Snowking Mountain via the Northwest Route

Snowking Mountain

(If your are looking for the correct way to do this route, jump to How I would do it if I had to do it again section) All photos for this trip can be found here. The trip started with a quick tour of Seattle to round up the various participants in Bettsy the Trooper. After caffiene and greasy goodness from Don's Restaurant in Marysville, we hit the 21 mile FS16 road, or Illabot Creek road, for those desiring a less beauracratic naming convention. Midway up the road we managed to break Bettsy's door so that it took 3 people pushing, and one person pulling to bend the metal back just enought for the door to shut. Then we were back on our way to the trailhead. The hike to Slide Lake went about as quick as could be expected. That was the end of the easy going. About mid-way through the length of Slide Lake, the trail becomes a track, marred into oblivion by downed trees and brush. This quasi-trail ends with the lake. Fun We managed to find the "fisherman's trail" paralleling Otter creek, but quickly lost it. This wasn't so bad, until we made the horrible mistake of crossing the creek, and headed up the wrong creek valley. Once we realized our mistake, we had gained enough elevation that turning back seemed like more effort than making do with our current course. At one point we were climbing 50 degree vegetation high above a waterfall. Once we found a place to re-cross the creek that should have never been crossed in the first place, we were well off course, and had to contour back north to regain the proper drainage. All in all, this detour probably added 2 hours to our approach time for Enjar lake, thus making the total time to base-camp roughly 6 hours. We still had enough time to relax with some blueberry cheesecake (but we forgot the scotch). With the alarms set for 3:30 am, we crawled into our tents and bivies, only barely surviving an encounter with Mr. Bivy.Mr. Bivy Attacks!Mr. Bivy Attacks!   Iron Maiden's Run for the Hills woke us at 3:30, and we were hiking by 4:30. We quickly repeated the mistakes of the day before by trying to cut through brush on the north side of Hamar lake. This sapped much of our energy, and probably added about half an hour to an hour of time to our trip. After stumbling out of the aforementioned brush into a gulley, we ascended to the left of the cliff bands on our way up to the saddle. Remarkably, we found a semblence of a trail winding up through the cliffs. Skirting Snowking glacier: That's Mt Baker in the distance.Skirting Snowking glacier: That's Mt Baker in the distance. From just below the saddle, the route gets really good, and we were almost able to forget the hellish approach to Enjar (although we knew it would be reversed after the summit). We bi-passed the lower saddle, and instead aimed directly at the upper saddle. Once this saddle was gained, we "cramponed up", and began the long arcing traverse towards first the saddle directly north of west peak, and then continuing below the west and middle peaks. Conditions were such that we were able to stay high enough to avoid the scramble down to the base of the snow ramp, and also avoid the glacier by passing above and around. Karl on summit ridgeKarl on summit ridge The final 500 feet of the climb are on a 3rd class ridge, and a talus slope. We reached the summit around 11:00 am.

How I would do it if I had to do it again

The hardest part, as might be obvious from the above dialogue, was getting to and from Enjar lake. That being said, here is my revised and in retrospect route description. At the end of the Slide Lake trail, locate a campsite overlooking the Otter Creek inlet. From this campsite, follow a faint trail up (bearing east-northeast) and away from the creek, into the woods. Do not follow the track immediately paralleling the river. This trail, as un-maintained as it is, will still lead all the way to Enjar lake if you manage to follow it for it's entire length. If you lose the trail, back-track to the last known location of the trail and try again. Any time wasted in this effort will be made up for by the much worse prospect of going on without a trail. Pass Enjar Lake on the north (or on the south, if you prefer talus to trail-less forest), but then pass Hamar lake on the south, to avoid horrid bushwacking. Once you pass Hamar lake, the Beckey description is spot-on.

Map Northwest Route: The dashed line is the route we took. The solid line represents a better route around Hamar lake.Map Northwest Route: The dashed line is the route we took. The solid line represents a better route around Hamar lake.
The northwest route from upper saddleThe northwest route from upper saddle
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