An Alpine Climb in the Cascade Mountains: McNeil Peak

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William O. Douglas Wilderness

I’ve always enjoyed hiking, climbing, camping, fishing and hunting in the William O. Douglas Wilderness. A favorite destination is McNeil Peak, one of the highest points in the eastern portion of the Wilderness.

On a beautiful summer day a few years ago, I parked at the trailhead above Rimrock Lake. The hike began with a steady climb to the top of Russell Ridge. The trail followed the ridge for several miles. The views were spectacular.

Mt. Adams and the multiple snow-covered peaks of Goat Rocks dominated the horizon. Goat Rocks are the remnants of a much older volcano.

Mountain climber’s register on summit of McNeil Peak. The Rattlesnake Mountains are in the distance

The glacial-scrubbed U-shaped valley in the following picture originates in Goat Rocks, the headwaters of the South Fork of the Tieton River. The valley is the beginning location of another hike I will showcase soon. The photo is a gentle reminder that the Earth has been warming up gradually since the last Ice Age ended, roughly 11,000 years ago.

Looking up the glacier-scrubbed valley of the South Fork of the Tieton to Mt. Adams and Goat Rocks

After several miles the trail dropped to some lush meadows, before switchbacking steeply to a saddle. From there is was a short but tough scramble up to the top of the 6,658-foot McNeil Peak. Like the 360-degree views from 7,766-foot Mt. Aix, it is very clear why the area became a designated wilderness. It’s truly special.

Mt. Rainier

Pussytoes and Mountain Heather

The Rattlesnakes, including Mt. Aix, one of my all-time favorite climbs

McNeil Peak ahead

Long look down to Rimrock Lake

Cow Parsnip, Scarlet Gilia and Hellebore

Getting closer to the final ascent to McNeil Peak



Categories: Washington Cascades Hikes, William O. Douglas Wilderness HikesTags: ,

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