Trip report for summit: Mt. Thomson
USGS Quad: Chikamin Pk.
Elevation: 6554 feet
Author: John Roper
Thursday-Friday, September 26-27, 2002
Point 5851 and Mount Thomson
The trail to Mount Thomson begins at Snoqualmie Pass and the PCT TH. This is the correct spelling for Thomson (1856-1949 = 93 years), Seattle city engineer, and yes, there is a trail pretty much the whole way, though tastefully done with no flags or cairns. I see that most of the Home Courtiers have done this summit.
Robert Hitchman notes in Place Names of Washington that "Mount Thomson is a 6,500-foot imposing mountain named by Northern Pacific Railway surveyors for Reginald Heber Thomson, a Seattle City engineer from 1892 to 1911." Jim Brisbine adds, "What you didn’t know is that R H Thomson is one of my heroes (I’m a civil engineer too). He was a man of remarkable vision and intelligence. I’ve forgotten a lot of his accomplishments, but I know he designed the municipal water system for Seattle, including the Cedar River pipeline, all the city reservoirs, and the water delivery piping. That was in the late 1800s and the entire system is still in use! Nowadays, we can’t even design a football stadium to last more than 25 years."
From the car, it’s 2.5 miles to the Commonwealth Basin junction on the new PCT (but probably less than 2 miles via the old PCT up CW Basin), 5.3 miles to Kendall Katwalk (and a fabulous view of the sexy Barbie Dolls, just SE of Kendall), then 7.3 miles total to Ridge Lake.
Just west of Ridge Lake, Ian and I took a detour after lunch to the top of Peak 5851. Even though this has prominence of 451′, it’s a pathetic addition to the Master List of WA peaks. In the planning stages of our trip, "Kitti-King Mtn" was considered as a name, since these county names are on the USGS map at this spot (and it’s next to the Katwalk). Then, as we viewed it from the trail in, we called it "Bushyhead," since it appears as a wood-tufted blob. But from the top of Thomson, this summit looks to wear a talus collar around its unshaven head, so "Collar Mountain" became the last thought. Mount Price actually splays out nicely from here.
About 1/2 mile past Ridge Lake is a fisherman-climbers path to "Bumblebee Pass" 5400′ (first saddle past 5928′, and not as drawn in Beckey).
At this point on the PCT we ran into Norm Kosky an old-timer Mountaineer doing the Stevens to Snoqualmie Pass trail hike, who told us that Thomson was Class 2, then admitted to a steep step at the top where he lowered himself on slings. After a bit, Norm realized where our paths had crashed past each other 23 years before, and he told Ian that there were going to be a lot of stories told tonight.
Ian and I popped over the pass into a wonderful meadowed basin at 5100′ and settled into camp early about 4 at about 5100′ above Edds Lake. As we were descending the "trail" to camp we ran into three men from the WA State F&W Dept that had just surveyed Edds Lake, and I’m not talking.
As we were approaching camp and having dinner, a few minor sprinkles dotted our shirts, but since all the TV weather forecasters had shown us big yellow suns on the three day forecast, we had little worry until about 6:30 when we got serious about going to bed as the skies opened up to a soaking rain. Ian headed straight for bed, throwing me a garbage sack to see what I could improvise as a rainfly, since I was the one who left the real one in my garage with the perfect prediction. I added on my yellow emergency tube tent I’ve carried around for years, and crawled in after him to endure a pretty serious half-hour deluge. When we awoke to a midnight nature call, the skies were perfectly starry, and the morning brought sun on Thomson and frost on the tent.
I don’t mean to pick on Fred, but the description of the "East Ridge" route is misleading. Aim for the obvious broad, smooth U-notch on the east ridge which is on the right, not left as he says (the latter is steep and blocked with a chockstone). And while this entire route is largely "easy" this is not a mountain for the uninitiated. And only the young gazelles will be able to get to the top in 6 hours and return in 3.
The trail through the talus to the U-notch is scanty, but once at the notch the route is obvious around the back (north) side on a path through heather until it ends in a rock finish, maybe 350′ vertical from the top. Get back on the main crest here, and look for a route just left of the crest for the easiest way. Ian and I got suckered too far left (south) on a faint climbers path through cedar bushes with slings along the way and ended up hung out on a deadly exposed section that was airy-hairy but not difficult. Ian took the rope here and led us to the SE corner which we then scrambled (at one point up a low-angle shallow chimney, muscling under a tree) to eventually realign with the proper final crux, a 15′ class 4 solid open book to bulge, again nicely finessed by the Scotsman with one piece of pro. Once past this it was a relaxed stroll to the summit.
The views from this 6554′ summit were finally enjoyed as we named off the Home Court summits around us. The new growth on past logged slopes about a thousand feet up on either side of the Middle Fork valley was easily appreciated, and the 700-foot waterfall coming out of Iceberg Lake caught our eye, as did the huckleberry slopes above Joe Lake, giving Huckleberry Mountain its name. We were expecting a Mountaineers register here, but there was none of any sort, though Ian came prepared.
We returned to the crux and rapped off solid old slings and were preparing to rap our up route to the right when a solo climber (Steve Purcell) popped over the ridge from the other direction, and alerted us to an easy route down to the left. Much better. We retraced our route, gathered our stuff, and headed home against the oncoming PCT rush hour traffic from the Katwalk on down, returning on the old Commonwealth Basin trail and saving some time.
Rough times: 4 hours to Ridge Lake, 1/2 hour to Collar, 1.2 hours more to camp, 3 hours camp to Thomson going the wrong way, 1.2 hours back to camp, 4 hours camp to car.
(mirrored from the Northwest Peakbaggers website)