Climbing
Snow/glacier/ice route
Alpine climbing NCCS rating
Grade I
Elevation Gain
4,200.00 ft (1,280.16 m)
Distance
11.00 mi (17.70 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Gothic Peak is the perfect objective for an aspiring Cascadian mountaineer, with a steep but easy-to-follow approach on trail, snow, and talus travel, and a fun class 3 summit scramble at the end. The area surrounding Gothic Peak, from Foggy Lake and Del Campo Peak to the greater Mountain Loop Highway peaks, is all spectacular! And to top it off, this whole area is less than two hours from downtown Seattle, yet sees much less traffic than the I-90 Corridor. If you're a beginner mountaineer and comfortable with crampons, an ice axe, and self-arrest, this will be a perfect excursion for you.

 

Notes:

  • Seasonality: This area gets snow earlier and melts out later than the more southerly peaks, so be prepared for a decent amount of snow starting roughly in mid-October and lasting into mid-July. However, this is a good thing, as the snow will make your climb a lot more comfortable than traveling on broken up talus and rock. As a result, the most pleasant time to do this trip is probably between late May and late July. After late July, the trip is still doable, but you'll need to contend with a lot more talus and rock travel. It's potentially doable up until mid-October when heavy unconsolidated snows make travel difficult and dangerous.
    • Snowpack-related concerns: Be careful during the transition from winter to spring to summer snowpack, as this is when you'll find wet slab/loose wet avalanches and solid-seeming snow that's actually undercut by meltwater!
  • Gear: Depending on when you do this trip, you'll likely need traction (either microspikes or crampons, depending on snow conditions), an ice axe, and all your normal hiking/mountaineering layers and gear. The longer you wait, the more you might be able to get away without traction or an ice axe, but it's impossible to say exactly when this transition happens. And since you'll be scrambling and using sharp gear, helmets are always recommended.
  • Road Closures: The Mountain Loop Highway can have some pretty annoying closures during the winter. It's generally open through the spring till fall, but if you're pushing outside the summer season, you'll want to make sure it's actually open, otherwise, you're in for a drive for nothing!
  • Number of Days: This trip is 10 miles roundtrip, with 4,200 feet of gain. To some, this trip will be easily doable in a day, to others, it may require camping down near the South Fork of the Sauk, or camping all the way up at Foggy Lake (in what's known as Gothic Basin). You have to know your ability and speed. If you haven't done a climb like this, expect that it will take longer than you think!
    • If you decide to camp up at Gothic Basin, keep in mind that it can be pretty busy up there once everything has melted out. However, one thing's for sure, if you do manage to get a tent spot up there, you definitely won't regret it, as it's unbelievable up there.
  • Other Objectives in Gothic Basin: From the shores of Foggy Lake, you'll see Gothic Peak to your left and Del Campo to your right, which is considered slightly harder than Gothic, as it requires some moves of mandatory class 4. If you don't know what this means, don't try this peak.
  • LNT: As always in the outdoors, and especially when you're going to a place that gets this much hiker traffic, make sure that you're modeling proper Leave No Trace behavior. Clean up after yourself and others to ensure that this special area stays the way it is for future visitors!

 

The Climb

You'll begin at Barclay Pass, after having driven a pretty chill dirt road. From the pass, you'll head straight south along a closed Forest Service road. After just over three-quarter miles, you'll find a sign directing you up toward Gothic Basin and Foggy Lake. Follow this sign right, and then continue contouring for almost another mile, before turning uphill and beginning the real climb. The trail rises steeply, heading southwest, all the way to a small unnamed lake between Foggy Lake (higher) and Weeden Lake (lower). The "official trail" ends here, though if it's snow-free, you'll see an obvious bootpack heading up and around a rock ridge. If it's snowy and early season, there may not a bootpack, but follow your nose and the map, heading northwest, which will shortly bring you up to Foggy Lake.

You'll already have 360-degree views, so relish them, and perhaps grab some water at the lake, before heading west-southwest to the ridge. From the ridge, you'll contour and climb up to the southeast face of Gothic Peak. Here, you can stash your snow gear and do the final third-class ledge scramble to the top.

From the summit, you'll get great views of nearby Del Campo Peak, as well as Glacier Peak, Vesper Peak, and a host of other climbable mountains all around you!

Once you've had enough, turn around and descend. Hopefully, it's still snowy so you can get some glissading and boot-skiing back down to the lake! Then you'll put away your technical gear and tromp your way back down the trail to the trailhead!

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

NW Forest Pass

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Alpine scrambling. Mountain views.

Cons

Long approach. Relatively popular.

Pets allowed

Allowed with Restrictions

Trailhead Elevation

2,300.00 ft (701.04 m)

Highest point

6,200.00 ft (1,889.76 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Wildlife
Wildflowers

Access

Hike-in

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Primary aspect

East facing

Drinking water

Snowmelt

Location

Nearby Lodging + Camping

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