Clellan Butte S24O
July 8-9, 2010
Last weekend I decided I was going hiking after work one day this week.
I also decided it was time to finish this hike. A few years back I had
broken my wrist at Seward Park racing my road bike and while recovering
I made an attempt to summit McClellan Butte. After much snow and using
my broken hand too much (I had a soft cast on) I got to what I thought
was the scramble up to the summit only to find my way blocked by a large
male mountain goat! I did the math and decided I needed to turn around.
After all I only had a broken wrist and he didn’t stand a chance against
This time there were no goats or broken bones, just mosquitoes. I raced
out of work and battled my way by the Mariners Stadium and hordes of
people going to get to the game to reach I-90. I hadn’t brought a stove
so a dinner stop was needed. Chipotle in Issaquah did the trick. I was
feeling pressured since I was slightly behind schedule. A schedule I
placed on myself.
When I got to the parking lot there were only two other cars there.
Later I found out while speaking to a hiker on his way down you could
park on FR 9020 and cut off the first two miles of the hike. Personally
I enjoyed the lower two miles so I didn’t mind the extra bit. (I guess
the Forest Service doesn’t like people to park here)
I made good time until I got to the John Wayne Trail where I took a side
path after the outhouse and tent sites. It was on the left side and had
a small plastic post after it. It turn out to be a path down to a
pretty stream. The McClellan Butte trail stays on the JWT until you
reach an actual sign, where it turns left up hill on your way to FR9020.
Trail Conditions were great. The trail crews have done a lot of work
putting in switch back after switch back. By this time I had a good
sweat going and was still moving along at about 3.5 mph. Most of the
way up all I could think about was the sunset I was going to be able to
enjoy. I was also anticipating the point in which the switch backs
stopped and I headed south to the South Ridge. When I finally hit it I
had passed four more hikers coming down and just before the ridge I
would pass a large group of six.
Four of the six avalanche shoots had snow and the trail got muddy or was
covered by snow. This is where the mosquitoes started. I asked the
large group I saw if they were bad up too and they thought with the
breeze I’d be okay. (They were wrong, though they were right in
confirming I could find a flat spot on top) I based the idea I could
sleep on top on photos someone posted online of their own hike. Is it
just me or was that just a foolish train of thought? At the time I
thought of it as adventurous and daring.
As I made my way around the corner at the South Ridge I got my first
view of Mt. Rainier. Most of the light was gone but I still got some
great pictures of her. I made it to the turn for the summit ridge in no
time. I wasn’t stopping for the bugs or the views. I’d have plenty of
views once on top where that “breeze” was. I passed one more group of
hikers about three quarters to the summit. They had two dogs with them
which were miniature greyhounds possibly. They didn’t even stop to
sniff me, they just push by. I guess the bugs were bugging them too.
My Superfeet bottle slipped out of my pack as we crossed paths too. One
of them was nice an enough to put it in my pack so I didn’t have to take
it off and get eaten alive.
I finally made it up to the summit ridge where I started the rock
scramble to the top. It was then that I noticed that the first time I
wasn’t even close to the summit when I ran into the mountain goat. I
was probably 200-300′ from where I stood at the base of the scramble. I
put my poles in my pack and started to climb. The climb wasn’t bad but
believe me when I say I was still nervous. The penalty for a miss step
here was “end game”, or so my mind told me.
When I made it up to the final step I had the most incredible views.
The sunset was beautiful. I knew right away that my decision to stay up
to was a good one. I pulled out my camera and used the StickPic to make
a quick 360 of the summit. As I thought I would, I found a great spot
to sleep without too many rocks sticking out of the ground. I did have
to push some aside to make the spot big enough. The longer I was up
there the more bugs found me. I had planned on making a video on how to
make a 5 ounce repair kit but instead just made camp. I got my bivy set
up and after a bunch more pictures I settled in for the night. I called
the girlfriend on the phone and described the beautiful sunset to her.
I must admit that all I could think about as I tried to sleep was the
scramble back down. Between that and the hum of the hundreds of
mosquitoes it was hard to fall asleep. It was so warm I only wore my
boxers and never zipped up my sleeping bag. I woke up minutes before my
alarm, which was set for 4:30 am. I rolled over and thought, “Wow, its
pretty light out it must be close to 4:30”. Seconds later as I adjusted
my head on my pillow my phone chirped at me. I broke down camp quickly
since the mosquitoes started to come back at frighten speed the longer I
was up and out of my bivy sack.
Now it was time for the dreaded climb down. I totally stalled a bit on
top. The first section wasn’t bad and neither was the middle section
but by the time I got to the last third I was ready to be done. I could
see the bottom and started to push myself mental to get on with it.
Just about then I got to a spot that I had an option on which way to go.
I started to second guess all my moves and the heart rate went up. I
knew what was happening and I forced myself to calm down. I went with
my decision and made it by the physical and mental crux I was at.
Once down I had a sigh of relief. If you’ve never by up to the top of
McClellan Butte before your probably thinking its some crazy scramble,
it’s not at all. I just don’t like scrambles like this one. The
possible danger is so apparent it’s hard for me not to worry about what
could happen. I value my life and well being more maybe now that I’m
older. I was much more free spirited about this kind of scramble when I
I made quick work of the snow field back to the South Ridge, and then
made my way down past the avalanche shoots. I passed two guys going up
and warned them about the bugs. The trail was a lot steeper than I
thought and it was hard to move as fast as I wanted. It was a leg
burner going down just like it was going up. Just before I got to FR
9020 I ran into my last hiker. He handle is “Ringer” but his real name
is Jim. I met Ringer on one of my earlier hikes. I didn’t recognize
him until he and I were going our separate ways and he told me his name.
I’m guessing Ringer is retired from him age and the fact that he hikes
15 times a month, averaging 10 per hike! As I walked away I thought, “I
want to be like that when I’m older”. Thanks for the inspiration
The rest of the hike down was straight forward. I did have to record my
last video three times since I kept messing it up. I changed out of my
smelly hiking clothes and the race was on to get to work on time. It
took longer than I expected to hike down due to the steepness of the
trail. Overall the hike was great. I was really happy I got out and
thrilled I got to sleep on top. The sunset was perfect and well worth
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Check out more pics at flickr.
Get out there!