2017/9/16-17 – Ice Slam + North Spectacle Butte / 冰點滿貫+北奇觀孤山

North Spectacle Butte from Ice Box
North Spectacle Butte from Ice Box

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Ice Slam = Chilly Peak + Ice Box + Freezer
冰點滿貫=寒冷峯+冷藏庫+冷凍庫

Pup and I arrived at the Phelps Creek Trailhead late Friday night to a lot full of trucks now that the hunting season had begun. Half a mile before the trailhead, a short stretch of the road buried under a layer of sand made it nearly impassable in the low-clearance vehicle.

Next morning we hiked the well-maintained Carne Mountain Trail, which we had been on six years ago to climb Carne Mountain. I last visited the area three years ago to climb Mount Fernow and Cooper Peak. We made good time to the 6,100′ basin.

Peaks abound
Peaks abound

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Meandering through the meadow, we passed a corral with three horses on full alert of our arrival. Shortly after, we reached the pass south of Carne Mountain and took a long break. I got a good look of our first destination, Chilly Peak, across Rock Creek Basin.

On his way out, deer hunter Andy stopped on the pass after returning from an unsuccessful hunt and we chatted awhile. He mentioned the lack of water source in Rock Creek Basin where he had been hunting. Knowing I hadn’t pack enough water back at the meadow, he graciously offered rest of the water from his gallon jug.

Choss heaven
Choss heaven

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Pup and I descended other side of the pass and reached the dividing ridge of Box and Rock Creeks shortly after. From the ridge, we traveled northward and dropped into Rock Creek Basin at 7,000′. In need of more water, we dropped two hundred feet and found a tiny stream flowing out the bottom of a talus field. This would be our last water source until we reached Box Creek Basin later today.

We got back up to 7,000′ and continued sidestepping due east on steep heather and scree. Upon reaching the west gully at 7,200′, a cumbersome rising traverse on scree eventually put us on the north saddle. A short section of boulder scramble later and we were on the summit.

Next up, Ice Box
Next up, Ice Box

Photos from this trip can be found here.

From the summit I scouted out our next destination, Ice Box, which still looked far away. To the north, Mount Maude and Spectacle Buttes were the main attractions, while the hazy Buck Mountain held up western skyline. A register had been placed on the summit.

After a relaxing half-hour summit stay, we slowly scrambled back down the gully and made another rising traverse northwestward to the east saddle of Point 7919. We carefully negotiated the point from the north and got down to its west saddle at 7,500′.

Still a long way to to go
Still a long way to go

Photos from this trip can be found here.

While taking a break on the saddle, I noticed a bear cub on the snow field below north of the saddle. He began to move away slowly after being alerted by pup’s bear bells. I grabbed the pup and we quickly fled the scene before mama bear showed up.

Getting around Point 7800, we first dropped 100′ on its south face, wrapped around southwest ridge, and regained the ridge crest on the north saddle. Then we continued to traverse north while staying more or less on the ridge crest. A section of alternating rock bands and buttresses forced us to negotiate via the chossy west slopes. We regained the ridge on Ice Box’s south saddle at 7,600′, followed by a 500′ scramble to finish the climb.

Chilly Peak now in the upper left
Chilly Peak now in the upper left

Photos from this trip can be found here.

The closer we were to the head of Ice Creek Basin the better the views, despite the light haze resulted from wildfire smoke from the east. Smoke here was much less of a concern than that of our recent outing to the Pasayten Wilderness.

Since we still needed to make it to our camp by Upper Ice Lake, we kept the summit stay short and started moving again a little over two hours before sunset time. The connecting ridge to Freezer didn’t look conducive to traversing, so we descended the steep west face and ultimately picked up a trail in Box Creek Basin at 6,900′.

West face descent
West face descent

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Meandering into Chipmunk Creek Basin, we got off the trail at 6,800′ and moved north onto the east saddle of Point 7425. From the saddle, we maintained an average elevation of 7,400′ and reached the west rib 250′ below Maude-Freezer Pass. A steep climbers path got us up to the pass, hands down the best vantage point to view the Ice Lake Basin.

There didn’t seem to be anyone in the basin until we came across a tent just before crossing the outlet of Upper Ice Lake. We located our old camp spot from four years ago and set up camp, then turned in shortly after diner with the Milky Way directly overhead. The night never got as cold as the forecast had indicated.

In the arms of Mount Maude
In the arms of Mount Maude

Photos from this trip can be found here.

To beat Sunday’s 40% chance rain and snow after 11 AM, we got an early start to climb North Spectacle Butte. After dropping 350′ down to Lower Ice Lake, we crossed the lake by its outlet and picked up an east-trending gully at the northeast end. The gully provided a direct access to the butte’ west saddle. From the saddle, we headed up the steep, talus-filled west face to finish the last 600′ of the climb.

Summit was flat and broad, just as it looked from the top of nearby peaks. The view of South Spectacle Butte southeast of the connecting saddle was impressive. Buckskin Mountain, north of Entiat River Valley, looked much farther away than on the maps. The complete lineup of Maude, Seven Fingered Jack, Fernow, and Copper west of here was beyond words. Wind had been blowing nonstop since before we arrived on top.

Northwest view
Northwest view

Photos from this trip can be found here.

On the way back we gave the trail on the north shore of Lower Ice Lake a try, and it turned out to be a way better option to get back to camp than the steep east slabs. We quickly packed up and left the basin at exactly 11 AM. Glad the forecast of precipitation never materialized.

Back on the Maude-Freezer Pass, we went up to our final destination of this trip–Freezer. A merely 400′ gain from the pass, Freezer summit offered another great perspective for a look into the Ice Lake Basin. Views were just as great as any other high points in the area. Chilly Peak and Ice Box to the south, and North Spectacle Butte clear across the basin. Many of the Washington highest peaks farther east were also visible.

Mount Maude and Upper Ice Lake
Mount Maude and Upper Ice Lake

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Back at the pass, we grabbed our gear and hiked out via Leroy Basin to make a loop out of the trip. Between the basin and Phelps Creek Trail, we ran into two campers and two hunters on two separate occasions and I briefly chatted with them.

It began to rain past 3 PM before we got back down to the trail. And we quickly hiked the remaining four miles back to the car.

En route to Phelps Creek Trail
En route to Phelps Creek Trail

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Access: Phelps Creek Trailhead
Gear: helmet

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