Ascent of Sumas Mountain on 2012-07-29

Climber: Greg Slayden

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Sunday, July 29, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Sumas Mountain
    Elevation:3430 ft / 1045 m

Ascent Trip Report

In 2008 I had attempted this peak in winter, but my party turned back due to time constraints and bad route information. Others in my group returned and summited successfully. The standard route seemed to be the old logging road that switchbacks up the east side of the peak.

So I drove to the South Pass Road and turned down the Paradise Valley Road, and, using a GPS and a trip report from a prior ascent, navigated the winding road up towards the mountain. Right after the pavement ends, 0.2 miles down the Paradise Valley road, I turned left, crossed a primitive bridge, and followed the good dirt road for about 5 miles. The main road was pretty obvious and easy to follow, and the road would be OK for any standard passenger car. The main junction was when the road ended at a “T”, where I turned right. Then the road wound across the valley east of the peak, turned right to cross the valley, climbed uphill, and finally led a junction with a spur road to the peak at 2200 feet.

I parked here, both because I wanted some exercise and because I was afraid of the condition of the spur road. I brought my mountain bike and headed up the road. It was actually OK for cars, but steep rocky sections were no good for cycling so I had to walk the bike uphill a few places.

Suddenly, the road was blocked by a huge mass of trees. I got around this through the woods to the side, and then found a small channel had been dug across the road, and the dirt piled into a tall berm just before. I walked my bike over this, then another one, and then another one that also included more tree obstacles. After four of these, I abandoned my bike and started hiking. The road has been systematically dug up for its entire length—on the way down I counted 57 berm/culvert combos—some only a foot deep, some 10 feet or more and featuring 10 foot berms. I’d say the average was maybe 4 feet, adding 57 x 4 = 228 feet each way to my vertical. It was exhausting hiking this way.

I finally got up to where I could see the radio tower on top, and took a rocky path steeply uphill to the summit area. I rested near the tower, and then started looking for the highest ground. The area near the 3430 spot elevation is a former clear-cut now covered with low brushy trees—pretty nasty terrain. After some bushwhacking I found a faint path that helped. According to my GPS, the spot elevation is downhill a ways from this path, so it was pointless to get to that spot. I did find a mylar “Welcome Home” balloon, long since empty of helium, tied to a tree near the spot elevation, presumably someone’s summit marker.

Anyway, after thrashing around a bit I called it good and headed down. Sadly, the low clouds blocked any good views on this humid day. Overall, this was a disappointing peak. Future hikers should definitely avoid my route on the east side switchbacking road. It’s not fun travel.

Near the tower was a good road, probably the continuation of the one I had driven up, and if I had stayed on that and not taken the dug-up spur road I could drive almost to the summit. There was a quad-driving guy I met on top who told me that road was gated before you get to the tower.

(Distance in trip statistics at right is for hike portion of trip only).
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1686 ft / 513 m
    Extra Gain:228 ft / 69 m
    Round-Trip Distance:4.4 mi / 7.1 km
    Trailhead:Spur Road Jct  2200 ft / 670 m
    Quality:2 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Bushwhack
    Gear Used:
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Low Clouds

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