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

We first visited the West Fork Buttermilk Creek area in 2011. Back then, we went climbing the Wish Slam. But this time, we came back for the Buttermilk Slam–Buttermilk Ridge and Finney Peak. Then we also made a side trip on Baldy Mountain.

Buttermilk Ridge of Buttermilk Slam
Buttermilk Ridge of Buttermilk Slam

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For Baldy Mountain in the Entiat River Valley, check out this post.

Buttermilk Slam 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

West Fork Buttermilk Trail

Six years had passed since we came to climb a few of the Bulger peaks. So it was exciting to revisit our old stomping ground by Star Lake. But the least appealing part about the trip was the down trees-infested West Fork Buttermilk Trail.

We climbed over, under, and around many windfalls. At the same time, we battled armies of bloodthirsty mosquitoes. Other than the view of the creek, there wasn’t much to see in the trees. Later we reached the head of the valley below Fish Creek Pass.

Log crossing
Log crossing

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Onward to Buttermilk Slam

We took a break in the shade just off the trail. At the same time, we enjoyed the view of Buttermilk Ridge to the north. Later I hung my pack on a tree in the broad meadow. Then I grabbed the essentials, and we went north for the summit.

We went through the grassland. Then the rest of the climb was on talus and scree. We made a pit stop on the saddle between Buttermilk Ridge and Courtney Peak. So I could check out the west view. Then later, we went up the last 600′ to the top.

Buttermilk Ridge southern slopes
Buttermilk Ridge southern slopes

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Buttermilk Ridge of Buttermilk Slam

The windy summit provided significant relief from the afternoon heat. We had been out from under the shade since our break. Oval Peak, Star Peak, and Courtney Peak all looked much more impressive from this angle.

Three Oval Lakes in the Oval Creek Basin looked inviting in the day’s heat. Just about all of the highest peaks of Washington were visible from here. We enjoyed the views for a while. Then we left the top half an hour later.

Star Peak
Star Peak

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Fish Creek Pass

Before long, we were back on the trail. Then Fish Creek Pass was just a stone’s throw away. I didn’t expect to see a big ice patch below the pass. But we were able to bypass it easily on scree. The anticipation led up to seeing the other side of the saddle was real.

I took a minute to savor the view down into Fish Creek Basin. Then suddenly, the precious memories of the three of us climbing these peaks resurfaced. So off to Star Lake camp, we went!

Good Sunday morning
Fish Creek Pass south view

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Star Lake Camp

It was surprising not to see anyone, especially since the lake was a popular stopover. After setting up camp at our old spot, I pondered plans for the rest of the day. Then I looked at the time, and sunset was still several hours away.

But I doubted we would have enough time to climb Finney Peak today. Not if we didn’t want to come back at a reasonable hour or before dark. So instead, we hung out by the lake and played the game of swatting mosquitoes.

Star Lake camp
Star Lake camp

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Evening by Star Lake

While filtering water for dinner, a solo climber came around the lakeshore. Soon, a couple with their pup arrived. But they set up camp on the other side of the lake. The lone hiker and I chatted a bit. Then he told me about his summer climbs of the 8000ers.

Since I decided to stick around, the pup and I turned in shortly after dinner. But not before we got in some playtime in the meadow by the stream. Later, we went inside the tent and went to sleep while it was still lig.

At day's end
At day’s end

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Getting to Baldy Mountain

The next morning, we got on Fisher Creek Trail next to the camp. Then we traveled east down to the 6800′ junction and made a left onto the Summit Trail. Once we went up to Baldy Mountain’s northeast ridge, we then left the trail.

From there, we scrambled southwest up to the summit. We took a short break on top to enjoy the views. Then we continued going south on the ridge toward Point 7618. We stayed on or west of the crest on moderate terrain. Dinner Peak still looked far from here.

Good Sunday morning
Good Sunday morning

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Getting Through Finney Lakes

From Point 7618, we went down 600′ on southern slopes. Soon, we got onto Surprise Lake Trail (#1249) and hiked it. Then we made it over to the Indian Head Trail junction. The awe-inspiring Finney Peak made a perfect backdrop behind the lush meadow. We left the trail here and then went cross-country.

Afterward, we went up toward Lower Finney Lake. Soon, we arrived at the upper lake. Then from there, we moved southwest on the northeast-trending ridge. The ridgeline divided the two lakes. Then we aimed at the 7800′ saddle between Finney Peak and Point 7985.

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

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Finney Peak of Buttermilk Slam

From the saddle, we went down 200′ on steep scree. Then at 7600′, we worked our way around Finney Peak’s northwest buttress. The west gully harbored lots of talus and scree. Not to mention that the route seemed to go on forever. But all the grunting and sweating would soon pay off!

Views from this vantage point were just as breathtaking. This trip was our first time seeing the Sawtooth Slam peaks from the west. Together with Cheops and Sunrise Peak, they all sat in a row on the long-running Sawtooth Ridge.

Wish Slam
Wish Slam

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Getting back to Star Lake Camp

Views to the west of Lake Chelan were not too shabby either. But there were too many peaks to name them all. Meanwhile, I kept thinking about how long it would take us to go back to camp. Or how long it would take to get back out to the car!

Rather than going back the way we came, we went down on the steep north face. The solid ledges were full of small loose rocks. This way ended up being less technical. The only place to go back onto snow also happened to be the crux. The snow felt steeper than it looked. Ice ax, oh ice ax. Where art thou, ice ax?!

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

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Outro

Eventually, we made my back to the Indian Head Trail junction in the lush meadow. Then I decided I did not want to cross any more ridgelines. I was sure the pup would very much appreciate it also. So we chose the relaxing return to camp by staying on the trail.

We started packing once we were back at camp. Then we both took a long-overdue nap. Afterward, we slowly made our way back out to the trailhead. Till next time, Buttermilk Slam and friends!

A long way back
A long way back

See more trip photos here.

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