Mount Daniel seemed like another easy climb that would help us get back in shape and gain some glacier travel experience. The route we had chosen is the Daniel Glacier. It takes a rather indirect way to the top, contouring from the southeast below Cathedral Rock and zigzagging between the east and middle summits. In snow season, the access road is typically blocked several miles short of the summer trailhead, adding a fair amount of effort and making the route a two day affair.
We left Leavenworth on May 15, the day after we came back from Colchuck Lake, and drove to Cle Elum. We spent the evening in Roslyn, a quaint little mining town that was featured as Cicely, Alaska in the TV show "Northern Exposure". We had a burger at the local bar while watching thick snow flakes fall in the street, then to the unusual movie theatre (set inside an old two-story residential cabin) where we sat at the balcony just in front of the projector. It snowed pretty hard all evening! The next day we drove around in search of a spot where we could leave the bus for the next few days. We eventually found a really good out-of-the-way place along a dirt road just past the Red Mountain USFS campground. In the afternoon, we packed our gear for our two night trip to Mount Daniel. We were planning on leaving the next day. However, it was still snowing when we got up the next morning and we decided to wait for the weather to improve. We spent the next two days reviewing crevasse rescue technique and doing yoga.
On May 18, we left the bus around 8:30AM and drove up the Salmon La Sac road as far as we could. We eventually hit 4 to 5 ft snow banks and managed another bonus mile beyond that with chains on all four. This put us about 3 miles from Tucquala Lake, or 5 miles from the actual trailhead. We left the jeep at 10am and began the long (we mean looonnng!) hike up the road. Once past the trailhead, we climbed cross country (the trail was somewhere under snow) up steep forested slopes to Squaw Lake for about 2 miles, and 1500 ft elevation gain. We found really clear fresh bear tracks at the lake, so we continued a little further to avoid any issues between the bear and our food. We found a good looking flat spot in the trees a little higher up and made camp at around 3:30PM. Once we finished digging a platform and setting up the tent, we started the long process of melting snow to make water for the next day. We hit the sack at 8:45PM.
That night was to be a miserable one. It got very cold and we barely slept at all. We got up at 3:45AM and left camp at 5AM to climb Mt Daniel. We first hiked up along a ridge on moderate snow slopes and reached the base of Castle Rock at around 7AM. At that point, you could finally see the rest of the way to the summit, and boy was it a long way! We realized we should have started climbing in the middle of the night! We continued a bit further, traversing 45° south facing slopes around Castle Rock on what appeared to be pretty unstable snow. A few hundred feet into the traverse, we decided to turn back. We would have had to traverse those slopes again on the way back much later in the day, and did not like our odds with avalanche danger.
On the way back to the camp, we had magnificent views of Mount Rainier. We packed our gear and left around 11:30AM. The hike back down the road really seemed interminable. This route is definitely a long haul in the winter and spring. It is probably better done in late season, when the road is opened to the trailhead, and the traverse under Castle Rock is snow free.
Mount Daniel, WA - Daniel Glacier
|Mount Daniel from the East (photo taken in July from the North Ridge of Stuart).|
|Our camp near Salmon La Sac.|
|Stream crossing along the 5 mile long dirt road.|
|Hiking up the snow covered road.|
|Going up steep slopes through the forest.|
|Eric digging a platform to pitch the tent.|
|Our gear left outside after a very cold night!|
|Nice views of the Cascades at sunrise.|
|Hiking along the ridge towards Cathedral Rock.|
|Taking a rest before crossing the slopes surrounding Cathedral rock.|
|On the way down after abandoning the climb, with Mount Rainier in the background.|