JULY 24, 2020
The alpine lakes wilderness...
is known primarily for the Enchantments, Snow Lake, or one of the other vastly popular areas, but little know just how much it spans over so much of our beloved Cascades! Stretching from I-90 to HWY 2 North to South, and from North Bend to Leavenworth East to West, there is a lot of beauty packed in that area. One of those beautiful spots is Mt. Daniel. A fun scramble in the summer, gorgeous ski in the winter, there is a lot to do and see on the highest point of King County.
My husband, Daniel is a self proclaimed fast and light nerd, and though he is too humble to admit it, he is a natural born mountain goat. I can never quite keep up on the uphills. I am falling in love with the idea of fast and light myself, and am finding it so addicting to do big days in a quick fashion. We had a late start from Seattle, since we both had pretty tiring weeks, and we got to the trailhead and started moving by 8am. This made things admittedly a little hot, but the wind kept the temperatures bearable.
We made quick work of the lower switchbacks to get to Squaw Lake, and saw Cathedral rock in the distance. Up in the alpine (or in this case, just sub-alpine), it can be hard to accurately gauge distance, but Cathedral rock came quick, and we enjoyed the fun, more exposed sections up to Peggy's Pond. We have gotten used to carrying one litre of water each on these speed days, so we stopped at the pond to refill our water. There is a nice flowing stream on the west side of the pond that we used both on the way up and the way down. From the pond, deciding that we were going to do the summer route, we hopped on the ridge and climbed up. We reached another decision point at just above 7,000ft where we needed to commit to some snow travel, or commit to a Class 3 scramble up the ridge. We had brought axes, but the ridge looked really fun and inviting. We committed to the ridge and had a blast navigating up and down the rock formations.
The scramble ends right at the base of Daniel's East Peak (Mt. Daniel has about 5 summits that can sometimes confuse people), and from there we traversed over to the true summit of Daniel, pictured to the left, and scrambled up. We ate a bite at the top, didn't spend much time there, and started to make our way back down. When we got back to East Peak, we decided to take the snow route back instead of the scramble since it was going to be a lot faster, and the snow was seated on a bench with a very low-key run-out. Dan was in his Trango Techs (a hybrid, very flexible mountaineering boot), and I was in my trail runners, and while we both had crampons, we decided they weren't necessary and got back to the trail in no time.
The summit bloc of Mt. Daniel
Dan hugging "his" summit
We did a quick refill back at Peggy's Pond and set off down the trail back towards Squaw lake and the switchbacks. Doing this as a speed climb was so much fun, and we ended up doing it in 6 hours and 45 minutes car to car, which I was pretty proud of! It was so fun to just see what my body can do. We ended up doing research when we got back down, and couldn't find a faster mixed gender time, so we submitted it to the FKT page. Go take a look and see if you can beat it! We've gotta get more ladies submitting times on that website, and I am sure someone here can get a faster time ;)
Ultimately, Mt. Daniel was a very fun climb with a great mix of runnable trail, scrambling, snow sliding, and unbeatable beauty. It became a fast favorite of ours.