Mount Daniel (7,960 ft) – Highest mountain in King county
November 11, 2016
There were no classes for Veteran’s Day so I decided to climb the highest mountain in the county. I left Seattle at 5am Friday morning and was soon driving up forest road 4430 to the trailhead. The road was extremely rough and potholed, and when I got 2 miles from the trailhead it was washed out. I stopped the car and scouted out the muddy washout, but the mud was so deep I was concerned I would get stuck. I followed the paddling rule of thumb “if you spend 15 minutes deciding whether to run a rapid or not, you’d better not run it” and decided after 15 minutes not to try to get through the washout.
I parked the car and started hiking by 8am. The 17.5 mile hike would now be 21.5 miles. I soon reached the trailhead, then started hiking up the Cathedral Pass trail. The trail went through old growth forest, then popped out below Cathedral Rock, a tough-looking mountain surrounded by cliffs on all sides. I hiked up farther, intersecting the PCT, then turning off to Peggy Pond.
At Peggy Pond, around 5,800ft, the snow started and was a few feet deep. It was well above freezing though (unseasonably warm) and the snow was slushy. At the pond I put on gaitors and started hiking up the southeast ridge of Mt Daniel. There was no official trail here, and it didn’t really matter because there were several feet of snow and it was above treeline anyways.
I postholed up to the ridge, scrambling on rocks occasionally, then followed the ridge. I tried to stay on rocks sticking above the snow as much as possible, and was careful to keep my distance from some large cornices on the northeast side of the ridge.
I scrambled through some steep class 3 sections, then traversed around the east summit. After climbing up a final steep snow slope, I scrambled the last 10ft of rock to the summit. The weather was still nice, with a warm breeze from the south. I could clearly see four volcanoes: Adams, Rainier, Glacier, and Baker. Surprisingly the summit register showed I was the first person up there in the past 6 weeks (since September!) I may also be the last person there until Spring, since it will probably start snowing a lot soon.
After 20 minutes I started descending, jogging when I could on the downhills to make up time. I eventually got back to the car at 5pm, at the last possible minute before I would have needed a headlamp. Interestingly, I saw another car parked behind mine, with mud all over it, and tire tracks going only halfway into the washout. It must have tried to get through, got stuck, and the drivers pushed it back out. Good thing I didn’t attempt to go through!