Buttermilk Slam + Baldy Mountain / 酪乳滿貫+鮑爾迪山

Buttermilk Ridge in plain sight

See more trip photos here.

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

The Lowdown on Buttermilk Slam

Buttermilk Slam = Buttermilk Ridge + Finney Peak

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

GPS Track: available

West Fork Buttermilk Trail

West Fork Buttermilk Creek Valley was an area in the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness we first visited. This time the yellow pup and I came back to climb the Buttermilk Slam: Buttermilk Ridge and Finney Peak. We also tagged Baldy Mountain as it was on the way to Finney Peak. Six years had passed since we came to climb a few of the Bulger List peaks here. So I was extremely excited about seeing our old camp at Star Lake. Though, the thought of hiking on the down tree-infested trail wasn’t very appealing.

After getting over countless down trees while battling bloodthirsty mosquitoes, we finally arrived at the head of the valley. Just short of Fish Creek Pass, I stashed my pack in the broad meadow south of Buttermilk ridge. Then I grabbed the essentials, and we headed north for the summit. Beyond the grassland, the rest of the climb was mostly on talus plus scree. We made a pit stop on the saddle between Buttermilk Ridge and Courtney Peak. Then we quickly checked out the west view before getting through the last 600′ to the top.

Star Peak
Star Peak

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Buttermilk Ridge and Fish Creek Pass

The windy summit provided significant relief from the afternoon heat. We had been out from under the shade since we left the trail. Oval, Star, and Courtney looked so much more intimidating from this perspective. It felt 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 an hour later.

Unexpectedly, below the north of Fish Creek Pass was a big ice patch, but we easily bypassed it on scree. The anticipation leading up to seeing the other side never got old. As I looked down into Fish Creek Basin, memories of the three of us climbing these peaks resurfaced. Off to Star Lake camp, we went!

Camp by the lake
Camp by Star Lake

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Star Lake Camp

A bit surprised not to see anyone around since this is a popular backpacking stopover. After setting up camp at our old spot, I pondered plans for the rest of the afternoon. I looked at the clock, and sunset time was still several hours away. But I doubted we’d have time to climb Finney Peak and Baldy Mountain and be back at a reasonable hour. Instead, we hung out by the lake and swatted mosquitoes while preparing dinner.

Later, a solo climber and a couple with their pup came into the lake basin. The climber and I chatted a bit, and I listened to his summer adventures of climbing the 8000ers. Since it’s a long way to get to Finney Peak and back, pup and I turned in shortly after dinner. But we got in some playtime in the meadow before getting inside the tent for good.

Good Sunday morning
Good Sunday morning

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En Route to Baldy Mountain

Next morning, we picked up Fisher Creek Trail (#1248) from camp. Then we headed east down to the 6800′ junction before turning left onto Summit Trail (#1259). After arriving at Baldy Mountain’s northeast ridge, we left the trail and traversed southwest up to the summit. We took a short break on top to enjoy the views and then continued the ridge traversed south. We stayed on or west of the crest toward Point 7618. Finney Peak still looked far away from here.

From Point 7618, we dropped 600′ on south slopes down to Surprise Lake Trail (#1249). Shortly afterward, we came upon the Indian Head Trail junction. The awe-inspiring Finney Peak made a perfect backdrop behind the luscious meadow. After leaving the trail, we headed toward Lower Finney Lake, followed by the upper lake. Then we traveled southwest on the northeast-trending ridge dividing the two lakes. We aimed for the 7800′ saddle between Finney Peak and Point 7985.

Next stop, Finney Peak
Final stop, Finney Peak

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Finney Peak Summit

From the saddle, we dropped 200′ on steep scree slopes to 7600′. Then we worked our way around Finney Peak’s northwest buttress. The talus and scree-filled west gully seemed to go on forever. But boy, all the grunting and sweating sure paid off! There were more breathtaking views from this vantage point. This trip was our first time seeing the Sawtooth Slam from the west. Places like Cheops and Sunrise Peak were all sitting in a row on the long-running ridgeline.

Views to the west of Lake Chelan were not too shabby either. But there were just too many peaks to name them all. All the while, I kept wondering how long it would take us to go back to camp. We descended the steep north face on ledges and loose rocks. The route turned out to be less technical than expected. The only ideal place to transition onto snow also happened to be the crux. It was steeper than I would’ve liked. Ice ax oh ice ax, where art thou ice ax?!

Wish Slam
Wish Slam

See more trip photos here.


Back at the Indian Head Trail junction in the meadow, I decided I didn’t want to traverse any more ridgelines. So I opted for a more relaxing return to camp by hiking on the trail. After packing up and getting a quick nap back at camp, we began the long hike out to the trailhead.

Till next time, Buttermilk Slam and friends!

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