Kaleetan Peak

Posted by on Jun 29, 2017

5 days earlier, after summiting Granite Peak for the 4th time, I spied an arrowhead spire off to the north – Kaleetan (“arrowhead” in Chinook language). At 6263 feet, it is the highest summit in the local area (17 feet higher than Chair Peak to the right). When I discovered that it was a Class III scramble to the top, I put it at the top of my hiking list.

 

Walking beneath I90 after leaving the parking lot at 5:10 a.m. Heavy mist overhead with the occasional sound of trucks braking on the downgrade. I was happy when moments later, the roar of the creek punctuated by early morning birdsong drowned out all sounds of so-called civilization.

For years, I never used hiking poles, preferring a “purist” approach. My mother has hung up her hiking shoes for good, so one day, I saw her poles sitting on the porch and decided to take them on a hike. I now consider them indispensable equipment! You can use them to take stress off your knees, generating power and extra acceleration going uphill. They help with braking going downhill and the top end brands have internal springs that act as shock absorbers. They help maintain balance during stream crossing or hopping across a talus field. Care must be taken not to wedge them into holes between boulders. They also build upper body muscle strength. When backpacking, I use an ultra light tarp-tent set up which uses the hiking poles as vertical supports. Instead of a 5 pound tent, my shelter is only 2 pounds.

The fog was slowly lifting as I ascended further up the trail. I started to sing.

Hobbit hole/emergency shelter. Looked cozy inside.

Leaving Lake Melakawa as the sun topped the ridge leading to Chair Peak.

Fog and deep blue sky mingling. The blue will win today.

Looking down the valley towards Snoqualmie Pass to the southeast.

Tahoma begins to command the southern horizon.

Wildflowers and Chair Peak opposite Lake Melakwa.

 

Kaleetan Peak from the ridge near Point 5700. From here, one must descend steeply a few hundred feet, traverse a large talus field and then up to the final scramble (class 3) to the summit. I arrived at this spot at about 8:30 a.m. and the snow slope was still in the shade. It was difficult to kick steps, but my microspikes couldn’t penetrate deeply enough to hold. Tentatively, I stepped out onto the snow and began to kick steps, burying the pick of my ice axe with each step. At one point, both feet gave way and I skidded down about 15 feet, leaning my shoulder and all my weight over the axe which eventually brought me to a halt. Serious adrenaline! Lesson learned: wait until the sun softens the snow enough to kick steps, or bring crampons. My calves were burning after 30 minutes of step kicking and down climbing. (Note this photo taken on the return trip a few hours later).

Final ascent up the rock gully (center) to the summit. I think this is considerably easier than the Haystack on Mount Si, however, the loose rock adds a measure of danger, particularly on the way down.

I reached at the summit at 9:50 a.m. after 4 hour and 40 minutes of near continuous hiking.

At the summit. Chair Peak and Lake Melakwa far below.

Summit view northeast. Snow Lake. Mount Stuart in the distance.

Lake Kaleetan below the vertical north face. Pratt River basin.

On the descent from the summit block. Paintbrush growing in the rock.

On the ascent back to the ridge, I chopped several steps with my axe which made things very comfortable and relaxed. Traversing into the forest, I pulled myself upwards hanging onto branches, earning a few scratches on my legs, but very happy to gain the ridge again without the adrenaline I experienced a few hours earlier descending this section. At the top of a ridge, I met another hiker and we chatted a while. I gave him route pointers as he was still heading out to the summit. I stood at the ridge, waiting to see him emerge from the forest far below. When I did not see him after 30 minutes, I began to be concerned, but I had heard no screams, so eventually I turned back, figuring perhaps he had stopped for lunch. In 10 minutes I caught up with him on top of Point 5700. He had no ice axe and had decided to play it safe, doubling back through the woods and giving me the slip. He said he would return in two weeks, probably later in the day. Smart move!

Large waterfall on Denny Creek. Note the group of young women standing near the brink of the falls.

 

 

Denny Creek Waterslide. Gleeful children delighting in nature. The ultimate play station. 30 minutes later I was back at the car – 3:15 p.m. Ten hours and five minutes.

2 Comments

  1. Awesome trip report, thanks for sharing! How deep were the creek crossings? Were there any logs for support or did you just wade through?

    • The first creek crossing at the water slide (about one mile from the parking lot) presented a small, but relatively easy test, requiring one to hop from small rock to small rock about a half dozen times before getting across. In the middle, the water was maybe knee deep. I didn’t get my shoes wet. At the second crossing, look for the orange flagging and scramble through a brushy improvised trail slightly upstream to find a series of two large and stable logs to cross. Again, relatively easy and not requiring one to take shoes off. If you hiked this trail on a 90 degree day, the water level would obviously rise and might require wading.

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