Trip Report    

Alpine Scramble - Mac Peak & Surprise Mountain

A challenging scramble up a rugged mountain with commanding views, plus an extra hike to a former lookout site, separated by gorgeous lakes along the PCT.

  • Road rough but passable
  • Trail approach: Clear trail. Two creek crossings: Fischer and Deception Creeks. Deception can be tricky depending on water levels.

    Mac Peak: Brushy in places, rugged mountainside requiring good routefinding. Open heather/berry slopes higher up. Open ridgeline to summit.

    Surprise Mtn: Clear trail hike 

Trip report with photos: http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=8030428

We started at 8:45am at the Fisher Creek/Tonga Ridge trailhead near the very end of Road 6830. It is a very long 17 miles from the junction with Road 68. The road is much better than we thought and quite smooth. However, this road will trick you and there are still some occasional pretty deep potholes that come up on you right when you start getting cocky and going too fast. So beware! 

The trail drops 500 feet in about 2/3 a mile into Deception Creek Valley. We turned right and headed upstream. The trail comes to a creek crossing at the mouth of Fischer Creek where it dumps into Deception. Here the Cal Topo/Gaia trail is WRONG. Do NOT cross Deception Creek! Only cross Fischer Creek and remain in the west side of Deception Creek. Soon you come to a sign giving an option for ford or log bridge. Go up to the right for the log bridge, as the ford requires getting wet. The log bridge is actually quite narrow. The only way to cross it is scooting across on your butt if you are short enough so your boots don't get wet. Otherwise look downstream a bit and there are just enough rocks to cross on if you have poles to balance yourself. 

The next 2 miles we hiked up the gorgeous peaceful river valley past some impressive old growth trees. We came to a junction and headed up to the left toward the PCT and Deception Lakes. After a mile of switchbacks we reached the PCT and turned left/northbound toward Deception Lakes. We continued on to Daisy and Deception Lake. 

Between Daisy and Deception Lakes, we crossed the stream between the two and followed a trail along the shore of Deception Lake. At the southern corner of the lake we left the lake and headed up. The path quickly vanished and we continued up through either brushy berry bushes or through forest and ascended a nice lush gully to about 5300 feet where the steep hillside to our left opened up more, and then we veered up the hill to the left in a SE direction to a large pond at 5400 feet. We then scrambled up some boulders, staying left of a cliff band and then headed straight up an open line of berry bushes, up a small rocky gully to a boulder garden. Here, there was another small gully on the right, and the big boulder gully on the left. We went up an easy rib between the two gullies that merged into the larger boulder gully on the left. We ascended this big gully to its head. Here we had to push our way up through a very brief bushwhack and section of steep slick heather before leveling off atop the gully. We entered a vast meadow at 5700 feet with a dried up pond bed. This meadow was the start of the more open terrain and the blueberries at your feet. We headed for the next big obvious gully ahead, and up the open heather and boulder slopes to about 6000 feet, and went up to the left up the open heather slopes to a big flat area at 6100 feet. From here some of us dropped down to the lake here to refill water. The water was not cold at all and looked perfect for swimming. I also saw a pretty large (10-12 inches) golden trout! 

From the lake overlook we headed up to gain the south ridge of the mountain, opening great views of Daniel, Hinman, Cathedral Rock, Granite, Stuart, etc. From here we merely ascended up the steep open ridge, always staying to the right of any brush and staying in the open. At about 6700 feet is a rocky outcropping but is only a false summit, so go around to the right and push on a bit more. Just before the summit you have to cross over to the left side and bushwhack a short bit to the summit, which has limited room with a hoard of bugs defending it. We signed the register quickly and retreated back to the summit ridge where we crossed over. Nearly 7 miles, 5.5 hours from trailhead including breaks and filtering water. If you go down the shoulder here, you get the grand view of Square Lake, Thunder Mountain, and Glacier Peak, as well as the Monte Cristos, Sloan, Baker, and Shuksan. View of the entire Icicle drainage to Stuart, Granite, Ingalls, Daniel, Cathedral, and even Adams in the distance! 

Back at the lakes, we set out for Surprise Mountain at 4:30pm. It is a simple trail hike to the top, and we returned to the lakes at 6:45. We left the lakes a little before 7pm and back down in Deception Creek Valley we found ourselves in the dark with headlamps at around 8:15 or so. We made sure to go left for the log crossing and avoid the ford. Crossed Fischer Creek, and then UP an annoying 500 feet back to the trailhead at about 9:20pm, where we gazed and the many stars and the Milky Way shining down on us before driving the long road back out. 

14 miles 4500 feet of gain 10 hours RT for Mac alone 
18 miles 5800 feet 12.5 hours for Mac & Surprise together.