Left the trailhead a bit after 8am. The first 4 or so miles to Summerland went by super fast. Great trail! Arrives in S-Land just before 10am, 1 hour 50 minutes from TH. Nice flowers but only saw 2 marmots.
1.4 miles, 900ft., 1 hour later we reached Panhandle Gap, 5.7 miles from the TH. The snow at the gap has a good track kicked in. May be slick early in the morning, though. Trekking poles are helpful, or even an ice ax for some, but I didn't need either.
Now it was time to lose the other people on the trail. From the gap, the trail for Banshee Peak is straight ahead (while the Wonderland Trail goes down to the right), and wraps around the big hill on your left (don't go up the hill). The trail will become pretty obvious as it turns east toward Banshee. The trail loses about 150 feet from the gap before it arrives at the start of Banshee's meadows.
The trail soon fades away to XC hiking up the hill. Stay kinda left and as you near the top of the hill start working right. You will seen the summit ahead of you in front of the Cowlitz Chimneys.
About 1.5 miles, 700ft., 1 hour from the gap we reached the summit around noon. Over 7 miles and almost 4000ft. in 4 hours! Great views, including 6 volcanoes: Rainier, Adams, Saint Helens, Hood, Glacier, and Baker.
After 40 minutes on the summit, back down we went. Took about 3 hours 20 minutes to get back to the TH around 4pm. 14 miles, almost 4000ft. gain, 8 hours including breaks.
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