Just a stunner of a day. Perfect hiking weather and an empty wilderness. Yesterday afternoon I drove up Highway 12 with a friend with the intention of climbing Kloochman Rock (pronounced just how it’s spelled). All the Forest Service roads were still blocked by snow, but we were able to park near the closest Forest Service road turnoff and hike in through the snow and ice. Everything shaded by pine trees was still frozen solid, but after about a mile and a half of hiking we reached the sun-exposed talus slopes at the base of Kloochman Rock and enjoyed some drier footing.
Pictured below left was our first view of Kloochman looking up at the northwest corner. After scrambling up the talus a bit you could turn around and get a clear view of Goose Egg Mountain to the west.
Kloochman Rock is a monolith partially made up of towering pyroxine-rich andesite columns, remnants of ancient volcanic activity in the area. Kind of has that same sort of Devil’s Tower look. The rock here is super rotten though, coming off in chunks in your hands. At higher elevations and to the east the columns disappear.
This a view toward Rimrock Lake. If you look straight above the frozen part of the lake you can see the snow-covered Goat Rocks peaks in the distance. Saw a bunch of weathered trees like this, full of crazy swirls and patterns.
We clawed our way up the talus in several places, resulting in views like the picture below left, before eventually making the decidedly imprudent decision to try to free climb up the area shown in the picture below right. It didn’t look that bad until you got about half way up and were clinging to a crumbly piece of moss-covered rock with thirty feet of exposure below. I guess it probably would’ve still been rated a class 4 scramble, but the loose rock kept things pretty adrenaline-charged. But, no blood, no foul.
Supposedly Kloochman Rock is what inspired William O. Douglas (of the US Supreme Court and the William O. Douglas Wilderness) to write:
When man knows how to live dangerously, he is not afraid to die. When he is not afraid to die, he is, strangely free to live. When he is free to live, he can become bold, courageous, reliant. There are many ways to learn how to live dangerously… The mountains that traverse this country offer still a different way, and one that for many is the most exciting of all. The mountains can be reached in all seasons. They offer a fighting challenge to heart, soul, and mind, both in summer and winter. If throughout time the youth of the nation accept the challenge the mountains offer, they will help keep alive in our people the spirit of adventure. That spirit is a measure of the vitality of both nations and men. A people who climb the ridges and sleep under the stars in high mountain meadows, who enter the forest and scale the peaks, who explore the glaciers and walk ridges buried deep in snow—these people will give their country some of the indomitable spirit of the mountains. – Of Men and Mountains
After surviving the loose rock scramble we topped out near a narrow trail running east to west below the next set of cliffs and followed this up through another talus field up to the summit (4536 ft). A few patches of snow, but mostly clear with tiny flowers springing up in the reddish sand. Peaking down the north side gave views of ample snow and dramatic drops. Clear views of the upper third of Rainier.
We hung out on the summit for about twenty minutes, wandering the length of the spine, chugging water, and enjoying the views, before skittering our way back down the trail. Below: a campsite shelter on the summit and one cold snow angel.
On the way down we stuck to the trail until we could find a safer path to slide down, dropping all the way to the base of the talus, before picking our way back toward our entry point. The fading sun splashed the columns in warm saturated light. Mesmerizing.