I've been teaching a basic alpine climbing course for the last few years, and one of the most frequently asked questions I get (usually towards the end of the class) is "What should I climb next?". To that end, I've put together a list of my 16 favorite climbs that someone who has just completed a basic climbing class should be able to put together on their own and lead. That means no 5th class rock, and no technical ice, but anything else, including glaciers and steep snow, is fair game!
This list runs the gamut from very easy to fairly challenging - I've tried to note what the challenges of the various climbs are by indicating what kind of non-trail terrain will be encountered, how tough the route finding is, and whether there's some technical or physical challenges that are out of the ordinary. I've also included which guidebook to refer to for route information, and how long a trip I'd recommend to enjoy the climb without rushing through. The list is organized geographically from north to south.
Keep in mind, this isn't an attempt at a list of the 16 best climbs in the Cascades - just a selection from the peaks I've climbed and very much enjoyed for one reason or another. These are all personal opinions, and my climbing style and goals might not be the same as yours, so keep that in mind when reading through the list. Still, I hope this spurs some climbers on to adventures they'll enjoy - if it does, drop me a line and let me know how the trip went!
A steep approach to a beautiful granite bowl area for camping. Fun, but critical, route finding. Don't get off route by going to the south side of the summit ridge - very loose, with lots of exposure there. Great views from the summit into the Fraser River valley in Canada, and of Canadian and American Border Peaks. Allow some time the second day for the easy scramble up Yellow Aster Butte.
Good trail for most of the approach - one steep section following water run off paths just above Hannegan Pass. Easy glacier travel to the summit. Should have spectacular views - we climbed in the fog so I can't comment on them.
Most "friction-y" rock I have ever been on, spectacular traction! With very careful route selection, this can be 3rd classed the whole way. With just a small error, however, you'll be 4th classing, or low 5th classing some areas, so take your route finding skills into account when deciding whether or not to take a rope. Should be nice views of Baker, but we climbed in the fog so I don't have any first hand knowledge of the views.
A fun climb of a beautiful peak in a wonderful area - what more could you ask? If you want to rush it, you could do this in a day, but much better to bivy at pretty little Wing Lake. The NE Ridge is a great Intermediate climb to aspire to. It would be comfortable to have crampons for the snowfield to the ridge.
Stunningly located just north of Cascade Pass, Sahale Peak has the best summit views I've ever seen. The walk to Cascade Pass is easy enough for your grandmother. The continuation up Sahale arm is on old miner's trails (steep!). Next you climb a short glacier to the right skyline. From there, work your way up and under the center of the south face of the summit pyramid. Getting on the east or north side makes the route significantly more difficult and seriously exposed! Follow a right leading ramp up, then switchback left until you come to an alcove with a horn decked in rappel slings. From here, there's 15 feet of 3rd or low 5th class climbing - you may want a rope for it. When you top out, notice the name on the USGS plug - Boston Peak! They were off by one peak - Boston is the red hulk just north. This is a wonderful alpine climb, with a taste of many kinds of terrain, and fabulous views. Might be my favorite climb!
Two of Washington's Big Boys in one weekend! Maude and Seven Fingered Jack are right next to each other, and Carne is on the way if you use the Carne Mt. Loop instead of going up the ridiculously steep Phelps Creek approach. The traverse from Carne over to Maude is beautiful Ð one of the most pleasant walks I've ever done. Route finding can be a bit tricky when the trail disappears - check your maps! Maude is mostly a walk up, with a short section of exposed shelves to cross. I didn't do Jack, but have it from a reliable source that it's no harder than Maude.
A long day with lots of elevation gain. Both peaks encircle a pretty little lake (I've heard it called Foggy Lake, Gothic Lake, maybe a couple of others). Walk by several waterfalls, old mining relics.
A long day to a beautiful alpine cirque. Great views of Big 4, Gothic, Del Campo, Copper Lake. Vesper is a stunning peak, rising to an almost pyramidal peak. Pleasant snow slope approach to the summit (or, when the snow melts, a nice series of granite slabs, I've heard). Fun traverse on connecting ridge between Vesper and Sperry. A little "brushy" getting to Sperry's summit.
One of the prettiest summits, and most spectacular summit views, around. Awesome views of the north face on Mt. Index, skyline views of Seattle and Bellevue, very low avalanche danger - great early season climb!
Camp by Peggy's Pond underneath Cathedral Rock ( a great trip by itself) - scramble along a fun ridge to the east summit. Gentle snow walk from there to middle and west (true) summits. Daniel is a massive peak, with remnants of glaciers still flanking its slopes. Taking the old Pacific Crest Trail around the north end of Upper Hyas Lake on the trip out makes for a nice loop. There is one very dangerous stream crossing if you choose this way out - if the melt waters are still running fast, this is not a safe route.
Both of these peaks are located above the beautiful Robin Lakes. The trip just to the lakes is worth it, without any climbing. But, as long as you're there - these are fun and easy scrambles that open up wide ranging views. The approach to Robin Lakes with full packs can be a bit strenuous, and it's not trail all the way - there are some short rock steps, and a longer stretch of granite slabs just below the lakes.
Both of these involve about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Seattle to the end of the Teanaway River Road, but they're each certainly doable as 1 day climbs each. Bean Peak is on excellent granite, and offers tons of scrambling possibilities. The Esmerelda Peaks are a bit more striking, and offer a little more exposure. Considering all the camping areas around and the long drive, combining these two would make for a very pleasant weekend of climbing.
A well positioned peak for stunning views of the Alpine Peaks Wilderness area. Access is a bit of a pain - you need to drive the awful Middle Fork Snoqualmie River road ALMOST to the end. Park at the last wide spot on the river side about 1/4 mile before the end of the road. From here, walk upriver 100 feet or so and find a badly overgrown logging road heading up. From here, the route finding should be easy. Two pretty lakes (Upper and Lower Hardscrabble) connected by a nice waterfall are other enticements to this climb.
Approach from White River, by Owyhigh Lakes. Pretty approach, great views of Rainier, Governor's Ridge and the Cowlitz Chimneys from the summit.
Almost 8000' and trail all the way there! Located almost equi-distant between Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams, with great views of each. Much of the way is on the Pacific Crest trail. Nice area to camp below the peak at Snowgrass Flats.
Washington's second highest peak, by a non-technical route - not even any glacier crossings, so no harnesses or other hardware is required. Might want to bring along a hand line for one section (about 30') that's a pretty exposed ledge, but there's no scrambling. Few people do this route, so there's a good chance you'll have the mountain to yourself until the summit dome, where you'll run into the hoards doing the South Spur route. There's a great area for camping at about 7000'. Needless to say, the views are superb.