Pyramid Mountain + Cloudcomb Peak by Lake Chelan via Big Hill / 金字塔山

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Pyramid Mountain and Cloudcomb Peak rise above Lake Chelan. The former ranks #6 in North Chelan Mountains after Pinnacle Mountain. Despite the long way, the mild, mixed-use trail is famous among hikers and hunters.

Pyramid Mountain's impressive north face
Pyramid Mountain’s impressive north face

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Pyramid Mountain and Cloudcomb Peak at a Glance

Pyramid Slam = Pyramid Mountain + Cloudcomb Peak
Environs = Squaretop Mountain + Graham Mountain + Crow Hill

金字塔滿貫=金字塔山+雲梳峯
周圍地區=方頂山+葛拉漢山+烏鴉山丘

Access: Pyramid Mountain Trailhead
Round Trip: 25 miles
Elevation Range: 6240′-8243′
Gear: helmet, microspikes

GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: on the trail

October 13-15, 2018

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Day 1 – Saturday, October 13
Pyramid Mountain + Squaretop Mountain
Night 1 – Squaretop Mountain 7960′ SE saddle

Day 2 – Sunday, October 14
Cloudcomb Peak
Night 2 – Sixmile Camp at 6618′

Day 3 – Monday, October 15
Graham Mountain + Crow Hill
Exit


Day 1

Pyramid Mountain + Squaretop Mountain

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

The Preface on Pyramid Mountain and Cloudcomb Peak

I find having a climbing list motivating. At the same time, it makes planning trips much more manageable. Some call it an obsession, but I see it purely as a passionate pursuit. After all, peaks are bumps on the ridges, with or without a list.

For our final backpacking trip of the season, we went up to Pyramid Mountain and Cloudcomb Peak. Along the way, we’ve also included a few other places. So far, the October weather has been terrific for us to visit more peaks.

Before sunrise
Before sunrise

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The Long Drive to Pyramid Mountain

This trip marked our last Friday night car camping at a trailhead this season. Genius would’ve been our final peak this year. But that was until the gorgeous weather in recent weeks lured us out again.

Some reports mentioned the rough drive to the trailhead. But it wasn’t as bad as the drive to Phelps Creek or the last few miles to Summer Blossom. There were only a handful of cars at the trailhead late Friday night.

First sighting of Pyramid Mountain
First sighting of Pyramid Mountain

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Pre-Dawn Hike to Pyramid Mountain

I anticipated a long day ahead and started walking at 6 AM. Another party had started earlier as I saw headlamps on the ridge. The best thing about Pyramid Mountain was that the scenic trail went from the parking lot to the top! It’s also the most relaxed “climb” this season.

As we rounded Point 7035, Pyramid Mountain came into view. Although miles away, the mountain looked deceptively close. The path went down Crow Hill’s west slopes, taking a 500′ nosedive to Butte Creek Trail fork over switchbacks.

Lake Chelan from Pyramid Mountain Trail
Lake Chelan from Pyramid Mountain Trail

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Sixmile Camp to Pyramid Mountain

Of course, I forgot to bring my water pouch again. So we started the trip with just a one-liter bottle. Nearly all of the streams along the way had gone dry. But we were happy to find one semi-frozen creek in the 6400′ meadow south of Point 7245. So we ate breakfast there.

The next place for water was in the 6618′ Sixmile Camp meadow. But I was only able to fill one liter before leaving. Then we no longer had access to water after going above the forest. I wasn’t sure where we would camp this evening. But I decided to carry everything up to the top and go from there.

Pyramid Mountain Trail
Pyramid Mountain Trail

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Pyramid Mountain Summit Views

I had been saving the only water I had while the pup was happy with the snow off the ground. Later we finished the final two miles through the two forever-long switchbacks. Below the broad and windy summit were a couple of bivvy sites.

I began to identify peaks from the top. But then I realized I wasn’t sure which one was Cloudcomb Peak. I also forgot to print out images with the route description. So then I glanced over at Squaretop Mountain and pondered. But it didn’t look technical.

