Skyscraper Mountain

July 17, 2018


Mt. Rainier National Park, WA

Skyscraper Mountain sits a little bit farther back in the backcountry than the insta-famed Mt. Fremont lookout. The access via some excellent trail system from Sunrise with minimal elevation gain/loss however the view is absolutely breathe-taking towards every direction. This is the classic definition of “type 1 fun” that’s doable for anyone able to walk, literally. The road to Sunrise is the only logistic complication as it’s only open when it’s snow free in the summer months starting in July. All peaks in this immediate vicinity are excellent choices for introducing newbies into hiking. They’ll likely make the summit regardless their fitness level and the view’s something they’ll never ever forget.

I had been planning to do a trip with Wendy M. for ages and our schedules never aligned. Then it came this past Tuesday when she could finally manage a “full day” to do something. My plan was again, resting at home because I just did the true summit of Black Tusk, but after checking the weather forecast there’s no way could I waste this bluebird day. On the way driving back from Black Tusk I constantly flipped through my memory data base and decided on either Hurricane Ridge area of the Olympics or Sunrise area of Mt. Rainier. Either of which would require a ridiculous 3 am depart time from White Rock but “long drive” has never been a problem for me. To my surprise Wendy actually agreed with the early wake-up call and between the two areas she picked Mt. Rainier. My original plan was Mt. Fremont lookout but I figured we should do something a little bit more “obscured” than what we see on Instagram everyday…

Skyscraper Mountain hiking route.

My alarm went off at 2:20 am after just a mere couple hours of sleep and after stuffing some breakfast I went down south and picked Wendy up from White Rock. The border crossing was a fluent process and so was the drive down I-5 corridor. We managed to sneak past Bellevue before the morning rush hours and then had an official breakfast in the small town of Auburn. The rest of the drive into Rainier and up onto Sunrise Road was a scenic journey. The view’s already amazing from the parking lot. The first stage was walking along Sourdough Ridge trail towards Frozen Lake and it sure didn’t disappoint. There’s a permanent snow patch above the lake which explains its name.

Already excellent views from the Sunrise parking lot…

Checking out the first viewpoint along Sourdough Ridge trail

McNeeley Peak to the north

This trail has some good engineering on it…

Arriving at Frozen Lake

A zoomed-in shot of the permanent snow path and cave…

Onward we descended gradually into a broad basin. The trail we followed is “Wonderland Trail” and upon reaching the next junction in the lowest point we took the left turn heading up onto the shoulder of Skyscraper Mountain. There’s excellent view along this entire stage and the alpine meadows surely reminded me the scenery in Canadian Rockies. From the shoulder the ascent to the summit was officially “off-trail” but given the popularity of this peak we had some pretty defined paths to follow. There’s no “scrambling” involved and it’s just a “class 1” hike.

Me hiking down Wonderland Trail. Photo by Wendy M.

Wendy hiking down Wonderland Trail.

Nice and good trail…

At the low point in the meadows we crossed several streams

Going uphill again.

First time the trail crosses a patch of snow

Arriving at the saddle underneath Skyscraper Mountain

Wendy’s excited to see Mt. Rainier so up-close

This is the typical terrain on the south slopes of Skyscraper Mtn.

Wendy posing on a spot just underneath the summit

The same spot, from a different angle. Mt. Rainier behind

The last few meters to the summit.

Summit Panorama from Skyscraper Mountain sans Rainier. Click to view large size.

Me soaking in the views. Photo by Wendy M.

Wendy on the same spot as the previous photo

Another spot down on the edge. The valley’s really cool

Summit Jump as always.

Me posing on another spot. Photo by Wendy M.

Me celebrating the summit of Skyscraper Mountain. Photo by Wendy M.

Yes another shot of me with Mt. Rainier behind. Photo by Wendy M.

Wendy and I on the summit of Skyscraper Mountain

The heat’s beating down mercilessly and the mosquitoes were terrible that we didn’t want to linger too long. We spent some time playing with the camera and did get some neat results. There’s not much worth noting about the trailed plod back to the car. The final 2 km or so was walking on a closed dirt road..

Time to go down.

A view of Sluiskin Mountain which is a remote climb

Little Tahoma which I ascended last year in June

Me hiking down the upper south slopes. Photo by Wendy M.

Descending the south slopes.

The ground’s a bit loose and slippery

Crossing that short patch of snow

Following the trail

Taking a rest break on a wooden bridge

We spotted a good site for photo but that requires a bit of scrambling to get down

Here’s Wendy posing for a photo.

Plodding back across Wonderland Trail

Happy to play with another patch of snow.

Our round trip time was about 5 hours on a very leisure pace. We drove back to Bellevue and killed some time in Bellevue Square and then had a dinner in the Cheesecake Factory before resuming the long drive back home.