Pyramid Slam + Environs / 金字塔滿貫+周圍地區

Formidable side of Pyramid Mountain

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Our 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 great that we climbed a few more big mountains before wrapping up the season.

Having a list has kept me more focused and motivated. So this way I don’t spend as much time figuring out our next destination. Instead of calling it an obsession, I see it as a passionate pursuit. After all, mountains are 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

This trip marked our last Friday night car camping at a trailhead this season. Genius was going to be our final big mountain this year. But that was until the gorgeous weather in recent weeks lured us again. I initially saved this group of high points for next year.

Several reports mentioned the rough drive to the trailhead. But I felt relieved to see the decent road conditions after hailing in from North Craggy Peak. It wasn’t 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 began hiking at 6 AM. Another party had started earlier as I saw headlamps glowing ahead. The great thing about Pyramid Mountain was the scenic trail. It went from the parking lot straight to the top! By far the easiest “climb” this season to reach a summit.

As soon as we rounded the corner of Point 7035, Pyramid Mountain came into view. Still miles away, the mountain sure looked deceptively close. The trail made a gradual descent through the west slopes of Crow Hill. Then it took a 500′ nosedive through switchbacks down to the Butte Creek Trail junction.

Bluebird day
Bluebird day

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En Route to Sixmile Camp

Once again, I forgot to pack my water reservoir. So we embarked on the trip with just my faithful, one-liter bottle. Nearly all of the seasonal streams along the trail had dried up. But we were happy to find the one semi-frozen stream in the 6400′ meadow south of Point 7245. So we took a breakfast break there.

The next water source was at the 6618′ Sixmile Camp meadow. But I was only able to pack one liter before continuing. Then we no longer had access to water once we were out of the forest. I was unsure where we were going to camp this evening. But I figured I’d carry my full pack to the summit and then decide from there.

North view
North view

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Windy Pyramid Mountain Summit

I had been conserving the only water on me. The pup got by with snow patches from the recent snowfall. Slowly, we finished the last two miles that included the two forever-long switchbacks. Just below the broad and windy summit were a couple of bivvy sites.

Just as I tried identifying peaks around me, I realized I wasn’t entirely sure which was Cloudcomb Peak. I also forgot to do my print out images as I put together the beta. So I glanced over at Squaretop Mountain and wondered if that was it. But it looked too good to be true, and sadly it was.

Cloudcomb Peak
Cloudcomb Peak

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Spotting Cloudcomb Peak

I then looked to the more rugged high point to the right and knew right away what was in store. Holy crap, yikes, but what a beautiful peak! We ended up spending an hour on this summit. The pup napped while I soaked up the surrounding views, including Lake Chelan and the massive Cardinal Peak.

Afterward, we went down to the 7840′ saddle. Because for the next day’s climb I wanted to drop directly into the westernmost basin of Pyramid Creek. The campsite would allow us to bypass Point 7842. So we hiked up to the 7960′ saddle by Squaretop Mountain’s south ridge and set up camp there. Without much 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 had just enough time visit Squaretop Mountain. Since the south ridge didn’t look conducive to scrambling, we checked out the route down on the west ridge. I came upon a ramp below the cliffs at 7700′, and then we traversed north on talus to 7500′. Lots of larches inside this basin as we sidestepped through the forest on heather.

We climbed onto the southwest rib to be on the rocks. Then we traveled northeast toward the summit on before getting onto 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

Other than killing time before sunset, I also wanted to check out Cloudcomb Peak from its profile. I saw more of Lake Chelan from this summit. From this angle, the north face of Pyramid Mountain seemed much steeper and even more intimidating.

It took under an hour to get here, so we took our sweet time before heading back down. We got back into the larch basin and then used the same ramp to get back to camp. I used the rest of the water from my bottle for dinner. But I wished 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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Chilly Morning

Temperatures were in the high 20s for the better part of the night; the coldest we have ever camped. I had devoted the entire day to climbing Cloudcomb Peak, so we slept in until after sunrise. It was still cold at 9 AM when we started moving. Without water, I skipped breakfast while pup enjoyed his dry food and munched on snow.

I packed microspikes for this trip since the northern slopes would most likely only have a dusting of snow. In turn, the spikes worked out well on the steep section below camp. They also made walking through frozen rocks and scree more efficient. Since everything in the basin froze overnight, there was zero water source. 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′ on talus to reach the lower basin at 7200′. There was another permanent snowfield not visible from above. At the north end of the snowfield at 7000′, we moved north on more talus and scree. Then we came to the bottom of a white gully south of the summit at 6800′.

From camp, the white gully appeared as though it were one continuous ramp leading to the summit block. But instead, it was several north-trending white gullies separated by buttresses. Together, they created an optical illusion as one straight path when viewed from the south. I only realized this after getting to a notch at 7150′ atop 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′. The terrain drastically steepened from that point. Just then, I realized we were off by one gully. Another steep buttress that separated us from the summit gully to the east. We then 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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Tagging Cloudcomb Peak Summit Alone

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. A bit of class 3 scrambling and I finally made it up to the summit.

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.

Snaking along
Snaking along

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Evening Summit Views Plus Exit

Every high point from near and far was visible; 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 pup was getting anxious.

After we reunited by the outcrop, we reversed 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.

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

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Moving on Out

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. It looked like someone had biked up to the mountain earlier in the day.

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

En route to new camp
En route to new camp

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A Restful Night at Sixmile Camp

So much more comfortable down here in the forest than being up hight 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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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 tucked in between a large rock platform and a small shrub perched over the cliffs. 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 of 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
Pyramid Mountain and Cloudcomb Peak

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En Route to Crow Hill

We took a leisurely walk through the meadows. Then we climbed 500′ from the Butte Creek Trail junction to the west slopes of Crow Hill. As we hiked toward the mountain’s south side, we met two more hunters in camouflage. From south ridge, we traveled north for another 400′ and then 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 landscape to the east; the western half was woodsy. Though, we could still get through the trees to get views. 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 any 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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