North Star Mountain the Guiding Light / 北極星山是指路明燈

Talus and Polaris
Talus and Polaris

See more trip photos here.

The Lowdown on North Star Mountain

Access: Phelps Creek Trailhead
Rount Trip: TBD
Elevation Range: 3,520 ′-8096′
Gear: helmet
GPS Track: available

Phelps Creek Trail

I had also hoped to climb North Star Mountain the weekend we climbed Napeequa Slam. But then I cut the trip short; we went home on day two. This trip was my second time hiking past the Leroy Trail junction. The first time being five years ago on the way to the Dumbell Slam. A long line of cars at the Phelps Creek trailhead when we left.

Surprisingly, the hike on the well-maintained Phelps Creek Trail was tranquil. The meadow was how I remembered it, full of green and lots of screaming marmots! I spotted just a handful of campers in the field. So the rest of them presumably went up to Leroy and Ice Lakes Basins. Apart from our climbing objective, I couldn’t wait to see Lyman Lakes raved by many people.

Through Spider Meadow
Through Spider Meadow

See more trip photos here.

Stepping into Lyman Lakes Basin

At the head of the basin, we followed the nicely maintained trail through many switchbacks. Then at 6200′, we reached the bottom of the benign Spider Glacier. For the next 800′ to the gap, we spent what felt like forever walking up the glacier. Snow ended at 7000′. When we finally got to the top, the hype surrounding this area suddenly all made sense.

Wow! Hello?! Hi?! The first view into the picturesque Lyman Lakes Basin already blew me away. On top of that, thick clouds obscuring the nearby peaks dramatized the scenery even more. We hiked down the other side on a rocky trail guided by cairns before once again getting onto the snow. It looked like there was already lots of foot traffic through here. So we followed the boot tracks and got down into the basin. Trail reappeared just below the snow line at 6400′.

Upper Lyman Lake Basin from Spider Gap
Upper Lyman Lake Basin from Spider Gap

See more trip photos here.

Getting Around Railroad Creek

At the north end of Upper Lyman Lake, Trail 1258 got a reroute due to a bridge washout. So the trail went down through the outlet instead. Then it connected with Trail 1256B on the west shore of Lower Lyman Lake. I remembered seeing the notice at the trailhead. But for some reason, we missed the orange tape and continued on Trail 1258 above the eastern lakeshore. Eventually, Railroad Creek stopped us in our tracks.

The raging creek was impassable. So we turned around and dropped down to the lakeshore. Then we traversed clockwise through the inlet to the west shore to get back on the rerouted trail. I got my first good look at Bonanza Peak here. With constant raging water pouring in from the upper lake, the stream took a while to cross. Eventually, we got on Cloudy Pss Trail (#1256) at the north end of the lake.

Lower Lyman Lake west shore
Lower Lyman Lake west shore

See more trip photos here.

En Route to Cloudy Pass

We slowly made our way through the open forest and meadows onto the pass. At one point, the partly sunny weather almost had me believe that it was turning for the better. The three women we met on the other side of the washed-out bridge showed up on the pass also. They all worked in Holden Village and hiked 10 miles through Hart Lake to come up here for the day.

It was already in the late afternoon. But I wanted to climb North Star Mountain now so we could hike out first thing in the morning. I was hoping to climb something else back in Spider Meadow. Before leaving camp, I stashed everything under the rain cover in case the rain showed up later in the evening.

This way to Cloudy Pass
This way to Cloudy Pass

See more trip photos here.

Bypassing Cloudy Peak South Ridge

From the pass, we hiked back down to the meadows we came up from earlier. At the first switchback, we left the trail and headed east toward Cloudy Peak south ridge. We maintained the same elevation and at 6400′ bypassed the buttress onto the east slopes. From there we began the long and tedious traverse north toward North Star Mountain.

Later I discovered while descending, that it would have been much better to stay low for the ascent. For now, we were more focused on getting through the expansive talus and scree fields. Meanwhile, we aimed for the summit that looked like a tiny dot from below. One report mentioned not to traverse the southwest ridge due to the broken ridgeline. There was also the unforeseeable cliffs north of the false summit.

Railroad Creek Valley
Railroad Creek Valley

See more trip photos here.

North Star Peak Climb

At 7000′, we encountered what looked like a permanent snowfield. And of course, being that it’s mid-August, I didn’t think to prepare for it. So I climbed into the moat and worked my way through the top of the snow on rocks. Eventually, I got out into the main gully leading up to the notch between the two summits.

Snow in the gully forced us onto the big rocks on the north side. So we weaved our way through the rocks, plus a big snow patch, to finally get up onto the notch. Right then, the massive clouds moved in, and the visibility was low. From the gap, we scrambled on the southwest ridge to the top. This trip was our first this season with zero views on the summit, Hooray!

Summit block
Summit block

See more trip photos here.

A Short Summit Stay

The rain came the minute we submitted. So we barely had any time on top before quickly getting back down again. We managed to take our group photo below the east of the summit rocks. They shielded us from the wind and most of the rain. It felt incredibly eerie it being in a whiteout.

Back in the main gully, we continued to drop down to 7000′ to bypass the snow. In turn, we were able to avoid the talus we spent much time traversing on the way up. We got back around the southeast rib and then made a gradual descent through slabs and heather. Soon, we were back on Cloudy Peak’s south ridge at 6400′.

After the rain
After the rain

See more trip photos here.

Camping on Cloudy Pass

We got back to Cloudy Pass half hour after sunset in darkness. First time setting up the tent in the rain and wind was rather time-consuming. Luckily we didn’t get too wet, and we were able to get inside the tent before the downpour came.

The rain continued well into the morning, a perfect excuse to sleep in late. We waited for the rain to stop around 10 AM finally. While drying off gear, I chatted with a PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) through hiker “Twister.”. Due to the wildfire, he was rerouting to Stehekin via Holden Village. It was impressive to see him carry his DSLR camera from the Mexican border.

Back to Upper Lyman Lake
Back to Upper Lyman Lake

See more trip photos here.

Hiking Back Through Lyman Lakes Basin

In waiting out the rain, we’ve consumed much of the morning hours. Besides North Star Mountain, we probably wouldn’t have time to climb anything else back in Spider Meadow. So we took our sweet time and left Cloudy Pass around noon just as the sky began to clear up.

We met a ranger by Upper Lyman Lake who had been sweeping the trail. He was getting hikers back to Phelps Creek Trailhead in preparation for the new Lost Fire closure. This trip marked the third time a fire closure order to evacuate the area the day after our journey began. Devore Slam from three years ago and Boundary Slam last Labor Day weekend.

This just in
This just in

See more trip photos here.

En Route Back to Spider Meadow

Below Lyman Glacier, we passed two hikers and then finished the final ascent up the snowfield toward Spider Gap. The wildfire closure sign was sitting above the gap indicating the closure area. Below the Spider Glacier, we met two more hikers. They and the two we saw earlier were all researchers studying snow microbiome. What an awesome profession!

The rest of the hike out was pretty uneventful. We made more photo stops above Spider Meadow before finally leaving for good. Everyone seemed to have left the area, as it was eerily quiet. We enjoyed a beautiful hike back out to the car.

Spider Meadow once more
Spider Meadow once more

See more trip photos here.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu
%d bloggers like this: