I wanted to climb McClellan Butte, but at the last minute I read that the trail was impassible because there is still snow in one of the chutes. So Granite Mountain was the next best choice. I am really glad I picked it: the view was fantastic, not only toward Mt Rainier, but in all directions.
I left the trailhead at 8:00 AM, surprised that the parking lot was already half full. I was prepared for steep, and this was indeed steep. I was moving along up the trail pretty well, passing parties, but there were a few that passed me. By 10:30 I met the first of the parties descending: they had left the parking lot at 5:30.
It was a great pleasure to see the first glimpse of Mt Rainier peeking above the opposite valley wall. It was surprising how quickly it rose higher and higher. Getting out of the forst into the high meadows felt good, partly because the steepness of the trail moderated and the lookout tower came into view (high above).
I had a choice of going up the unofficial trail up the ridge, or sticking to the main trail to the east. I kept on the main trail, and I am glad I did so because the meadows and tarns were so beautiful.
I was getting seriously fatigued by the time I got to the final steep slopes, but I kept slogging on. I finally broke down and sat down to take a sip of water, but when I glanced up I saw I was only 50 yards away from the top. The tower was open, the ranger was welcoming, and the shade and the breeze made the stay pleasant. I took the panorama from the tower, then walked over to the true peak for lunch.
In addition to Mt Rainier, I could see another snowy peak in the distance to the south (Mt Adams) and another to the north (Glacier Peak). I could see the familiar peaks nearby: McClellan Butte, Mt Defiance, Bandera Peak, as well as the unmistakable Kaleetan Peak.
The descent was long and dusty, and I was surprised by how many people ware on their way up. The parking lot was overflowing — cars were parked along the side of the road almost back to the freeway. It was a good day to be early.