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 in North Chelan Mountains. Cardinal Peak is also the tallest inside the range. Of the four, Pinnacle Mountain sits the farthest away above Snow Brushy Creek Basin.

Kodak moment on Emerald Peak
Kodak moment on Emerald Peak

See more trip photos here.

Chelan Slam 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

Logistics Overview

July 2-4, 2016

Overview> Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

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 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, right away, I felt the enormous impact of the natural disaster.

Of our four goals, only Saska Peak was visible from the trailhead. But to climb them, we needed to hike 12 miles to camp. All but Pinnacle Mountain were in the North Fork Entiat River Basin.

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 arrived at the North Fork Entiat River Basin in the early afternoon. Shortly after setting up camp, the pup and I went up to Cardinal Peak. It was the closest one as well.

See more trip photos here.

Cardinal Peak Climb

There was still lots of snow in the basin. So that allowed us to avoid most scree on the way up. The north saddle was dry. But the snow on the north ridge kept us from going up directly.

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

Unexpected snow on the east side
Unexpected snow on the east side

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 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.

See more trip photos here.

Pinnacle Mountain Climb

Snow Brushy Creek Basin was a sad sight. The wildfires had swept through the area two years in a row. So all that remained were the sooty, chopstick trees.

It felt surreal, not to mention how emotional it was to see in person. But I could only imagine the vibrant vegetation before the devastation. The excellent views on top included many of Washington’s highest 100 peaks.

See more trip photos here.

En Route to Saska Peak

It took us a while to get back to the other side of Saska Pass. Shortly, we left the trail and started walking up on the south slopes. Then we aimed for the visible notch above the broad gully with loads of choss. The hanging snow on the north side of the southwest ridge was melting out fast.

We carefully scrambled up the ridge. Occasionally, we would move over to the west side to avoid the steep drop-offs. We had a clear view back at Pinnacle Mountain from the summit. So hard to believe we had just gone over there and back. I considered staying or sunset photos. But then I decided to go back to camp early. It was another night of starry sky for star trail photography.

Star trails over Chelan Slam
Star trails over Chelan Slam

See more trip photos here.

Day 3

Emerald Peak + Exit

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

See more trip photos here.

Getting up to Emerald Peak

On our last morning in the basin, we grabbed our final peak–Emerald Peak. The clouds had moved into the area before sunrise. Then they drifted from one summit to the next, all the while blocking our views. It was colder this morning in contrast to the past two days.

The route to get up to Emerald Peak was straightforward at first. But once the terrain flattened, we then noticed several gullies above us. We needed to find the one with the steep snow. But it wasn’t visible until we went around a buttress. From there, the route then became more apparent. There were even cairns here to lead the way.

See more trip photos here.

Last Chelan Slam Peak Minus the Views

The snow finger was too steep for me to want to get on top. So the pup and I worked our way through the moat on climbers’ left. Eventually, we made it above the ramp. We then continued to follow more cairns to get up to the top. Views up here would have been incredible. But we couldn’t see a thing!

I set up the banner on the big wall behind us. I made it for our final trip. Then I placed a couple of American flags on the ground to celebrate the Fourth of July. Half an hour later, the clouds down below began to move away. Then Saska Peak graced us with her presence. Too bad we never saw Cardinal Peak from up here.

Panoramic view on Emerald Peak

See more trip photos here.

Back to Camp Plus Outro

On the way down, we scrambled down the slabs on our left. So we didn’t need to go through the moat again. Interestingly, the rocks were hard to access from below. But they were more accessible from above. After going back to camp, I quickly packed. Then I took more photos while the pup took a nap before we went out.

Once we went back to the trailhead, we only needed to walk the roadway to finish the trip. But the five-mile, downhill road walk was painful. It also didn’t help that I had jabbed my big toes several times while climbing. I hiked sideways half of the time to ease the pain. Glad the car was still intact when we got back to our starting point.

See more trip photos here.

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

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