Trip Report    

Alpine Scramble - Old Baldy Mountain

Off-trail skills practice for Tacoma Scrambling students

  • Road rough but passable

This scramble was prioritized for Tacoma Scrambling students, and several completed their graduation requirements on this trip. Since it involved mostly off-trail route finding, and less rock scrambling, I decided to include basic navigation skills practice.

Beautiful sunny day. After meeting in Wilkeson, we consolidated vehicles for the infamous rough Summit Lake Road. It did not disappoint. We started at the jeep spur road and discussed reading contours to determine (based on elevation) when we would go off-trail, and also check our progress as we proceeded. We passed Kennedy Creek, the last water source. At 3900' we discussed map orientation and reviewed how to determine our intended heading using just map and compass. I gave some tips on how to use this heading, but still find the easiest way uphill. I challenged them to lead this section through open forest without GPS. Our goal was to avoid a grove of vine maples. I was super impressed when they nailed it. Going north of the vine maple grove is definitely the easiest way past. We discovered a hunter's camp and recorded that for our return.

From here, we turned south to regain the ridge, then followed it, at first brush bashing through trees, then more open forest until opening up into the sun. We chose to continue along the ridge, adding Little Old Baldy to our summit quest. This included some fun class 3 rock scrambling which was more than I anticipated. We continued along the saddle and ridge, staying at times to the left side, before reaching Old Baldy Mountain summit. For the return, we chose to drop down into the basin, avoiding most of the talus for a quicker return. We rejoined our original track back to the hunter's camp, then headed downhill to the jeep road.

It was a very enjoyable day with spectacular views of Mount Rainier and Puget Sound. I think the students really appreciated the inclusion of basic navigation skills.

5 miles, 2,418' ascent, 7 hours. Peakbagger