Buttermilk Ridge + Finney Peak in Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness / 酪乳脊

  • Reading time:6 mins read

Buttermilk Ridge and Finney Peak are two high points in Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness over 8000′ tall. The former is last on the top ten highest peaks in the Sawtooth Range. Meanwhile, the latter overlooks the broad Prince Creek Basin to the east.

Buttermilk Ridge of Buttermilk Slam
Buttermilk Ridge of Buttermilk Slam

See more trip photos here.

See this post for Baldy Mountain in the Entiat River Valley.

Buttermilk Ridge + Finney Peak + Baldy Mountain at a Glance

Buttermilk Slam = Buttermilk Ridge + Finney Peak
酪乳滿貫=酪乳脊+芬尼峯

Access: West Fork Buttermilk Trailhead
Round Trip: 26.1 miles
Elevation Range: 3920′-8267′
Gear: helmet

GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: on the trail

The Preface

We first visited West Fork Buttermilk Creek area in 2011 when we climbed Star Peak and company. But this time, we came to tackle Buttermilk Ridge and Finney Peak on Washington State’s second 100 highest peaks list.

Although Buttermilk Ridge and Finney Peak were nearly four miles apart, it made sense to climb both as an overnighter. We also made a side trip to Baldy Mountain that didn’t deviate much from the main path.

See more trip photos here.

West Fork Buttermilk Trail

Six years had passed since we came for a few of the Bulger List peaks. It’s exciting to revisit our old stomping ground by Star Lake. Though, the least appealing part of the trip was numerous down trees over West Fork Buttermilk Trail.

We went over, under, and around many windfalls. At the same time, we battled armies of bloodthirsty mosquitoes. Other than seeing the creek, views in the trees were spotty. Later we reached the top of the valley below Fish Creek Pass.

Log crossing
Log crossing

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Onward to Buttermilk Ridge

We took a break in the shade just off the trail. Meanwhile, I enjoyed the view of Buttermilk Ridge to the north. I hung my pack on a tree in the broad meadow. Then I grabbed the essentials, the dog, and headed north for the summit.

Beyond the meadow, the rest of the way was on talus and scree. We made a pit stop on the saddle between Buttermilk Ridge and Courtney Peak to check the west view. Then we made the final 600′ up to the top.

Buttermilk Ridge southern slopes
Buttermilk Ridge southern slopes

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Buttermilk Ridge Climb

The windy summit provided significant relief from the afternoon heat. We had been without shade since our break in the basin. Oval Peak, Star Peak, and Courtney Peak all looked very impressive from this angle.

Virtually all nearby Washington State’s highest peaks were visible. The three Oval Lakes in Oval Creek Basin looked rather inviting in the day’s heat. We left the top half an hour later.

Star Peak
Star Peak

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Fish Creek Pass

Before long, we headed for Fish Creek Pass at a stone’s throw away. The unexpected ice patch below the pass was easy to bypass on scree. Though, I couldn’t have seen south side of the pass soon enough!

I took a minute to savor the view into Fish Creek Basin. Meanwhile, the memories of our old trio climbing these Bulger peaks resurfaced. Indeed, time and tide wait for no man. But off to Star Lake, we went!

Good Sunday morning
Fish Creek Pass south view

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Hanging Out by Star Lake

It surprised me not to see anyone since this place is a popular stopover. After putting up the tent at the old spot, I pondered plans for later. I looked at the time, and the sunset was still hours away.

As much as I wanted to climb Finney Peak today, we likely wouldn’t make it back before sunset. So instead, we killed time by the lake and took turns swatting the mosquitoes.

Star Lake camp
Star Lake camp

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Evening by Star Lake

Later a lone hiker came around the shore as I filtered water for dinner. We chatted a bit as he recited his summer climbs of the 8000ers. Shortly, a couple came in with their pup and settled on the other side of the water.

Since I had decided to hang around, the pup and I turned in right after dinner. But not before we did some playtime in the meadow by the stream. Later we went to sleep while it was still light out.

At day's end
At day’s end

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En Route to Baldy Mountain

The following day, we went on Fisher Creek Trail by the camp. Then we moved east down to the 6800′ fork and went onto the Summit Trail. Later we left the trail by Baldy Mountain’s northeast ridge and walked up to the top.

We took a short break to enjoy the views. Then we continued south on the ridgeline toward Point 7618. We stayed on and west of the crest on moderate terrain. From here, Finney Peak still looked kind of far.

Good Sunday morning
Good Sunday morning

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Finney Peak via Finney Lakes

From Point 7618, we dropped 600′ on the south side. Then we picked up Surprise Lake Trail and reached the Indian Head Trail shortly. There we left the path toward the awe-inspiring Finney Peak that made a perfect backdrop for the lush meadow.

Later we went through Lower Finney Lake and soon reached the upper lake. From there, we moved west on Point 7985’s east ridge that separated the two lakes. Then we went up to Finney Peak’s north saddle.

Finney Peak of Buttermilk Slam in the background
Finney Peak of Buttermilk Slam in the background

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Finney Peak Summit Views

Soon, we dropped west on steep scree. Then at 7600′, we worked our way south onto Finney Peak’s west gully. The amount of choss here made the going feel like forever. But all the grunt and sweat would soon pay off!

Views from this vantage point were just as breathtaking. It’s also the closest we’d seen the Sawtooth Ridge high points from the west. Including Cheops and Sunrise Peak, they sat in a row on the long ridgeline.

Wish Slam
Wish Slam

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Back to Star Lake

Views to the west of Lake Chelan weren’t too shabby either, with too many peaks to name them all. Meanwhile, I kept thinking about the time it’d take us to return to camp. Or the time it’d take to go back to the car!

Rather than retracing our steps, we dropped onto the north side. Solid ledges were under some loose rocks, though, less technical than I expected. Stepping onto the snow was the crux as it’s steeper than it looked. But where art thou, ice ax?!

One more pass to go through
One more pass to go through

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Leaving Buttermilk Ridge

Later we made it back to the Indian Head Trail fork. Then I decided that we were through with traversing ridges. I was sure the pup would appreciate it as well. So we leisurely hiked the trail back to camp.

We started packing back at camp, and then we both took an overdue nap. Before long, we were making our way back to the trailhead. Till next time, Buttermilk Ridge and friends!

A long way back
A long way back

See more trip photos here.

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