2018/7/4-7 – Diamond Slam + Environs / 鑽石滿貫+周圍地區

border
Our farthest objective by the border

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Sheep Mountain in the Pasayten Wilderness. For Sheep Mountain off Mountain Loop Highway, check out this post.

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

Logistics Overview
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 rest of this week to explore the area hugely affected by the 2017 Diamond Creek Fire.

I last drove on Eightmile Road seven years ago on the way to climbing The Craggies. The road had been closed off past the Copper Glance Trailhead at the Eightmile Creek bridge crossing since I contacted Methow Valley ranger station a month ago. So 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

Photos from this trip can be found here.

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

From north of the creek we continued to scramble east in the direction of the nonexistent map-marked trail. Hauling all of our gear, we left the boggy basin at 6,200′ and climbed scree slopes up to the 7,240′ saddle between Fool Hen Southeast and Little Fool Hen Mountain. Following the rocky south ridge for another 800′ got us atop our first summit of this trip.

Fool Hen Mountain
Fool Hen Mountain

Photos from this trip can be found here.

After a good long break resting and savoring the views, we began traversing the ridge to Fool Hen Mountain. Something told me that another map-marked trail was not going to be there. So instead we stayed on or west of the ridge crest and climbed or bypassed several ridge knobs along the way. Larger looser rocks from Point 8062 to Point 8082 and to Fool Hen Mountain. We traversed this section of the ridge east of the crest to the summit.

Another broad summit like Fool Hen Southeast. We celebrated the holiday with a couple of small flags added to our summit photo and enjoyed beautiful evening views of peaks in the itinerary. Fool Hen Lake looked inviting, but we’d travel in reverse to camp there and need to climb back out of the basin the next day. Upper Fox Lake looked to be a better option as it’s en route to our other destinations. Off the lake we went!

Fool Hen Southeast
Fool Hen Southeast

Photos from this trip can be found here.

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

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Morning came way too soon as we slowly rolled out of tent by the lake. Feeling sleep deprived from the incessant croaking sounds of frogs throughout the night, 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. Another broad summit on this peak with a much shorter stature to take in the more dramatic views of the neighboring higher points. Devastation from last year’s fire in the Diamond Creek Basin to the west was evident. Mosquitoes had been annoying us since before we left camp, so we left the summit before they tried to suck more blooded out of us. Next stop, Diamond Point.

Bauble Butte and Diamond Point
Bauble Butte and Diamond Point

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Foxy Peak shared a saddle with Diamond Point, and after dropping 400′ down the north ridge, Diamond Point summit was merely another 800′ up from its south ridge. Just before reaching the summit there looked to be some type of s structure that had been torn down long ago. Perhaps another decommissioned lookout tower.

From the summit we got a better look into the Ashnola River Valley, as well as Ashnola Pass and Fawn Lake right beneath Diamond Point’s precipitous north face in the Spotted Creek Basin. This was also a great vantage point to see the entire Diamond Creek drainage curving its way into the Lost River Valley. We spent an hour here before leaving for our third objective for the day–Bauble Butte, aka Zirconium Peak.

Bauble Butte
Bauble Butte

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Bauble Butte’s long-running south ridged looked impressive from Diamond Point. We bypassed the ridge and got onto the south 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 some photos. Diamond Point’s north face looked quote intimidating from here.

In need of water, we descended into the lush basin between Bauble Butte and Point 7931 en route to Skeptical Butte. Vegetation in the upper basin remained intact, but we slowly transitioned back into burned forest from 7,200′ down to Trail #532 and arrived on the Diamond Pass (unofficial) at 6,920′, between Point 7931 and Skeptical Butte. After stashing gear, we traveled south to attain Skeptical Butte’s east ridge for a class 2 walk up to the broad summit.

Skeptical Butte
Skeptical Butte

Photos from this trip can be found here.

The nearly flat, horizon-like summit ridge made the views seem even more immense that it felt like being on the set of The Sound of Music. We enjoyed a short and breezy stay then descended back down the pass. Thanks to some strategically placed cairns, we were able to travel through more burned forest in the direction of the otherwise hard-to-follow Trail #532 down to 6,700′ before losing it completely. We picked up the trail again just before crossing Diamond Creek.

Northern end of Trail #532 officially ended at the junction with Billy Goat Trail (#502) in the Diamond Creek Basin. We enjoyed a mostly leisure walk on Billy Goat Trail all the way to Larch Pass. The occasional down trees didn’t post any major issues, as the trail looked to have recently been cleared of down trees.

Corral Peak
Corral Peak

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Seeing that there was still much daylight left, I decided to make Corral Peak our last top of the day 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 awesome with the evening colors! This was a great vantage point to see the drastic difference between the burn zones to the south and the lush meadows from McCall Gulch onward.

North ridge looked rugged, but the traverse turned out to be more enjoyable. Corral Lake looked extremely inviting but I wanted to camp in the gulch so we wouldn’t have to climb out of the lake basin to start the day. We negotiated several outcrops from the west and eventually climbed over Point 7918 and got a full view of the gulch. The vast and succulent landscape very much reminded me of our Boundary Trail trip last Labor Day Weekend.

McCall Gulch
McCall Gulch

Photos from this trip can be found here.

After spending some time looking for water source higher up in the gulch, eventually settled on a nice camp at 7,200′ with great views to the south close to Billy Goat Trail. The camp even came with a tiny stream and a lone tree to hang our food. I spotted a couple of deer nearby as I set up camp, but they immediately wondered off after seeing the pup beside me.

To get rested for another long day ahead, we turned in shortly after eating dinner under a starry sky.

McCall Gulch sky
McCall Gulch sky

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Day 3 – Sheep Mountain 8274 + Gabril Point + Sand Ridge
Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Good morning mountains
Good morning mountains

Photos from this trip can be found here.

