Weekender: Hiking Snoqualmie Pass

The Snoqualmie Pass Triple

(And we’re not talking chair lifts!)

Story and Photos by Doug Emory

Photo at right: Tinkham Peak.

I first heard of the Snoqualmie Pass Triple while hiking near Olallie Meadows. Arms pumping, a hiker strode toward me. A tired-looking group of hikers trailed behind him, their looks begging me to stop him, but he barely broke stride at my greeting.

“Man, we just finished the Triple,” he answered briskly. That brief meeting sent me running for my maps. I knew enough to know he’d bagged three peaks in one day.

Snoqualmie Triple image

Randy Leifson ascending Abiel Peak

I caught the peak-bagging bug while living in Colorado, where ridge-running, multi-summit days are commonplace. The Northwest is different. We love arduous approaches to lone outcrops, a circumstance that leaves my affliction untreated.

Tinkham, Abiel, and Silver Peaks, all clustered around Snoqualmie Pass (an hour’s drive east of Seattle), each rising out of the trees and offering grand views of the surrounding Alpine Lakes Wilderness, make up the Snoqualmie Pass Triple.  Peak baggers will want to take note. It’s a glorious trip, but a long day–13 miles and 6,500 feet of elevation. The plaintive looks from those trailing hikers were warranted.

cold creek trail sign

Cold Creek Trail Sign

Not to long after meeting this hiker, my friend and I parked at Crest Trail south of Hyak and road-marched to the Cold Creek trailhead. Our early start left us pushing through the trail’s wet brush to Mirror Lake. We then hoofed it up the boot path on Tinkham’s southeast ridge, to a summit shrouded in Cascade mist. Peak one was ours.

Heading down, we took the Crest Trail west to another faint path near two muddy ponds. That climbed to a saddle which, on the map, looked like the center of a grand topographic amoeba–the point where all three peaks converged. Abiel rose directly west, and as we bushwhacked toward it, the mist finally dissipated. We stood on our second summit in sunshine, with glistening Annette Lake far below.

silver peak image

Silver Peak

With our feet suffering the effects of 10 miles of rambling, we regained the saddle and headed north for Silver.  Its broad ridge led up through heather and talus, to our third and final peak and the day’s final wilderness vista.

We completed the adventure by taking the Crest Trail north, barreling past timid hikers taking baby steps away from their cars. Yes, by this point our feet hurt, but our chests swelled with peak-bagger’s pride. When asked where we’d been, our answer was always the same: “Climbed three mountains today. No big deal.”

We had a right to brag. We’d just finished The Triple.