4.7 miles 1990gain/loss.
Summit Day. Well, at least I was hoping so. Having no real idea as to the conditions up there, I still felt it was worth a shot to try…The wind, thankfully, had relented during the night, so getting a good night’s sleep wasn’t too difficult. Wow! The sunrise warms the harsh colors of the Goat Rocks in a red glow, and the reflections off the now mirror calm of the lake are too good to be true, so I run for the camera, not believing my luck! After we’d all turned out, they offered me some of their camp coffee, for which I was grateful, and ate my breakfast bars with a watchful eye on the weather. I might want to reach the top, but I want less to get blown off the side of some rock face like my seat cushion last night…
It seems as if the wind has died down, so, after exchanging contact info, I say good bye to John and Cait, hoping to hear from them again or perhaps see them on the trail in the future. Thanks for everything, guys!!!
There appears to be a good place to clamber up the Klickton divide right behind our campsite, just southwest of the lake, and sure enough, it’s easy enough to get up on top of the ridgeline. And, just as I was hoping, there are other boot prints here from those before me. A faint path can be seen running along the ridge, in the direction I want to go, so I follow them, and they seem to be picking the right way around the rocks and monoliths of black volcanic stone that line the ridgeline here, creating ominous looking parapets and towers that you must negotiate around to continue upward, as if standing guard against interlopers, of which I surely was one. The further along I go, I keep dreading the thought I’m going to get turned back, as more than once I come to a sheer drop off, thinking, well, that’s that. But, after trying a way around the other side, I find I can still advance.
“… I see survey markers, dating from 1924…”
Finally, near the 1.4 mile mark, you reach a wide relatively flat bench here, that is devoid of trees, looking like a moonscape, with a layer of flat shale covering the ground, and as you tread across it, it’s like stepping on a floor littered with broken dinner plates, crunching and clacking together under foot. There’s also a large cairn here on the leading edge of this welcome flat, with a stick poking out of the top, making it readily visible. I sight along it, but see no more in the distant. Curious, I thought. Perhaps to mark the way down?
The view of Gilbert Peak from here is now spectacular, being so close now you can see the black rock pinnacles ringing the crest of this red, brown and yellow rock like an ebony crown, standing here above the huge bench of snow and ice of the Meade Glacier. Having a sunny day, the streaks of clouds whirling overhead look like banners, heralding the crowning. A very inspiring view, to be sure… To the north, I can see Mt. Rainier, through the haze of the forest fires, and to the south, Mt. Adams. West, is the vague shape of Mt. St. Helens, I never even attempt taking a picture it’s so obscured by the smoke…Along the way, I see survey markers, dating from 1924, in intervals all the way to the top. I continue following the faint climbers path uphill, here on the western side of the peak.
Finally, you reach a spot where you’ll have to grab ahold of the rock and pull yourself up onto a large shelf about 100 feet or so from the top. Picking my way carefully, I make my way to the last 10 feet or so from the top, and it’s another point where you have to reach up and grab the rock and pull yourself up the last few feet with both hands. Now, I’m on top! There’s not much room here, maybe 8 by 6 feet or so, but it’s a perfect perch from which to view in 360 degrees all that lies out before you! All the major volcanoes are visible, if slightly obscured, but there’s another rock here that really is amazing, you can’t really see it until you’re near the peak.
“…Black Fortress seems to fit, I think…”
It’s here in the Goat Rocks, the next major high point north along the ridge and it looks like a round fortress with huge columns of rock standing vertically to make the walls. The black rock around the edges, with the red and burnt brown colors make it look as if it had been blasted by a forge a long time ago. I look to see if it has a name, and none exist on the maps I have. Black Fortress seems to fit, I think. There’s also another survey marker planted in the rock, and someone has left a wooden cross here at the top, with the inscription, “Gary watch over us”. A quick lunch and I carefully pick my way down, and follow the ridge back to camp.
Tired, but with that sense of accomplishment, I prepare dinner alone out here in the vast wilderness. The views of the Goat Rocks reflecting off the lake, along with a trio of ducks keep me company as the sun sets. A great day, to be sure! The wind decides to give a halfhearted attempt, and then quiet altogether before I head for bed, so no wind to contend with tonight.