12 miles of hiking • 4250' elevation gain • 1 night
The pronunciation of this peak is questionable, I've read three different variations, "Aches", "Eye" and "Ikes." Mt. Aix is located in the William O. Douglas Wilderness, just outside of Mount Rainier National Park. I'm kind of partial to Aches, as it makes sense with the amount of elevation you gain right from the beginning. The drive out from Portland is stunning, even with the haze of wildfires. I recommend a stop to stretch your legs at the Tipsoo Lake parking area, take a stroll around the lake and gaze up at nearby Natches and Yakima Peaks, before heading to Chinook Pass on your way to Bumping River Road. Eugene, our assistant on the climb and my driver, decided we should take a quick dip into Bumping Lake, since we were camping and had all day to get to the trailhead. It was quite warm, though it was a bit odd for Michigander like me to swim in a tree graveyard.
The trail (#982) starts out gentle (very briefly), before you begin switchbacks in earnest.
Trail was mostly dry, just a couple of small trickling streams early on. Bring plenty of water. There are some great free camping spots right at the trailhead with parking - no signs that a Northwest Forest Pass was needed at this time. The sites were slightly littered with toilet paper in spots, but otherwise suitable. (Pack it out people!) We were advised not to filter water from Copper Creek, (which is a beautiful spot post climb to take a dip or soak your feet in some frigid water.) It was honestly one of those spots best kept in your head, and therefore I didn't take any pictures.
The climb itself was strenuous, and I quickly regretted the 20 mile bike ride I took on Saturday, the dancing at Lovecraft before that, and the Deafheaven/Drab Majesty show I attended Sunday evening. Eugene quickly made me into a teaching moment for Bill, (Eugene was evaluating Bill's provisional climb lead) and I was put on the spot to stay #2 behind Bill since I admitted I was feeling a little burned out. Honestly, I need time to "warm up" and so many climbs start fast paced from the get go, and that just isn't me, I need to work my way into a pace. Part of me knows I need to work on my fitness, but I'm confident while I may not be the fastest, I am strong. I have accomplished a lot this summer and I am grateful for the climb leaders who have allowed me to summit with them. Bill was great, and slowed his pace slightly with conversation, and I stayed right behind him for the remainder of the climb. (Sorry Bill, you were stuck talking to me all day!)
The real fun began at the scramble, and this is an area where I felt a little giddy and excited, something about finding my way with my hands and feet through a puzzle of rock makes sense to me, more so than actual vertical climbing. By this time we had our helmets on, and were very near our mission. (Yes, the summit, but #2, Bill's son had lost his cell phone in the rock getting to the summit on his scout the previous weekend.)
Bill, armed with some sort of grabber tool, was able to grab the cell phone wedged between some rocks, and amazingly, after a week in the elements, powered up when plugged in back at the trailhead.
Our views of Mount Rainier were obscured by smoke, but just the top floated above, like a ghostly otherworldly friend, waving at us from beyond. Our summit had a frenzy of flies, they didn't bite us, but it seemed like an odd spot for them to gather. Remnants of an old lookout were found, a pile of nails, some glass, and wire. High fives and smiles were spread around, some political dissent from our Venezuelan climber, and then the descent. My knees barked a bit, and I ached for a post climb beer. We made our way back and I collected my 5th summit card for the summer. The beer would have to wait until 4+ hours later when I reached Portland, and I barely made it through it before my eyes closed for sleep.