Attractions. Sitting respectively at just under 7,900 and 7,500 feet, Mt. Daniel and Mt. Hinman are by no means the tallest peaks in the area. Yet located 14 miles west of Mt. Stuart and directly on the Cascade Crest, the Daniel–Hinman massif is a good 1000 vertical feet higher than other peaks in the general Stevens Pass area. As such, the broad slopes of these peaks are like a catcher’s mitt sticking high into the sky, impeding the moist air being pitched off the Pacific Ocean, and catching more snow than any other peak within 30 crow miles of the Wenatchee Valley.
The slopes of these two peaks are such an effective barrier, in fact, that their northern exposures, which are a good 2000 to 2,500 vertical feet above timberline, catch enough moisture in the form of snow to form a network of small glaciers. In mid to late spring these glaciers, whose toes are lapped by alpine lakes and whose tops are capped by rock towers, provide a spectacular domain for backcountry skiers to enjoy. Meanwhile, summer and early fall are preferred times for mountaineers and adventurous hikers to visit the area. During these seasons, the combination of non-technical peaks to ascend, glaciers to traverse, and turquoise-colored lakes to photograph put the area near the top of our region’s must-visit list.
Activities. Backcountry skiers, snowshoers, mountaineers, and adventurous hikers will all find the Daniel-Hinman area well worth a visit.
Skill. The difficulty here is in the eye of the beholder. From a skiing perspective, Daniel and Hinman require strong intermediate skills (2+ skill level). Hikers will consider both Daniel and Hinman to be difficult hikes (skill level of 3) while mountaineers will consider them to be easy climbs (skill level of 1+).
Fitness: 2+ (strong intermediate) for all endeavors.
Access. From Cle Elum, follow Highway 903 west to Roslyn, Ronald, and Lakedale. Higway 903 eventually merges with the Salmon La Sac Road. Stay on the Salmon La Sac Road and, just before the Salmon La Sac Campground, veer right on the Cle Elum Valley Road (aka Road 4330). Follow this for 12 to 13 bumpy miles. About 100 yards before the road ends, park on the left side of the road at the Cathedral Rock Trailhead. A high-clearance vehicle is recommended Springtime note: Backcountry skier will want to visit this area soon after they can reach the end of the road. At such times, skiers will need to hike a mile or two up the trail leading to Squaw Lake before they encounter snowline, but the skiing will generally be good before they reach the lake. Trying to ski the area significantly earliercould be a questionable tactic because the traverse around southwest side of Cathedral Rock may be snow-covered and considerably more treacherous in early season.
Map. See our topo map above of the area and the recommended routes.
- From the trailhead (elevation 3,365 feet), follow the Cathedral Rock Trail to Squaw Lake (el 4,840’). In spring, the trail will probably be snow-covered well before the lake and you are likely to lose the trail and need to travel cross-country through old-growth forest before reaching the lake.
- Go counter-clockwise around Squaw Lake to its northern end; then follow the trail (or ski) in a northwesterly direction up the draw and benches leading to a gap in the south ridge of Cathedral Rock. (el 5,560’).
- Go through this gap and make a generally flat to slightly descending traverse around the southern and southwestern sides of Cathedral Rock. In summer, the Peggy’s Pond Trail making this traverse is easy to find but the trail has some exposed scrambling and is neither for the faint of heart nor the inexperienced. In spring, skiers may find snow obscuring the exact location of the trail so contour gradually from the 5,500-foot level at the start of the traverse to the 5,300-foot level at its end. We speculate it may be difficult (and somewhat treacherous) to complete this traverse in early spring when it’s completely snow-covered.
- From the end of the traverse, head north and climb a few hundred vertical feet to Peggy’s Pond (el. 5,590’). There are good places to camp near the pond as well as a quarter of a mile northwest of the pond near the stream draining the eastern side of Mt. Daniel.
- Climbing Mt. Daniel is a direct and fairly easy climb. Work up the eastern side of the mountain to the gap in the south ridge below the summit pyramid at 7,580 feet. From the gap, follow the south ridge to the summit (el. 7,899’).
- Climbing Mt. Hinman from Peggy’s Pond is less direct. In snowy conditions backcountry skiers can ski up and over the east ridge of Mt. Daniel and then traverse the northeastern slopes of Daniel at the 5,300-foot level over to Pea Soup Lake (the lake on the map at the bottom of the Lynch Glacier). Ski across Pea Soup Lake to its west end and descend the slopes flanking the creek exiting the lake to the 5,500-foot level. Climb in a southerly direction to 5,900 feet; then in a southwesterly direction to the summit of Hinman.
- Summer mountaineers may find the route to Hinman more difficult because, once Pea Soup Lake melts, a few cliff bands at lake level may make it difficult to traverse the lake to its western end. We’ve only passed through here in spring but speculate summer travelers will need to climb above the eastern and western ends of the lake (as shown on our map in green) to pass through here. Once you’ve reached the western end of the lake, follow the route described above. Note: we welcome those who have traveled through here in summer to leave a comment below explaining whether the route described is feasible or not.
Top of two photos: Route up Mt. Daniel. Bottom of two photos: Mt. Hinman from the west end of Pea Soup Lake.
Hazards. 1) Skiers visiting the area must be able to assess and avoid the area’s obvious avalanche hazards. 2) Traversing Peggy’s Pond Trail has some exposed scrambling where a slip could result in injury or even a lethal fall. 3) The glaciers on the north side of Daniel and Hinman do have crevasses that open up in summer. In spring, when the snowpack is still plump, most backcountry skiers forego bringing glacier travel equipment (ropes, harnesses, prusiks), but what you decide is appropriate for safe glacier travel is always a personal decision.
Equipment needs. Besides the normal backcountry skiing kit, skiers will frequently benefit from carrying ski crampons. Although not always needed in soft-snow conditions, those planning to climb Daniel and/or Hinman are advised to bring a lightweight ice axe and lightweight crampons (aluminum tools are adequate for these non-technical ascents). Summer visitors don’t need glacier travel equipment to summit Mt. Daniel by the route described above, but might consider packing glacier-travel equipment if they anticipate traversing the north-side glaciers.
Camping. The area around Peggy’s Pond makes a nice place to camp. The pond is within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and fires are prohibited here. The area gets a moderate amount of weekend traffic.
Permits. A Northwest Forest Pass is needed to park at the trailhead. Most of your travel will be within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and visitors are asked to carry a wilderness permits (obtained by self-registering at the trailhead).
Not allowed. No motorized vehicles are allowed in the area and no fires are allowed above the 5,000-foot level. Pets??
Reporter (and date). First posted on 7/7/2011 by Andy Dappen.
Leave It Better than You Found It. This should be every user’s goal. Pick up trash left by others, pull noxious weeds along your route, throw branches over unwanted spur trails, etc.
Disclaimer. Treat this information as recommendations, not gospel. Conditions change and those contributing these reports are volunteers–they may make mistakes or not know all the issues affecting a route. You are responsible for yourself, your actions, and your safety. If you won’t accept that responsibility, you are prohibited from using our information.
Photo above: Striding across Pea Soup Lake with the Lynch Glacier above. Photo below: Standing above the east end of Pea Soup Lake looking west to Mt. Hinman in the background.