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The Lofty Fifteen

Published by Steve Campion. Category: Geography & Geology

photo by Steve CampionMountains enrich the horizons for most Washingtonians. Yes, we have flat plateau in places, but (if the clouds cooperate) there’s usually at least a glimpse of higher ground out there. And that ground gets very high.

Running down the spine of the state is a collection of tall, rugged peaks known as a the Cascade Range — enticing to hikers and climbers and enchanting to the rest of us. Much of the land is remote wilderness and a fair share slants skyward. Sure, Colorado has more than 50 peaks above 14,000 feet, whilst Washington claims only one. But what a gorgeous One it is!

Playing off the famous 14 mountains in the world over 8,000 meters that elite climbers set as a career goal, I had planned to make this list 14 peaks tall. When I realized just one more would give me all Washington peaks over 9,000 feet, I decided that a nice rounded 15 was okay after all. All the peaks listed below are in the Cascade Range: Adams is in the South Cascades; Rainier and Tahoma are in the central; the rest are in the North Cascades.

HIGHEST PEAKS IN WASHINGTON

Peak Elevation (in feet) Location (Lat. & Long.)
1. Mount Rainier 14,410 46 51 N, 121 46 W
2. Mount Adams 12,276 46 12 N, 121 29 W
3. Little Tahoma 11,138 46 51 N, 121 43 W
4. Mount Baker 10,781 48 47 N, 121 49 W
5. Glacier Peak 10,520 48 07 N, 121 07 W
6. Bonanza Peak 9,511 48 14 N, 120 52 W
7. Mount Stuart 9,415 47 28 N, 120 54 W
8. Mount Fernow 9,249 48 10 N, 120 48 W
9. Goode Mountain 9,220 48 29 N, 120 55 W
10. Mount Shuksan 9,127 48 50 N, 121 36 W
11. Buckner Mountain 9,112 48 30 N, 121 00 W
12. Seven-Fingered Jack 9,100 48 09 N, 120 49 W
13. Mount Logan 9,087 48 32 N, 120 57 W
14. Jack Mountain 9,066 48 46 N, 120 57 W
15. Mount Maude 9,082 48 08 N, 120 48 W

SOURCES:   This was a much more difficult list to compile than I originally thought. Many of my print sources disagreed on many of the summit elevations. Since numbers 6 through 15 are all within 450 feet of each other, the ranking was upset depending on the source claiming a few feet difference. There were also adjoining promontories that could be argued to be separate peaks. Little Tahoma, for instance, is widely considered distinctive enough to be its own peak even though it sits on Mt Rainier’s eastern shoulder. Similar bumps on Mt Baker and other mountains can be defined away because they are not distinctive enough. You can see how this gets complicated! Accurate maps helped with elevations but not definitions.

Even the USGS Geographic Names Information System wasn’t entirely trustworthy. Not only was Mt Rainier listed a foot or two shorter than the usual heights, but for a year now that database has offered two Washington ports and a marina at ridiculously flawed elevations: 17,113 feet, 43,674 feet, and 89,868 feet. Imagine the boats that dock in those places! Other websites differed, as well, but the two I found most consistent with all the best data providers were both mountaineering sites: summitroutes.com and rhinoclimbs.com. If 6 of 9 sources agreed, those two were always in the majority. All things considered, I think my finished list is quite good, but there’s obviously always room for argument.

PHOTO © Steve Campion

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