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John Guilford's Hikes

Mt. Pugh on 1998-08-09

Date: 1998-08-09

Location: Mt. Pugh

People: (including myself): Gene Obie, Joe Tarantino

			My Alt.	Real Alt.
Lv Gene's House	8:50
Start:		10:00	1920	1920
Lake Metan:	11:00	3140	3180	1.5 Miles
Treeline:	1:00	4740		3 Miles
Stujack Pass:	1:45	5540	5730	
Lv Stujack:	2:15	5480
Summit:		3:30	6920	7201
Lv summit:	4:50	6920
Stujack Pass:	5:40
Treeline:	6:20	4720
Lake Metan:	7:20	3140
Out:		8:00	1960
Gene's House:	9:15
Approach: From Darrington, drive south on the Mountain Loop Highway.  In about nine or ten miles, you cross the Sauk River, the pavement ends, and the road is listed as FS20.  Continue (straight) on FS20 for about four miles (passing FS2090 on your left) till you get to FS2095 which is well marked with a sign for Mt. Pugh.  Take a left onto FS2095 and drive about a mile and a half to the 2nd switchback.  There is a wide parking area here with the trail head just around the corner.  The road has been considerably improved from my previous hike here in '93.  It was recently re-graveled and re-graded resulting in a real nice dirt road instead of the rutted wheel tracks I found previously. 

This is a long but very nice day hike with interesting variation in the terrain and flora and stupendous views at the end. 

The trail wastes no time - it immediately starts grinding out elevation gain and essentially doesn't let up till you are on the summit.  It can't afford to - the trail has to gain almost exactly a mile in elevation over the course of 5-1/2 miles (resulting in an average 18% grade).  The start of the trail ascends cool, semi-open forest where one is surrounded by some nice large trees.  Near the beginning of the trail one crosses a couple of small streams and there are a couple of log foot bridges/paths (which look like they've seen better days) on sections of the trail.  This it your landmark towards the end of the hike to let you know that you are almost finished and that your car is just ahead. 

The trail does a long climbing traverse of the hill side above the Sauk River.  After about a 3/4 mile traverse, the trail switchbacks up to Lake Metan which allows a short respite.  This gives the first real views of the ridge line of Mt. Pugh (waaaay up above you).  At this point you are only 1/4 of the way there.  After the trail winds about Lake Metan it continues switchbacking up the hillside, still through forest.  Ultimately you reach tree line and the end of shade.  Before you you can see the sunny slope leading up to Stujack Pass and the ridge line leading up to the summit, which isn't quite as far away as it used to be.  Now you are about half way there.  Up till now the trail has been is real nice condition and a pleasure to hike on.  The slope is relentless but relatively gentle.  From tree line on up, the trail quality goes down a bit, being a bit more uneven and requiring a bit more care for foot placement, though it still is in very decent shape.  The trail picks up some steepness.  You pass from the semi-open forest to alpine meadow with wild flowers and thistle. 

Numerous switchbacks slowly ascend the gully, eventually leading you to Stujack Pass.  As you crest the pass, you are rewarded with sights of Mt. Baker, Shuksan, and White Chuck (among others) as the pass faces mostly north.  This is a good place to take a break and have a snack.  This is the three quarter point and there is still almost 1500 feet to go. 

From here the trail, which in some places might be called more of a climbers track, though it is easy enough to follow, ascends along a knife edge ridge for a while, some times with steep drop-offs not too far away (see commentary on 90-08-12 ascent).  Here the terrain takes its third form - that of rock, lichen, and snow.  After passing the south side of an unnamed glacier (NW of the summit), and the remnants of one of the old tramway used to haul materials to the summit for the now non-existent lookout, the trail switchbacks a few times ascending to the summit. 

The summit has a large flat top with some iron work where the lookout used to be.  From here you feel like you're on the top of the world.  To the east is Glacier Peak; to the South, Bedal and Sloan Peaks along with all the peaks around Monte Cristo.  If the day is clear, one can make out Mt. Rainier rising over everything else.  To the SW is Dickerman Mtn. and Forgotten.  To the west is Three Fingers and Whitehorse.  To the north is White Chuck and the whole North Cascades.  Over a mile below you, and only a bit more than two miles away (as the crow flies) is the Sauk River. 

This is a good place to relax and enjoy the rewards of your efforts.  You've completed the optional half of the hike, you still have the mandatory half (the hike back down). 

Today the weather was clear and not too hot.  There were no bugs to speak of.  There were a couple flies climbing towards Stujack Pass, but nothing to even think about.  We also went through a bunch of grass hoppers near the bottom of that gully.  Surprisingly when we reached the summit the air was perfectly calm with occasional gentle breezes.  We expected to find more wind up there.  The air was a bit hazy to the south and west, but we could pick out Rainier without undue trouble. 

I brought along 2L of water which may have been a bit on the short side.  They lasted through the hike, and I didn't feel thirsty along the way, but I did get a headache coming down which may have been due to slight dehydration.  My food supply worked out well.  I had an apple on the way up at Metan.  At Stujack I had a bagel.  On the summit I had my second bagel and some grapes.  I ate my second apple coming down from Stujack, and finished off the grapes at Metan on the way down. 

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Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015