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 near Glacier Peak Wilderness. The former is the #6 highest point in North Chelan Mountains after Pinnacle Mountain. Despite the long way, the mild, mixed-use trail is popular 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: 26 miles
Elevation Range: 6240′-8243′
Gear: helmet, microspikes

GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: on the trail

Logistics Overview

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

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 merely 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.

First sighting of Pyramid Mountain
First sighting of Pyramid Mountain

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The Long Drive to Trailhead

This trip marked our last Friday night car camping a trailhead this season. Genius was going to be 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.

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

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Pre-Dawn Hike to Pyramid Mountain

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

As we rounded the corner of Point 7035, Pyramid Mountain came into view. Although still miles away, the mountain looked deceptively close. Later the trail went down the Crow Hill’s west slopes. Then it took a 500′ nosedive down to Butte Creek Trail fork through switchbacks.

Glacier Peak Wilderness high points
Glacier Peak Wilderness high points

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En Route to Sixmile Camp

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.

North view
North view

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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.

Cloudcomb Peak from Pyramid Mountain
Cloudcomb Peak from 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.

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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 down into the westernmost basin of Pyramid Creek. So the campsite would let us bypass Point 7842.

Then we hiked up to the 7960′ saddle by Squaretop Mountain’s south ridge and set up our camp. But we were in for a windy night without tree coverage.

Leaving Pyramid Mountain
Leaving Pyramid Mountain

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Sunset Climb on Squaretop Mountain

We had three hours left until sunset, just 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 ridge instead.

Later I found a ramp at 7700′ below the cliffs. From there, we made a rising traverse north through talus to 7500′. Then we sidestepped through the forest on heather. There were lots of larches inside this basin.

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The Final Stretch

We climbed onto the southwest rib to be on the rocks. Then we traveled northeast toward the summit on scree before getting onto the summit ridge. There were a few high points on the flat (and square) top. But one was visibly taller than the rest. So we spent the next hour there.

Negotiating cliffs
Negotiating cliffs

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Squaretop Mountain Summit Views

The side trip was a great way to kill time before sunset. I also wanted to see Cloudcomb Peak’s profile to know what was in store for the next day. From here, I saw more of Lake Chelan and the Pyramid Mountain’s impressive north face.

It took under an hour to get here. So we took our sweet time before going back down. Afterward, we went back into the larch basin. Then we used the same ramp to go back up to camp. I used up the rest of the water from my bottle for dinner. But I hoped to find more in the Pyramid Creek Basin in the morning.

Lake Chelan south view
Lake Chelan south view

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Day 2

Cloudcomb Peak

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

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

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Cloudcomb Peak Climb

Temperatures were in the high 20s for the better part of the night. It’s also the coldest we’ve ever camped. I had dedicated the entire day to climbing Cloudcomb Peak. So we slept in until after sunrise. It was still chilly when we started moving at 9 AM. Without water, I skipped breakfast. But the pup enjoyed his dry food plus the snow.

I brought microspikes for this trip for the dusting of snow on the north slopes. They worked out great on the steep part below the camp. The gear also made going through frozen rocks and scree more efficient. But I didn’t take into account that everything in the basin had frozen overnight. So we had zero water. Yikes!

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

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En Route to Cloudcomb Peak

After the initial steep 200′ drop, we followed a permanent snowfield to the north end at 7400′. From there, we went down another 200′ on talus to reach the 7200′ lower basin. There was another permanent snowfield not visible from camp. So at the north end of the snowfield at 7000′, we continued north through more talus and scree. Eventually, we came to the bottom of a white gully at 6800′. We were south of the summit.

The white gully looked like one continuous ramp leading up to the summit from camp. But in reality, it was several north-trending white gullies separated by buttresses. Together, they created the optical illusion of one straight path when viewed from the south. 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 some tedious scrambling through more notches and buttresses, we arrived below the summit at 7900′. The terrain drastically steepened from that point. Just then, I realized we were off by one gully. Another steep buttress separated us from the summit gully to the east. So we downclimbed 200′ to negotiate the buttress.

