Mount Pugh 09-20-2023

The knife edge on the route – the crux of the climb

The mountain was misty and moody today. Pugh would be reluctant to reveal its weaknesses and secrets, shrouded in ever-swirling clouds, ever-shifting winds, and fluctuating temperatures. I love climbing with clouds. The scenery is often ethereal and mysterious

Pugh has been on my list of mountains to climb for a few years, but more so since I climbed Sloan Peak in 2021 and had a great view of the peak. Other recent climbs that have inspired my desire to climb Pugh include Del Campo in the Gothic Basin and Mount Dickerman earlier this summer.

Mount Forgotten is in the center of this photo, with White Chuck on the left (climbed 09-18-2-23) and Pugh on the right.
Mount Pugh, as viewed from White Chuck

Joe aka “Unkle” and I set out earlyish from Seattle and arrived at the trailhead around 10:30. We were hopeful that the clouds would part for good climbing and views and were teased with partial blue skies as we hit the trail.

The Pugh Mountain trail is one of the best maintained and pleasant to hike on. There were no rocks or roots, only soft dirt with a slight carpeting of fir needles and baby fir cones – some of these made their way to me via air from Unkle as he sped ahead of me.

We made our way to Lake Metam in a little over an hour. The surface was a complete mirror. There was no good access to any part of the shore and one good spot to pitch a tent.

We continued upwards on the path. We gained a little over 1000 feet in elevation and had a long way to go. There were many switchbacks to ascend, but fortunately, the grade was pretty tame, making for a pleasant hike.

After 4.5 miles in, we encountered some huge boulders – the size of houses. This was where we departed the forest and began the tight and steep switchbacks up to StuJack Pass.

Large rocks.

And now the rocky ascent. Fortunately, the switchbacks were short and sweet – maybe 15 to gain the pass.

Looking up towards the pass.
Cliffs above
Beautiful Stujack Pass
After a brief rest for some lunch – we proceed!
Amazing fall colors!
Gumby moves are returning!

We wound our way up past the pass, up the ridge, and round a corner to the ridge up to the knife edge.

Pugh is now in view!
Start of the knife edge.
Assessing the route.
Knife Edge.

After making our way about halfway up the knife edge, the clouds were swirling, and visibility was diminishing. In addition to the increasing winds, the temperature was dropping, and although we had a route on our GPS, we were uncertain about the knife edge – it was about two feet wide and had exposure on both sides. In addition, there was a light dusting of snow on the mountain, and we could not see the route as it was just behind the edge of our vision,

Approaching the exposed part of the edge.

All things considered, Joe and I agreed that we would call it a day here, do more research on the crux of the route, and save the summit for a day with better weather, as we would miss out on some fantastic views. We hoped to make it down in time for some decent food.

Joe was clearly happy with our decision to retreat.
Apparently, I was happy too! Burgers on the mind.

Time to retreat – we still had about six miles to the trailhead.

Savoring the amazing views until our next attempt. Sadly White Chuck should be in this frame, but it was obscured by the clouds.
Gumby is back!
Parting is such sweet sorrow!
Burgers here we come!
Looking down as we descend the ridge.
Mark said Burgers!
Dropping down to Stujack Pass.
Final view down the north side of the pass. Amazingly beautiful area.

We dropped to the pas and made our way down the rocks switchbacks. The clouds briefly parted to give us a view of what we just descended and where we stood above earlier in the day. I love the look of moody and misty clouds in the mountains.

Approaching the trees again.
Off the rocks and onto the soft forest trail. Arcteryx should sponsor us!
Now the sun comes out ?!?

After we got into the car, we drove to the White Chuck lookout to get a view of the mountain I climbed two days earlier. Unfortunately, the stubborn cloud would not move.

White Chuck Mountain.

We drove into Darrington and miraculously, the Burger Barn was open at 7:15 – normally it closes at 7:00. We ordered bacon cheeseburgers and chocolate shakes to replenish our calories. An amazing burger and motivation to get an early start for the next Mountain Loop Highway climb. As we enjoyed our burgers, White Horse was in full view. We plan to climb it next May.

White Horse

My favorite shots I posted to Instagram are below.

As always, thanks for #HikingWithHadland, @hikingwiththehad!

3D Flythrough

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