'NINA,' 'PINTA,' and 'ZEKES'

USGS Index, USGS Mount Stickney, USGS Wallace Lake, USGS Gold Bar


January 30, 1994

Party: JR, Chris Weber, Bruce Gibbs,  Kal Brauner, Amy Carlson, Dave Housley

Nina, Pinta, and Zekes (right to left)

from Mount Stickney, December 18, 1989

--Three distinct summits, though ones only a bump enthusiast could love, lie between Lake Isabel and the Wallace River, about four miles NE of Gold Bar. They are easily recognized from the Skykomish valley on HW 2 from before and beyond Sultan, appearing as a triple summit, upriver (right) of Mount Stickney and the deep Wallace River cut. Despite their strategic location, they have long been overlooked because they are unnamed, and have only modest elevation.


We'd been eyeing them for several years as a possible winter destination, but didn't give them serious thought until 1992. That year was the 500th anniversary of Columbus' exploratory voyage to the New World, and because these summits lie above Lake Isabel, we came to call them, "Nina" (4695'), "Pinta" (4760+'), and "Santa Maria" (4865', aka Peak 4888 on the old map)--from NW to SE.  Isabella I (1451-1504), queen of Spain in 1492, came up with the bucks to launch Christopher's ships, as you know.


Later, we've learned that Zeke (of hamburger fame at its base) and Pargeter's updated map called Peak 4865, " Zekes Mountain."  So "Nina, Pinta, and Zekes" evolved, a curious twang.

Nina, Pinta, and Zekes

from south.  Lake Isabel lies in high valley on right.


Last winter (1992-93), Bruce, Chris, and I made a couple of pathetic, unsuccessful stabs at the trio. This year the three of us recruited Dave, Kal and Amy, and upgraded the plan to a full traverse with a car shuttle, leaving one vehicle at the Wallace Falls trailhead, and driving the other around to the Lake Isabel/Copperbell Mine "trailhead."  Finding the latter is a little tricky. In fact, the whole trip was a little tricky, if only because it's right on the corner of four different 7.5' quads (these were the days before Topo!).


Hints to Lake Isabel : Take a left on Reiter Road about 2 miles east of Gold Bar.  In less than 1 mile, continue straight ahead (leaving the pavement) to milepost 2, just past a gravel pit. Turn left. Go 0.4 miles (through a frighteningly huge mudpuddle) and under powerlines. Turn right. Go 0.7 miles to a hairpin turn back west at 900 feet (high clearance, or disregard for your vehicle's underbelly required). 0.6 miles beyond the hairpin is a switchback right. Ignore it. 200 feet farther take the uphill (right) fork which soon switchbacks right and ends at the 1200-foot "Copperbell Mine" (per the 15-minute USGS Index), or "2 Mines" (on the new 7.5 minute USGS Index). 75 paces west of the mine is the unlikely trailhead, marked by a few blazes on a tree.


Scramble uphill a few feet and find a superb trail heading left that smacks of miners--wide and steady. This intersects the old (abandoned) May Creek Road at about 2000 feet after a mile. The road bends right (east) a few hundred feet farther up. Pay close attention here. In a few more steps, at 2300 feet, a steep leftish spur road goes straight up the hillside. Take it, and in a few more feet of uphill on the spur, find a trail diving left into the woods again. Once on this final leg, the path is fairly easy to follow to the lake, though there are some tricky spots as the trail gets quite steep just right of the impressive outlet waterfalls.


Lake Isabel, 2847 feet, is a nice destination in itself. Kid Chris, the Quick, whipped those of us over 50 up here in an hour and 25 minutes. This is a huge lake, 176 acres, and very deep, 200 feet. The only natural lakes in Snohomish County that are larger than Isabel are Lake Stevens, Lake Roesiger, Lake Goodwin, and Blanca Lake. A plane crashed here last winter.


We turned left at the outlet, clambered over a small hill and down to and across a second outlet--peculiar.  It was jammed with logs, icy and slick. Splashes and deleted expletives were heard as one of the taller party members tested the water temperature with a dip of the toe up to his knee.


The 2000 feet up to Peak 4865 ("Zekes") was pleasantly open. In the non-winter of January '94, solid snow did not begin until 4400 feet. Atop, we basked in the sun with 360-degree views, including the buildings of downtown Bellevue and Seattle, and the mountains of Vancouver Island.


The snow was crisp enough to suggest crampons to most of the group on the intermittently steep traverse to the 4760+ foot middle peak, "Pinta," and on to Peak 4695, "Nina," which was no problem. Summit snows buried any chance of seeing if any cairns or registers marked previous visits.


As we descended the WNW ridge of "Nina" toward Wallace River, a clearcut reached up to grab us with tight second-growth at about 4200 feet. After muscling and grunting through this, we were embarrassingly happy and surprised to hit motorcycle tracks at 3700 feet on a well-grown-over logging road that shows up on the old 1957 15' Index quad.

We followed this road 2100 vertical feet down to a bend east at 1600 feet, then cut right through timber down to the Wallace River, and boulder-hopped to the opposite bank just above the lower (main) falls, picking up the popular trail here. We were back to the cached car just before dark, 9 hours and 15 minutes en route. Good trip.