The terrain continued to steepen the higher we climbed. Back at 7900′, it became clear that the rock scrambling portion was no longer viable for the pup. He sensed the amount of exposure and then knew it was time for a nap. I let him hang out underneath an outcrop to keep away from potential rockfalls. I went on to finish the last 200′ before returning to meet him.

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

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Final Stretch on Cloudcomb Peak

At the top of the gully was a west-facing notch at 8030′. So I crossed over and dropped down to 8000′ on the west side. Then with some class 4 scrambling, I came upon another notch at 8040′. So I climbed back to the east and got on top of cliffs below the summit. After a bit of class 3 scrambling, and I finally made it up to the top.

This climb was night and day compared with Pyramid Mountain. The latter had a great trail leading straight up to the summit! Without looking in the summit register, I knew there wouldn’t be too many names inside. But check out the views! My goal for this climb was to see more of Lake Chelan–pure satisfaction.

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

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Cloudcomb Peak Summit Plus Exit

Every high point from near and far was visible. There were lots of familiar high points in Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness and Glacier Peak Wilderness. Star Peak, Reynolds Peak, Devore Peak, Bearcat Ridge, Bonanza Peak, plus everything else in between. I wanted to spend more time up here, but I knew the pup was getting anxious.

Later we met up by the outcrop, and we retraced the tedious route back into Pyramid Creek Basin. We stumbled across a tiny stream that had thawed out in the afternoon. Finally, water! It was even more exhausting thinking about gaining back the 1200′. But getting back to camp on the steep slopes was smooth sailing.

En route back to camp
En route back to camp

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Leaving Pyramid Mountain and Friends

With plenty of daylight left, we broke camp and hiked to lower grounds in search of more water. This way, we would also be closer to tomorrow’s climbing goals with a moderate exit. Back on the Pyramid View Point Trail, I noticed new tire tracks. It looked like someone had biked up to the mountain earlier in the day.

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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Back to Sixmile Camp

It was so much more comfortable down here 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.

Day 3

Graham Mountain + Crow Hill

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Morning commute
Morning commute

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A Lazy Morning in Sixmile Camp

We both slept so well that we didn’t wake up until 8 AM. After bumming around and eating, we packed up and started hiking an hour later in another day full of sunshine. It had been pleasant and quiet on this trip. The only sounds around were the various species of birds occasionally flew overhead.

Since we passed Graham Harbor Mountain on the way to camp, I didn’t feel like backtracking to climb it. Instead, this morning, we made Graham Mountain our first stop of the day. By the time trail reached the mountain’s southwest 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

This summit was another great place to see more of Lake Chelan. I found the summit register between a large rock platform and a small 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 then we headed back down to the trail.

Before the trail took a nosedive at the edge of the south ridge, we had our first encounter with mules. Three, to be exact! I learned from the two hunters that I needed to talk to the mules as they passed by. So that I wouldn’t surprise them since I was standing in the shade. Who knew?! A quick hello and goodbye, and then 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 took a slow walk through the meadows. Then we went up 500′ from the Butte Creek Trail junction. Soon, we were at the west slopes of Crow Hill. As we hiked toward the mountain’s south side, we met two hunters in camouflage.

Then from the south ridge, we went north for another 400′. Then we reached the summit shortly after. I briefly chatted with two more hunters as they made their way down.

Parking lot from Crow Hill
Parking lot from Crow Hill

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Crow Hill Summit Views Plus Outro

This summit sported a 180-degree, expansive landscape to the east. But the western half was woodsy. Though, we could still go through the trees to see more. I got a good look at the trailhead parking lot from here.

Back on the trail, we continued without making more stops in the final mile. Glad our last backpacking trip of this season was relaxing and enjoyable.

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

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