Diamond Slam + Environs / 鑽石滿貫+周圍地區

Our farthest objective by the border
Our farthest objective by the border

See more trip photos here.

See this post for Sheep Mountain by the Mountain Loop Highway.

The Lowdown on Diamond Slam

Diamond Slam = Fool Hen Southeast + Fool Hen Mountain + Bauble Butte + Skeptical Butte + Sheep Mountain 8274 + Two Point Mountain
Environs = Foxy Peak + Diamond Point + Corral Peak + Gabril Point + Sand Ridge + Ashnola Mountain

鑽石滿貫=東南樅樹雞山+樅樹雞山+巴勃孤峯+多疑孤峯+綿羊山8274+兩頭山
周圍地區=法克西峯+鑽石點+克拉爾峯+加百利點+砂土脊+艾希諾拉山

Access: Billy Goat Trailhead
Round Trip: TBD
Elevation Range: 3800′-8274′
Gear: helmet
GPS Track: available

Logistics Overview

July 4-7, 2019

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Day 1 – Wednesday, July 4
Fool Hen Southeast + Fool Hen Mountain
Night 1 – Fox Lakes

Day 2 – Thursday, July 5
Foxy Peak + Diamond Point + Bauble Butte + Skeptical Butte + Corral Peak
Night 2 – McCall Gulch

Day 3 – Friday, July 6
Sheep Mountain 8274 + Gabril Point + Sand Ridge
Night 3 – McCall Gulch

Day 4 – Saturday, July 7
Ashnola Mountain + Two Point Mountain
Exit via Dollar Watch Pass and Three Fools Pass


Happy Fourth of July!

Fourth of July fell on a Wednesday this year. So pup and I used the rest of this week to explore area affected by the 2017 Diamond Creek Fire. I last drove on Eightmile Road seven years ago on the way to climbing The Craggies.

When I contacted Methow Valley ranger station a month ago the road was still open. But the night before the trip we unexpectedly drove up to a closed gate before the Eightmile Creek bridge. Without a sound backup plan, pup and I bit the bullet and walked the four miles to the hikers’ trailhead.

Day 1

Fool Hen Southeast + Fool Hen Mountain

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Eightmile Road closure
Eightmile Road closure

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Mindless Roadwalk

Forest service had recently cleared many down trees from Billy Goat Trail (#502). Good trail to Billy Goat Pass and down to the first junction with Trail #532. Traveling east on Trail #532, the brushy and somewhat visible trail south of Drake Creek was hard to follow. Tree blazes and a few cairns helped guide the way to the creek crossing where the trail disappeared.

From north of the creek, we continued to scramble east in the direction of the nonexistent map trail. Hauling all of our gear, we left the boggy basin at 6200′ and went up the scree slopes. Then we got onto the 7240′ saddle between Fool Hen Southeast and Little Fool Hen Mountain. Ascending the rocky south ridge for 800′ and we finally got atop our first summit.

Fool Hen Mountain
Fool Hen Mountain

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One Summit Down

After a long break resting and savoring the views, we began traversing the ridge to Fool Hen Mountain. Something told me that we also would not find the map trail here. Instead, we stayed on or west of the crest and bypassed several ridge bumps along the way. There were lots of loose rocks from Point 8062 to Fool Hen Mountain. As a result, we traversed this section of the ridge east of the crest to the summit.

Similarly, Fool Hen Mountain boasted a broad summit like Fool Hen Southeast. We celebrated the holiday with a few small flags and enjoyed the beautiful evening views. Fool Hen Lake looked inviting, but we’d have to climb out of the basin in the morning. On the other hand, Upper Fox Lake made for a better option to be on the way to other destinations. So off the lake, we went!

Fool Hen Southeast
Fool Hen Southeast

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Day 2

Foxy Peak + Diamond Point + Bauble Butte + Skeptical Butte + Corral Peak

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Upper Fox Lake north shore
Upper Fox Lake north shore

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A Long Day Ahead

Morning came way too soon as we slowly rolled out of the tent by the lake. I felt sleep-deprived from the constant croaking sounds of frogs throughout the night. Then we walked around the crystal clear lake looking for running water by the outlet. A quick breakfast under the blazing morning sun, and we were off to today’s first objective: Foxy Peak.

