Dome Peak-Dome Glacier Route

  Route Map

There it was, only 50 feet away. There was no more bushwhacking, talus hopping or tree hurdling. The only thing that stood between me and my ride out of this place was 30 feet of dry road and a short path. It was 1:45pm, 31 hours from when I had left Downey Creek Trailhead. I had survived a two day trip to Dome Peak. 

The trip began at the Downey Creek Trailhead (c.1400') on Suiattle River Road  (FSR 26). It was about 6:45am when I departed the trailhead. The skies were mostly clear with only a few light clouds in the valleys. Downey Creek Trail (FST 768) leads six miles to the appropriately named "Sixmile Camp". The trail to the camp is a long, easy hike just east of Downey Creek with a few trees down and a bit of brush. There are a few stream crossing, 5 according to my Green Trails Map, getting to Sixmile Camp, which seems to be located on the north side of Bachelor Creek even though maps show it on the south side. The final stream crossing on FST 768, Bachelor Creek, could be a bit of a problem if it is running high. 

Just beyond the stream I located the Bachelor Creek "Trail" (no sign but a fairly obvious junction). Apparently, this used to be a maintained trail, but is now left to effects of mutation. The USGS, Downey Mountain Quadrangle, shows the lower section of the trail but it is not shown continuing on the Dome Peak Quadrangle. The trail starts out paralleling Bachelor Creek through forest where the trail is mostly good. By the time you are two miles from the junction, things are becoming more difficult. There are more trees down and the trail is beginning to cross sections of heavy brush but the path continues to be fairly easy to follow. By the time you get to the three mile mark, you have crossed to the south side of Bachelor Creek and are thrashing through brush. The trail is still not terribly difficult to follow, but it is overgrown. Finally, the trail breaks out of the heavy brush and enters timber. There is a good forest camp along the creek at c.3.5 miles. 

From the forest camp the trail continues along through easy forest for a bit before you get a view of the next challenge. The slope ahead has been devastated by avalanches. I finally lost the trail in the mess of tangled tree parts littering the run-out area. I kept to the right side of the slide area but finally had to decide what course of action I was going to take. I could try to relocate the trail or I could take the steep timbered slope just to the right of the slide. I decided to try to locate the trail. I reached the area where the slope turned steeper and made an ascending traverse. After a couple of hundred feet climbing through flattened trees that had been ripped out of the ground or simply broken off, I hit pay dirt. Continuing on the trail I crossed the slide area (lots of trees down) and then climbed into the flatter meadows high in the basin. Now the trail is easy and scenic as it follows a minor crest then traverses to the +5880' gap NW of Cub Lake. I reached the gap and began the 500 foot descent down the steep hillside to Cub Lake. Just south of Cub Lake is Itswoot Lake and further south is Glacier Peak. As you begin descending you begin to get a better look east to Dome Peak. It was nearly noon when I arrived at Cub Lake (5338'), about12 miles from the trailhead. 

Cub Lake, Itswoot Ridge and Dome Peak 

There is a well established camp at the lake although camping elsewhere is probably preferable. I continued on, crossing the basin on snow and talus then climbing toward the crest of Itswoot Ridge on a path. Near the crest the path ascends a rocky area then reaches the crest and a good camping area with running water. Yeah, running water at a ridge camp. I was liking that. I filtered some water from the stream and boiled some water for a refreshing hot lunch. By the time lunch was eaten, camp was established and my pack was ready for a summit ascent it was still only 2:30pm. Having little patience I was on my way to the summit around 3:00pm. Aside from being bored at camp, I was a bit uncertain about the weather (it was supposed to be turning for the worse). I decided to head for the summit now rather than waiting until the morning as I had been planning.

Dome Peak and the Dome Glacier from Itswoot Ridge

After a short descent on talus and a path to get below a minor rocky buttress I continued traversing on snow, slabs, talus and sometimes a path until I was able to climb up toward the Dome Glacier. There are a number of different gullies and slopes that can be taken to get to the glacier. The general idea is to climb and traverse on talus or hopefully snow slopes and gullies to reach the glacier at c.7600 feet. There were two parties camping at the c.7300' Dome/Dana Col. Getting onto the glacier is easy in this area. As I crossed the Dome glacier I noted the depression that is shown on the map and no doubt contributes to the fact that the upper glacier is not very crevassed. The idea is to cross and ascend the glacier to the 8600' col just north of the summit. (Note that the summit is not what appears to be the highest in the two photos above. The peak that appears highest in these photos is the SW peak at the end of the summit ridge. The actual summit, barely higher, lies to the NE ). There were a couple of crevasses just below the col that could be end run. The final 100-200 feet to the col was melted out leaving mostly talus and scree. The route crosses through the col and climbs a short snow slope to gain the summit ridge east of the summit. The final exposed ridge scramble to the summit is described as class 3 or 4 and is shown below. The scramble is not too difficult. It took about two hours and 15 minutes to reach the summit from camp. I had a good view even though there were plenty of clouds moving through, or were they moving in? 

The Main Summit and the SW Summit beyond


The three nine thousand footers east of Cascade Pass


Glacier Peak from Dome Peak

After about 15 minutes on the summit, I headed down. I stopped to take a picture of the Cannonhole in Hydramatic Spire then continued back to camp. It took about an hour and a half to return to camp. The clouds were thickening. 

Hydramatic Spire and the cannonhole

While I was climbing Dome, another party had arrived in camp. They were planning on climbing Dome and Sinister the following day. We all took our best guesses as to what the weather was going to do. Somewhere around 11:00pm we all found was raining. 

It didn't rain hard, but it rained most of the night. I finally forced myself out of my bivy bag and stuffed my gear into my pack. I had been toying with the idea of exploring the crags around Spire Point and maybe stopping at Itswoot Lake on the way out, but the plan now was just to get out. I put on a full layer of Gor-tex, drank the two days supply of coffee that I had, said good-bye and good luck to the three climbers camped on the ridged and was on my way in sometimes thick fog. The descent from Itswoot Ridge to Cub Lake and the ascent back up to the gap was straight forward. I decided to take the steep forest slope (the other party camped on the ridge found it to be a reasonable alternative) and reached the valley below with little difficulty. Thrashing through the avalanche debris I reached the forest camp and then the dreaded rain soaked brush. Eventually I reached Downey Creek and the maintained trail where I took off my protective suit of Gor-tex. Only six more miles...


Cascade Alpine Guide, Volume 2, 2nd Edition; Fred Beckey; Pages 228-231 
Selected Climbs in the Cascades [Volume 1]; Jim Nelson and Peter Potterfield; Pages 116-118