Kaleetan Peak

The plan: meet at 6:30 a.m. in Issaquah, drive east, and scramble something. Originally we thought that something in the Teanaway would be great, since we’re still within larch-viewing season. When Mike said “Kaleetan?” I said “Yes!”

We were on the trail by 7:20 a.m., enjoying the solitude of an early morning start. It’s been years since I’ve hiked to Melakwa Lake, and I enjoyed the hike as much as any new trail I’ve explored. We crossed under I-90, hopped over the “water slide” and stopped to enjoy the view of the waterfall about half way to the lake.

Waterfall on the way to Melakwa Lake

After a quick water break at Melakwa Lake, we decided to do a loop trip – up the “white slab” route and down the “dog route.” We wandered up to Upper Melakwa Lake and continued up to Melakwa Pass. The going was a bit treacherous, as most of the scree and boulders were covered with an invisible film of ice. Hop, hop, slip! Hop, slip! Slip! It’s really a wonder we didn’t break something.

At the pass, we met Glen and Ben. They came up from Snow Lake and were continuing down valley toward Melakwa Lake. Turns out, Glen is the volunteer ranger who staffs the lookout tower at Granite Mountain. He remembered a delicious dinner of fried chicken and beer that we’d brought up the trail and shared with him a while back. We exchanged phone numbers and promises to stay in touch.

From the pass, our route looked nothing less than dubious. The white rocks leading up to the ridge were covered in a couple inches of snow.

We’d come so far, though, and were pretty disheartened by the idea of turning around here. We developed a new mantra: “Let’s just go a little further and see how it looks.” Turns out, that works pretty well, provided you don’t climb anything you wouldn’t mind down climbing. We might have made one or two sketchy moves, but the risk paid off. (Nothing like consequence to sharpen your focus!)¬†Looking back, you can get a better idea of how snow covered everything was.

Once we got to the ridge, it was mostly snow free. We scrambled up, the final gully and had the place pretty much to ourselves.

We weren’t quite all-the-way alone. As we relaxed and enjoyed lunch, a frisky pine marten came to check us out.

Then it was a final “group” summit shot and we were off, back to the trail head.

Total distance: 12.6 miles. Elevation gain: 4000′.

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