Before long, we were on the fire-scorched west slopes and headed for the summit due north of Upper Fox Lake. More dramatic views of the neighboring higher points from this short-statured summit. Devastation from last year’s fire in the Diamond Creek Basin to the west was evident. We left before the mosquitoes could suck more blood out of us: next stop, Diamond Point.

Bauble Butte and Diamond Point
Bauble Butte and Diamond Point

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From Foxy Peak to Diamond Point

Foxy Peak shared a saddle with Diamond Point. And after descending 400′ on the north ridge, Diamond Point summit was just another 800′ up. There looked to be the foundation of an old structure on top. Perhaps the remnants of another decommissioned lookout tower.

From the top, we got a good look into the Ashnola River Valley. Ashnola Pass and Fawn Lake sat beneath Diamond Point’s steep north face. This summit was also a vantage point to see Diamond Creek winding its way into the Lost River Valley. We spent an hour here before leaving for our third objective of the day: Bauble Butte, aka Zirconium Peak.

Bauble Butte
Bauble Butte

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Onward to Skeptical Butte

Bauble Butte’s long-running south ridgeline looked impressive from Diamond Point. We bypassed the ridge and got onto the southern slopes for a leisure ascent to the top. The two high points on this broad summit looked to be about equal in height. To get a closer look at the Ashnola River Valley, we stopped on the northern high point for photos. Diamond Point’s north face looked quite intimidating.

In need of water, we descended into the lush basin between Bauble Butte and Point 7931. Vegetation in the upper basin remained intact; we gradually transitioned back to the burned forest onto Trail #532. We got down to Diamond Pass (unofficial) at 6920′ between Point 7931 and Skeptical Butte. After stashing gear, we traveled south to Skeptical Butte’s east ridge for the class 2 walk up to the summit.

Skeptical Butte
Skeptical Butte

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Broad Horizon

The flat, broad summit ridge with expansive views made me feel like being the set of The Sound of Music. We enjoyed a short and breezy stay then descended back to the pass. Thanks to strategically placed cairns, we got through the burned forest on the hard-to-follow Trail #532.

We lost the trail entirely after getting to 6700′. Then we picked up the path again before crossing Diamond Creek. The northern end of Trail #532 ended at the Billy Goat Trail (#502) junction in the Diamond Creek Basin. We enjoyed a mostly leisure walk on Billy Goat Trail up to Larch Pass. The occasional down trees didn’t pose any issues.

Corral Peak
Corral Peak

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Adding Corral Peak to the List

Seeing much daylight left, I made Corral Peak our last stop today before heading into McCall Gulch. From Larch Pass, we ascended southwest ridge and got on the peak with one and a half hours before sunset. Wow, the views were excellent in the evening colors! This high point was a vantage point to see the contrast between the burn areas and the lush McCall Gulch.

Despite the rugged looking north ridge, the traverse was very straightforward. Corral Lake looked incredibly inviting, but I didn’t want to climb out of the lake basin in the morning. We bypassed several outcrops from the west and eventually climbed atop Point 7918. The vast and succulent landscape very much reminded me of our Boundary Trail trip last Labor Day Weekend.

McCall Gulch
McCall Gulch

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Finding a Good Camp

We spent some time locating a water source and eventually settled on a decent campsite at 7200′. It came with great views to the south and close to the trail. The camp even had a tiny stream and a lone tree nearby to hang our food. I noticed a couple of deer nearby as I set up camp. But they immediately wondered off after seeing the pup beside me.

We turned in shortly after dinner to get some rest for a long day ahead. It was a starry night.

