Hey Seattle hikers!
The biggest outdoor news this week is that the North Cascades Highway is OPEN, which means that we can finally drive up and over Washington Pass to the east side. This opens up accessibility to a lot of North Cascades mountaineering locations (although there is still quite a bit of snow up there!). On your way to Mazama or Winthrop, it's worth it to stop outside the Washington Pass overlook and walk to the end of the road. From there, it's just a short walk (on snow) to the overlook, which sees almost no crowds this time of year. Keep your ears open for avalanches off South Early Winters Spire.
My trail recommendations for the weekend:
1. Lewis Butte: This hike is close to Winthrop, and if you hike it within the next week there is a good chance that the lupine will still be blooming. I hiked it for a Musical Mountaineers adventure a week ago, and the lupine were INCREDIBLE! It's only 3 miles round-trip, but the views are astonishingly gorgeous.
2. Mt. Townsend: This is a gem of a peak in the Olympics, about 4 miles to the summit. The views don't come easy, but the payoff is worth every step: The summit forms a massive ridge that offers jaw-dropping views of the Hood Canal to the east and into Royal Basin and the rest of the Olympic Range beyond.
3. (Glute-buster option) Mt. Saint Helens Worm Flows Route: Ok, so maybe you didn't snag a permit when frantic hikers and climbers crashed the system, but did you know that you can check www.purmit.com and look for folks who are trying to sell their climbing permits? That includes Mt. Saint Helens! I climbed the Worm Flows route a few weeks ago, and it was in prime condition. I recommend getting an early start (we started at 2 am) to avoid the heat of the day, and don't forget to traverse to the true highpoint of the crater rim. Most people stop at the crater rim and turn around, but the true highpoint requires a traverse over to bump that sits at 8,333 feet. An ice axe and crampons are helpful for this climb, especially when the snow has frozen overnight.