2017/7/8-9 – Buttermilk Slam + Baldy Mountain / 酪乳滿貫+鮑爾迪山

Today's destination
Destination in sight

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Buttermilk Slam = Buttermilk Ridge + Finney Peak

For Baldy Mountain off Entiat River Road, check out this post.

West Fork Buttermilk Creek Valley was the first area in Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness pups and I had visited. Before I knew it, six years had passed since we tackled a few of the Bulger List peaks here. I was pretty psyched about seeing our old camp by Star Lake, but not so psyched about being on the down tree infested trail.

After getting over, under, and around countless down trees while battling bloodthirsty mosquitoes, we finally arrived at head of the valley. Just short of the pass in the broad meadow south of Buttermilk ridge, I stashed my pack, grabbed the essentials, and headed for the summit due north. Beyond the meadow, rest of the climb was mostly on talus and some scree. We made a stop on the saddle between Buttermilk Ridge and Courtney Peak to check out the west side before finishing the last 600′ climb to the top.

Star Peak
Star Peak

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Windy summit provided much-needed relief from the afternoon heat since we came out from under the shade on the trail. Oval, Star, and Courtney seemed so much larger and intimidating from this side than what I remembered, even more so since I wasn’t climbing them. Three Oval Lakes in the Oval Creek Basin looked inviting in the day’s heat. We soaked in the views and then left the summit half hour later.

Just below the north side of Fish Creek Pass was a big frozen snow patch, which we easily bypassed on scree. The anticipation leading up to seeing the other side never got old. Old memories of the three of us tagging these peaks resurfaced as I looked into Fish Creek Basin from the pass. Off to Star Lake camp we went!

Camp by the lake
Camp by Star Lake

Photos from this trip can be found here.

A bit surprised not to see anyone around, since this seemed to be a popular backpacking stopover. After setting up camp at our old spot I pondered plans for rest of the afternoon. Sunset time was still several hours away, but I doubted we’d have enough time to climb Finney Peak plus Baldy Mountain 7810, and be back at a reasonable hour. So we ended up hanging out by the lake and swatting mosquitoes while making dinner.

A solo climber and a couple with their pup came into the lake basin later. The climber and I chatted for a while, and I listened to some of his summer adventures of peakbagging 8,000ers in the wilderness. Since we needed as much daylight as we could to get to Cascade Creek Basin and back, pup and I turned in shortly after dinner, but not before a little playtime in the meadow.

Good Sunday morning
Good Sunday morning

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Next morning we picked up Fisher Creek Trail (#1248) from camp, headed east down to the 6,800′ junction, and turned left onto Summit Trail (#1259). After arriving at the pass on northeast ridge of Baldy Mountain, we left the trail and made a southwest traverse toward Baldy’s summit. A short break on top to enjoy the views, we then continued the ridge traverse southbound, being on or west of the crest toward Point 7618. Finney Peak still looked so far away from the ridge.

From Point 7618 we dropped 600′ onto Surprise Lake Trail (#1249) via south slopes. Soon thereafter we came to the Indian Head Trail junction, where the luscious meadow was perfectly backdropped by the awe-inspiring sight of Finney Peak. We left the trail and headed southwestward toward Lower Finney Lake and up to Upper Finney Lake. From the northeast-trending ridge dividing the two Finney Lakes, we traversed southwestward aiming for the 7,800′ saddle between Finney Peak and Point 7985.

Next stop, Finney Peak
Final stop, Finney Peak

Photos from this trip can be found here.

At the saddle we dropped 200′ west on steep scree slope to 7,600′, then worked our way around Finney’s northwest buttress onto the talus and scree-filled west gully that seemed to go on forever. But boy, all that grunting and sweating our butts off sure had paid off; even more breathtaking views from this vantage point. First time seeing the Sawtooth Slam from the west, with high points including Cheops and Sunrise Peak all in a row on the long-running ridge line.

Views west of Lake Chelan were not too shabby either, with too many familiar peaks to name all. The more I stared at the Wish Slam, the more I thought about the time it’d take us to get back to camp…and to hike out. We descended the steep north face on ledges and loose rocks, and it turned out to be less technical than expected. The only good place to transition onto snow also happened to be the crux, steeper than I would have liked. Ice axe oh ice axe, where art thou ice axe?!

Wish Slam
Wish Slam

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Back at the Indian Head Trail junction in the meadow, I decided I was done traversing ridge lines for the day and opted for a far more relaxing return to camp on trail the entire way. After packing up and a quick nap back at camp, we began the long hike out to the trailhead.

Access: West Fork Buttermilk Trailhead
Gear: helmet

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