McCall Gulch sky
McCall Gulch sky

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Day 3

Sheep Mountain 8274 + Gabril Point + Sand Ridge

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Good morning mountains
Good morning mountains

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An Exciting Day Ahead

Once again, morning came way too soon, and we were both too lazy to get out of the tent. But I was excited to see Sheep Mountain, our eighth and farthest objective up by the Canadian border. I love seeing the crop line that makes a trip much more rewarding. And especially if one has to hike all that distance to climb a mountain! My GPS wouldn’t turn on this morning, damn batteries.

This portion of Billy Goat Trail was in excellent conditions. It continued through to McCall Gulch Pass (unofficial) along Timber Wolf Creek Basin. A good number of down trees to bypass along the way. We continued to meander through more burned forest east of Point 7365.

We spotted lots of prairie dogs (gophers?) all the way here from camp. Billy Goat Trail officially ended on the pass at the junction with Boundary Trail (#533) and Park Pass Trail (#506). The old Diamond Creek Fire closures sign was still hanging on one of the few live trees.

Still hanging
Still hanging

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En Route to Sheep Mountain

We passed the first 200′ elevation of burned vegetation and then hiked the grassland to Sheep Mountain’s east saddle. From there, we got our first look at the serene, undisturbed Sheep Lake 300′ below. We also got a closer look at the mountain’s steep east face with a few remaining snow patches.

A massive boulder field covered the entire south slopes. Then we began the most fun part of the climb that lasted for about 400′: boulder hopping! Beyond the boulders was a mixture of small rocks and grass that guided us through the east rim. We looked down at Sheep Lake from various perspectives.

Pre-summit dance
Pre-summit dance

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Chilling by the Canadian Border

The high points we visited in the last three days all had one thing in common: a broad summit. It took some walking back and forth from one end to the other to get decent photos. Pup enjoyed a one-hour long nap on top while I enjoyed the views of our neighbor to the north.

Hard to believe we had come all this way from Billy Goat Trailhead. Without any of the side trips, one-way distance from the trailhead would’ve only been 20 miles. That’s still a lot of mileage to get atop a mountain if you asked me. Although McCall Gulch now looked miles away, there was plenty of daylight to go back and climb something else.

Northern panoramic view on Sheep Mountain 8274
Northern panoramic view on Sheep Mountain 8274

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En Route Back to the Pass

After spending an hour on top, we then retraced our steps back to Billy Goat Trail. Before reaching McCall Gulch Pass, we took a detour to Gabril Point (aka Timber Wolf Mountain) via the south. The mountain looked far from the trail, but it didn’t take long to get up onto the broad summit. We walked across the top and then took a break on the north edge.

We didn’t stay long on this mountain because I forgot to pack an extra camera battery for the trip. I was hoping to make the one in use last until the end of the day. This mountain was another high point with a great view of Sheep Mountain from where we just came. Half-hour hike on the south ridge and we were back on the pass looking down into McCall Gulch.

Just came from there
Just came from there

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The Rain’s A-Coming

I was sure we’d have enough daylight left to hike up to Sand Ridge from the pass. But I wasn’t so sure about including Ashnola Mountain in one trip. We took a power nap above the pass and then started going up. It took a lot less time than anticipated to reach the top; we enjoyed a half-hour break on the elongated summit.

Just when I thought we still had time to climb Ashnola, rain clouds on the southwest horizon slowly crept in. I decided it wasn’t worth all that effort to get to the mountain and risk of stuck in a downpour. Sure enough, it drizzled just as we headed back to camp. Then the rain came down hard just as we quickly got into the tent!

Rain's a-coming
Rain’s a-coming

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Day 4

Ashnola Mountain + Two Point Mountain

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

En route to Ashnola Mountain
En route to Ashnola Mountain

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Our Last Day in McCall Gulch

The rain stopped right before 6 AM on our last day. And the sunshine seeped through clouds with promising weather ahead. While letting the tent to dry, I decided that we could squeeze in Ashnola before leaving McCall Gulch. So we did.

Other than deer, squirrels, and prairie dogs, we didn’t see anyone on this trip. People were smart not to set foot inside an area that just went through wildfires a year ago. If I were also smart, I’d at least wait until the trail was clear of most down trees. We got more workout from getting around down trees than hauling gear from one place to another.

