Trip Report    

Alpine Scramble - Chinook & Crystal Peaks

Early summer outing at MRNP to Chinook and Crystal peaks from the Sheep Lake trailhead.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • The route is snow-free and summer is in full swing. Arrive early to grab parking at the Sheep Lake trailhead.

This trip was meant to be a leisurely outing to the Mt. Rainier area to give scramble students a solid type 1 fun day out, and I do believe it delivered.

We set out from the Sheep Lake and Sourdough Gap trailhead at 8 AM. This is a popular trailhead, so we made sure to arrive before the crowds. Our planned route was to head north on the PCT and split off NW about a half mile before Sheep Lake at 5,500' to ascend cross-country towards Chinook Peak. At the turnoff point we found a well-defined climbers trail, so we took it and started heading up.

From a distance the ridge we were aiming for looked like an inaccessible cliff, but features often look more imposing from afar than once up close, so we continued upward. After a bit of boulder hopping we hit a grove of trees. The GPS tracks we had showed possible routes either continuing on our current route and following along the SW edge of the grove or going through the trees to take a route on the NE side. We elected to follow the trees and took the SW route.

Once we got above the trees and got to see the ridge further to the NE we saw that there really was a straightforward little rock scramble that gave us access to the ridge.

Approaching the rock scramble

Rock scramble to the ridge

We followed the ridge over to Chinook for mostly a walkup with just some minor scrambling. Peak one for the day in the bag.

Approaching Chinook Peak

From Chinook we did a fair bit of sidehilling on the ridge to head on over to Crystal, where we sat and enjoyed the blue skies. A few other groups of hikers arrived and went, approaching from the normal Crystal Peak trail in the opposite direction from where we came. After finishing up our leisurely lunch we retraced our steps back the way we came over the ridges.

On the way back we tried out the route to the NE side of the grove of trees. This took us to a dirt climber trail and bypassed the rock scrambling we had taken on the way up.

Descending the ridge

We got back to the boulder field with a smidge of bushwhacking before returning to the PCT for an easy walk back to the cars.

Thanks to everyone for coming out. We had wonderful weather, the views were beautiful and all the participants did a great job!