White Chuck Mountain-NW Route

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White Chuck Mountain has been of my list of things to do for a while now. Being one of the more dominant peaks on the Sauk River, it was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore it. I stopped at the White Chuck View Point on the mountain loop highway (c. 12 miles S. of Darrington) and took the photo below a couple of weeks ago. The route ascends almost to the obvious saddle between the 6445 foot high NW Peak and the main summit. From there heather ledges, scrambling and scree lead to the 6989 foot high summit. Overlooking the White Chuck and Sauk River valleys, the peak is an outstanding vantage point offering views of Whitehorse, Three Fingers, Sloan, Pugh and Glacier in the immediate area and peaks like Baker, Shuksan, The Pickets, Eldorado and Dome a bit further away.

White Chuck Mountain from the White Chuck View Point on the Mountain Loop Highway

On this trip I was accompanied by a climber who had bailed out of a previously arranged commitment to go climb White Chuck Mountain. There was some degree of misrepresentation involved, so this climber will be referred to only as the "Mystery Climber". With the navigation skills of the "Mystery Climber", we followed the Mountain Loop Highway to FSR 22. Then drove a few miles to FSR 24 and started uphill. In a few mile we turned onto FSR 2430 then in another half mile turned to FSR 2435. In a short distance we turned onto 2436 and followed it to a spur road with a dirt barricade (about 4 miles from the 2435/2436 junction). The roads were narrow at times but in reasonable shape. As we would find out later there seems to be a better starting point on FSR 2435 that is longer and has some ups and downs but starts higher and apparently has less brush.

We started up the spur road until it entered a strip of forest that had not been harvested. Hoping to find a path of some sort leading into the brush, we found a few shreds of flagging and a cairn, not all in the same spot and none marking the beginning of a path. Hmmm, we started up near the creek and eventually picked up a faint path which led to a small meadow. At the other end of the meadow the path was more defined and led through the forest to a brushy, muddy area. The path circled left then ascended a somewhat brushy water course to a nice basin below the west face of White Chuck Mountain. At the basin we ran into the only other person we would see on the mountain. He wasn't heading to the summit, but he had come in via the alternate approach. When we asked if it was better, he said "Oh yeah! Oh yeah, it is much better". Judging from the path leading in that direction, I am willing to take his word for it.

The "Mystery Climber" reaches the flowery basin

From the basin, the route climbs the obvious gully toward the saddle between the NW and Main Peaks. Before reaching to saddle, traverse right on rock slabs and heather and climb toward the ridge (there is a path much of the way). After traversing below the ridge for a few hundred feet, a heather gully leads to the crest, where the mountains to the east are finally revealed. Scramble the ridge crest for a short distance then traverse below the crest on the west face to a notch just below the summit. The traverse to the notch is quite exposed and could be treacherous when snow covered. Even snow free is should be approached with some caution. After down climbing 10 feet of class 3 into the notch and a bit of class 2 on the other side,  the summit is reached. A swarm of flying ants hovered around the summit, making the summit itself an unpleasant place to hang out.

Mount Pugh Sloan Peak and the Monte Cristo Group from the summit of White Chuck Mountain


The pothole southwest of White Chuck Mountain


Our "Mystery Climber" on the summit


Descending the ledges below the summit


Cascade Alpine Guide, Volume 2, 2nd edition; Fred Beckey; Pages 101-104
Climbing Washington's Mountains; Jeff Smoot; Pages 112-115

NOTE: The elevation gain in Climbing Washington's Mountains is incorrect. The total elevation gain using the approach described is 2800 feet, not 3800.