Bearcat Ridge by Emerald Peak / 靠翡翠峯的熊狸脊

This weekend we went tackling Bearcat Ridge after last week’s trip in The Enchantments. The peak was on the itinerary with Buckskin Mountain last summer. But day two felt like the hottest day in July. So I decided to postpone this climb.

Bearcat Ridge the merciful one
Bearcat Ridge the merciful one

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Bearcat Ridge at a Glance

Access: Entiat River Trailhead
Round Trip: 27 miles
Elevation Range: 3160′-7960′
Gear: helmet
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no

Entiat River Trail

It was our third trip hiking on the Entiat River Trail. The first time was two years ago when we climbed Choral Slam via Anthem Creek. We started walking at 5:15 AM in the hope of getting to camp on Milham Pass at a decent hour. Then we would attempt the summit on day one. Plus, it was going to rain on day two.

After crossing Snow Brushy Creek, we hiked for another mile. But we somehow missed the junction. So after backtracking some distance, we followed a footpath up the gentle slopes. Then we reconnected with the official trail and made our way up the drainage. Despite the fires in recent years, the path was in decent shape.

The first sighting of South Spectacle Butte
The first sighting of South Spectacle Butte

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En Route to Milham Pass

Upon entering the valley dispersed with charred trees, Saska Peak was the first to come into view. I first mistook it for Gopher Mountain until we were up higher. The trail faded shortly after the Borealis Pass junction. Later two deer hunters waved at us from behind their hut. I waved back and then continued up to Milham Pass.

Valley views slowly faded. Later we made it up to the woodsy pass at 6663′. A small opening through trees gave some views to the northeast. My goal was to climb Bearcat Ridge on day one if time allowed. That way, we could also avoid the rain on day two. So after setting up the tent, I decided to go for it. But I hoped to make it back to camp before dark.

Emerald Park Creek Basin
Emerald Park Creek Basin

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Getting to Pass 7316

Only the west ridge of Bearcat Ridge was visible from the pass. But the real high point was still in hiding. We first dropped 600′ into the head of the lush Emerald Park Creek Basin. Then we left the trail at 6000′ and traversed a large talus field. Before long, we were at the bottom of the west-trending gully off Pass 7316.

Going up the broad terrain took some time. But we stayed right and avoided the scree whenever possible. Higher up, I saw the gully Eric mentioned in his report. It looked inviting. So I could see why one would want to go that way. But instead, we veered southeast and went up to the pass. Views of Cardinal Peak and Emerald Peak were excellent here.

The broad Pass 7316
The broad Pass 7316

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Bearcat Ridge Climb

The pass was sandy and very broad. It looked like a great place to camp. But without a water source, it wouldn’t have been feasible to sleep up here. A snack break, then we went down the southern slopes to 7200′. A short traverse east through rocks and trees, then a deep ravine stopped us at our tracks. So we downclimbed to 7000′ to go around the buttress.

The pup was with me. So I avoided ridgeline with gendarmes by taking the lower route. On the map, the south gully looked feasible to bypass the cliffs. So we made a rising traverse up to 7200′. Then we arrived at the bottom of the entrance shortly. From there, the route became more apparent. But the steep slabs were still damp from the night before.

Bearcat Ridge south gully
Bearcat Ridge south gully

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Rain on Bearcat Ridge Summit

We took our time going up the solid rocks. Later the steep terrain forced us onto the south ridge. Then we followed the ridgeline up to the summit block. But to bypass more cliffs, the pup and I moved east briefly. Then we swung back west to get below the summit. A short, class 4 steps on the south face then got us up on top.

As luck would have it, it started raining just as we settled in. It had been cloudy all afternoon. So the tips of the nearby top 100 peaks were in the clouds. We had a clearer view of the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness. Soon, clouds started to shift. Then Saska Peak, Emerald Pea, and Cardinal Peak were visible at last.

South panoramic view
South panoramic view

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Back to Milham Pass

From the top, I also saw Cloudcomb Peak, Squaretop Mountain, and Pyramid Mountain. We had climbed them last year in mid-October. The rain stopped just as we were leaving the summit. Excellent timing! Soon, we made it back down below the south gully. On the way back to Pass 7316, we stayed low until we bypassed the deep ravine.

From the pass, we reversed our route down to the Emerald Park Creek Basin. Later we moved west through the tedious talus field. I vaguely remembered seeing a stream in the old moraine earlier. So en route to camp, we stopped by the water and filled up the water pouch for overnight use.

En route back to camp
En route back to camp

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The Rainy Outro

Just as in the weather forecast, it began raining at the wee hour of the morning. So glad we had climbed on day one. Otherwise, we would’ve had to give up the plan. We took several naps in the tent while waiting out the rain. Then the rain stopped in the late morning, and so we were able to get moving.

We packed up all the wet gear. Then we began the long hike out through Snow Brushy Creek Basin. We chatted with the hunters before the Borealis Pass junction. They asked about the ice ax, thinking that it was a gun at first. Then we made make our way down to the Entiat River Trail and out to the trailhead.

Finding our way home
in Snow Brushy Basin
Finding our way home in Snowy Brush Basin

See more trip photos here.

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