Trail Report: Mount Defiance.

Today we got up disgustingly early in order to make sure we got a parking spot at the very popular Pratt Lake trailhead. We got there at 7 am, and there were already a lot of people there. But didn’t we look optimistic? And in my case possibly a little psychotic?


We headed up from the trailhead, on a 3 mile climb at about 11% grade. The trail was mostly soft dirt, but it was cool and misty, sometimes with showers, and there were slippery bits. There are a lot of water crossings, but most are pretty easy. And some beautiful old bridges.


Once we’d climbed up the first 3000′, about 5 miles in, there was a long flatter trail that allowed us to pick up speed a bit. This also let us see the Alpine Lakes – this trail is in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness – including Talapus, Ollalie, Rainbow Lake. Stunning scenery even in the fog.


I took a couple of short videos. Beautiful and serene.

This is not Mason Lake. This is Rainbow Lake.

And this lake doesn’t have a name on the map.

Somewhere after the lakes, we broke out of the forest and into this high meadow. It was eerie, and a little ethereal. You could see down the mountain to misty trees emerging from the gloom. This was real-life cloudrunning.


The final quarter mile was a 40% grade scramble up a boulder-strewn path. There was no view; we were deep in a heavy, wet cloud. I’m told that when it’s clear that you can see sweeping vistas of Rainier and the central Cascades.

We made it up in 3.5 hours and down in 2.5. Fair warning: there is still, on July 1st, some snow to cross. Snow bridges, postholing, etc. A lot of trail reports describe bugs, but that wasn’t our experience today. The overall distance was 16.3 miles, and the vertical gain was 4970′. The way down was slippery, muddy, mushy, rocky, and treacherous. We took our time. But we made it!

Gear: we wore gaiters for the first time and I’m never going back. Wonderful invention. This was a great “run”, and we had a blast. But it was a lot of work, there were some places that required rock scrambling skills, it was cold and wet, there was snow, and it was muddy as hell. Perfect.