Full Moon Rising + Scimitar Knoll by Castle Peak + Lightning Lake / 滿月出

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Full Moon Rising by Castle Peak joins Scimitar Knoll in Canada via Monument 76. Seating inside northwest Pasayten Wilderness, it’s just minutes from the border. Moreover, Lightning Lakes Chain Trail gives direct access to this remote peak.

Next stop, Full Moon Rising
Next stop, Full Moon Rising

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Full Moon Rising and Scimitar Knoll at a Glance

Access: Lightning Lake Trailhead
Round Trip: 18 miles
Elevation Range: 4000′-7855′
Gear: helmet
Route Info: Steven Song
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: yes

End of the Climbing Season

I’m finally picking up from where I left off now that we’re a month into the fall. Setting aside the blog while channeling energy on essential things allowed me to recharge. Before I knew it, another season had gone by in the blink of an eye.

Despite the late start of the summery weather, it was a fruitful season nonetheless. Between boarding the dogs, now with different needs, and climbing, I had knocked off this year’s goals. Alas, here I was, home on a quiet Friday night, listening to the rain we’ve barely had since June.

Lightning Lake west view in the morning
Lightning Lake west view in the morning

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The Preface on Full Moon Rising

Northwest Pasayten Wilderness is infamous for its shabby vegetation. So I wasn’t sure if it’d be a repeat of the same type 2 escapade past Full Moon Rising. The yellow pup and I found out the hard way when we visited Castle Peak in the next basin.

I had planned a multi-day outing by the border. Meanwhile, I closely watched the onset of several wildfires as the holiday weekend neared. But I went ahead with the plan and hoped everything would go smoothly.

Lighting Lake Bridge
Lighting Lake Bridge

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Lightning Lake Trail

There were a few cars plus several “day use only” signs in the Lightning Lake main lot. Not wanting any trouble, I parked just off the road by the entrance. Then I took the loop trail and crossed the bridge from the lake’s east end.

It was surprisingly quiet at 8 AM. “No campers?” I thought. I walked past the Frosty Mountain Trail and soon crossed the bridge to the west at mile one. Shortly, a man coming down the trail chatted me up as I took photos of the trail signs.

Flash Lake
Flash Lake

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Lightning Lake to Flash Lake

Although he had kept it “low key,” it only took a few seconds to know what he was after. While his questions seemed random, I’ve been around long enough to read the subtext. But I had a long day ahead, so I brushed him off and continued.

As I walked by the second lakeshore, the naming convention of the four valley lakes suddenly dawned on me. Lightning, Flash, Strike, Thunder, how clever! All in all, the well-maintained trail only had a down tree or two.

Scimitar Knoll above Strike Lake
Scimitar Knoll above Strike Lake

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Strike Lake to Scimitar Knoll North Ridge

Despite the haze, I saw Scimitar Knoll through the trees along Strike Lake. Before long, I had crossed the outlet over the tree debris to the south side. Then I took a break by Passage Creek (Pass Creek in the US) before moving again.

I soon realized I had gone up the wrong side the minute I saw cliffs above the creek. Glad I caught the mistake soon and crossed the water to the west. Then I went up the steep hill in the open forest within earshot of the rapid stream.

A preview of Frosty Mountain
A preview of Frosty Mountain

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Final Stretch on Scimitar Knoll

The tree canopy had kept out the views in the lowest forest. Meanwhile, I tried hard to hug the crest, which didn’t start forming until past 5500′. Beyond there, the landscape began to expand as I moved through the brushy meadow.

I stumbled across a faint path in the grass and followed it until it faded. Soon, the rocky crest past 6300′ slowly veered west toward the summit. Then I stayed south of the ridge with the impressive sights of Castle Peak and Frosty Mountain.

Looking back at the route from Scimitar Knoll east ridge
Looking back at the route from Scimitar Knoll east ridge

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Scimitar Knoll Summit Views

While down on the ridge, I noticed smoke spewing from behind Frosty Mountain. It looked much larger the minute I reached the top. Soon, I saw more fume pouring out behind Buck Heaven across from Full Moon Rising.

I remember seeing the onset of the Skagit Fire on the map, too trivial to make the news. If it looked worse from Full Moon Rising, I would have no choice but to turn around. But it turned out much smokier when I saw it in person.

Southeast panorama from Scimitar Knoll
Southeast panorama from Scimitar Knoll

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Next Stop, Full Moon Rising

In addition to the large wildfires were two small ones in Canada. After soaking in the view of Hozomeen Mountain, I moved down the gentle south ridge on scree. Then I went over two ridge bumps and contended with the occasional krummholz.

Due to the thin foliage, the crop line through Monument 76 wasn’t as defined. As I went higher on the hill, talus slowly replaced the mixture of dense shrubs and rocks past 7000′. Then it was another 800′ of long, rising traverse to finish.

Traversing the south ridge to Full Moon Rising
Traversing the south ridge to Full Moon Rising

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Full Moon Rising Summit Views

I kept wondering how Full Moon Rising got its name from the get-go. From the north and the northeast, the mountain looked pyramidal. Perhaps it’s because the top looked rounded from northeast and southwest. Who knows?

The entire south horizon was under massive smoke when viewed from the summit. To the east, the haze pouring in from the Parks Fire looked like an inversion on steroids. Meanwhile, I saw the flames from the Skagit Fire south of here. Eek!

West panorama from Full Moon Rising
West panorama from Full Moon Rising

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A Change of Plans: Back to Lightning Lake

Since I hadn’t planned to go back the same way, I did a carryover. I also dillydallied my way up since I had all the time to spare. I didn’t have access to the current fire update, and it was best to exit in the daylight.

Without the days’ worth of supplies, it would’ve been a more enjoyable day trip. But on the other hand, I was happy to sleep in the car again tonight. Then I thought of the list of places I could still visit before the weekend ended.

East panorama from Full Moon Rising
East panorama from Full Moon Rising

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Leaving Full Moon Rising

After deciding to return through Scimitar Knoll, I spent a long time on Full Moon Rising. During that time, the smoke looked to have quickly doubled in size. Everything beyond Castle Peak and Frosty Mountain was soon a big blob.

I had considered camping near Monument 76 and hiking out in the morning. But there hadn’t been any water or snow since Passage Creek. So it only made sense to leave now and still be back at the car at a decent hour.

Back to Scimitar Knoll
Back to Scimitar Knoll

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Back to Lightning Lakes Chain Trail

The sun had set after I went over Scimitar Knoll, but it stayed light for a good while. It wasn’t until I was back at the meadow that the sky darkened. Then I retraced my steps through the forest down to the creek.

Water! I took a break by Strike Lake’s outlet and gulped down lots of it. Meanwhile, I finished the fascinating episode on Stuff Mom Never Told You by the stream. Soon, I walked the five miles on Lightning Lakes Chain Trail to end the trip.

At day's end
At day’s end

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