Fortress-Chiwawa Speed Traverse - Date:
I traversed Fortress Mountain and Chiwawa Mountain in 9:16 roundtrip out of Trinity in a large loop utilizing the Buck Creek Trail and Red Mountain/Chiwawa Basin Trail. The only ground repeated was the final 1.5 miles making the route very aesthetic. The traverse began by climbing the SW route of Fortress, then down the SE route of Fortress, then a climb of the SW route of Chiwawa, and finally a descent of the SE route of Chiwawa. The weather and clarity were spectacular and I found that Fortress is one of the best viewpoints in the Cascades. Elevation gain for the loop is about 8,000 feet with around 25 miles. Click images for larger versionLocation (Elevation): Time Elapsed / Split / Real Time
Trinity - Buck Creek TH (2,772 ft) : 0
Turnoff Buck Creek Tr 9 miles (5,600 ft) : 1:41:53
Arrive Fortress Summit (8,760 ft) : 3:17:59
Depart Fortress Summit (8,760 ft) : 3:43:46
Fortress-Chiwawa Saddle (7,200 ft) : 5:07:27
Arrive Chiwawa Summit (8,459 ft) : 5:47:35
Depart Chiwawa Summit (8,459 ft) : 6:08:46
Top of Red Mountain Trail (6,400 ft) : 7:41:37
Junction with Chiwawa Basin Tr (4,800 ft) : 8:18:45
Trinity – Buck Creek TH (2,772 ft) : 9:16:06
I departed Sammamish 3 am and arrived at Trinity at 5:30 am, setting off at 5:45 am after some bars. The 9 mile jog up Buck Creek trail went smoothly although the trail was quite squishy from the recent rains. Upper Buck Creek was gorgeous with colorful meadows early morning light on Buck Mountain. I turned off from the trail and headed up towards Pass No Pass. I headed upslope before Pass No Pass through some light brush and cliff bands to open terrain and the snowfield leading up to the South ridge of Fortress. The improving views as I ascended spurred me forward.
The snow conditions were interesting due to the recent weather system. The initial heavy rains hardened the snow slopes and the back end of the system deposited a fresh coating of snow on top of it. The result was highly variable snow conditions. Some places were rock hard while others were powdery.
I arrived at the summit of Fortress at 9:03 am, 3:18 after starting at Trinity/Buck Creek TH. The views were amazing with the fresh snow dusting the summits and great clarity.
Rainier behind Dakobed.
Suiattle and Honeycomb Glaciers.
View to Chiwawa and Fernow, 7FJ, Maude.
After a nice break on the summit, I continued down the SE route of Fortress. The class 4 moves at the top were interesting because the cracks were filled with snow. I took my time and reached the steep snowfield to find the snow rock hard (crampons essential). I downclimbed this bit until I reached the moderate snow slopes which had accumulated new snow and were easy to traverse to the Fortress-Chiwawa saddle.
Looking back at SE route of Fortress.
Chiwawa Mountain from near Fortress-Chiwawa Saddle.
Dakobed peaking above the ridge.
From the saddle, it was a slog up the SW heather and rock slopes to the summit of Chiwawa, arriving 5:48 after starting. More awesome views!
Panorama from Chiwawa Summit.
Glacier Peak and Fortress.
Rugged NE Face of Fortress.
Rainier framed between Clark and Luahna.
Copper, Fernow, 7FJ, Maude.
Summit shot on Chiwawa.
Continuing with the traverse, I began the descent via the SE route. The route actually uses the ridge trending northeast and then east of Chiwawa. Snow covered the rock here as well with exposure increasing so I proceeded carefully. The ridge narrowed with views down to Lyman Glacier and Lyman Lakes.
Lyman and Bonanza.
Continuing along the narrow ridge, the snow seemed far below and the rock was vertical so I was unsure if the route would go. I saw a nice ramp heading down the snowfield but it was on the other side of a gendarme. After looking around, I decided the only feasible route was ascending to the top of the gendarme. A few exhilarating class 4 moves and I was on top of the gendarme and from here the ramp was easily within reach.
Looking back at the summit of Chiwawa from the other side of the gendarme.
The ramp runs from the highest point of snow diagonally to the right.
Chiwawa’s rugged SE face.
The extremely loose ramp brought me to some more steep snow and then fun glissading. A lovely traverse through meadows and streams in upper Chiwawa Basin brought me to the Red Mountain Trail. While unmaintained, this trail is actually in pretty good shape. I continued down through Chiwawa Basin and the final 5 miles to the trailhead.
This traverse had a little bit of everything – mountain trails to run, steep snow, rock scrambling, and stupendous views. Gear Notes:
Crampons, Ice Axe.
Bear in mind there are couple areas of class 4 scrambling on this route. Approach Notes:
Trails are in decent shape. The Red Mountain trail was surprisingly good considering it is hasn't been maintained in some time.