2018/10/13-15 – Pyramid Slam + Environs / 金字塔滿貫+周圍地區

Formidable side of Pyramid Mountain
Formidable side of Pyramid Mountain

See more trip photos here.

Final backpacking trip of the season!

Other than rainy weekends, pup and I have been chasing after big mountains nonstop since Memorial Day weekend. October weather has been so nice that we were able to get to a few more big mountains before wrapping up the season.

Having a list to work on keeps me motivated and focused, and I wouldn’t spend as much time figuring out the next destination. Instead of calling it an obsession, I see it as a passionate pursuit. After all, mountains are still just mountains with or without a list.

The Lowdown on Pyramid Slam

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

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 SE saddle at 7960′

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

First sighting of Pyramid Mountain
First sighting of Pyramid Mountain

See more trip photos here.

Service Road Approach

Last Friday night car camping at a trailhead this season. Genius was supposed to be our last big mountain until we were once again lured by the gorgeous weather in recent weeks. I originally saved this group of high points for next year.

Rough drive to the trailhead had been mentioned in several reports. After hailing from day trip to North Craggy Peak, I was relieved to find that the road was not nearly as bad as the drive to Phelps Creek or the last several miles to Summer Blossom. Only a handful of cars at the trailhead late Friday night.

First sighting of Lake Chelan
First sighting of Lake Chelan

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Pre-Dawn Hike

In anticipation of a long day ahead we bagan hiking at 6 AM. Another party had started before us as I saw headlamps glowing on the ridge ahead. One nice thing about Pyramid Mountain was that the scenic trail lead from the parking lot straight to the summit! By far the easiest “climb” this season to reach a summit.

Soon as we rounded the corner of Point 7035, we were greeted with first sight of Pyramid Mountain. It looked deceptively close for being nine miles away. Trail made a gradual descent through west slopes of Crow Hill before taking a 500′ nosedive through switchbacks to the Butte Creek Trail junction at 6442′.

Bluebird day
Bluebird day

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En Route to Sixmile Camp

Once again I had forgotten to pack my water reservoir, so we were left with just my one faithful liter bottle. Nearly all of the seasonal streams along the trail had dried up except for one semi frozen stream in the 6400′ meadow south of Point 7245. We stopped there and took a breakfast break.

Next water source was at the 6618′ Sixmile Camp meadow, and I was only able to pack one liter before moving on. Once we were completely out of the forests we no longer had access to water. Unsure where we were going to camp this evening, I figured I’d carry my full pack to the summit and decide from there.

North view
North view

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Windy Pyramid Mountain Summit

I had been conserving the only water on me while pup got by with snow patches left from last week’s snowfall. We slowly finished the last two miles to the top, including two forever-long switchbacks, in bluebird weather. A couple of nice bivvy sites had been dug out below the broad and windy summit.

As I tried to identify surrounding peaks, I realized I wasn’t entirely sure which was Cloudcomb Peak. Obviously I had forgotten to do my homework and look up images. I gazed at Squaretop Mountain for a while and wondered if it were the one, but that seemed too good to be true…and it was.

Cloudcomb Peak
Cloudcomb Peak

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Spotting Cloudcomb Peak

I then redirected my eyes to the slightly shorter and more rugged high point two miles north and immediately knew what was in store. Holy crap, yikes, but what a beautiful peak! We spent an hour on top with pup napping and me soaking up views, including Lake Chelan and the massive Cardinal Peak.

After the viewing party, we descended northeast toward the 7840′ saddle. I wanted a direct descent into northern basin of Pyramid Creek bypassing Point 7842, so we hiked up to the 7960′ saddle by Squaretop Mountain’s south ridge and set up camp. Without tree coverage we were in for a windy night.

En route to camp
En route to camp

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En Route to Squaretop Mountain

With three hours left till sunset, we paid a to Squaretop Mountain one mile north. South ridge didn’t look conducive to scrambling, so we walked down west ridge and located a ramp at 7700′ below the cliffs, and traversed north on talus to 7500′. Lots of larches inside this basin as we sidestepped through the forest on heather.

We hopped on the southwest rib to be on rocks and travel northeast toward the summit, with more scree work before attaining the summit ridge. Several high points on the flat (and square?) top with one noticeably taller than the rest, on which we spent the next hour.

Negotiating cliffs
Negotiating cliffs

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Scoping out Cloudcomb Peak

Besides wanting to kill time before sunset by coming to Squaretop Mountain, I also wanted to survey Cloudcomb Peak by getting a better look at its profile. View of more of Lake Chelan on this summit; the steep north face of Pyramid Mountain looked extremely intimidating.

It took under an hour to get here, so we took sweet time before heading back down. We reversed our route back into the larch basin and back up to camp using the same ramp. I used rest of the water from my bottle for dinner and 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

See more trip photos here.

