Pyramid Slam + Environs / 金字塔滿貫+周圍地區

Last backpacking trip of the season! So it was the Pyramid Slam! Other than rainy weekends, the pup and I have been working on the bucket list since Memorial Day. So far, the October weather has been terrific. So we were able to go up a few more peaks before closing the season.

Pyramid Mountain of Pyramid Slam
Pyramid Mountain of Pyramid Slam

See more trip photos here.

Having a list motivates me. Plus, I wouldn’t spend as much time deciding on our next goal. So instead of calling it an obsession, I see it as a passionate pursuit. After all, mountains are just mountains, with or without a list.

Pyramid Slam 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

First sighting of Pyramid Mountain
First sighting of Pyramid Mountain

See more trip photos here.

The Long Drive to Trailhead

This trip marked our last Friday night sleeping at 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. I had initially saved this group of high points for next year.

Some reports mentioned the rough drive to the trailhead. But it was relieving to see the decent road conditions after coming in from North Craggy Peak. It wasn’t as bad as the drive to Phelps Creek. Or the last several miles to Summer Blossom. There were 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 to Pyramid Slam

I anticipated a long day ahead. So we began hiking at 6 AM. Another party had started earlier. I saw headlamps glowing on the ridge ahead. The best thing about Pyramid Mountain was the scenic trail. It went from the parking lot straight up to the top! By far, the easiest “climb” to reach a summit this season.

As soon as we rounded the corner of Point 7035, Pyramid Mountain came into view. It was still miles away. But 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 down to the Butte Creek Trail junction through switchbacks.

Bluebird day
Bluebird day

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En Route to Sixmile Camp

Of course, I forgot to bring my water reservoir again. So we started the trip with my one-liter bottle. Nearly all of the seasonal streams along the trail had gone dry. But we were happy to find one semi-frozen stream. It was in the 6400′ meadow south of Point 7245. So we stopped there and had breakfast.

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

North view
North view

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Pyramid Mountain Summit of Pyramid Slam

I began to identify peaks around me. But then I realized I wasn’t sure which one was Cloudcomb Peak. I also forgot to print out images when I put together the route description. So then I glanced over at Squaretop Mountain and wondered if that was it. But it didn’t look very technical.

I had been conserving the only water on me. Glad the pup was content with eating snow off the ground. Slowly, we finished the last two miles with the two forever-long switchbacks. Right below the broad and windy summit was a couple of bivvy sites.

Cloudcomb Peak of Pyramid Slam
Cloudcomb Peak of Pyramid Slam

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Cloudcomb Peak of Pyramid Slam

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.

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.

En route to camp
En route to camp

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Sunset Climb on Squaretop Mountain

Only three hours left until sunset. So we had just enough time to visit Squaretop Mountain. But the south ridge didn’t look conducive to scrambling. So we looked at the route down on the west ridge. There I found a ramp at 7700′ below the cliffs. So we traveled north on talus to 7500′. Then we sidestepped through the forest on heather. There were lots of larches inside this basin.

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 Plus Views

This side trip was a great way to kill time before sunset. But I wanted to see Cloudcomb Peak from its profile. So I knew what we were dealing with the next day. From here, I saw more of Lake Chelan. Also, the north face of Pyramid Mountain looked steeper and more intimidating.

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

See more trip photos here.

Cloudcomb Peak Climb

Temperatures were in the high 20s for the better part of the night. So it was the coldest we have ever camped. I had dedicated the entire day to climbing Cloudcomb Peak. So we slept in until after sunrise. It was still cold 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. Somehow, I knew the northern slopes would likely have just a dusting of snow. The spikes worked out great on the steep section below the camp. They also made going through frozen rocks and scree more efficiently. I didn’t take into account that everything in the basin had frozen overnight. So there was NO water. Yikes!

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

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Getting 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.

From camp, the white gully looked as if it were one continuous ramp leading up to the summit block. 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.

Camp saddle in the middle skyline
Camp saddle in the middle skyline

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Route Finding on Rough 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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The 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. 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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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.

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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Leaving Pyramid Slam

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 was able to retrieve 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

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 in 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 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 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.

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.

Parking lot awaits
Parking lot awaits

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Outro

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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