Fay Peak-First Mother Mountain Traverse

On Friday, I went on my first solo hike this year. It’s truly a different year.

I had never been in the Mowich Lake area of Mount Rainier National Park, and it looked like there were a number of good-looking peaks to visit. It had rained the days before, but I had the day off. I left home around 4:30 AM and arrived at Mowich Lake Campground right around sunrise, just as planned.

From the Mowich Lake Campground, I headed north on the east shore past the patrol cabin. Then I followed a boot path up in the direction of Knapsack Pass. At about 5400 feet elevation, I turned south to follow the Fay Peak trail. Finding this turn-off was a bit tricky. The map seemed to indicate I should climb up a small waterfall, but upon reversing my track, I found a short westward section that crossed a small creek and then immediately turned south towards the Fay Peak ridge.

I continued following that trail all the way onto to the ridge. I thought about climbing the rocks at the west end of the ridge, where the boot path arrives, but it was too slippery. In general, I was soaked already from squeezing past trees, and I put my rain pants and rain jacket on. This way, at least I was wet and warm instead of wet and cold.

View eastwards of the Fay Peak, from just below where the boot path arrives on the ridge.

On the ridge, I traversed the boot path towards Fay Peak. Mount Rainier showed itself briefly through the low clouds for the first time.

Mount Rainier, from near Fay Peak.

Initially, I attempted to scramble it from the west side, but with the slippery rocks, that wasn’t all that easy. I succeeded on the northwestern flank, but then discovered that it would have been a walk-up from the east (not too surprising, looking at the map). My next objectives, East Fay Peak and First Mother Mountain, still lay in the mist.

East Fay Peak (right), Knapsack Pass (center), and First Mother Mountain, in the low clouds.

I really wasn’t sure I would do much more, it was so wet and slippery, and I didn’t want to do any dangerous scrambling. But I could see the trail down from Knapsack Pass, and decided it was probably easier to continue along Fay Peak ridge to Knapsack Pass. But the other peaks were optional now. Well, they all are always optional.

I continued along the ridge past the middle rocks, which I climbed, to East Fay Peak. Judging by the map, it looks like it would be easier to climb from the south, and I got almost to the top, but again, the last few feet were very slippery. I circled around on the north side of the peak, and again, found the peak was a walk-up from the east.

The weather was starting to clear, and First Mother Mountain looked amazingly beautiful. I sloped north and down to the path up to Knapsack Pass, to which I connected just below the pass. I decided to head up to the pass, take a break, and look at First Mother for a bit.

First Mother Mountain and Knapsack Pass from somewhere below East Fay Peak.

The closer I got to First Mother Mountain, the more awesome it looked, but it also got scarier, and I was getting tired. I decided to take a look and only scramble it if it’s also a walk-up, which it was.

Beautiful First Mother Mountain.

The trail goes up to the westernmost little peak of the Mother Mountain ridge, then behind the 2nd little peak on the north side. First Mother Mountain can easily be scrambled from the northwest side.

View down from the summit of First Mother Mountain.

In the picture below, taken on the summit of First Mother Mountain, you can pretty much see the entire traverse I did. I came up on the far side of Fay Peak, the big massif in the center background. Then I traversed the ridge to the left, with East Fay Peak at the far left. The path up to First Mother Mountain goes up the heather slope in the center, around and behind the rock tower, and then up the chossy slope in the foreground.

View of Fay Peak from the summit of First Mother Mountain.

After that, I went back down to Knapsack Pass and down the main trail to the lake and the campground. It was a wet suffer fest — almost every step, I could wring out my gloves — but so much fun. The whole day there were only goats and I.


About Mathias

Software development engineer. Principal developer of DrJava. Recent Ph.D. graduate from the Department of Computer Science at Rice University.
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