Seeing the Picket range of North Cascades national park from up close was in my bucket list since long and I didn’t want to miss the chance now, especially due to the snow in early winter. I expected to see the range dressed with snow and I got exactly that on a perfect blue bird day for October.
I got up at 5:20 AM even though I had only 4 hours of sleep due to previous night’s potluck. We carpooled from Lake Stevens and reached the trailhead by 9 AM and I was glad that I could get some sleep en route. I decided not to carry ice axe which I thought was a bad idea initially. We started hiking at 9:30 AM and first 2 miles of the trail ascended only a bit after which it was steep all the way till the summit. Snow appeared after a mile from there and it was around 11:45 AM by the time we reached the intersection for Thornton lake and Trappers peak. There was lot of snow, we were discussing our options and fortunately we saw 2 hikers descending from the peak’s direction. They had camped the previous night and had made all the way up-to peak and back without an ice axe. They mentioned that there were boot paths all the way which encouraged at-least me. Most of us decided to give a try and started our ascent.
The first part was a class 3 scramble after which we could see Picket range and many snow capped mountains around. I carried on and 2 ladies who were ahead of me asked me if I would want to lead. It was funny that in-spite of not carrying an ice axe, I chose to lead the group. The boot marks on snow were super helpful and I followed them diligently. There were few sketchy sections and especially one narrow ridge path.
After a while it was just a fellow hiker and myself who were quite a way ahead. I mustered the courage to carry on remembering what the 2 other hikers had mentioned. We reached the peak by 1 PM on what I would describe as a perfect day for October. With clear blue skies we had a 360 deg panoramic views and there was hardly any wind. The snow enriched the beauty and I was so glad to be there. The picket range was just across the valley and truly lived up-to its fame of having many pointy peaks.
We could see 3 lakes nestled in the mountains and numerous features around. Soon rest of the group caught up and we had lunch while Jim was hurrying people to start heading back. The descent was uneventful except crossing those narrow sections and we made it to the trailhead by 4:50 PM. I was fortunate to make it back safe without an ice axe. The snow was just right to be passable without danger. I would strongly recommend carrying one in winter. My phone measured the distance to be 11 miles with 3800 feet as elevation gain. Surprisingly, I was not that tired for that stats. I would mark this hike as one of my bests.