We had attempted to climb Mount Daniel in May, via the Daniel Glacier. We had not made it for several reasons: the road was blocked by snow a good 5 miles from the trailhead, forcing a long 2-day climb, we probably underestimated the distance from our high camp to the summit, and had felt uncomfortable about the steep snow slopes traversing around Cathedral Rock. Whatever the reason, we wanted to go back. According to Nelson and Potterfield, the Daniel Glacier makes a good late season climb so we were back again in late September.
As it turns out, we were not to climb the Daniel Glacier route this time either, but we did make it to the official Mount Daniel... (more on that later).
With the road open all the way to the trailhead, the climb can be done easily in one long day (it's about 4,800 ft of elevation gain). We left the bus early (about 4:45AM I think) and drove to trailhead. The drive took quite a while though (the trailhead is along way in there), so we did not start up the trail before 6AM. It was still dark. The trail is very good so we quickly reached Squaw Lake. We then traversed around Cathedral Rock to Peggy's Pond, this time following a rough trail across the steep rocky slopes. This was our high point last May, when snow conditions had made us worried about the possibility of avalanches. No snow this time around, just exposed slopes (about 40 degrees) that drop all the way down to Deep Lake in one shot.
There was very little snow left in the basin below Mount Daniel and it was quite warm. This made us wonder about conditions on the glacier, so we gave up on our intended route (we weren't exactly sure where it was anyway) and just picked a likely looking way up the center of the basin. Our chosen route went up scree and boulders, then up the edge of the Hyas Creek Glacier, then onto rubble covered slabs and ramps to the upper snowfield. We had packed harnesses and a rope for the glacier, but of course never used them on this alternative route. We finally left all that gear at the base of the upper snow field and cramponed up it to the ridge. Once on the ridge, a trail of sorts continues to the summit, which we reached around 1PM.
The weather was unreal: full sun, blue skies, unlimited views, not a peck of wind, and warm!! We enjoyed it so much that we lingered at the top for over 2 hours. Two other climbers joined us at the top after ½ hour or so. One was German, on a work assignment in Seattle, the other a local. We chatted about the incredible season we had enjoyed in the Cascades (the driest season on record).
At the top, we also noted two things: one, we were exactly at the location and elevation shown on the topo map for Mount Daniel (as confirmed by a GPS receiver and two survey markers at our feet), but two, there was another summit some distance to the west that looked just a bit higher...?
As it turns out, we had completely misinterpreted the route description in Nelson's book. What he calls Mount Daniel in his guidebook is the highest of a group of three summits. The maps on the other hand call Mount Daniel the lowest of the three. Go figure. The three summits are almost the same height (80 ft max. difference). We were satisfied with climbing the named peak. This is after all what we were here for.
Nelson's route contours around the north side of Daniel on the glacier, reaches the saddle between Daniel (East Peak) and the Middle Peak, then contours south around the Middle Peak to the next saddle and up to the West Peak, slightly higher than the others. Note that the Central and West peaks are barely noticeable on the map. The only marked summit is the East Peak, the "official" Mount Daniel.
Around 3:30PM, we left the summit and went back down the snowfield to our gear. From there, instead of descending our ascent route, we traversed the snow field to the long SW ridge. The ridge curves down back to Peggy's Pond, with a decent trail most of the way. Some loose rock and some scrambling but better than going back down the loose slabs in the basin. A few more miles of trails from here and we got back to the car just before dark. Not quite the glacier traverse we had expected, but a beautiful day out in the mountains.
Mount Daniel, WA
|Our camp near Salmon La Sac.|
|Resting where we camped earlier this spring.|
|Approaching Cathedral Rock.|
|The very scenic Peggy's Pound with pretty autumn tones.|
|Mt Daniel viewed from ? basin.|
|Lucie going up the snowfield leading to the summit ridge.|
|On the summit ridge with Mount Rainier in the background.|
|Yeah! We've finally bagged it! Summit marker...|
|... views (looking back at Cathedral Rock).|
|Eric on the summit.|
|Looking toward what reamins of Daniel Glacier.|
|Collecting water with a snow picket on the way down.|
|Castle Rock and Peggy's Pond.|