Horsemans Pack by Snowfield Peak via Pyramid Lake Trail / 騎士包

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Horsemans Pack by Snowfield Peak rises above the expansive Neve Glacier. It is also the second-highest peak on the Snowfield Icecap. The least challenging route to reach the high point is through Pyramid Lake Trail.

Horsemans Pack in full view
Horsemans Pack in full view

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For Snowfield Peak and Neve Peak trip, check out this post.

Horsemans Pack and Environs at a Glance

Environs = Pyramid Peak + Paul Bunyans Stump + Colonial Peak
周圍地區=金字塔峯+保羅班揚的樹樁+殖民峯

Access: Pyramid Lake Trailhead 
Round Trip: 21.6 miles
Elevation Range: 1120′-8152′
Gear: 
helmet, crampons, ice ax
GSP Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no pets

The Preface on Horsemans Pack

Happy first backpacking trip of the season! Since my first visit here, I had wanted to come back and climb other peaks. Back then, I spent the first day waiting out the dreary weather. So I didn’t get to explore anything else.

Here I was, at precisely three years later. Though, it was surprising to see much more snow in the area. Besides Horsemans Pack, Pyramid Peak, Paul Bunyan’s Stump, and Colonial Peak were also on the agenda.

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The Grim Weather Forecast

Sadly, the Saturday mountain forecast went from mainly sunny to a 50% chance of rain. So, in fear of history repeating itself, I postponed my trip by a day to dodge bad weather.

As usual, I stopped by the Marblemount ranger station for a permit. Judging by the line, it’s a busy weekend ahead. Later the ranger mentioned a packed Colonial Zone on Saturday night.

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Pyramid Lake Trailhead

As planned, delaying the trip worked out in my favor. It meant that most, if not all, climbers would be coming out as I went in on Sunday. Perfect! Once again, I slept near the trailhead Saturday night.

The following day, I awoke to glorious sunshine. Yaaaaas! After organizing my pack, I drove to Pyramid Lake Trailhead. There were a dozen or so cars in the lot. A busy weekend, indeed!

Campers
Campers

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Hiking to Pyramid Lake

The hike up to Pyramid Lake was uneventful. It was just like three years ago but with views out from the forest this time. Just like I remembered, the grueling part started past the lake.

From there, the somewhat defined climbers’ trail took a steep climb. Then it slowly worked its way up toward the northeast-trending ridge. The ridgeline extended down from Pyramid Peak.

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Through Steep Terrain

Many steep places required me to grab onto exposed tree roots and branches. So that made going up steep steps much more manageable. There was a lot of grunting through this part.

Slowly, the terrain eased up before I reached the 4200′ meadow. A few small ponds still had snow on them. Best of all, I got my first full view of Colonial Peak.

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Pyramid Peak Northeast Ridge

With snow en route, route finding wasn’t as straightforward. Different groups had taken different paths. So it wasn’t clear as to which boot tracks to follow. On top of that, down trees would sometimes cover up the trail.

Eventually, I was on the ridgeline to Pyramid Peak’s east headwall. A few tents took up the 5400′ camp. Later I would see a few more up in Colonial Glacier Basin. Views were better up there, of course.

Climber descending in the glacier basin
Climber descending in the glacier basin

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Colonial Glacier to Neve Col

On the way to Colonial Glacier Basin, I chatted with climbers coming down the slope. They mentioned that a few groups had a late start on Snowfield Peak because of the storm from the night before.

One of the teams that started late was a Mountaineers group. They needed to turn around so everyone could go back to the trailhead at a decent hour. Glad I decided to postpone my trip.

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Neve Col Camp

The last Mountaineers group returned from Snowfield Peak when I made it up to Neve Col. Soon, I set up camp and then took a power nap. Then afterward, I made my way toward The Three Stooges–Paul Bunyans Stump, Pinnacle Peak, and Pyramid Peak.

With the amount of daylight left, I had just enough time to climb two out of the three. So I left out Pinnacle Peak. Not only could I not find enough information on the peak. But I also didn’t want to waste time to route find.

The expansive Neve Glacier
The expansive Neve Glacier

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Pyramid Peak Climb

The way to Pyramid Peak was more straightforward than I had expected. I traveled north while staying high up in the basin. Then I went a snow ramp east of Paul Bunyans Stump. The path provided direct access to the base of the Pyramid Peak. Then I followed the tracks of the two climbers I met down in the basin. They were up here earlier.

Like on other North Cascades high points on a good day, views were expansive! Glad the clouds remained up high. So I could virtually see everything around me. Jack Mountain, Crater Mountain, Ruby Mountain., Picket Range, Davis Peak, and Hozomeen Mountain. Pyramid Peak was the one place to get a panoramic view of other Snowfield summits. Next up, Paul Bunyans Stump.

South ridge
South ridge

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Paul Bunyans Stump Climb

My first time seeing the Snowfield group was when the pups and I climbed Sourdough Mountain in 2011. Being new to mountaineering, I was in complete awe. This boundless beauty of this place was out of this world. The fact that people would climb any of these peaks was beyond my understanding. I felt grateful. Yet I felt incredibly small to be standing among these peaks.