Chilly Morning

Temperatures in high 20s for the better part of the night, coldest weather in which we’d ever camped. I had devoted today to Cloudcomb Peak, so we slept in until after sunrise. It was still cold at 9 AM when we finally started moving. No water, so I skipped breakfast while pup enjoyed his dry food and munched on snow.

I packed microspikes in lieu of crampons for this trip, knowing that the northern aspect would mostly likely have only a few inches of snow, if any. Spikes worked out well on the steepest section directly below camp, and they made walking over frozen rocks and scree much more efficient. No water source in the basin, everything was still frozen over from the night before, yikes.

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

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Approach to Cloudcomb Peak

After the initial steep 200′ descent, we followed a permanent snowfield to its north end at 7400′. From there we descended another 200′ through talus to reach the lower basin at 7200′, with another permanent snowfield not visible from above. At the north end of the snowfield at 7000′, we travelled north on talus and scree to the bottom of a white gully south of the summit at 6800′.

From camp, the white gully appeared to be one continuous ramp connecting to the summit block, but that wasn’t the case. It was in fact several north-trending white gullies separated by buttresses together to create an optical illusion when viewed from the south. I only realized this after getting to a notch at 7150′ over the first buttress.

Camp saddle in middle skyline
Camp saddle in middle skyline

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Route Finding with the Pup on Treacherous Terrain

After some tedious scrambling through more notches and buttresses, we arrived below the summit at 7900′ where terrain had drastically steepened. Right then I realized we were off by one gully, with a steep buttress separating us from the summit gully to the east. We down climbed 200′ to negotiate the buttress.

Terrain continued to steepen the higher we climbed. Back at 7900′ it was evident that the rock scrambling portion was no longer viable for the pup, who sensed the exposure and knew it time to “nap.” I let him hang out underneath an outcrop to keep away from potential rockfalls, while I went to finish the last 200′ before coming back to meet him.

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

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Tagging Cloudcomb Peak Summit Alone

At the top of the gully was a west-facing notch located at 8030′, where I crossed over and dropped down to 8000′ west of the summit block. Some 4th class scrambling put me at another notch at 8040′. I crossed back over to the east side and now stood on top of the cliffs below the summit, followed by class 3 scramble to finish.

This climb was night and day compared with Pyramid Mountain, which had a trail all the way to the summit! Even without looking in the summit register, I knew visitors were few and far in between unless persuaded by a climbing list. THE VIEWS! Part of my goal for this climb was to see more of Lake Chelan, and it was gratifying.

Snaking along
Snaking along

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Evening Summit Views

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

After pup and I reunited by the outcrop, right away we reversed our tedious route back to Pyramid Creek Basin. We stumbled across a tiny stream that had thawed out in the afternoon. Finally we had water! The thought of gaining back the 1200′ lost, to and back from the summit, was exhausting. Getting back up the steep slopes below camp turned out to be smooth sailing.

Gaining back all that was lost
Gaining back all that was lost

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Retracing Our Route Back to Camp

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 objectives plus a leisurely exit. Back on the Pyramid View Point Trail I noticed new tire tracks, looked like someone had climbed the mountain on bike earlier in the day.

We stopped at the nice Sixmile Camp with a large flat area and a fire pit centerpiece. A pot was even left behind for those who needed one. The only water source was a semi frozen, stagnant stream by the camp. But I was able to retrieve enough water for the both of us after poking through a layer of thin ice.

En route to new camp
En route to new camp

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Moving on Out

So much warmer down here in the forest than sleeping up at 8000′, and virtually windless. So warm that I left the vestibule open all night, and even managed to get up to take photos during the night.

Day 3

Graham Mountain + Crow Hill

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Morning commute
Morning commute

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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 nice and really quiet on this trip, the only sounds around were those of the various species of birds occasionally flew overhead.

Since we passed Graham Harbor Mountain last night 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

Another great spot to take in more views of Lake Chelan. I found the summit register tucked in between the large rock platform and a tiny shrub over the cliffs. Top of the porcelain canister had started to crumble and the lid could no longer close properly. I tucked the canister inside the cairn and we headed back down to the trail.

Before the trail took a nosedive at the edge of the south ridge, we had our first mule encounter of mules…three to be exact. A leisurely walk through meadows followed by a steep 500′ climb from the Butte Creek Trail junction to the west slopes of Crow Hill.

Pyramid Mountain and Cloudcomb Peak
Pyramid Mountain and Cloudcomb Peak

See more trip photos here.

En Route to Crow Hill

As we hiked toward the mountain’s south ridge, we were greeted by two more hunters on foot in camouflage. From south ridge, we headed north for another 400′ and reached the summit shortly after. I briefly chatted with two more hunters as they made their way down.

This summit sported a 180-degree, expansive view to the east, plus a woodsy half on the west. But we could still get through the trees for views on the other side. I got a pretty good look at the trailhead parking lot from the summit.

Parking lot awaits
Parking lot awaits

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Outro

Back on the trail, we continued hiking out without making more stops in the final mile. Glad to have made our last backpacking trip of this season a relaxing and much enjoyable one.

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

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