The trip up Kaleetan Peak. Hiked with Kevin Hall of WTA fame and my fellow Mount Rainier summit partner. This route is well documented, so I will focus on some specifics to assist with general knowledge. 7 am start. The trailhead at Denny Creek is closed, and gates due to a lack of budget to remove fallen trees. We saw nothing preventing TH access. Plenty of parking just outside the gate along the road. I did not need to go to Franklin Falls, TH.
Denny slabs were nearly dry. Trail crews have been busy working the stretch along Keekwulee Falls. Lots of brush cutting and rockwork to create a better path with some semblance of steps. I forgot how rocky this trail is in general, and summiting Kaleetan and all the rock and talus up to the peak only added to some sore feet after a long day.
After a food break and water filtering at Melakwa Lake, we took the south route climbers path, which begins just after the toilet (which is exposed, especially on the descent, so don’t be surprised to find someone enjoying the views). The trail is very well marked. A few blowdowns and lots of giant mushrooms out. Through the steep wooded section, there are two areas where you must climb up some steep boulders. Root belays were helpful, especially on the way down. I am always amazed at home much of a route I rediscover on the way down, as I seem to forget some of the more exciting parts and tricky bits. Also, many of the dogs I see on the trail seem to climb better than I do!
Once you reach the forest area, you will encounter the steep talus and heather traversing the ridge. When in doubt, keep to the left of the ridgeline. The trail will cross back to the right further up, climbing through heather, then more rock up to Point 5700. The views from here are great, but your prize lies further ahead. Continue to traverse the ridgeline on the well-marked trail for several hundred yards, and just before the ridgeline becomes rocky, there is a gully to the left which descends a steep dirt and veggie gully. I found ascending this on the return trip to be the most challenging part.
Descend about 300 feet and follow the talus line where it comes up to the rock, which is generally level and straight for a few hundred yards. Keep following this line as the trail and talus will lead you up to the right to a saddle between the ridge above and to the right of you. To the right, a gully appears to lead down towards the path up Melakwa pass. Curious about who has come up with this route. From here, continue the path along the ridge, climbing up the talus to the base of the summit block. The route follows the main gully to the right, with the notch in the ridge as your goal.
The summit scramble is class 2/3, with many well-established holds. I found it easier than Mount Si. I stuck with the rock and avoided the loose dirt, which appears easier as it’s more steplike, but I found it less stable. The rock to the right provided very stable and giant jugs for your hands and feet. There is a summit register in a white PVC tube hidden under the primary rock at the top and a cool, old peak marker from 6-23-1935 placed by the Cony Rover Crew. Markers show the following peaks: Roosevelt, Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, Overcoat, Chimney, Mount Stuart, Chair Peak, Bryant, Granite Mountain, Mount Rainier, and McClellan Butte. I did not find a USGS summit marker. This summit has one of the best viewpoints to see so much of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness!