Trip Report    

Alpine Scramble - Tokaloo Rock & Aurora Peak

Long 1 day to 3 Rainier 100 peaks: Andrew Benchmark, Tokaloo Rock, and Aurora Peak

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Westside Road closed 3.8 miles before the Round Pass Trailhead, requiring the use of mountain bikes. South Puyallup and Wonderland Trails fine. Upper ridge to Tokaloo is all open meadow with minimal snow that is avoidable. Path up Aurora Peak overgrown in places but easy to follow

GPS track: http://www.movescount.com/moves/move233597510 

We started off on mountain bikes on the Westside Road at 5:45am. It took us 1 hour to get to the trailhead at Round Pass 4 miles in where we locked up our bikes. There is a a memorial here for Marines who perished in a plane crash on Mt. Rainier back in the 40's. We descended down the Round Pass Trail and hung a right onto the South Puyallup Trail. Near South Puyallup camp there is a very cool cliff of lava tubes.  2.2 miles from Round Pass, we turned left onto the Wonderland Trail and crossed the bridge over the South Puyallup River.  The trail climbs up switchbacks for 2.3 miles up to a ridge, and then follows the ridge up for about 0.6 miles to nearly 6000 feet.

Just before the trail leaves the ridge and begins descending toward Saint Andrews Park, we saw a small talus field to the right. This is where we left the Wonderland Trail, hiking up the heather meadow to the right of the talus where we quickly found the boot path leading steeply up to the upper ridge. We arrived on the ridge where forest opened up to vast open meadows and heather slopes, which we followed up to the base of the Andrews Benchmark summit. We followed the path traversing right/south around Andrew and then ascended easy large stable boulders from the NE side up to its summit. 

We then continued up the ridge toward Tokaloo, coming to a stunning tarn where we topped off water. We arrived at the shoulder of a hill around 6870 feet where the ridge got narrow. The ridge appeared to go up and over a bump that we could not see the back side of. Unsure on if the ridge cliffs out or not, we decided to stay low and drop 100 feet before continuing back up and regaining the ridge at 7000 feet. Turns out the ridge did look passable, so we would take the ridge on the way back. From 7000 feet, we continued along the ridge and passed directly under the base of the towering Tokaloo Spire. We made the mistake of following the ridge up to the top of what we thought would be the summit of Tokaloo Rock. But a rock face on the true summit was impassable from the apparent false summit we were on. We corrected and traversed under the front/south side of the summit and then easily ascended the NW ridge of the summit to the top, about 7 miles from the bikes at Round Pass. The view of Rainier and the broken glaciers and cliffs was so spectacular! 

We descended the ridge back down to 7000 feet and here where the ridge gets narrow we stayed high atop the ridge. The highlight of this was a very narrow exposed part to cross. It turns out, we were crossing over the top of a giant complete open arch! A massive hole through the rock in the ridge! We dropped back down past the tarn and then to the other shallower tarn in front of Andrew Benchmark. This is where we dropped off the ridge down to Saint Andrew's Lake. The clouds were settling in as we reached the lake. 

At the lake we turned right on the Wonderland Trail and hiked down toward Aurora Lake. Before Aurora Lake, about 1/2 mile from St. Andrew's Lake, we came to a meadow on the west side of Aurora Peak and a little Wonderland Trail sign. Here there was a boot path that led east up Aurora Peak which we followed steeply to the top, where we were clouded in. 10 miles after leaving the bikes at Round Pass. We stopped at St. Andrew's Lake to top off water before the long hike back out to Round Pass. We returned to Round Pass at 6:45 and from here it was a very fast 15 minute ride down to the trailhead. 24 miles total, 16 on foot. 7k feet of gain, 6k on foot. 13.5 hours.

Trip report with photos: http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=8027834