass
North view from the pass

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McClain Peak Northeast Ridge

I peeked into the north through the dense trees and then continued up the ridge among tree debris. From the pass, it’s only another three-quarters of a mile to reach the top. But the outcrops and brush plus snow had slowed me down quite a bit.

Thinking back, I could have avoided all of the outcrops from the south. But not seeing the terrain above me had me end up climbing over a couple of steep places. So on the way down, I bypassed them by staying lower on the ridgeline.

Southeast view
Southeast view

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The Final Stretch

Later I got my first view of the peak from half a mile away. Then I crossed the meadow to the small talus at the bottom of the 200′ wall. By then, there was at most six inches of snow. I poked around the south and found a ramp at 4850′.

On the other side was a drop-off. So I went higher up on the buttress and found a step into the steep, narrow southeast gully. The icy slab in the middle had made it unsafe to go up directly. So I bypassed it by hugging the cliffs.

McClain Peak southeast gully
McClain Peak southeast gully

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McClain Peak Summit Views

Another 200′ of steep climbing through hard dirt and krummholz later took me up on the ridge. Caltopo map has marked the top of the gully as the summit. But the actual high point was another 200′ to the west.

It’s been blowing south wind since the pass. But the bluebird day and the views of the North Fork Snoqualmie area made it all worthwhile. Some notable peaks here were Lennox Mountain, Mount Index, Dog Mountain, and Twin Peaks.

Eastern panoramic view
Eastern panoramic view

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Outro

Despite walking the extra miles on the road, it’s a reasonably short climb. Judging by the recorded ascents, 5 out of 6 people went up to the taller Mount Phelps for the grander views. But the two peaks are doable as a day trip.

Back below the pass, I tried going southeast to cut the distance by using the faint path. But it wasn’t long before it disappeared into the debris. So I went back through the talus and went down through the trail.

Finding my way home
Finding my way home

See more trip photos here.