Hessong Rock, Mount Pleasant, Fay Peak, [First] Mother Mountain and Castle Peak

This was yet another trip to the north side of Mount Rainier were I believe I have nearly exhausted the available resources... below 10,000 feet anyhow. This was a loop trip that allowed me to reach the summits of 5 relatively insignificant summits. As far a scrambling goes, the most interesting sections were on the ridges between Mount Pleasant and Fay Peak, and between First Mother and Castle Peak.

I started by hiking the Spray Park trail to Spray Park where there is a way trail that ascends to the saddle between Hessong Rock and Mount Pleasant. Bears are frequently seen here in autumn (I have seen two here myself). Most route descriptions to reach the top of Hessong Rock refer to a class 2 gully on the south side but there is a path on the north side that certainly appears to be more commonly used. I took the gully but it is probably more environmentally sensitive to take the path on the north side as I did on the descent.

Hessong Rock from Spray Park

Once back at the saddle I started up the ridge toward Mount Pleasant. The path briefly traverses the right side of the ridge before reaching the top of Mount Pleasant (class 1). From here I got a view of the next obstacle, namely the connecting ridge to Fay Peak.

Mount Pleasant from Hessong Rock

From the summit of Mount Pleasant I began hiking and scrambling the ridge toward Fay Peak. There was a path in places but there are numerous ways to get to the ridge capped by Fay Peak. Staying on the ridge for the most part, it is mostly a hike but does involve some scrambling to class 3/4. For the most part any difficulties could be easily avoided on the left side of the ridge (possibly scrub tree bushwhacking). I was forced from the ridge at a notch just before making the final ascent to the Fay Peak ridge. Fay Peak is clearly marked on maps on the high point on the west end of the ridge but the map also shows a slightly higher point closer to Knapsack Pass. I visited both from the path along the crest.

Fay Peak from Mount Pleasant

Mother Mountain is perhaps the most impressive of the five peaks I visited. It has three major summits referred to by Beckey as First, Second and Third Mother. First mother is highest and the easiest to get to. From Fay Peak I followed a path to Knapsack Pass were a path continues up the ridge toward the First Mother. There were no difficulties reaching the summit (class 2).

Mother Mountain from Fay Peak

From the summit of First Mother I descended the path back toward Knapsack Pass until able to traverse to the crest of the ridge leading toward Castle Peak. It is best to stay on the ridge crest (class 3) or as close as possible since descending onto the left side would quickly lead to dense scrub trees and the right side is too steep to offer a practical route. I arrived at a lowest point in the ridge where the way was not entirely obvious. I began traversing a ledge below cliffs and found this to be easier than it had initially appeared (a bit of class 2 but mainly just hiking). This leads to another saddle where a path continues around the left side of Castle Peak and to the summit area. The true summit is to the west. There is a short scramble to get there.

Castle Peak from Mother Mountain

Mother Mountain and Mount Rainier from Castle Peak

I returned to the lowest point on the ridge and began descending toward Mowich Lake and traversing right through meadows until about 300 feet above the lake. Once close to the lake I turned right and contoured just above the lake. There was a path in places but it was not well distinguished until I was nearly to the Wonderland Trail. I followed the Wonderland Trail back to the main parking area. Total time was about 6.5 hours.

Cascade Alpine Guide, Volume 1, 2nd Edition; Fred Beckey; Pages 125, 126
75 Scrambles in Washington; Peggy Goldman; Pages 193-198