From Pyramid Peak, I went back down through the snow ramp. Then I moved south toward Paul Bunyans Stump. Once I went onto the south saddle, the route soon became apparent. But then the headwall at 7200′ stopped me at my tracks and forced me off to the left. Shortly, I located the southwest gully for the last 300′ of the climb. The west side was almost free of snow. So I followed the sandy paths up to the top.

The other two stooges
The other two stooges

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Paul Bunyans Stump Summit

The summit was narrow and uneven. So it wouldn’t provide much comfortable seating for more than two people. Again, the spectacular views were even better under the early evening light. I so much wanted to stay through sunset. But I realized that it was best to get out of the southeast gully before dark.

Soon, I was back on the south saddle. Then I made a rising traverse for 200′ while moving southeast. I arrived back at my campsite before dark.

The evening light
The evening light

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Neve Col Camp to Horsemans Pack

The constant overnight wind made it hard to get out of the tent at night. I wanted to photograph the night sky. So I went right back to sleep. I woke up at 6 AM the next day, and I started walking by 7. Glad when I went down to Neve Glacier, I was still in the shade. Then moments later, the sun made its way around the backside of Colonial Peak. It was another bluebird day ahead!

This weekend’s climbing groups had left lots of paths on the glacier. So I made use of them. But shortly, I spotted the bear tracks that one of the climbers head mentioned. The animal looked to have made its way east toward Colonial Peak.

In search of the Horsemans Pack
In search of the Horsemans Pack

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Horsemans Pack Climb

This time, I only needed to bypass fewer crevasses. But I was able to follow the existing trails until 7200′. Then I started traveling southwest toward Horsemans Pack’s north saddle at 8000′. From there, I saw the scree ramp and followed it to the east of the peak. All the rocks were very loose throughout this part.

Afterward, I went around to the east saddle. Everything was still unstable here. From there, I then moved clockwise to the south side of the peak. Soon, I located the access gully below the summit. With 150′ of a steep and uncompromising scramble and then I made it up to the top.

Horsemans Pack south gully
Horsemans Pack south gully

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Horsemans Pack Summit Plus Views

The summit was incredibly airy. Without protection, I opted to straddle the summit rock by the cairn. I also distributed most of my weight above a ledge just in case. Views to the Eldorado group, as well as the Big and Little Devil Peaks, were excellent.

Horsemans Pack offered a slightly different perspective than that of Snowfield Peak. It was just within an arm’s reach. The Horseman to the north looked very narrow and pointy.

Horsemans Pack looking over to Hozomeen Mountain
Horsemans Pack looking over to Hozomeen Mountain

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Back to Colonial Glacier Basin

I was back at Neve col in under an hour. Then I took a much-needed nap in the warm weather. Afterward, I headed back down to Colonial Glacier Basin to climb my final goal: Colonial Peak. Snow conditions were still decent. Glad it wasn’t too slushy despite the heat.

After shedding some gear weight, I began moving southeast toward the eastern edge of the glacier. Then at 7200′, I located the access gully. It allowed me to go up on the west ridge. Bear tracks here were the same ones I saw this morning down on Neve Glacier. The animal could very well have made its first ascent on Colonial Peak today!

Back to Colonial Basin
Back to Colonial Basin

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Colonial Peak Climb

At 7600′, I made a long traverse through the steep snowfield on the northwest face. It allowed me to go directly up to the notch. A large, strategically placed cairn indicated access to the other side. Then from there, it was another 200′ of a scramble through boulders and scree. The real high point of Colonial Peak was on the east end of the ridge.

By now, I was beginning to run out of steam. So the final stretch was a long slog.

Snowfield traverse
Snowfield traverse

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Colonial Peak Summit Plus Views

Views up here were just as gorgeous. It was the best of the entire Snowfield group! And an excellent vantage point to see more of Neve Glacier and Horsemans Pack. There I got a closer view of the Thunder Arm and portions of Ross Lake. It felt surreal to see the Diablo Lake Vista Point from here. I was just there two days ago checking out the terrain!

One of my memorable climbs, Ruby Mountain, was just across the valley. Views to the southeast of Neve Creek feeding into the Thunder Creek drainage were excellent. It was neat to see the lineup of high points positioned perfectly behind Gabriel Peak. After an extended stay, I then made my way down. Soon, I made my way back down to Colonial Glacier.

Neve Glacier
Neve Glacier

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Existing in Style

Down at the 5400′ camp, I met Robin and Megan. They came up while I was still on Colonial Peak. I found out that they were both a part of the livingsnowproject.com project through chat. So I volunteered to get pink snow samples on my trips later this season.

They also told me about a helicopter rescue mission from the night before. Unfortunately, one member from the Mountaineers group broke an ankle on the way down. So the rescue team had to airlift the climber out of the area. I kept good thoughts.

Thanks for another safe outing
Thanks for another safe outing

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Having an extra day to hang out here would have been super! This area was too beautiful of a place to leave behind. I wasn’t ready to go back to the city chaos.

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