In prime season Summerland is a flower filled meadow area with great views , but at the time of this trip it is a snowy wonderland. This area is accessed by following the Wonderland Trail from the Fryingpan Creek trailhead on the White River Road. It is a well maintained section of trail, but still has a few trees across it after about two miles. The crossing of Fryingpan Creek is currently out, forcing you to find an alternate method of crossing the creek. We crossed upstream of the trail on rocks. Once across Fryingpan Creek, it was easier to follow it upstream than to try to find and follow the trail. After about a half mile head south keeping east of the steep snow and rock slopes known as the Meany Crest and you will be in the heart of Summerland. I don't want to ruin all the surprises, but there are many interesting things to see and areas to explore near Summerland. Enjoy!
The Meany Crest is the long band of rock and steep snow slopes west of Summerland. It is best ascended in the small cirque near the Summerland camp (not the huge cirque beyound the camp). Everyone seems to have a different route up the steep walls of the cirque, but I find it easiest to assend on the east side towards the obvious saddle. From the saddle, head west up the snow slope to the Meany Crest high point. Be aware that the snow covered area beyond the high point is the Fryingpan Glacier and you should not venture onto it unless you have the equipment and skills to do so safely. There are great views to the north and east from the high point as well as of Little Tahoma Peak and Mt. Rainier.
Little Tahoma is the peak on the left side of Rainier when viewed from the Seattle area. While it appears small when compared to Rainier itself, at 11,138 feet, Little Tahoma is the 3rd highest peak in Washington. A Mt. Rainier climbing permit is required for this climb and can be obtained at the White River Ranger Station ($15or $25 for annual).
The climb took about 7 hours round trip from a camp on the Meany Crest high point. The route starts by crossing the Fryingpan Glacier (crevasses easily avoided) to a 9100' gap in the Whitman Crest. Cross through the gap to the Whitman Glacier and skirt the rocks on the right until you can gain access to the steep upper section of the Whitman glacier. Ascend the east side to avoid crevasses to about 10,000 feet, then traverse leftward to 10,300' (or 10,500') where you can get onto the crumbly rock of Little Tahoma. It would be impossible to describe the route we followed on the rock, but basically we worked our way up the west side of the ridge, then followed the top of the ridge for the last 200' to the summit. There is a lot of loose rock and some exposure. To get to the true summit and the summit register, cross an exposed gully then climb about ten feet of loose rock (a rope is advised). From the summit, we could see all five of the Washington volcanoes plus Mt. Hood and the Three Sisters in Oregon. Some climbs are great because of the mountain, while others are great because of those that you climb it with, this climb was great for both reasons. Thanks Tom and Chris for your company.