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

The nice stretch of Billy Goat Trail continued north through McCall Gulch Pass (unofficial) along the head of Timber Wolf Creek Basin, to about one mile before Peeve Pass. A good number of down trees to negotiate as we meandered 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 nailed into one of the few live trees.

Still hanging
Still hanging

Photos from this trip can be found here.

As soon as we got past the first 200′ elevation of burned forest, we were hiking on the grassland all the way to Sheep Mountain’s east saddle by Point 7491. From there we got our first look at the serene, undisturbed Sheep Lake nestled just 300′ below, as well as the mountain’s steep east face decorated with the remaining snow patches.

The entire south face of the mountain was covered in one giant boulder field, where we began the most fun part of the climb that lasted for about 400′–boulder hopping! Beyond the field was a mixture of small rocks and grass that gradually led us up through the east rim while looking down at Sheep Lake from various angles.

Pre-summit dance
Pre-summit dance

Photos from this trip can be found here.

The broad summit seemed to be the theme of this trip atop of all the high points we’ve visited in the last three days. It took a lot of walking back and forth from one end of the to the other to look down on all sides and 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 climb one mountain if you ask. McCall Gulch looked miles and miles away, but we still had plenty of daylight left to get back and maybe climb something else.

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

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Another one-hour summit stay and we were back to retracing our steps on Billy Goat Trail. Before reaching McCall Gulch Pass, we took a detour to Gabril Point (aka Timber Wolf Mountain) via its long and gentle south ridge at 7,200. The mountain looked huge from the trail, but only took us half hour to get up to the broad summit. There didn’t seem to be a defined high point on this mountain, we walked across the top and took a break on the north end.

We didn’t stay long on this mountain, mainly because I had forgotten to pack one extra camera battery for the trip and I was hoping to make the one in use last until end of the day. Another high point with great view to Sheep Mountain where we had just come from. 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

Photos from this trip can be found here.

I knew for sure we had enough daylight leftover to hike up to Sand Ridge high point 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 hiking up to Sand Ridge. It took much less time than anticipated to get to the top, so we enjoyed a half-hour break on the elongated ridge.

Just when I though we had enough time to tag Ashnola, rain clouds on the southwest horizon looked to be slowly creeping in on us. I decided it wasn’t worth all that much effort to get to the mountain with the high chance of getting rained on. Sure enough it drizzled as we descended into the gulch, then the rain came down just as we were getting inside the tent!

Rain's a-coming
Rain’s a-coming

Photos from this trip can be found here.

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

Photos from this trip can be found here.

The overnight rain stopped just shy of 6 AM on our last day, a bit of sunshine seeped through clouds with promising weather forecast ahead. While waiting for the tent to dry, I figured we might as well squeeze in Ashnola before leaving McCall Gulch and we did just that.

Other than deer, squirrels, and prairie dogs, we hadn’t seen a soul on this trip. I don’t blame backpackers for not wanting to set foot in areas that had just gone through a major wildfire a year ago. If I were smart I’d probably at least wait until most down trees had been cleared off the trail. I got more workout from negotiating down trees than hauling a heavy backpack from one peak to another.

Whistler Basin
Whistler Basin

Photos from this trip can be found here.

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

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

Two Point Mountain
Two Point Mountain

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Not all of the summit we visited had a register to sign, this one happened to have one placed by Fay Pullen. After a generous long 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 pup’s dry food since he doesn’t usually get as hungry when we backpack. 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

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Original plan was to stash gear on Larch Pass and hike out via Billy Goat Trail post Two Point Mountain. But since we had already been on that section of Billy Goat Trail, I decided to do one last carry-over and exit via the mountain’s south ridge down to Dollar Watch Pass for a different scenery.

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

Pre-summit dance
Pre-summit dance

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Dollar Watch Trail (#451) was good until we crossed Tony Creek into another burned area. Then it was down trees all the way to where 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. Trail was generally good until we got closer Diamond Creek Basin where Diamond Creek Fire was originated. The area was so damaged that even crossing Diamond Creek was a chore as that portion of the trail had disappeared.

McCall Gulch one last time
McCall Gulch one last time

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Getting around Diamond Creek was very fun, as most down trees seemed to have been strategically placed at a height where it wasn’t possible to step over or duck under. But occasionally we got lucky to be able to hop from big tree to the next before getting back onto the next section of trail…and repeat.

The saga lasted all the way to Three Fools Pass where down trees finally disappeared, hooray! We enjoyed a good stretch of down tree free trail, that was until we came 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

Photos from this trip can be found here.

For the next mile to the junction with Trail #532 south of Drake was by far worst of the worst! It suddenly dawned on me that since we had turned off onto Trail #532 on the way in, we didn’t get to experience the loveliest part of the Billy Goat Trail. It would’ve been “a bit more” tolerable had majority of the trail not be so deeply trenched.

As if that wasn’t enough fun, all of the big trees across the trail had most, if not all, of their branches fanning out while we tried hard to fight through. We scrambled through most of this section, it wasn’t worth wasting time to try to stay on trail. I was so exhausted that I forgot to document this part of the experience by taking photos. Adding salt to the injury, an army of mosquitoes decided now was a good time to come out and feast.

Two passes await
Two passes await

Photos from this trip can be found here.

When we finally arrived at the junction with Trail #532, I had to stop and process what just happened back there. If it weren’t for the love of views, I swear. Mosquitoes stayed with us all the way up to Billy Goat Pass, but at least we didn’t need have any more down trees to deal with.

As we approached the hikers trailhead on the way down, I realized I had completely forgotten about the four-mile road walk back to the car…

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

Access: Billy Goat Trailhead
Gear: helmet

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