Peaks 16, 17, & 18: Silver Peak, Abiel Peak, & Tinkham Peak(s)
Elevation: 5605’ (Silver); ~5282’ (Abiel); ~5282’ and 5315’ (Tinkham East and West)
Total Mileage: 10.02
Total Elevation Gain: 3765’
Date: 4 July 2019
My great Dudefriend, Rich, decided to do his own peak challenge, so we made plans to link up and tag a few together. The grand plan was to bivy on the summit of Mt. Catherine, watch the sunrise, and then tag its neighbors: Silver, Abiel, and Tinkham Peaks. The universe had other plans, though. The wind grew fiercer throughout the day, to the point that a bivy would have been potentially unsafe, not to mention uncomfortable with blasting gusts. I was determined to at least get a mountaintop sunrise, but for the one and only time in my life, my phone died in the night. When the early morning rays of light woke me, I was confused; how was the sun up before my alarm? Realizing what happened, I raced to the pass to meet Rich for our now three-peak adventure.
We started down the PCT toward the Silver Peak trailhead. The wind had calmed, but a thick layer of fog settled down around the mountaintops, a minor consolation that it wouldn’t have been a spectacular sunrise anyway. We passed a couple of camps along the way and saw campers enjoying their early morning coffee. Upward we pressed, toward Abiel Pass, where we turned north to ascend the southern slope of Silver Peak. Here, the trail rose steeper and entailed some fun, easy scrambling.
Reaching the summit, we tried to determine which point was the highest, so we climbed around on all the high spots to make sure we toed the true summit. The fog still lingered, so we didn’t get the big views of a clear day, but it’s nevertheless a treat to be standing at the highest point of a mountain, having reached it by your own power and in good company. I signed us into the summit register to let the world know that we were here.
Abiel Peak was our next objective. We retraced our steps down most of the Silver Peak trail then veered off onto a boot track before we reached the pass. It was at times difficult to discern the correct path, but we used common sense and keen bushwhacking skills to make our way over. There was a bit of thrashing through evergreens and some fun little scrambles on the approach.
We tagged the true summit but opted to take a rest on a ledge with a better view, or, at least what view was visible. The fog was beginning to break, and rocky precipices and alpine lakes started to materialize out of the clouds. Abiel had a neat little container used for the summit register, which looked like what I would imagine to be a soldier’s lunchbox circa WWII, and I checked us in there as well. It looked like we weren’t the first to tag this trio of peaks in one go, and I liked feeling a sense of community with others who had done the same route.
We climbed back down to Abiel Pass, where we turned south to ascend the trail to Tinkham Peak. This was another steep one, with some exposed bits along the way.
With one final scramble, we reached the west summit, where we found the register and checked in. By now, the clouds were dissipating, and we could see the Central Cascades unfolding below and beyond.
A short scramble took us over to the east summit, where I was delighted to find another summit register. Sadly, Rich didn’t go for my suggestion that this should count as two peaks, even though there were two summit registers. (Earlier, he also poo pooed counting South Silver as a peak as well.)
There were some great sitting rocks on the east summit, so we kicked back, ate mini Oreos, and contemplated the beauty of the world around us. I had not felt great earlier that morning, but a sense of peace and calm enveloped me as we lounged on the slabs of summit rock. We studied a spiny ridge across the way, known as Roaring Ridge (great name!), which we eye-scouted and daydreamed a fun route for another day. Below, Mirror Lake shimmered in the bits of sunlight that snuck through the clouds. I felt happy to be here in this place with my favorite friend.
I think we would have stayed there all day if the outside world allowed. Alas, we had to make our return. We descended the southeast side of Tinkham, rejoining the PCT at Mirror Lake. Holiday campers were claiming their spots along its shores, mostly families with children. I could only imagine what it must be like to be in such a place as a child. My family didn’t have mountains; we car camped on Lake Erie at East Harbor State Park in Ohio each summer, which is a highlight of my childhood. I’m grateful for that experience, but I also envied these children their mountain lake camps. I guess I’m making up for lost time now.
Back on the PCT, we stepped into an easy run. I had run this stretch twice before; once while sweeping Cascade Crest 100, and once during my own failed attempt at that race. I smiled knowing that I would be running past Mirror Lake once again in August, on my way to finish what I had started the year before. This route is a keeper, for sure, and I look forward to going back again someday. It will be fun to find our names in the summit registers, those scribbled snapshots of the past that confirm we were here.