Climb Sloan Peak via the Corkscrew Route

Sloan Peak Trailhead

This is an alpine climb of a beautiful mountain that has it all: river crossings, bushwhacking, glacier travel, and exposed rock scrambling!

You'll start the approach to this climb at the Sloan Peak trailhead at 1800ft elevation. Moving south along the trail, you'll begin with a traverse through some marshlands and several water crossings along the Sauk River and its tributaries for the first mile and before gaining any elevation. It is key to pack some river gear for this area, so your mountaineering boots can stay dry for the ascent. After crossing the streams, the trail immediately picks up intensity with switchbacks gaining elevation at a rate greater than 1000ft per mile. The trail is a climbers trail, so do not expect a well maintained footpath. It is rough on the feet and the ankles so it is important to wear sturdy boots. 

At 3000ft, you will have to cross Cougar Creek. There is a felled log bridge that is quite sturdy and safe to sit and scoot across to the other side. There is also a beautiful waterfall at the crossing, with plenty of space for a break to eat a snack and enjoy the scene. Once across, the trail picks back up taking you through old growth forest, and alpine meadow. At 4800ft, there is an open area that looks like an inviting spot to set up camp. This is misleading, however, because the area is a marshland not suitable for a tent. Opt to continue up to at least 5400ft where there is ample, heather covered meadow and plenty of running water. There are other camping options higher up, and smaller parties may find better options if they continue up to 5800ft.

Next day, continue along the trail which will become more and more difficult to follow due to the terrain and geology of the route. Once at the glacier, find a good place to rope up and put on crampons. Ascend the glacier in as direct a line as possible, just left of the very large boulder outcrop. Continue high and traverse south, avoiding the periodic crevasses. 

Exit the glacier at 7100ft. It is safe to leave the glacier gear behind at this point and continue west up the obvious rock gully. Beware of loose rock and mitigate possible injury to other climbers by traveling very closely together. The route will corkscrew back south then north up to the peak after some exposed 3rd class scrambling with one or two 4th class moves. Find the summit register at 7835ft. 

Descend the climbing route.

Pro tip: pay a visit to the Hawk's Nest in Darrington for a tasty burger and cold beer. 

Pack List

  • 10 Essentials
  • Standard glacier gear
  • Water filtration 
  • Northwest Forest Pass
  • Mountaineering boots
  • Bug spray
  • River crossing shoes
  • Camera
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RT Distance 14 Miles
Elevation Gain 6035 Feet
Activities Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking, Rock Climbing
Skill Level Advanced
Season Summer
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Picnic Area


Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

The Matterhorn of the Cascades

Sloan Peak was an awesome all-around climb with a little bit of every type of backcountry travel you can find in the Cascades. We ran into a few parties who were doing this adventure in one push, car to car, and were seriously impressed. Nick did an awesome and thorough write-up of most of the obstacles you can encounter on this climb, but one thing to note: Those river crossings are no joke. We spent an hour and a half navigating our way across all 3 streams on our way into camp, and forged through in 20 minutes on our way out to the car. Our only regret of the entire trip was mistiming our summit with the weather, supposedly Sloan offers one of the best views of the entire Cascade range... Alternate post-adventure grub if Hawk's Nest is closed: Playa Bonita 30 miles west in Arlington.

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