1560+ nowadays, was 1576' on the 15-minute quad.  Prominence 460 feet.

My First Summit

USGS North Bend


July 1953, Age 9

with Seattle Boys Club from Camp Waskowitz


Little Si

The small bump in the middle of the picture, viewed from Mount Washington.

Mount Si (Big Si) on right, North Bend left.


This was my first summit.


And today, 10/8/90, I had to right a wrong. I re-climbed Little Si. The events leading up to my first climb in July 1953, a hike up this mini-mountain, were not entirely pleasant, but even then, I bet I enjoyed the actual climb of Little Si. I did today, for sure. Climbing is an automatic high for me. The clouds and rain alter anyone's perception of fun, but when the weather is good, my happiness is guaranteed when I am in the mountains.

In July 1953, as a 9-year old, I spent two long weeks at a Seattle Boys Club Camp somewhere in the Snoqualmie Valley with my Seattle cousins, Monte (age 10) and Tex (age 13) Steere. I was homesick. Other than the time my folks left me with my Aunt Jean to drive to Florida (and fly to Cuba) in 1947 (which I'd forgiven or forgotten, since I was only 3 then), this was my first big chunk of time away from home. I remember being annoyed that the camp leaders decided that the 10- to 13-year olds could climb “Big Si,” but that the 9-year olds would have to be satisfied with “Little Si.” And I was having a bad time there anyway.

The Boy's Club director was a stern disciplinarian who ran the camp like the Army sergeant he used to be. The first night at camp we were all gathered around a big campfire at dusk as he started to list the camp rules. What he wanted to do with us right off was to “signal” Seattle three times from North Bend with our flashlights at his authorization. We were then to put our flashlights aside, he announced, “And if I catch anyone turning their flashlight on again, I am going to grab it, and throw it into the Snoqualmie River.”

So we all pointed our flashlights to the sky, and at his order, all turned them on for five seconds, then off, on for five seconds, then off, and finally on for five seconds, then finally off. “There,” he puffed, “Seattle now knows that this camp is in session.” We should all be happy campers.

Obediently, I stuck my flashlight away in my front pants pocket while still standing. But as I was slipping it into my pants, the switch caught on the edge of the pocket, and the light went on to my horrified surprise, illuminating the guilty non-compliant child's armpit. The director rushed to my side, ripped the flashlight from my pocket, and almost with the same motion pitched it into the river, hollering at me and reminding the rest of the stunned campers that their flashlights would suffer the same fate if they too defied his order. So that is what I used to think of when I thought of Little Si, but today made it better.

October 8, 1990.

I realized that I didn't really have a good shot of this “peak” and that it was also the only summit I had climbed in the state as I was nearing 1000 different summits where the details of the climb were hazy and not documented in my slide boxes. It was only 20 miles up the freeway to North Bend (Exit 31) from our Bellevue home now. I turned off here and drove into town, then 1.5 miles east of what used to be the last traffic light on I-90, before the last section of freeway was completed between Seattle and Boston. Here I took a left on the Mount Si Road. In ¼ mile the Middle (Main) Fork of the Snoqualmie was crossed with a parking lot immediately on the left. A quarter-mile up this left side road was the start of the Little Si Trail. (There is a new parking lot a little farther north in 2005.)

The trail started off as a steepish gravel road. When the road first flattened in a third of a mile, there was a shortcut left, saving a few feet, then a stream crossing where the trail slipped around to the back, NE side of Little Si. A large flat was reached with minor confusing side trails—I took the center one.

Here the “Valley of Sighs” was entered—dark, dank, green, mysterious. The Great Wall of Little Si rose left in high, even reverse-angle head-cocking fashion. Look at the contours between the words “Little” and “Si” if you have a 7.5-minute North Bend Quad. There is only one intermediate contour (instead of 4) between the 1000 and 1200-foot lines here. This wall is now a rock climbing playground, and popularized in guidebooks.

The trail continued over the low pass between the Si's and down a bit before arching left to gain the NW ridge of Little Si. Off to the right here as the trail leaves the valley was a small cabin engulfed in moss. Plastic had been methodically roped into place to cover the leaky roof and a metal signs labeled it an emergency and rest shelter. Unless you were a kid, or in real trouble, I can't say you'd like to spend a lot of time here.

The top was gained without a single distant view until the summit. Counting the side trip to the cabin, it took me 45 minutes from car to summit, about an 1100-foot workout. From the top, the steep slope of Big Si itself dominated the scene. There is a sharp little “Si Spire” down left (SW) of the Haystack. Wonder what the climbing story is on that? McClellan Butte, Washington and "Eastern Washington" hover above tiny Cedar Butte, with Mount Lindsay (almost 4400' and in the off-limits Seattle drinking-water Cedar River Watershed) sprawling above Chester Morse Lake. I see there is also a Little Mountain 2972 just south of Chester Morse Lake with a lookout shown on the 1960 Bandera Quad which will require special permission to mount. Rattlesnake Mtn 3517 snakes for six miles to the south of North Bend. A piece of Tiger and Grand Ridge and Mitchell Hill and Fuller Mtn are other named things you can see from here. Views of the flat and logged land between Mitchell Hill and Fuller Mtn are obscured by summit trees.

And look at this on the 15' Bandera Quad: There is a Camp Waskowitz just south of Sallal Prairie. I wonder if this was the Boy's Club camp we were at. I should go back someday and look for my flashlight. Another Boys Club camp story I remember about that same a-hole director is that at one campfire he told us he would not let us have breakfast the next morning unless we turned up with a postcard written to home. "We want your parents to hear how much fun you are having." I bit my tongue and had a passable postcard, but he humiliated several campers by reading their cards aloud to the group, and made them leave the mess hall if he didn't think their message was adequate. Being honest, some weren't.

There is a crisp picture of Little Si by Bob and Ira Spring, looking down from Big Si, in the original 1966 100 Hikes in Western Washington . The rock is sort of a bubbly mash. Josiah “Uncle Si” Merritt settled near here in 1862 and was Si's namesake. The 1973 benchmark on top labels it “Small Si.”