Seth, Eric and I had this weekend held for climbing mt Daniel since February. Luckily, the weather cooperated and treated us to clear skies and sunshine (perhaps too much sun) for the entire weekend forecast. Seth is undeterred by heat so decided to get a later start and meet us at Peggy’s Pond basecamp. On the other hand, Eric and I are when when it is 60 degrees so we headed out of Everett at 2:30am.

The directions for the Trailhead indicated to that a FS 4330, a rough dirt road the final 12 miles. When we reached the junction on SR 930 for this road it was only labeled with a sign that pointed to different locations. No road name. You want to take the right fork onto the dirt road heading toward Tucquala Lake. Around mile 8.75 drive my car over a shallow creek. i had read that there were two creeks that crossed the road. Sometimes they run high enough so that only a high clearance vehicle can make it over. We were happy to find we could cross this creek. We were not so lucky with Scatter Creek ay mile 9. The water here was way to high from my CRV. We parked a little down the road in the open camping area.

We crossed the high creek in our underwear. Eric yelled profanities the whole way across. T he water was COLD… though this is expected from snow melt! The road is flat and we easily made our way to the Cathedral Rock (sometimes also called Cathedral  Pass TH depending on which sign you look at) seeing copious deer and an elk along the way.

The The first 2.5 miles of trail leading to Squaw Lake was pretty straight forward. We climbed switchbacks through the forest crossing some very high creek and streams. We had to search off the trail to find ways to cross on a few of them. There are logs and/or shallow areas if you look. About 1.2 miles in we began to hit snow patches. These grew larger making staying on the trail a bit challenging. However, it was never long before we crossed over a melt out sliver of trail. As long as you pay close attention and look for clues you will stay on track. We made it the Squaw Lake, a pretty area with many horse camps. Here is where our route finding adventure began. We were supposed to follow a trail, but in the mess of  social paths and camps by the lake and the heavy snow cover, we were unable to find the trail. We studied our topo map and began to go cross country. We circled close to the lake on the right side crossing a deep creek. There was a rock cliff on the other side of the lake. We we came near this we stayed slightly right and began to climb the ridge through the forest. There are lots of running creeks beneath the snow. You will hear them sunning. Be careful as the snow is unstable in many areas here.

We gained the ridge after some route finding. Basically the ideas is to go up. Then we turned left and walked toward the giant rock tower know as Cathedral Rock. We picked up the trail in a small melted area. We lost in again in the snow which was about 2 feet deep in the ridge. We reached Cathedral Pass eventually without much difficulty at 5,550Ft. There was supposed to be a sign here indicated the PCT, but we could not find it (probably buried under snow). We turned left and heading slightly downhill before turning right and beginning the traverse just beneath Cathedral Rock. The snow is melted on this side of the tower and we passed over lots of loose talus and dusty ground. We eventually saw the trail several yards below us and descending to it. This made the going much easier. As we reached the other side of Cathedral the trail once again dumped us out into snow. From here we ascended the snow through the trees back to the ridge crest.

Peggy’s Pond laid in the shadow of Cathedral Rock. It was frozen except from around the edged where the water glistened with a turquoise glow. We wandered the left side of the Pond and found the perfect place to camp . A stand of trees had created a giant melted out tree well. Perfect!

Eric and I laid out our bivys and unpacked our gear. While Eric prompted collapsed for his midday nap and amused myself by hanging my food from a different stand of trees. Usually i carry a bear canister, but I didn’t want to add another 3lbs to my already 43lbs pack. I tied on rock to perlon and after about a dozen throws (I’m a bad shot) I managed to toss the rock over a high branch. I strung my mesh bag of food and tied off the end. Satisfied with my accomplishment and got my ice axe and journeyed over to the base of Daniel.

Hyas Creek Glacier is the scramble route up Mt Daniel. This route was just 5 minutes from camp and marked by gigantic cairns. My team and I wanted to take a more technical route. We had settled on Lynch Glacier, the large mass of Ice on Mt Daniel. However, it would require us to traverse all the way to the other side of the mountain to Pea Soup Lake to access the glacier. On paper the walk didn’t seem that bad, but seeing the mountain in person provided a more realistic visualization of how much of an undertaking that would be. I took some photos and headed back to camp.

