There and Back Again: Mount Pilchuck

Destination: the peak in the distance
As much as Mark and I say we love hiking, we don't actually make it to the mountains all that much. Part of this is due to the difficulty in finding a completely free Saturday where the weather is half-decent, not to mention mustering the motivation to drive nearly two hours so we can avoid the crowds at the nearer hikes off I-90. But trust me, long drive aside, the views from the hikes in the north Cascades off the Mountain Loop Highway are unparalleled.

The vertical paths cut straight up
the slope.
Mount Pilchuck is a very doable day hike (5.4 miles roundtrip) but it still has plenty of lingering snow even in July, so I'd recommend it in August or September. Apparently there is an actual trail with switchbacks most of the way up but as soon as we got out of the trees, there was no trail in sight. Only heaps of snow! We lost the trail for a bit (actually, we were misled off the trail by another group of hikers) and ended up on an outcropping of snow and rock that we had to carefully backtrack down once we figured out we weren't on the correct path. We did see later that if we would have kept going then we would have intersected with the main trail, but as that wouldn't be advice we would give anyone under ANY circumstances, we played it safe and backtracked. We didn't want to be the *stupid* hikers who had to be rescued out of the Cascades because we thought we'd come out on the trail any minute now! So since there were no switchbacks to follow, everyone forged a path vertically up the steep slope. We were told that this cut down the distance considerably (obviously the shortest path is the most direct one) but boy was my butt killing me by the end.

But oh the view. You could see to Mount Baker, Mount Shuksan, Glacier Peak, and all the other craggy peaks of the north Cascades and on the other side all the way to the Puget Sound and the Olympic mountains. Incredible.

video

So how did we get safely down these steep slopes? Someone had the bright idea to create a slide (four, actually) so we just had to sit down and push off. We unfortunately didn't get any video of the slides (our phones were safely packed so they didn't get wet on the way down) but they were SO fun. Time-saving too! But snow slides are one of those ideas that are great in theory but less so in practice - we were soaked for the rest of the hike. But it was worth it!

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