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White Chuck Mountain

North Cascades

Location

North Cascades -- Mountain Loop Highway
View map below

Length

4.0 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Gain: 2100 ft.
Highest Point: 6989 ft.

Rating

3.50 out of 5

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Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None
 
 

White Chuck Mountain (Northwest Route) is a Class III scramble that requires basic gear, route finding skills, and extreme caution to negotiate successfully and safely. Those who make the hour-long trek down a gravel road, deal with a bit of overgrowth and route finding, and brave the scree and chossy rock will be significantly rewarded with phenomenal views of Thornton Lake and nearby peaks Pugh, Sloan and Glacier.

While the trailhead is unmarked, a boot path starting directly in front of parking is easy to follow and will take you through some dense overgrowth as you make your way to the North-West ridge.  Route finding and navigational skills play a key part in your speed to the basin, as there are more than a few turn-offs and game trails that can lead a scrambler or hiker astray if they are not cognizant of their route.  The overgrowth eventually opens up to some small meadow areas as you begin to traverse into the forested ridgeline.  The forest covering opens up every so often giving glimpses of nearby Peaks and White Chuck Mountain itself. The ridgeline will lead you to a false summit of White Chuck, and you'll make your way around to the right of it to greet the basin and along scree field down towards the gully. It is here almost a mile in where the majority of the elevation gain kicks in. You'll hike up another scree field to the base of the gully, and begin slowly making your way up the gully.  From here you'll traverse out right across the chossy slabs to reach the defined boot paths on the other side. It is here on the slab which is downwards facing, that provide the main challenge of White Chuck as "stability" tends to be desirable yet hard to find in these sections.

While the slabs are not overly difficult and approximately class III scrambling, they are extremely slick when wet and a fall or slide down them would have decidedly serious consequences. After the traverse, you meet up with climbers trail and in combination with the rock cairns will find your way heading right towards the "notch" where you will descend 15-20 ft carefully into the saddle.  It's here that prominence of White Chuck can be observed with the steep drop-offs on both sides, Thornton Lake below and the true summit up above.  A final push up somewhat exposed slabs and booth paths will grant you the summit along with the summit registry in a Brass "Mountaineers" capsule.

Of note, the descent in many cases is just as hard and precarious, and not recommended during the evening as making out stable sections of rock to place weight on becomes a challenge in the failing light.  For those that have stepped out of their comfort zone to make this summit, you will be greeted with quite the reward.

 

White Chuck Mountain

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 48.2219, -121.4438 Open map in new window

Trailhead

North Cascades -- Mountain Loop Highway

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Darrington Ranger District

See weather forecast

Guidebooks & Maps

"Climbing Washington's Mountains" by Jeff Smoot

published in 2002 by FalconGuides

Green Trails Maps - Sloan Peak

WA - NO 111

Green Trails Maps - Mtn Loop Highway

WA - NO 111SX

USGS White Chuck Mtn

Getting There

There is no trail head proper simply the end of the NSFR 2435 ends in a bit of a turnaround area. To reach the trail head you will go through the small town of Darrington and turn right onto Sauk Prairie Rd and continue on for a few miles till you reach the turn off for NF-24 on the right side. There will be a gate (left open) as well as signs describing rules and regulations for the NF-24. Google denotes this as "NF" and so does Green Trails however the signs read "NFR" or National Forest Service Road. The roads from here on out are single lane with small sections of shoulder to allow for passing every .1 to .2 miles apart. If you come across another car you will need to back up to one of these sections and pull slightly off to allow them to pass.

The gravel road begins here and is in good shape with very little washboarding and only a few pot holes. You will follow this road (NF-24) for approximately 8 miles. At about 4.3 miles into it, you will come to a "Y" fork where you will keep left. Continue till you meet a large junction area (similar to a large gravel parking lot) used for turning around. Turn left here onto NF-2430 (there is no sign that I can recall but both Google Maps and the Maps denote it as such) and keep right at the first "Y" intersection you come to. This puts you onto "NF-2435" and it is here that the desire for a high clearance vehicle, 4WD/AWD begins to make itself known. Potholes become significantly larger, the road less maintained and the grade steeper with uneven tracks.
You will follow this road (NF-2435) ignoring several logging spurs till the road comes out on a ridge with a very steep incline and a pull-off on the right. You will need to either be in low gear or AWD to make it to the top and come down the other side. When you come down the other side you'll pass a turn off to the left indicating you're almost at the trail head. Continue following this road (NF-2435) till it's termination in a bit of small gravel area. The trail pick ups directly in front of here and as this is not a maintained trail head you do not need a Northwest Forest Pass.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None
 

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White Chuck Mountain

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