Fortress Mountain 8,674' from Buck Creek Trail!
Tilmann and Doerte looking at the beautiful Columbines on the Buck Creek Trail. Big Fortress Mountain is above!

Fortress Mountain 8,674'

August 10/11, 2002 Trip Report in the Glacier Peak Wilderness


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The Buck Creek Trailhead begins at the private mining area of Trinity at 2,800’ 24 long miles down the dusty Chiwawa River Road from Lake Wenatchee. There were some cars at the trailhead, but not many for a beautiful summer weekend. Doerte, Tilmann, and I started early, hoping to have some time to explore once we made camp.

The Buck Creek trail is in excellent condition for all of it’s 9.6 miles to Buck Creek Pass. There is water and small camps along the way. At 1.5 miles the Chiwawa River Trail branches off to the right to access Chiwawa Mountain, 8,459’ and Red Mountain, 7,646’.

Our trail went through lush undergrowth, down trees from avalanches and old growth forest. As we gained elevation we had big views of Mount Berge, 7,953’, and Buck Mountain, 8,573’, to the south. Doerte came face to face with a big Elk at a small stream crossing. There are some good campsites below Pass No Pass on the north side of Helmet Butte.

Glacier Peak from Fortress Mountain! From the South flank of Fortress looking at Helmet Butte and giant Glacier Peak.

The campground at Buck Pass had 3-4 parties, most on multi-day loop hikes from Holden Village and Phleps Creeks. There was one other climbing party. We had great front row views of Glacier Peak, 10,528’ across the Suiattle River Valley from Buck Pass. The amount of green filling the meadows above treeline was amazing. A beautiful area.

After dinner we did a side trip up the trail to the summit of Flower Dome, 6,300’. True to it’s name it was covered in summer flowers. The view, although dominated by Glacier Peak, was marvelous in every direction. Tenpeak Mountain and big Clark Mountain. 8,602’ dominated the views to the south. Tilmann and Doerte identified flowers until almost dark. Although Glacier was out and brightly illuminated, Fortress was hidden from view by clouds.

On the Flower Dome Summit! Doerte and Tilmann identifing flowers on the Flower Dome. Behind is Helmet Butte and Fortress Mountain in the clouds. (The only cloud of the day!)

We saw great fields of Tiger Lilies, Columbine, Paintbrush, Pussytoes, and even some Glacier Lilies where the snow had just melted.

To climb Fortress we left camp at 6:00 am. We followed the trail back to the junction of Pass No Pass, 6,400’, and then ascended snow and meadow to the pass. A big Buck Deer on the pass watched us the entire time, only leaving as we could look into his eyes.

Doerte and I ascended the ridge from the pass, traversing to the right as we gained elevation. An easier and more direct route is to head for Fortress prior to gaining the pass.

We crossed blooming Heather slopes and small snowfields until we gained the major snowfield on Fortress’ south flank.

The Snowfield on upper Fortress! The route goes up this snowfield to the narrowest part where climbers can move over to class 2-3 rock and talus, or they continue up to the top of the snow before they gain the ridge to the summit.

We could see the tracks of the climbing party from the previous day ascending to a dead end in a chute below a huge block of Fortress. The correct route is not obvious unless you can see the mountain. We ascended the steep hard snow to where it joined steep talus above a cliff band. From there is easy loose class 2 to the summit ridge and then west along the ridge to the summit of Fortress, 8,674’.

There is a big cairn on the summit, but no register. The views were astounding! Far to the south were Stuart, 9,415’, Daniel, 7,986’, and Hinman, 7,942. Big Bonanza Mountain, 9,320’ dominated the view to the north and the giants of Copper Mountain, Mount Fernow, Seven Fingered Jack and Mount Maude filled the eastern view. A few weeks before Lee Coutermash and Kevin Runolfson from the WAC had summited Fortress.

Cairn on the summit of Fortress Mountain! Looking South from Fortress Summit. Daniel and Hinman can be seen in the distance.

We gingerly backed back down the snow, and rambled slowly down through the wonderful Heather Meadows. Marmots grazed like sheep on the thick lush growth. Big, fat deer watched us with wayward eyes.

Returning to Tilmann and camp we packed up and hiked out the 9.6 miles to the Trailhead. We saw only two parties hiking in so the area is not over-used. The trail was quite dusty and is used by horses although we didn’t see any. Doerte found ripe blueberries along the Chiwawa River to give us extra energy for the hike out.

Two days, 6,374’ of elevation gain, and 27 miles.


This website is a photographic and descriptive resource of routes and climbs, not a hiking guide. By using this site the viewer releases the creator from any and all liability. Hiking/climbing is a potentially dangerous activity and requires proper equipment, skill, experience, preparedness and awareness at all times.

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