Cardinal Peak + Pinnacle Mountain + Saska Peak + Emerald Peak / 翡翠峯

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Cardinal Peak, Pinnacle Mountain, Saska Peak, and Emerald Peak are four high points by Lake Chelan. Of the four, Pinnacle Mountain is the only one in Snow Brushy Creek Basin. The former is also the tallest one in the range.

Kodak moment on Emerald Peak
Kodak moment on Emerald Peak

See more trip photos here.

Cardinal Peak at a Glance

Chelan Slam = Cardinal Peak + Pinnacle Mountain + Saska Peak + Emerald Peak
奇蘭滿貫=卡地納峯+巔峯山+薩斯喀峯+翡翠峯

Access:  North Fork Entiat Trailhead
Round Trip: 32 miles
Elevation Range: 2600′-8590′
Gear: helmet, crampons, ice ax
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: on the trail

July 2-4, 2016

Day 1 – Saturday, July 2
Approach + Cardinal Peak
Night 1 – North Fork Entiat River Basin Camp

Day 2 – Sunday, July 3
Pinnacle Mountain + Saska Peak
Night 2 – North Fork Entiat River Basin Camp

Day 3 – Monday, July 4
Emerald Peak + Exit


Day 1

Approach + Cardinal Peak

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

The Preface

It has become our Fourth of July weekend tradition to make a big trip. So this year, the pup and I spent three days in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. My goal was the four peaks off the North Fork Entiat River.

The group of peaks would’ve been the last of my Bulger List before I realized that it didn’t. Nevertheless, I was nearing the finish line. So it was a trip for us (maybe just me) to remember.

Trail junction
Trail junction

See more trip photos here.

Entiat River Road to North Fork Entiat Trailhead

Road closures have been in effect because of the wildfires in recent years. So the five-mile road walk to the trailhead was inevitable. At the trailhead, I felt the enormous impact of the natural disaster right away.

Of our four goals, only Saska Peak was visible from the trailhead. All but Pinnacle Mountain were in the same basin. But to reach them, we first needed to hike 12 miles to the camp.

Climbing Cardinal Peak
Climbing Cardinal Peak

See more trip photos here.

Cardinal Peak via North Fork Entiat River Valley

We spent the morning hours going through countless down trees. While trying to bypass the logs, we had somehow missed the trail going down by the river. But we rejoined it later after some scrambling.

We later reached North Fork Entiat River Basin in the early afternoon. Cardinal Peak was our first goal, so we set up camp at the foothills in the meadow. Then the pup and I went up to Cardinal Peak.

Unexpected snow on the east
Unexpected snow on the east

See more trip photos here.

Cardinal Peak Climb

The snow in the basin allowed us to avoid most scree on the way to the saddle. The pass was dry, but the snow on the north ridge kept us from going up directly. So we looked for another way.

Soon, we dropped onto the eastern slopes. Then we went south through the steep east slopes below the summit ridge. From there, we climbed up to the notch and finished the final bit to the top.

Cardinal Peak north view
Cardinal Peak north view

See more trip photos here.


Day 2

Pinnacle Mountain + Saska Peak

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Snow Brushy Creek Basin via Saska Pass

We started walking early the following day. So we could prepare for what would likely be a long day ahead. I wanted to tackle Pinnacle Mountain first as it’s the farthest one from camp.

But reaching the mountain meant we would need to go into the Snow Brushy Creek Basin first. It’s the adjacent drainage to the west. Then on the way back, we would climb Saska Peak.

Gopher Mountain from Saska Pass
Gopher Mountain from Saska Pass

See more trip photos here.

Pinnacle Mountain Climb

Snow Brushy Creek Basin was a sad sight as wildfires had swept through the area two years in a row. So all that stayed were the sooty, chopstick trees. It felt surreal, not to mention how emotional it was to see in person.

The excellent views here included many of Washington’s highest peaks. But I could only imagine the vibrant vegetation before the devastation.

Pinnacle Mountain southeast view
Pinnacle Mountain southeast view

See more trip photos here.

Saska Peak Climb

It took us a while to return to the other side of Saska Pass. Then not far down the pass, we left the trail and walked up the south slopes. Meanwhile, we aimed for the notch above the broad gully with lots of choss.

The hanging snow north of the southwest ridgeline was melting out fast. Soon, we scrambled up the ridge carefully. But we’d sometimes move to the west to bypass the steep drop-offs.

Saska Peak south gully
Saska Peak south gully

See more trip photos here.

Saska Peak Summit Views Plus Outro

The pup needed some guidance going through a couple of not-so-dog-friendly places. Before long, we were on top with a clear view back at Pinnacle Mountain. It’s still hard to believe we had just gone over there and back.

I wanted to stick around for the views and sunset photos but later changed my mind. We could head back to camp early so we both could get more rest. Later, it was another starry night for star trail photos.

Bonanza Peak from Saska Peak
Bonanza Peak from Saska Peak

See more trip photos here.


Day 3

Emerald Peak + Exit

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Emerald Peak Climb by Cardinal Peak

We climbed our four and final peak on our last morning–Emerald Peak. It felt colder today compared with the past two days. Clouds had moved into the area before sunrise and drifted among the mountaintops.

The route to Emerald Peak was at first straightforward. But as the view cleared, we saw several gullies. The one we needed with the steep snow wasn’t visible until we went around a buttress. Soon, the route was apparent, with cairns leading the way.

Fourth of July
Fourth of July

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Chelan Slam Peak Summit Minus the Views

The pup and I worked our way through the moat on the west to avoid the steep snow ramp. Soon, we followed more cairns over the rocky terrain and reached the top. Too bad, we could’ve had incredible views if it weren’t for the clouds!

I put up a banner on the big wall and some small flags on the ground to celebrate the occasion. Then half an hour later, the clouds started to dissipate. Soon, Saska Peak came out of the mist, but we still couldn’t see Cardinal Peak.

Panoramic view on Emerald Peak

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Back to Cardinal Peak Camp Plus Outro

We downclimbed the slabs on the west to avoid the moat entirely on the way down. Funny that the rocks were more easily accessible from above. Back at camp, I packed and took more photos while the pup napped before leaving.

We only needed to walk the road from the trailhead to finish the trip. But the five-mile roadway was painful to walk with my jabbed big toes from climbing. So I paced sideways half of the time to ease the pain and slowly made it back to the car.

Leaving Emerald Peak

See more trip photos here.

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

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