Mount Whittier, WA


We explore the Mount Margaret Wilderness and a challenging "trail."

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

This was Day Two of the 2008 Celebration of Life.

After packing our gear last night, we got up early and headed out in the MiniMan MiniVan for the Johnson's Ridge Visitor Center. When we got to the immense parking lot at about 7am, it was empty.

There was a light haze off to the south, mostly smoke from the Mt. Adams trailhead fire- visible on the horizon. We shouldered our packs and set off for what Brian had advertised as a 15 mile hike in a key hole shape- out, then a loop, and then back on the same trail we started on.

So we were off in the early morning sun on the easy, well-used trails adjacent to the visitor's center. The ridge on the right is actually part of Mt. St. Helens.



Art and Brian on the trail

The trail follows a rolling ridge across from the breach, the part that exploded. You can also see the condition of the trail here- it's ground-up pumice, which forms a fine poofer-dust.

We marveled at the view, knowing that in several days we would be walking across this sere landscape from right to left, the entire thing, about mid-height in this picture.

Scree traverse

But we had a different walk ahead of us today. Here's a shot showing the out-and-back portion of our hike, including an arch on top of the ridge. At the left end of the ridge, you run into the Boundary Trail, which we would be following west this morning. We had also ridden our bikes over the Boundary Trail in the 2006 Celebration of Life, but in the other direction. Note the little natural arch in the middle of the ridge (click for a bigger picture).

Scree traverse

There were lots of wildflowers to look at and even more views of the area to marvel at, and soon we were walking through that same arch.

After passing the arch, we traversed around Mt. St. Helens Lake. The photo below shows Mt. St. Helens Lake in the he foreground, with Spirit Lake in the background. Note: Those are not 'sticks' in the water, but huge trees, like 2' to 4' in diameter. Still floating after all these years (the eruption was on May 18, 1980).

Mayan Temple
Brian drying off from Bead Lake

We continued on the Boundary Trail, which traverses the ridge that includes Mt. Margaret, the namesake of the Wilderness Area. I was actually taking a picture of what Brain refers to as the $40,000 outhouse, but Art and Brian slipped into the picture. Unbeknownst to us at the time, Mount Whittier had also slipped in- it's the high point on the right.

A little further on, we determined that we had missed the turnoff for Whittier Ridge. But Brian spotted a way for us to get back via a short bushwhack and wet moss traverse. It was time for lunch, so we sat down and ate before trying that out. Meanwhile, Art checked the map and determined that we had already walked 10 miles.... that we had to reverse to get back to the car....thus ending the idea of a 15-mile day.

Dinner at Bead lake

So here's what the ridge looked like after we had passed the "Three Towers." If that sounds like something evil out the the Lord of the Rings, you're getting close.

Climber near summit
The trail traverses the three towers on paths blasted into slightly rotten rock. That means the tread is dirty and crumbly, and there are not a lot of solid hand holds. But it does get right up the ridge. Route
There is a bit of exposure. Can you find two hikers? Route

In this view looking back from whence we came, I've added a red line to help you believe you are actually looking at a trail.

And here is that same section close up. Again- two hikers. Route

But we did make it safely to the summit. It was actually a lot of fun for this group.

Here we are on the summit, where we re-evaluated our goals for the day. It was obvious that we weren't going to get the loop done, so we headed back.

Pitch two traverse

As we headed back, we continued to have awesome weather and even more awesome views. This may seem like a nice shot of Rainier, but it's really here to show the Three Towers in the foreground.

As the sky changed, the views did too. The panorama below shows the afternoon lighting of Mount Adams on the left, and St. Helens on the right.

5.7 hand crack
Brian belays Bob up the summit block

After a long, long while we were back to the Devil's Elbow, a section of trail near (but several hundred feet below) the visitor's center. Time for one more shot in the evening light before we trudged back up the hill to the car.

After 10 hours of fast moving, we were pretty tired. We had some warm Shmidt and headed back to Brian's to rest up for our Willapa Bay adventure tomorrow.

Bob moving up the summit block

Mr. Natural Home | 2008 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski