Not a typical weekend for us. Damien wanted to take a rest day before our big trip coming up so we planned on doing a one day trip. The objective was Sloan which can be done as a leisurely two days or intense 1 day climb. However, circumstances would change the plan. The route to Sloan was a alot less of a trail than we expected. It was decent until after the multiple river crossings. After that the ribbons and tread pretty much faded out and we found ourselves thrashing through devils climb and scampering over a maze of fallen logs. It was pretty clear after about 45 minutes of bushwhacking that in such conditions the summit would be be very attainable in a day, and getting back in the dark through this terrain would present a large challenge. Luckily it was still early enough to switch gears and head off to plan B: Mount Pugh.

After driving further down the Mountain Loop Highway we finally got on the trail at 9:40am. I’ve climbed this mountain once before, but it was new to Damien. Lots of people label it as scary and technical. But I tend to disagree. It certainly one of the most mellow scrambles I’ve ever done with minimal exposure. Maintly its just long (11 miles) and big elevation gain (5300ft). The longest and most mind-numbing section of the trail is the first 3.5ish miles which switchbacks very very gradually up through the forest, passing a lake at about 3200ft (turn left at the T intersection here). I stress here that the grade is extremely gradual and for a climber used to going straight up it can be very agonizing.

Eventually the forest gives way to an open basin granting some gorgeous views of the valley far below and Stujack Pass above. The grade steepens here as it switchbacks through talus and across steep meadow slopes carpeted in the wildflowers to the pass. But it is steep not nearly as steep as climbers trail.  From the top of the Pass views of Whitechuck and Mount Baker abound, but 1500 feet of climbing stills awaits. After a few more switchbacks the tread follows a “knife-edge”. That’s how it is described and it is the part that scares a alot of folks. I’m not sure why as you don’t walk on top of the edge, but on a fairly wide trail just below it. Its extremely secure and I wouldn’t label it as exposed. At the end of the knife edge there are a few quick class three steps to the rock wall. You’ll recognize there area since you’ll see a steep gully before. The trail is nor clearly visible, but if you stay on top of the ridge and walk to the rock wall you’ll see there is a straight forward class 3 ramp hidden away. From here follow the  clear trail (open also marked by carins) up steep terrain mostly covered in heather to the summit which always seems to be over the next hump, but never is. Luckily the spectacular views off a distraction!

The summit is brood and wide with plenty of space for multiple groups, but we were the only ones there. Remnants of the old fire tower are still there. Clouds were moving in and out over the summit giving it a very alpine feel while still affording us some clear views. We lingers for about 45 minutes before descending the same why we had come. And yes, the forest switchbacks down felt like they would never end!




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