Big Four Mountain
Feb 12, 2022
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Big Four Mountain has been on my radar for a long time. Not just because it is on the Everett mountaineer’s 21 peaks but because it is one of the most prominent and beautiful peaks on the mountain loop highway. Everyone sees it. Everyone who has traveled the highway knows it. If you have been to the infamous ice caves, you’ve seen that sheer imposing face. Yet, it is one of the most challenging peaks on the highway to climb. No route is easy. Finding the right conditions is difficult at best. Locating a viable route is even more challenging. I’ve tried for five years and finally made it.

To start the route, I headed up Mountain Loop Highway on snowshoes early in the morning after sleeping in my car for the evening. All I thought the day before was my love life sucked, my work life was going downhill, and my financial position was facing things I hadn’t experienced for some time. I needed whatever experience nature was ready to give to me. Today was the day. It was one of those mornings where you can just feel in your bones that you re going to summit. Sources like Summitpost say to go to milepost 27 on mountain loop highway. I had tried that route up Big Four Mountain before and failed twice. So on this day, I decided to take my own route. I headed for the closed ice caves trail bridge and walked down the river until I found a log to cross. I was on my way.

big four mountain from mountain loop highway
big four mountain from the highway
sauk river crossing dry creek route
log used for river crossing

After some struggle and navigation through the woods, I finally made it to the dry creek route, took a deep breath, and decided on a route up the hill. These kinds of places where people rarely venture are where I find my peace. Heading up the gully I felt a strange type of silence inside. The kind of silence that comes with real comfort. The comfort of not knowing what is about to happen. The excitement of knowing it is only me.

The first section to climb up the Dry creek on Big Four Mountain was an incredible experience in navigation, momentary fear, and perseverance I have rarely experienced in my life of climbing. Simply pure joy and solitude. That strange feeling of knowing no one is there to save you or help you. It’s just you (if solo like my crazy ass). If my explanation lacks definition, it is intentional. If you want to climb this route, it is you (or your team and you) only. Figure it out. If you are not ready for that, you are not ready for Big Four Mountain. It is a beast.

looking up the dry creek route on big four mountain
looking up dry creek
starting up dry creek route
starting up dry creek route
Views from the firt gully on the dry creek route
first gully on big four mountain

Once I finally made it into the infamous Dry Creek gully, I was astonished at the sheer magnitude of it. This might be a small peak by cascade’s standards, but the sheer steepness and length of that ascent is brutal. I took pause at the fact that I was alone. Truly alone. Close to one of the most popular hikes in the cascades (big four ice caves) I had not seen anyone for hours. If something happened nobody was coming for me. It felt like my moment to let the fear go and make it happen Starting up the Dry Creek gully on Big Four Mountain is immediately committing. It is steep, icy, and lacked any kind of security. There is no reprieve, you just go for it. Good luck setting protection, I did a few times but it rarely felt secure. The gully is a nightmare. Enjoy the challenge or retreat.

Dry Creek Gully route climb
looking up dry creek
looking down the dry creek gully route
looking down the gully
sloan peak from dry creek gully route on big four mountain
sloan peak from the route

Out of the entire climb, this section is by far the crux. Walking the road, navigating the woods, and getting to the summit after the gully is child’s play. Any hiker with a Gaia map can do it.

Oddly enough, my GPS failed me twice on the way up. Once in the parking area when it didn’t start recording me and again when it failed just before the summit (because I didn’t charge it). Either way, I finally made the summit of this renowned peak and I am proud to say I did. But, I will also say that I will never do it again for any reason. It is a nightmare. Especially that down climb. I could have sworn I was going to die several times. Yet I live to climb another day due to skill, experience, and a calm centered nature amongst total fear. This is not a peak for a pretender. Please know what you are capable of before getting up there. Your life honestly depends on it….

waterboy near the summit of big four mounatin
waterboy near the summit
slowly setting sun from the summit
quickly setting sun
sunset over sloan peak from the dry creek route
sunset over the casacdes
Sunset from the main gully
sunset from dry creek gully
sunset over sloan peak from the dry creek route
sunset over glacier peak

If you are ooking for similar views without the risk and route finding involved on Bg Four's Dry Creek Route, you can always try out some of the summer routes on peaks like Mount Dickerman, Del Campo, Vesper, or Mount Forgotten

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