North view on Pyramid Mountain
North view on Pyramid Mountain

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First Sighting of Cloudcomb Peak

I looked to the more rugged high point to the right of Squaretop Mountain. Then I knew right away what was in store. Holy crap, yikes! But what a beautiful peak it was! We ended up spending an hour on this summit.

The pup napped while I soaked up the views. They included Lake Chelan and the impressive Cardinal Peak.

Cloudcomb Peak from Pyramid Mountain
Cloudcomb Peak from Pyramid Mountain

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Leaving Pyramid Mountain

Afterward, we walked down to the 7840′ saddle. For the next day’s climb, I wanted to drop into the westernmost basin of Pyramid Creek. So the campsite would be a perfect spot to avoid Point 7842 en route.

Soon, we hiked up to Squaretop Mountain’s south saddle at 7960′ and set up our camp. But in hindsight, we could’ve stayed behind the trees farther down the west. But we were in for a windy night on the bare pass.

Leaving Pyramid Mountain
Leaving Pyramid Mountain

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Sunset Climb on Squaretop Mountain

It was only three hours until sunset, enough time to visit Squaretop Mountain. But the rugged south ridge didn’t look suitable for scrambling, at least not for the pup. So we went down the west crest instead.

I later found a ramp at 7700′ below the cliffs and made a rising traverse north through talus to 7500′. Then we crossed sideways on heather through the forest. En route was lots of larches inside the basin.

Bypassing the cliffs
Bypassing the cliffs

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Squaretop Mountain Summit Views

We went onto the southwest rib and walked on scree before reaching the summit ridge. There were a few bumps on the flat (and square) top, one visibly taller than the rest. We spent a while on top since it took under an hour to come here.

Cloudcomb Peak’s profile had let us know what was in store. I also saw more of Lake Chelan and the Pyramid Mountain’s impressive north face. I used up my water for dinner but hoped to find more in the Pyramid Creek Basin the next day.

Lake Chelan south view
Lake Chelan south view

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Day 2

Cloudcomb Peak

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

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Cloudcomb Peak Climb

The overnight high 20s temperatures overnight were the coldest we’ve camped. We slept in until after sunrise, but it was still chilly when we started moving at 9 AM. Without water, I skipped breakfast while the pup enjoyed his dry food plus the snow.

I brought microspikes for the trip, which worked great over the dusting of snow on the steep north. They also made going through frozen rocks more efficient. But I didn’t consider that everything in the basin had frozen overnight to find any water.

Ready or not, here we come
Ready or not, here we come

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En Route to Cloudcomb Peak

After the initial steep 200′ drop, we went over a permanent snowfield to the north end at 7400′. Then we went down another 200′ on talus to the 7200′ lower basin. There was another permanent snowfield not visible from above.

At the north end of the lower snowfield at 7000′, we continued north through more talus and scree. Then we came to the bottom of a white gully at 6800′ after a tedious traverse. We were now directly south of the summit.

Talus, lake, and larches
Talus, lake, and larches

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Optical Illusion

At least from camp, the prominent white gully looked like one continuous ramp leading to the summit. But in actuality, it was several north-trending gullies separated by many buttresses.

When viewed from the south, the gullies created the optical illusion of one straight path. So I thought it’d be a quick climb once we were at the bottom. But I only realized this after getting to a notch at 7150′ atop the first buttress.

Pyramid Mountain poking out from behind our camp
Pyramid Mountain poking out from behind our camp

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Route Finding on Rugged Terrain

After tedious scrambling through more notches and buttresses, the terrain quickly steepened at 7900′. Then with a steep buttress separating us from the summit gully to the east, I knew we were off route. So we downclimbed 200′ to bypass.

The terrain continued to steepen, and the scramble was no longer suitable for the pup. Cody had sensed the exposure and knew it was time to nap. So I put him under an outcrop to avoid rockfalls before finishing the last 200′.

