Ever since I saw McClellan Butte from I90, and especially after I had studied it from across the valley from Dirty Harry’s Peak, I wanted to climb it. It is so steep, and rises so high above the ground below, it just looks impossible to get to. And it was impossible, for most of the summer. The avalanche chutes along the trail were still impassible into August. I waited patiently, until finally there was a Saturday promising clear skies and warm temperature.
I got to the trailhead early — there were only three cars parked there before me. Going up, I had the trail all to myself: I did not see anyone until I was almost at the top (two of the earlier parties descending). Although it started out reasonably, it just getting steeper and steeper. But the trail is wide and soft, real pleasure to walk up. The trail is well cared for, with several sections that appeared to be recently maintained.
The first views of Rainier appeared as the trail crossed the SW ridgeline. From this point onwards the views of the surrounding mountains are magnificent. At the summit block I met one of the earlier parties, resting at the end of the trail. I should have sat down and rested my tired legs, but I was impatient to get to the top. Ascending to the top was scary, but quite safe: the rock was very solid, with numerous hand and footholds. After about 20 vertical feet, the trail reappeared, leading the rest of the way up.
I had the peak all to myself for half an hour. I relaxed, at lunch, and took a lot of pictures before heading back down. The steep part seems so short, going down, but was still scary. At least I was rested going down. At this time people started arriving regularly, and a couple people even went up to the top. I include a picture of this, because all the other pictures I could find were hard for me to interpret because there was no sense of scale or angle.
On the way down I enjoyed the pleasant warmth of an early autumn day, passing dozens of hikers headed up. There was a large group of volunteers maintaining the trail. I returned by a slightly different route: the official route is a little confusing where it cross the former railway.