Buckskin Mountain in Entiat Meadows / 恩蒂亞特草原的柏克金山

Thank you for another safe outing
Thank you for another safe outing

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The Lowdown on Buckskin Mountain

Access: Entiat River Trailhead
Round Trip: TBD
Elevation Range: 3160′-8124′
Gear: helmet
GPS Track: available

Entiat River Trail Approach

I first saw the glaciated Entiat River Valley from Seven Fingered Jack, which coincidentally was my first Bulger peak. Back then, I didn’t realize that a trail had run through the Entiat Meadows. The Wolverine Fire drastically devastated the area, sending portions of the path under an enormous quantity of down trees.

The pup and I hiked the trail early Saturday morning. Even though the forecast was less than ideal, I was still excited to check out the meadows. So I kept my fingers crossed for better weather outlook. The well-maintained and sandy Entiat River Trail took us past the junction to Gopher Mountain and Choral Peak. A year-old report mentioned that the trail was clear of down trees up to Candy Creek.

Running around in circles over you
Running around in circles over you

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Hiking Through Massive down Trees

The trail between Snow Brushy Creek and Aurora Creek was dry with chopstick-like dead trees. Through this section, we had excellent views of South Spectacle Butte, Mount Maude, Freezer, and Icebox. Thankfully, the low morning temperatures kept the mosquitoes at bay. Once we hiked past Candy Creek, things slowly became laborious.

At first, we were able to follow game trails through down trees. But then we lost it by the first clearing. As it turned out, we were too far up the slope from the river. Soon, we found the trail again before the river bend, where the path took a turn due west. There we experienced the worst section of down trees. To top it off, swarms of mosquitoes finally decided to come out and feast.

Ice Creek Valley
Ice Creek Valley

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Entiat Meadows at Last

Eventually, we arrived at the second clearing at 5100′. We were now below the south face of Buckskin Mountain. There we set up camp and rested for a while. I had thought about climbing the next day, but the bloodthirsty mosquitoes had me rethink my plan. Since it was still early, I figured we’d give the summit a try. My gut told me we’d make it back down before dark.

Just as we set off on the climb, I noticed rain clouds to the west. There were several route options on the south face. So naturally, we picked the one with the least amount of resistance and headed straight uphill. Supposedly, there was an old trail through to the east ridge. But I never found it.

Entiat Meadows at last
Entiat Meadows at last

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Buckskin Mountain Climb

The scramble went surprisingly smoothly. It ended up taking much less time to get above the timberline. At one point it started to drizzle. So we took shelter under a group of big trees and waited out the light rain. There we saw the dramatic side of both North and South Spectacle Buttes. Luckily the rain only lasted 10 minutes before we started moving again.

As it turned out, getting onto the east ridge at 6600′ and traversing west looked laborious. So instead, we climbed up in the snow-free south gully for a direct ascent. But to avoid potential rockfalls, we stayed to the right on heather and scree slopes. At one point, we got too close to the right before the cliffs stopped us at our tracks.

North view from east ridge
North view from the east ridge

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Ominous Weather on Buckskin Mountain Summit

We continued to head up in the main gully. Eventually, we went up on the east ridge at 7900′. There we had our first look at the peaks to the north of Holden Village. The views were breathtaking. Another 200′ of steep ridge scrambling and we finally topped out at 8124′. To the west, the rain clouds that I saw earlier looked to have doubled in size.

Out of the corner of my eye, I felt a flash of lightning. Soon, the rumbling began. Holy isht, we didn’t need to be electrocuted right now! Soon, I felt the hair on my arms rising. So I quickly gathered all of our metal objects including the dog collar. Then I stashed them under a big rock on the opposite end of the summit. The pup and I then crouched down under a big boulder and waited.

Spectacle Buttes to Copper Peak panoramic view
Spectacle Buttes to Copper Peak panoramic view

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A Short Summit Stay

Lightning accompanied by the roar of thunder continued for another 15 minutes before quieting down. Soon, the sky let out small openings and the evening light seeped through. Fascinating how weather went from a thunderstorm to being partly sunny. But the 15-minute wait felt was unnerving. First time for everything!

After what we’ve just experienced, it was time to hurry and get off the summit. So after gathering everything, we proceeded to make our way down. It didn’t look like the thunderstorm was coming back. Still, I wanted to get off the mountain now that things have quieted down. Unfortunately, getting down 3000′ of scree and slippery heather didn’t go as quickly. But we both made it to the bottom safely. Woot!

North Star over Buckskin Mountain
North Star over Buckskin Mountain

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Outro

We had a restful night in the meadows. Then early next morning, we packed up for the 14-mile trek out just as temperatures began to rise. The section of trail between Snow Brushy Creek and Aurora Creek had been under the sun for a while. Pup cleverly avoided parts of the scorched trail by walking among scrubs alongside me.

Small pools of water in several dying streams provided momentary relief as we moved along. Then we took an extended lunch break back at Snow Brushy Creek. The pup got a much-needed relief by soaking in the water under the log jam.

One last soak
One last soak

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