Peak 5560+ with 400 feet of prominence
USGS Bearhead Mountain
July 28, 2008
JR, Aaron Roper, Sofy Roper-dog, Fay Pullen
MAP (Click on "Mark," then "Markers," then "Go To" if page is blank)
"Declaration Peak" lies about a mile north of the Mount Rainier National Park boundary on Independence Ridge half way between Bearhead Mountain and Clear West Peak on the divide separating the Carbon and White Rivers, at the headwaters of Viola Creek and upper Chenuis Creek.
I'd spotted this 400-foot prominence summit on the map several years ago when I was going through Jeff Howbert's list of peaks he had identified on the Bearhead Mountain quad. It is almost impossible to find a P400 summit that Jeff has not already seen on the map, but this was one of those rare exceptions. The peak is 5560+ and the saddle is 5160-, for a clean P400.
We approached up the Carbon River road and took the bridge over the Carbon River just before entering MRNP, driving 6.7 bumpy miles to the end of the Cayada Creek road, elevation 4400 feet. A washout about a third of a mile before the Bearhead/Summit Lake trailhead gave some pause. We were the only car in the lot, coming and going.
Cayada Creek road subsidence
The trail up to Twin Lake 4800' and on to the 5400' turnoff to Bearhead Mtn was in pretty good shape with only a few log hops. From this junction the trail over to Hurricane Gap was unmaintained with more downed trees, but pretty serviceable. The off-and-on view of Rainier from this section of trail under the Bearheads was pretty jaw-dropping.
Mount Rainier: Columbia Crest and Liberty Cap
If you look closely, you can see Paul Klenke's footprints on both summits from the day before (7/27/08) as he finished five important WA lists on Mount Rainier in the Grand Finale of a single step: Bulger List, WA Top 100 by P400, WA County High Points, WA County GPPs (Greatest Prominence Peaks), and the 144 WA P2000 Peaks. Nice going, Paul!
Zoom shot to lower Liberty Ridge and Thumb Rock above Carbon Glacier
The beargrass fields begged for camera breaks.
In 2:45 hours from the car, we reached Hurricane Gap 4900', which is nothing to write home about (so much so, it wasn't even worth taking a digital picture of). From here we followed the ridge SE toward our objective. In a couple of areas the ridge crest was rocky enough to require drops on the easier south side to bypass. Our first good view of Declaration Peak didn't exactly knock our socks off.
Woodsy, rocky Declaration Peak 5560+ from the NW
The gap to the left of the summit is 5160-. Do the math: P400.
There are two major fault lines that run north-south through this summit. The first was easily bypassed on the south.
First north-south fault on Declaration on approach
First north-south fault on Declaration up close. It was easily passed, on right.
Independence Ridge HP 5722' is on left
We reached the summit that shows as the 5520+ contour on the 1986 USGS Bearhead Mtn quad where we felt we were standing on the highest summit of the group.
Aaron and Fay on top of Declaration to our eye.
There was no evidence of previous ascent on this summit. We could look down a bit at the left summit here (East Declaration) shown as the 5560+ contour on the map, so we're declaring that Declaration Peak has at least this same elevation. Scarface is the mountain with the rock slide in center of this photo.
We went over to check the route on the east summit and found it will require a rappel into a gap before a class 3+ climb to reach that top.
From the Declaration-East Declaration gap, another maybe ‘76-foot rock tower we called Pewter Pillar looked to be an interesting project.
FA of Declaration Peak, hopefully. John and Aaron.
Beargrass meadows under Bearhead Mountain, on the way home
About 5 hours up, 4:15 hours back, slow pace.
On the way home, we stopped for a Wally Burger and Wallyberry (raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry) shake in Buckley to celebrate the day.