Highchair Mountain

October 6, 2019


Leavenworth / Icicle River Road, WA

Highchair Mtn. locates deep in Alpine Lake Wilderness about halfway between the town of Leavenworth and Stevens Pass on US-2 corridor. This is not a “big mountain” by any measure, but offers some unique views and perspectives of the bigger and well-known mountains nearby. The access is often done by traversing up and over Bootjack Mtn. along Bootjack Ridge trail that originates from near the end of Icicle River Road. The ridge traverse is mostly just a hike with occasional 3rd class steps that can be bypassed if one doesn’t mind some detouring. This past weekend Selena, Brenda and I decided to explore some peaks in the south-eastern Washington Cascades because that area had the nicest weather forecast. Selena suggested Bootjack Mtn. and I said we should aim to do both Bootjack Mtn. and Highchair Mtn. and the plan was then made. Earlier in the day we had already summitted Bootjack Mountain.

Bootjack to Highchair traverse. GPX DL

From the summit we scrambled down a gully onto a flat bench and then ascended up and over the bump immediately to the south of Bootjack Mtn. summit. From the south summit we descended easy slopes down towards Bootjack/Highchair saddle with occasional scrambling here and there. The connecting ridge at and around the saddle offered some fun scrambling oppourtunities and we certainly took advantage of that by staying exactly on the ridge crest. This way we got some hands-on 3rd class fun. Upwards towards Highchair Mtn. we opted to resume the ridge fun by staying on the crest, and this was a mistake. There was a great deal of unpleasant boulders that were somewhat loose and covered in fresh snow, making slow and tedious progress.

Highchair Mtn. and the connecting ridge from just below Bootjack Mtn.

Selena scrambling down a loose gully below Bootjack Mtn.

Over the southern sub-summit now, looking back towards Bootjack Mtn.

Selena and Brenda scrambling along the connecting ridge

Started to see some larches into the upper basin above Black Pine Creek

Another lonely larch with Bootjack Mtn. behind

Highchair Mountain ahead. We were slowly getting there

Brenda hiking on the typical terrain

That ridge in foreground is called Sixtysix Hundred Ridge

Snow-covered boulders made some slow progress

Brenda picking the way

Me negotiating the ridge. Photo by Brenda G.

Another photo of me on the boulders. Photo by Brenda G.

Another lone larch on the upper E. Ridge of Highchair Mtn.

Brenda and Selena plodding up the east ridge with snow and larches around

The tracks on my GPS showed that other parties had stayed lower on the eastern slopes in the trees. The forest looked snowy but at least there weren’t that many boulders so we decided to head down that way instead, but now we had to focus on our steps to get to the summit first. Thankfully the last 100 m or so wasn’t that bad and we were soon on the top, soaking in incredible views towards all directions.

Selena on the last few steps to the summit

Partial Summit Panorama from Highchair Mountain. Click to view large size.

Partial Summit Panorama from Highchair Mountain. Click to view large size.

The summit offered really good view of The Cradle

Ingalls Peak behind with Harding Mtn. in front to the right

Even Mt. Adams showed up way the heck in the distance

The one-and-only Mt. Rainier

A closer look at the double-summits of The Cradle

Mac Peak in the foreground, apparently a remote objective

Columbia Peak and Kyes Peak on Monte Cristo Group

Glacier Peak dominates the skyline to the north

Big Chiwaukum and Snowgrass Mountain

Grindstone Mountain just across Icicle Creek valley

A zoomed-in shot of Cashmere Mountain

Sloan Peak the “Matterhorn of Cascades”, with Mt. Baker behind

A zoomed-in shot of Mt. Stuart the grand daddy of SE Cascades

Me on the summit of Highchair Mountain

Our group shot on the summit of Highchair Mountain

After lingering for at least half an hour we slowly started the descent. I led a line following my instinct down the snowy eastern slopes, and other than a short stretch of boulders we did manage to stay away from prolonged boulder-hopping. The bonus of descending this way was some close-up larch experience. The larches were turning golden but not at their peak yet, so that’s a little bit disappointing. The ascent back towards Bootjack Mtn. appeared like a slog and it sure was. At least there wasn’t that much deal of elevation regain – 200 m or less. We took another long break on the summit of Bootjack Mtn. before bailing down the north ridge. The last break was taken at treeline to pick up our ditched shoes. Selena and I were very happy to finally be able to swap our mountaineering boots for trail shoes. The descent down Bootjack Ridge trail was tedious and never-ending but we did keep a decent pace throughout.

Mt. Stuart from just below the summit of Highchair Mtn.

Looking down into the bowl we were going to descend into

Me picking the route. Photo by Brenda G.

The larches hadn’t fully turned colour yet.. Too bad…

Selena plodding across a patch of snow, in that bowl

Back onto the connecting ridge now, looking down Black Pine Creek valley

Me scrambling along the typical ridge. Photo by Selena E.

Bootjack Mountain ahead. Still a bit of work left

Another photo looking towards Mt. Stuart

Panorama from the summit of Bootjack Mountain. Click to view large size.

Another look towards Cashmere Mtn., from just under Bootjack Mtn.

Descending the north ridge of Bootjack Mountain

The typical travel in the burnt forest

One last photo before bailing into the woods…

Our round trip time was just over 8 hours with lots of long breaks, so this is indeed a very enjoyable (and reasonable) day-trip outing. I hadn’t even heard about Bootjack Mtn. and Highchair Mtn. if not because of Selena’s suggestion, but I have to say that she definitely picked the right place to explore on this past weekend. I was happy that I didn’t have to drive the section from the trail-head back to Seattle so that I could get some sleep in. The drive back home from Seattle was relatively fluent except for a major crash near Bellingham that caused some detouring. I bot back home by 10 pm and that’s not bad at all for a trip to the Leavenworth area.