Prince Slam + Spirit Mountain / 王子滿貫+精神山

Beefhide Butte from Seance Peak
Beefhide Butte from Seance Peak

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The Lowdown on Prince Slam

Prince Slam = Beefhide Butte + Seance Peak

Access: East Fork Buttermilk Trailhead
Round Trip: TBD
Elevation Range: 4760′-8067′
Gear: helmet

GPS Track: available

East Fork Buttermilk Trail

Compared with West Fork Buttermilk, East Fork Buttermilk Trail (#420) felt like a walk in the park. Only a handful of down trees to bypass, and a minor creek crossing in mile 2 at 5240′. The trail went straight up to Hoodoo Pass with no issues. We met a family of four breaking camp by the creek; we had our first encounter with their packed goats. The only concerns on this trip were the heat together with swarms of relentless mosquitoes.

We were in the forest in the last mile up to the pass, so we had limited views. But soon, the landscapes began to open up with glimpses of our weekend’s destinations: Prince Slam. A melting snowfield below the pass was easy to bypass via a talus field. We took a break in the shade while enjoying views to both sides of the pass. Then we descended into Hoodoo Basin afterward.

Hoodoo Pass
Hoodoo Pass

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Beefhide Butte Climb

After descending 300′, we left the trail and traversed west while aiming for the 7700′ saddle south of Point 8010. From there, we then traveled northwest while maintaining an elevation of 7800′. Soon, we arrived on the broad 7850′ saddle southeast of Beefhide Butte. All the while, one of our last weekend’s objectives, Finney Peak, quietly loomed in the west. Another 150′ of climbing through dense shrubs finally put us on the summit.

Looking into the broad east gully, it seemed possible to scramble west right off the East Fork Buttermilk Trail. The dramatic curvature of Sawtooth Ridge went on for miles and miles to both north and south. Star Peak stole the show with its striking eastern profile erected behind our camping destination–Bernice Lake; Dry Lake lay silently in the south basin all the while.

Starlet behind Bernice Lake
Starlet behind Bernice Lake

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Bernice Lake Camp

Getting into Prince Creek Basin from the summit, we first needed to descend the southwest ridge to 7600′. Then from there, we’d traverse the west rib down to the 6800′ saddle. At halfway down, we picked up a hikers’ trail and followed it into the basin. Once the path dwindled, we continued to scramble through the open terrain. Then we picked up the main trail and reached the meadow at 6600′.

After a 500′ ascent from the meadow, we arrived at an empty Bernice Lake. Afternoon wind began to blow into the lake basin. With excellent tree coverage, we quickly settled into our camp by the lake. Before getting to the lake, I had thought about a sunset hike up to Starlet. But then I scratched the idea after seeing a napping pup by the fire pit. It was a perfect moonless night for star trail photography.

Prince Basin sky
Prince Creek Basin sky

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Seance Peak Climb

Next morning, we packed up and started walking just past 7 AM. Up until now, I had been toying with the idea of including Spirit Mountain. But I wanted to see how we’d feel after getting up to Seance Peak. We hiked up to the northwest slopes at 7600′ shortly after leaving camp. From there, a rising traverse of 300′ through talus and heather slopes put us below the top. Then a short scramble through boulders finally put us on the broad and elongated summit of Seance Peak.

Views from the summit were quite similar to those on Beefhide Butte. Star Peak and Finney Peak to the west continued to be the main attractions. Meanwhile, Spirit Slam solemnly held down the east. Spirit Mountain sat quietly to the north as we enjoyed breakfast on the summit. Feeling super pumped after refueling, we took advantage of the cooler morning weather and headed for Spirit Mountain. The pup didn’t seem to mind the extra workout.

Spirit Mountain
Next stop, Spirit Mountain

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Final Stop, Spirit Mountain

Accessing the connecting saddle to Spirit Mountain required us to descend Seance Peak on east talus slope to 7800′. Then we traversed the talus-filled north basin to 7500′ before arriving at the ridge. We climbed over Point 7135 since both sides ended up being steeper than shown on the map. The ridgeline became increasingly woodsy beyond the point. The crest wasn’t conducive to traversing due to dense growth with boulders dispersed everywhere.

So we stayed east of the ridge most of the time. Finally, we broke out of the forest just below the summit block. Then a short and open scramble got us to the summit adorned with beautiful granite rocks. All the familiar high points, including the Prince Slam, now looked far as we moved farther north. Since we’d been out of the treeline for some time, it’d become quite warm. But the wind helped fight off the heat as we savored the abounding views.

Wish Slam with Buttermilk Ridge
Wish Slam plus Buttermilk Ridge

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Since the steep east slopes provided direct access down to the valley floor, we wanted to take advantage of it. By doing so, we also shaved off a good chunk of distance. Along the way, we bypassed two cliff bands from the south. Eventually, we got down onto a talus field above a wetland. From there, we reconnected with the East Fork Buttermilk Trail at 5400′. Three miles of peaceful hiking and then we were back at the car in the early afternoon.

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