Wildcat Mountain via Slate Pass / 經石板山道上山貓山

Wildcat Mountain awaits
Wildcat Mountain awaits

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This trip was our sixth time starting from Slate Pass. So by now, we were all too familiar with the descent approach. Even so, I continued to dread the climb back up to the pass at the end of a trip. I had planned on saving this climb for later, as it’s much more low-key. But since I had the pup this weekend, I shuffled my peaks around so that he could climb with me.

The Lowdown on Wildcat Mountain

Access: Buckskin Ridge Trailhead at Slate Pass
Round Trip: 15.2 miles
Elevation Range: 5200′-7958′
Gear: helmet
GPS Track: available

Slate Pass to Middle Fork Pasayten River Valley

It’s been less a year since our last trip; I didn’t think we’d be back so soon. But here we were, embarking on yet another peak-bagging adventure. We left the pass under a cloudy sky. The minute we went into the valley, the first thing that got my attention was the vibrant wildflowers. Guess it’s been a while since we were last here in the summertime. Like our trip to Mount Rolo, we accessed Wildcat Mountain via the Ferguson Lake Trail (#474).

So shortly after crossing the Middle Fork Pasayten River, we reached the junction and continued uphill. Right before the creek crossing up in the forest, we came upon a llama that looked to be lost. Unsure what to do, the pup and I stepped off the trail and let the animal pass. Then we both watched it making its way down the path. I hope the owner had later recovered it.

Good morning everyone
Good morning everyone

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En Route to 474A Trail Junction

Ferguson Lake Trail and Eureka Creek Trail share the same trail number. At the junction past the stream crossing, the one-mile stretch to the lake becomes 474A. Trail 474 continues east and then drops into the Eureka Creek Basin via Wildcat Mountain’s south saddle. Then at the bend of Eureka Creek, the trail intersects 484A. From there, it heads west through Freds Lake and reconnects with the Middle Fork Trail.

The poorly marked trail junction was somewhat obscure. So if it weren’t for the lone cairn, then I probably wouldn’t have noticed the turnoff at all. On a nearby tree was a small sign; it was somewhat pointing in the direction of Ferguson Lake. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who found that confusing as well. But I was glad to have located the inconspicuous path and continued.

There's a trail through here
There’s a trail through here

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Wildcat Mountain South Saddle

The initially hard-to-follow trail eventually became more defined as it passed through the dense forest. Once we came out of the trees, the path felt much more established. It then wound its way through a large talus field heading toward the 7600′ saddle. The only real water source was the stream we saw earlier in the forest. But there were a few small snow patches among the rocks.

Once we stepped onto the saddle, Robinson Mountain and Devils Peak quickly came into view. From there, I also got my first view of the rest of the route, plus our destination: Wildcat Mountain. This trip was one of the few where it was smooth sailing from beginning to end. Not only were we on the trail for the most part, but we also had no route-finding issues. These low-key outings sure don’t come by every day.

South saddle with Robinson Mountain and Devils Peak
South saddle with Robinson Mountain and Devils Peak

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Wildcat Mountain Summit

From the saddle, we turned left and headed north on the ridgeline. We only had to do some light scrambling just before getting to the top. Otherwise, it was a straightforward ridge walk. Before long, we were on the windy summit overlooking the Middle Fork Pasayten River Valley and Eureka Creek Valley.

We could see all the familiar high points along the Eureka Creek drainage. They included Mount Lago, Mount Carru, Osceola Peak, and Blackcap Mountain. Over by Monument Creek were Monument Peak and Lake Mountain. Similarly, there were also the myriads of familiar high points to the south. Among them were Robinson Mountain, Cutthroat Peak, Silver Moon, and Silver Star Mountain.

Eureka Creek Valley panoramic view
Eureka Creek Valley panoramic view

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Outro

As per usual. After an extended stay on the summit, we began to make our way down. But instead of reversing our route, we descended on the west face on talus and scree. The open terrain made for an excellent direct descent back to the forest. Soon, we were right back at the obscure Ferguson Lake Trail junction.

We quickly hiked down to the Middle Fork Trail. Then we crossed the Pasayten River and hiked back toward the head of the valley. The afternoon sun glistened periodically as we made our way uphill amid the fields of wildflowers.

Summerland
Summerland

See more trip photos here.

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