Ascent of Round Mountain on 2009-06-30

Climber: Edward Earl

Date:Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Round Mountain
    Elevation:5320 ft / 1621 m

Ascent Trip Report

On WA-530, at virtual mile post 43.7, which is about 22 miles E of Arlington or 5 miles W of Darrington, I turned N on Swede Heaven Rd. Call this point mile 0.0. At 0.9 miles I crossed over a bridge and the road turned L immediately thereafter. At 1.5 miles I turned R opposite 383rd Ave NE. Some maps identify this road as FR-18, but it is never identified in the field. The road, which is well-graded gravel suitable for any street-legal vehicle, immediately turns L, then soon turns R. At 2.4 miles I stayed straight where a side road on the R goes to a logging dirt pit. At 2.6 miles I went R at a fork where the L branch had an open logging gate. The road then begins a long ascending R traverse for several miles. At 3.5 miles I stayed straight where a side road forks L. At 8.6 miles the road made a sharp L switchback and now made a L ascending traverse. At 11.8 miles I stayed straight where a side road turned sharply R. At 13.6 miles I made a sharp L turn onto FR-1850, which is again identified only on some maps and not by any sign in the field. The turn is at Deer Creek Pass, which is about 1½ miles NE of Round. Note: about 100 feet before this turn, the otherwise good road is badly eroded for the L half of its width. Fortunately the usable width of the road is still enough to allow just about any car to pass. FR-1850 is narrow, steep, and sometimes uneven; a very low-clearance vehicle might scrape the ground a couple of times, but it is otherwise driveable by any street legal vehicle. When Ken Jones climbed Round Mtn, he parked his car at the junction and it was vandalized; therefore it would be safer to park on FR-1850 out of sight of FR-18. I did so at a wide spot about ¼ mile up FR-1850.

I hiked farther up the road, descending slightly, until a replanted clear cut appeared uphill on the R. Access to the clearcut was often blocked by large slash piles and brush. I finally found a way into the clear cut and began climbing up it where it was not too brushy. After gaining only 50 feet elevation, further progress was blocked by thickening brush in all directions. I retreated slightly, then traversed and reached a creek. Brushy creeks in Cascade forests rarely make good going, but after a brief inspection I thought this one showed some promise. Its brush-free rocky bed was a few feet wide, and the water only a few inches deep and didn't cover all of the rocks, so it didn't look difficult to navigate. I decided to give it a try, and it worked well. I made steady progress. There were a couple of waterfalls; the first was about 4 feet high, not very vertical, and provided a few footholds. It was followed soon after by a cascade of 2- to 3-foot drops with good handholds. At the top of this second waterfall the creek reached the upper edge of the clearcut and bifurcated just as it emerged from an uncut forest above. Here I left the creek bed and began climbing the ridge between the two forks of the creek. There was some brush here but it usually wasn't much of an impediment to travel. In about 5 more minutes I reached a wet meadow that fed the creek.

I crossed the meadow and re-entered the forest above, climbing SW toward the summit of the peak immediately E of Coney Pass, which I shall call Coney Pk. Previous reports by Greg Slayden and Ken Jones mention a trail that goes over this peak. I found a couple of faint tracks, but they didn't last, so I continued up through occasional brush and deadfall until reaching the crest of the N ridge of Coney Pk. It was brushy, but I soon reached the summit of Coney Pk - and the trail.

I followed the trail down to Coney Pass, then up the base of the E ridge of Round Mtn, eventually veering off to the L to make an ascending traverse along the S side of the ridge. There are a couple of places where it almost disappeared, but it soon reappeared and it eventually reached the S ridge of the E subpeak of Round at about 4500'. I emerged from the forest and found myself on scattered snowfields in the basin SE of Round Mtn.

The final 850' of climbing up the SE face of Round was cliffy but very good quality. The talus was stable, the grass and tundra cover wasn't slippery, and the handholds and footholds on the occasional 3rd class outcrops were good. Route finding was not an issue as I could climb anywhere I needed to on this side of the mountain. I made good time and gained the final 30' to the open summit on a gently sloping snowbank.

The immaculate weather provided one of the greatest Cascade panoramas I've ever seen. I had killer views from Mt Rainier to Mt Baker. Whitehorse loomed huge to the S, and Glacier loomed large to the ESE. Shuksan, Buckner, and Goode were easily identifiable to the N and E. The sharp profiles of Pugh and Sloan made their mark in the SE. The long, broad form of Pilchuck showed the way down into the western Washington Lowlands. Far, far to the WSW, the Olympics could be seen gleaming through what little haze there was.

After a lengthy summit siesta, I began my uneventful descent. Coming down from Coney Pk, I was able to use the trail for a longer distance than I had on the way up. For a couple hundred yards it traverses just E of the N ridge of Coney Pk. Then it drops down to the NE, winds, and becomes increasingly intermittent. It disappears completely about 100' feet above the meadow.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:2140 ft / 651 m
    Extra Gain:160 ft / 48 m
    Distance:3.6 mi / 5.8 km
    Route:Coney Pass
    Trailhead:FR 1850  3500 ft / 1066 m
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Stream Ford, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
Ascent Statistics
    Time Up:2 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time Down:1 Hours 30 Minutes

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