Whistler Basin
Whistler Basin

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Lusciousness All Around

It didn’t take long before we arrived on Whistler Pass and peeked into the luscious Whistler Basin. Majority of the basin looked to have escaped the destructive wildfire south of Ashnola Mountain. From the mostly flat east ridge, it was a simple walk-up to the summit. A dip on the ridgeline required descending 150′ before finishing the climb to the top.

It’s never easy to describe what it’s like out here unless people make the long trek to experience for themselves. Expansive views, rolling hills, and the solitude were only a few perks that came with being in this remote location. The terrain here was very much like the area in the northeastern corner of the wilderness.

Two Point Mountain
Two Point Mountain

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Final Moments in McCall Gulch

Not all of the summit we visited came with a register; this one happened to have one placed by Fay Pullen. After an extended stay, we started hiking back to camp. It had been mostly sunny all morning, so the tent should be dry by now. Pup had seen plenty of wildlife on this trip, even the seemingly ubiquitous prairie dogs no longer fazed him.

My backpack felt a lot lighter now that I’ve eaten most of my food. I had to carry out most of the pup’s dry food since he doesn’t get as hungry while backpacking. Hard to leave this gulch after two nights of stay, hands down one of the best camp spots. Great view out to East Fork Pasayten River just before getting back on Larch Pass.

Thanks for being a great host
Thanks for being a great host

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Last Summit to Visit

I had planned on stashing gear on Larch Pass and hike out via Billy Goat Trail after Two Point Mountain. But since we came up through that stretch of Billy Goat Trail, I decided to do one last carry-over. We would in turn exit via the mountain’s south ridge down to Dollar Watch Pass for the different scenery.

Two Point Mountain summit looked intimidating from Point 7759, but less so as we got closer to the case. Lots of big boulders and slabs on the east ridge with a scree gully finish just below the summit. Another excellent high point with great views, and we stayed for a long time before getting off the mountain.

Pre-summit dance
Pre-summit dance

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Outro

Dollar Watch Trail (#451) was good until we crossed Tony Creek into another burned area. Then it was down trees to where the trail got around the south ridge of Point 6588. Down trees were not much of an issue if going downhill.

Only a handful of down trees to negotiate from the Larch Creek crossing to the junction with Billy Goat Trail. The trail was generally good until we got closer to Diamond Creek Basin where Diamond Creek Fire took place. The fire devastated the area so much that even crossing Diamond Creek was a chore. A good portion of the trail had disappeared.

McCall Gulch one last time
McCall Gulch one last time

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Fighting the Good Fight

Getting around the Diamond Creek area wasn’t as fun. Most fallen trees strategically placed themselves at a height where it wasn’t comfortable to step over or crawl underneath. Occasionally we were able to hop trees but hopped off to find more trees on the next section of trail.

The saga lasted to Three Fools Pass where down trees finally dwindled, hooray! But the tree-free trail only continued to the junction with Drake Creek Trail (#502A), north of Drake Creek. Just when I thought we had left the worst of the down trees behind.

Painstaking
Painstaking

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The Agonizing Exit

For the next mile to the junction with Trail #532 south of Drake was by far worst of the worst! By taking Trail #532 on the way in, we missed the best part of Billy Goat Trail. Going up moderate terrain wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the large section of the trenched trail.

As if that wasn’t enough fun. Most trees across the trail with fanning branches welcomed us as we fought through them. We scrambled through most of this section; it wasn’t worth spending more time to try and stay on the trail. I forgot to document this part of the experience with photos due to exhaustion. At the same time, an army full of mosquitoes came out of nowhere and began to feast.

Two passes await
Two passes await

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Bowing Out

When we finally arrived at the junction with Trail #532, I had to stop and process what had just happened. If it weren’t for the love of views, I swear. Mosquitoes followed us up to Billy Goat Pass, but at least there were no more down trees to get through.

I realized something else just as we approached the hikers’ trailhead on the way down. I had entirely forgotten about the four-mile road walk back to the car.

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

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