This isht is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s
This isht is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s

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Final Stretch on Cloudcomb Peak

Atop the gully at 8030′, I crossed to the west and dropped to 8000′. Then I found a gap at 8040′ after going up a few class 4 steps. Shortly, I went back to the east and scrambled above the cliffs to the top.

This climb was night and day compared with Pyramid Mountain, which had a great trail going straight to the top! My goal for this climb was to see more of Lake Chelan–pure satisfaction. The summit register didn’t have many names.

Not for the faint of heart
Not for the faint of heart

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Cloudcomb Peak Summit Plus Exit

Star Peak, Reynolds Peak, Devore Peak, and Bearcat Ridge were among many familiar peaks in the wildernesses. I wanted to spend more time here but cut my visit short. The pup was probably getting anxious.

We reunited by the outcrop and later found a tiny stream that had thawed out in the afternoon. Finally, water! Soon, we retraced our steps up to Pyramid Creek Basin after gaining back the 1200′ on the steep terrain.

Lake Chelan snaking through the canyon
Lake Chelan snaking through the canyon

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Leaving Pyramid Mountain and Cloudcomb Peak

We packed and hiked to lower grounds for more water with enough daylight. That way, we could be closer to tomorrow’s climbing goals. The new tire tracks we saw on Pyramid Mountain Trail indicated earlier activities.

We stopped at the excellent Sixmile Camp. It had a large flat area and a fire pit centerpiece. Someone had left a pot behind for those who needed to use it. Our only water source was a semi-frozen, stagnant stream not far from camp. But I retrieved enough water for both of us after punching through a layer of thin ice.

En route to the new camp
En route to the new camp

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Day 3

Graham Mountain + Crow Hill

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Back to Sixmile Camp by Pyramid Mountain

It was so much more comfortable in the forest than being up high at 8000′ and virtually windless. It got so warm that I left the vestibule open all night. I even managed to get up during the night to take photos.

We both slept so well that we didn’t wake up until 8 AM. After bumming around and eating, we packed up and started walking an hour later. It was to be another day full of sunshine ahead.

Morning commute
Morning commute

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A Lazy Morning in Sixmile Camp

It had been pleasant and quiet with the occasional sounds from the various bird species overhead. Since we walked passed Graham Harbor Mountain on the way to camp, I didn’t feel like backtracking to climb it.

So we made Graham Mountain our only day stop before returning to the car from there. By the time trail reached the mountain’s south slopes at 7000′, the summit was merely another 300′ above.

Final destination Crow Hill
Final destination Crow Hill

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Morning Views on Graham Mountain

It was another great spot to see Lake Chelan. I found the summit register between a large rock platform and a shrub perching over the cliffs. The top of the porcelain canister had started to crumble, and the lid could no longer close properly. I tucked the container inside the cairn and left shortly.

We met our first mules before the trail took a nosedive on the ridge. Three, to be exact! The two hunters said to talk to the animals since I was in the shade, so they were aware. Who knew?! A quick hello and goodbye and we went on our merry way.

Pyramid Mountain and Cloudcomb Peak from Graham Mountain
Pyramid Mountain and Cloudcomb Peak from Graham Mountain

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En Route to Crow Hill

We strolled through the meadows and went up 500′ from the Butte Creek Trail fork. That soon put us on Crow Hill’s west slopes. Shortly, we met two hunters in camouflage on the mountain’s south side.

We went north on the south ridge for another 400′ and soon reached the top. During this, I briefly chatted with two more hunters as they made their way down. We’d later see them again back at the trailhead.

En route to Crow Hill
En route to Crow Hill

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Crow Hill Summit Views Plus Outro

This summit sported a 180-degree, expansive landscape to the east but with a woodsy west half. Though, we could still peek around the trees to see more. I could also see the trailhead parking lot from here.

We continued back on the trail without making more stops in the final mile. Then we reached the car soon afterward. Glad our last backpacking trip of this season was relaxing and enjoyable.

Parking lot from Crow Hill
Parking lot from Crow Hill

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Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

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