Sourdough Gap and Cupalo Rock 

This trip was basically an easy autumn hike with some cragging thrown in for fun. Actually, we were never really planning to hike at all. We claimed left with the intention of going to the cabin near Crystal Mountain to do a bit of pre-ski season work Somehow we happened to have more than enough gear with us to go explore the area near Sourdough Gap. Contrary to the weather forecast, it was sunny and warm with moderate winds. A nice day to spend in the outdoors. Work at the cabin was going to have to wait. 

Not having any real plan we left the PCT trailhead at Chinook Pass and headed north. In less than a mile and a half we reached Sheep Lake, having gained only a few hundred feet of elevation. We continued up the trail and reached Sourdough Gap in just over two miles. Sourdough Gap is just another spot where the PCT crosses the Cascade Crest. Point 6708 is a nice view point just to the north. A way trail east of the gap gains the ridge then follows it to the point. 

Sourdough Gap and Cupalo Rock from Sheep Lake


Elan on Point 6708


Aside from the view of Rainier, this is an area that offers some cragging opportunities. Elan wasn't in the mood to pose, so it was up to me. An indistinct point overlooking Crystal Lakes was the first obstacle to be dealt with. I down climbed 15-20 feet of class 4 or easy 5 then out onto the point.  

Me on some indistinct crag


Me getting back from indistinct crag

After cragging and chocolate, we headed back down to Sourdough Gap. From the gap we traversed the ridge (class 2) to the east and arrived at Cupalo Rock. This is an interesting rock mentioned in the Cascade Alpine Guide that offers numerous routes possible with three routes described in the guide (1-3 pitches; low 5th, 5.7, 5.6/A2). The east face is slabby with cracks and the south face appears to be the steepest but seems to have good cracks as well. The descent route described as a class 3 gully on the SE side proved to be about as much as I was willing to solo. I tried first from the notch just west of the top and found myself about ten feet from a tree with rappel slings. An unpleasant looking slab stood between me and the slings. I returned to the notch and descended then worked right into a narrow chimney (class 4). At the top of the chimney (very narrow) I found myself at the same place I was at before...ten feet from the rappel slings. I went back down and tried again. I worked back into the chimney and climbed to the first small tree (there are two small trees in the chimney) then climbed out of the chimney on the right and up to the rappel slings. From there it is class 3 to the top. There is a summit register in the crack below the top.

On the descent I down climbed to the chimney then went up to the second small tree where I climbed out on the left side. After a tight squeeze between the summit and a subsidiary crag I reached the notch in the ridge west of the top (class 2 back to PCT)

The easy route on Cupalo Rock (From SW)
Red is ascent, blue is first try and descent route

Cascade Alpine Guide, Volume 1, Second Edition; Fred Beckey; Pages 133-134