Seth showed up at around 6:00am announcing that he had hitched a ride to the trail-head from the creek crossing and to top that off, he’d walked to basecamp in 2.5 hours. Eric and I had taken about 7… but in our defense we had to stop a few times when looking to steam crossings (Set just walked through) and I had found some frogs on the trail (I had to thus catch them). Seth set up his bivy and we began the route discussion.

I had beta for every route up the mountain. Lynch Glacier would allow us to make a loop around the summit plateau. However, it would turn things into a 12 mile day. Getting to Pea Soup Lake to access Lynch Glacier would take several hours possibly and by then the sun would be melting the snow on the glacier. Lynch Glacier also had nothing special about it that would warrant the journey. Daniel Glacier seemed much more appealing. We begin by climbing Hyas Creek Glacier and then traverse right to access Daniel Glacier. Much more appealing and straightforward.

With the route agreed upon we filtered water and made our glorious freeze dried dinner (Seth actually loves Mountain House’s Chicken A la King and swears it just as good as fresh). We turned in agreeing to be on our journey by 5:00am.

We ended up leaving about 5:10am… not a huge delay, but still undesirable. The snow had frozen somewhat overnight and our crampons crunched through the hardened powder. We came to the basin leading to Hyas Creek Glacier. We crossed the basin on the right side of an obvious large rock. The climb was very gradual at first, but steeped continuously until we got the the first high angle slope. The snow was blazing down o0n us at this point and the snow was quickly softening. We had already stripped down to our base layers and slathered on sunscreen. After that first slope we turn right and crossed the flat top of the bench to the steeper slope leading to the next saddle. At this point the sound of massive ice fall on the other side of the mountain echoed around us. We knew our route was safe, but it’s still intimidating. We had one final slope to climb when we finally reached the top of the bench. However, being that we were in a nice flat spot we decided that this would be a good area to rope up. I took the lead being the smallest and easiest to pull out of a crevasse. Seth followed behind me and Eric took up the rear. We used a 40 meter rope with no Kiwi coil.

We climbed steadily crossing just beneath East Peak and a triangular pyramid tower to some exposed rocks on the ridge. From here we were able to peak over and see Daniel Glacier. Beyond we could see Pea Soup Lake and Lynch Glacier quite out of the way. There were two crevasses several hundred feet below us and a large crevasse directly across from us near East Peak’s Base. All others were buried. Crossing over the ridge was very steep and tricky as we needed to descent a few feet to get below the crevasse. It is very doable, but i would suggest facing the slope as you climb downward. The angle eased as I crossed under the crevasse. Probing revealed no hidden traps.

We traversed Daniel Glacier and then ascended to the summit plateau. Looking back we could see views of Glacier Peak and Mount Baker against clear blue skies. We crossed the plateau and climbed the lower angle slope to the obvious ridge in front of us.  The opposite side of the ridge was mostly melted out and an obvious trail lead through the talus. To the left was East Peak. Directly right was Middle peak and beyond that in the distance was the true summit of West Peak.  We unroped here and coiled it into Eric backpack. Our crampons came off as well. We followed the trail right, detouring to climb the loose talus leading to the top of Middle Peak. We then climb a short steep snow slope  (crampons back on) which led to the base of West Peak. Crampons removed again it took a few class 3 moves to bring us to the true summit. Seth took advantage of the phone reception to send some texts to my amusement.

We didn’t stay more that 15 minutes. The sun’s heat was causing the snow to soften more my the second and the possibility of ice fall on the descent was becoming more real. We were originally going to climb East Peak on the way back, but opted to descend immediately for safety sake. We returned to the summit Plateau and roped up. I led back across Daniel Glacier which was considerably softer now. I had to kick in deep to avoid the snow from sliding away from under my feet. When we reached the ridge we packed up the rope and glissaded back to the basin.

Back at camp we debated climbing Cathedral Rock NW Couloir scramble (which was our original plan) either the same day or the next morning. We toyed with the idea for over an hour. I wanted to climb in the morning, but i kept this information to myself as it was obvious that the guys were not keen to do it. I’d rather not climb with a team that doesn’t want to be there as I think that’s unsafe. The conclusion ended up being that we’d pack things up and head out a day early.

In summery, I would not go out of my way to climb Lynch. Daniel Glacier was a lovely route. Not difficult, but very aestedticlly pleasing. The views are splendid at the top and at basecamp. Great climb.

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