Observation Rock/North Face

Observation Rock via the North Face is a Grade II ice climb.

Getting there

Take SR 167 south from Renton/I-405 to the Auburn exit. Exit east on SR 18 for one mile, and exit to Auburn. Turn left at the light and continue on SR 164 to Enumclaw. Drive US 410 from Enumclaw to Buckley. From Buckley take SR 165, eventually crossing the Carbon River bridge and to a road junction with the right, uphill fork signed for Mowich Lake. Take this fork all the way to the lake (4,929 ft).


Follow the Spray Park Trail heading south from the lake. Shortly there will be a junction with the Wonderland Trail. Continue south, then east on the trail, up into Spray Park. Near the high point on the trail at approximately 6,400 ft a cairn marks a climber’s path which takes off north toward Observation Rock.

This path becomes indistinct around 7,200 ft in moraines. From here there are numerous ways to approach the North Face of Observation Rock by contouring southwest. Some parties aim for the small lake at 6,583 ft to ascend snow; this can reportedly avoid some tedious scree.


Ascends the steep finger of the Flett Glacier, aiming southwest for Observation Rock’s summit. There is enough ice for four to five pitches, steepening to about 50° near the top. The first pitch is usually simul-climbed; then parties can swing leads to the top of the glacier. There is plenty of room for two to three parties to climb at once, with some variation in steepness and snow cover from left to right. From the top of the glacier, unrope and scramble to the crumbly summit for fine views of Rainier’s north side.


The best descent is to scramble down to the south and east of Observation Rock. Descending to the west puts one back on the crevassed Flett Glacier which may prove impassable late in the season. Then follow the climbers’ trail back to Spray Park and then the main trail back to Mowich Lake.


Trailhead to Climb 3-4 2,500
Climb to Summit 2-3 800
Summit to Trailhead 4-6 300 3,200


Two ice tools, ice screws, pickets and crampons.


  • This climb is a rarity—it's a one-day ice climb. 




    This is a very popular climbing area. If you are listing a trip, please check the Observation Rock Internal Lottery Results document before listing your trip to be sure your course has priority for the field trip date(s) you are scheduling, or that there is no other course that already has priority in the internal climbing lottery for your date(s).

    • Must be done on or after July 1 for Intermediate Ice credit.
    • Difficulty can vary greatly as conditions change. Trip leaders are asked to use judgement in awarding Intermediate Ice credit in conditions where it is unwarranted. Students should understand that achieving the summit does not guarantee credit. Characterizing a route on a given day as "challenging enough" is obviously subjective.
    • Suitable Activities: Climbing
    • Climbing Category: Intermediate Alpine
    • Seasons: July, August, September
    • Weather: View weather forecast.
    • Difficulty: Intermediate Ice Climb
    • Length: 13.0 mi
    • Elevation Gain: 3,600 ft
    • 8,364 ft
    • Land Manager: Mount Rainier National Park
      Mount Rainier Wilderness
    • Parking Permit Required: National Park Entrance Fee
    • Recommended Party Size: 12
    • Maximum Party Size: 12
    • USGS Mowich Lake
    • USGS Mt Rainier West
    • Green Trails Mount Rainier Wonderland No. 269SX

    Upcoming Activities

    Intermediate Alpine Climb - Observation Rock/North Face

    Climbing Trip
    Priority for intermediate students needing an ice climb to graduate. Do not contact Paul Brown
    Difficulty: Intermediate Ice Climb
    Sun, Sep 8, 2019
    Prerequisites, Leader's Permission Required
    1 participant 0 leaders
    Registration opens Aug 1
    Seattle Branch
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