Key: 2008-12-04:    

Daytrip to Mt. Defiance

A beautiful December daytrip up Mt. Defiance

Begin Date:

End Date:

2008-12-04: 4.63 mi

Total: 4.63 mi

Maximum Elevation*:
4582.16ft (1397.313m)

Minimum Elevation*:
1725.28ft (526.641m)

Gallery for this adventure:
Click here

* This is derived from GPS data and can have major discrepancies due to poor GPS reception.

Trip Report:

In case anyone is wondering, it would appear that something went wrong with the GPS tracking during this hike and Jason only was able to capture the first 4.5 miles or so.

The actual top of Mt. Defiance is 5584 feet and the trailhead sits at about 2200, so there is a good deal of elevation gain. Also, the gps did say 10.3 miles when we got back to the car.

Now onto the report.

Due to a favorable weather forecast for December in Washington, Jason decided he wanted to use some of his comp time at work to get out there and try to squeeze in a good pre-snow hike. He knew there wasn't any snow on Defiance and it was one of the few I-90 cooridor peaks that he hadn't been to the top of, So that was his target. Well upon hearing about this Tracy suddenly started to feel a bit under the weather and would likely need to take Thursday off as well to recover...wink wink.

We left the house at about 7:15-7:30AM. The sun wasn't quite up yet, but it was fairly obvious that the weather was going to work out very well for us. There was a little fog here and there, but otherwise there wasn't anything but crisp blue sky.

At around 8:00AM we were at the trailhead. We quickly threw on the boots and did the normal prehike routine of packing things up, making sure all out precious belongings were either well hidden, or in the packs with us (Gotta be cautious with all the trailhead theives around). At 8:15AM we finally hit the trial.

This trailhead is typically the main trailhead for a couple of good hikes, including Bandera, Mason Lake, and of course Mt. Defiance, so we had both been here quite a few times. It would be nothing new for us until after Mason Lake, but just to be nice I will breifly decribe it.

For the first mile and a half the trail sits on an old roadbed or RR grade and very gradually works its way up and to the east passing by a couple of nice waterfalls. After about 500 feet of elevation, the trail more or less splits with the old trail (which is quite obviously blocked) staying on the same grade and the new trail veering to the left at a significantly greater grade. The next 200 yards are probably the steepest on the trail until the upper sections of either Bandera or Defiance, and will without a doubt leave your calves burning.

Shortly after the steep area, the trail heads through an avalanche gully and levels out a bit. From here up until the split for Bandera, the trail takes you on a number of long swtichbacks following a fairly consistent grade. At about 4000 feet, the trees begin to thin and you will be treated to some great views of the entire I-90 cooridor and if it is clear, an even better view of Rainier in the distance.

Here is Rainier:
Mt. Rainer dominating the scenery on the way up to Mason Lake.

On the final switchback before Mason Lake, the trail to Bandera splits and head straight up the mountain. The main trail continues to the west until it reaches the southern ridge that helps contain Mason Lake.

The ridge also happens to be the boundary of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, but before heading down to the lake we stopped to take a couple pics of our photogenic companion.

Sasha posing for the camera:
Queen of the Mountain!

From here it is about a 200 foot decent to the shores of Mason Lake. The sun hadn't yet popped up over Bandera and since it was very cold and very windy at the lake, we didn't take much time enjoy the view, but instead kept going toward Defiance.

Shortly after the lake, we reached the trail junction for Island Lake and Lake Kulla Kulla, which lie to the north of where we were. Not looking to to waste anytime though, we pushed on towards Defiance.

The trail grade gradually began to steepen until you are practically going straight up the backside of the mountain over a series of very small switchbacks. Eventually the trail hops over the ridge to the south and you come out onto a large traverse on the I-90 side.

Here is a pic of Tracy on our way back at this point:
Tracy heading down the trail as it parallels the ridge.

Once accross the traverse the trail again splits and heads straight up to the summit via a makeshift way trail. The final push to the top is only about 300 vertical feet and is more than worth it just for the view. To the north we could see Baker, Glacier Peak, and the enchantments, to the south Rainier and Adams.

The enchantments from the summit:
From Mt. Defiance looking at the Enchantments.

We took about 3 hours to reach the summit, had a break of about 20 minutes at the top and then about 2 hours to get back down to the car. All in all it was a great trip on a great day and we couldn't have asked for better weather especially in Seattle during December.