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Hike/Climb Russian Butte (with Thompson Point and Revolution Point)
GPS Data: Map, Track, Waypoints
Click here for GPX
GPS eXchange format file.
All waypoints were created enroute except RB_HUT which was created from the
GPS Stats and other info:
Chris (Omega), Mark (Mesahchie), Chris (Magnum)
|Wrong way||Upper secret trail|
From that fork onwards, the trail is good. Another half mile and it connects with the Granite Creek Road which is easy walking 2 miles to the Granite Lake cutoff. At 8AM it feels good, the air is crisp and still, the sky is blue, it's going to be a gorgeous day... when suddenly the forest to our left explodes in a huge crashing noise like a tree is about to come down... and it keeps getting louder and louder.... and then it's done. The trees are shaking but nothing falls. Chris (Magnum) says he heard thumping off into the distance... I guess that explains all the bear scat on the trail. Scared the crap outa me too!
At 3 miles is the fork with the picnic table. Right goes to Granite Lakes. We go left and up. The walking is pleasant all the way to Thompson Point at 5124 feet. At 3950 at a switchback to the left we pass the brushy entrance to the trail to Thompson Lake. It was also marked by surveyor's tape else we probably would have missed it. The road finally ends just a bit before the actual top near the Thompson hut, a cabin that is kind of a mystery. It's built like a tank, two doors each 12 feet off the ground, one tiny window that is boarded up. It's hard to tell if it's even being used or not. One thing's for sure, it has the best view in all of Washington. You can see Mt Rainier, Seattle, Issaquah, the Olympics, Granite Lakes, All the Banana Ridge "peaks" (Mailbox, Dirty Harry, West Defiance...), McClellan Butte, Kent, Defiance, Chair, Kaleetan, Bryant, The Tooth, Granite, Pratt, Mt Si, Teneriffe, Bessemer, Green, Glacier, Adams, Baker, Sloan, Thompson Lake, Gifford Lakes, pretty much the whole north and central cascades and oh yah... our first view of Russian Butte. In short, you can pretty much see everything that's important in Washington (well except for the Issaquah part ;) Spectacular!
Click here for larger map
The view from Thompson Point (minus Olympics)
Russian Butte is a really cool collection of cliffs and spires and summits that guard the hanging valley containing Gifford Lakes 2000 feet below us.
|Road/Trail above Granite Lakes||Critters||Thompson Point Cabin|
|Granite Lakes 2000 feet below||Russian Butte, Gifford Lakes||Spire|
|Russian Butte||Kaleetan, Chair, Tooth, et al||Thompson Lake|
From here on, we have no trail and stay on or nearly on the ridge all the way to Revolution Point. It starts out pretty brushy but gets better. We cross the "gully" (waypoint RB_GULLY) mentioned in Gabriel's report easily on high ledges and then regain the ridge with just a small bit of scrambling. From here we have almost continuous snow which makes the going a lot easier.
|Crane Pose - if done proper, can be no defense.||
At Revolution Point we stop to eat, take in the views and sign the register. This is the highest elevation of the trip (5454) and you can see the ridge running due north to Russian Butte. It doesn't look very user friendly and I'm concerned that I don't see any of the meadows mentioned in Gabriel's report. We hike, grovel, and glissade steep snow down to about 4600 feet on the east side of the ridge. Here we side-hill for 1.5 miles on on big snow patches, talus, (some) vine maple and open forest. This leads to the big talus slope below and east of the main summit. This is the "south east approach" (waypoint RB_SE_UP at 4450). We all (probably unwisely) pick our own lines up 3rd class ramps and sloping ledges. Eventually we rejoin on the left side where it is more vegetated but the angle and exposure is least. We gain the summit at about 4:10PM. Note - we stayed on rock the whole way up but it might work better to stay in the woods to the left until you reach the saddle below the summit. From here the scramble is very easy. As it is we're not interested in going down the way we came up.
|Glissading below Revolution||SE Summit Approach||Nearing the summit|
The view is great of course but I mostly like being so close to all the nearby, massive, minor summits and spires. The Middle Fork Snoqualmie is 4000+ feet straight down. A car slows crossing the middle fork bridge and I wonder if they're looking up at us. We sign the register which, placed in 2004 has only 7 entries. Chris (Magnum) has brought along some Russian refreshment - 4 little bottles, one of which we leave for whoever follows us. Exercising uncommon discretion (for me at least) we decide not to imbibe till we get ourselves safely off the top.
|Spire||Summit||Middle Fork 4000+ feet below|
We took longer than planned to get here so we don't stay long. Our descent
will be to the NE which Gabriel's report describes as "steep heather". It is
exactly that with steep snow and steep rock thrown in as well. We pick our way
down looking for a clear route to the south and I get to practice my self-arrest
at least twice. The problem here is that the south is blocked by a big rock
ridge. We eventually find a steep but short slot (waypoint RB_NE_UP at 4610
feet) through the ridge that saves us from having to drop several hundred feet
to go under it. We wrap our rope around a big evergreen at the top for a
handrail down this section but it probably isn't necessary. From here it's a
short traverse back to the talus field after which we mostly just reverse our
approach route. We did drop down a couple hundred feet hoping to find relief
from the side-hilling but there was none. We also avoided 350 feet of climbing
by circling around (east) and below Revolution Peak all on easy snow and talus.
Reversing the ridge walk is uneventful except that we've all run out of water. About a mile below the hut at 4070 is our first opportunity to filter so we stop and rest. We finally break out the Stoly vodka and toast our success. I insist that everyone drink their vodka before adulterating their stomach with water!
|Tired butts||Obligatory pic||Ditto|
Back at the fork to Granite Lakes (3120) it's now 10PM. Mark has secretly stashed... something... here... but we miss it in the dark. He walks back up the trail while Chris and I wait for a good ten minutes. Mark is motivated (???) and rightly so as he finally returns with three 20 ouncers of assorted ice cold beers! We are in heaven! We continue the descent by headlamp while the pain in my feet, through liberal application of malted medication slowly dulls to an ache. We're not in much of a hurry ;) reaching the car at 12:10 midnight.
Photo credits: Chris Marsh, Chris Schaening, Mark Scherer
Related Links and other references:
"Cascade alpine guide, climbing and high routes, Columbia river to Stevens
Pass" by Fred Becky
Gabriel's trip report via Granite Lakes and using mountain bikes
More route discussion
Discussion of alternate routes on cascadeclimbers.com
Andreism photos of winter ascent
Some discussion re the Thompson Point cabin on nwhikers.net
Our trip report and discussion on nwhikers.net
Drop me a line at with
questions or comments about this web site.