The other day I realized it had been eight years since I had climbed 7,766-foot Mt. Aix (it’s pronounced like aches for a good reason).
Instead, the last few years I’ve been taking an easier approach by climbing 6,658-foot McNeil Peak, 6,340-foot Tumac Mountain and 6,473-foot Goat Peak. All are in the same general area and all make for great outings.
My first visit to the summit of Mt. Aix was on a backpacking trip in the last millennium. It is a stark and beautiful wilderness in the rain shadow of the Cascades. The backcountry splendor on display from the summit is breathtaking. Since then I have climbed to the summit many times.
Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas spent many a day hiking and camping in this area. Mt. Aix and the surrounding country were all included in the William O. Douglas Wilderness.
The first four miles of the trail climbs to the top of Nelson Ridge, a lofty 3,500 feet above the Trailhead. The views of Mt. Rainier grow larger with every switchback. In truth, this makes a good destination for a day hike.
From Nelson Ridge the Trail drops over a saddle to the east and begins the two-mile ascent to the summit. This section of the Trail, a long stretch across a steep scree slope, is marked “dangerous” on maps for a good reason, every step is an adventure.
Upon reaching the east side of the mountain, a steep chute must be climbed requiring the use of hands. From this point it is a relatively easy climb to the top across a permanent snowfield.
The last time I was serenaded by bull elk bugling in Hoodoo Basin (Douglas’s favorite camping spot).
If you have the opportunity to do this climb, do it! It’s special.