Wy’East Mountain via Holden Village / 經霍頓村上懷東山

Wy'East Mountain's real summit awaits
Wy’East Mountain’s real summit awaits

See more trip photos here.

After last week’s outing on the Olympics, we’re back to the Cascades. Wy’East Mountain was on Labor Day weekend’s agenda last year. But we ended up leaving it out due to time constraints. Then back in late July of this year, the Devore Creek Fire broke out unexpectedly. The lightning-induced disaster resulted in the area shutdown. That, in turn, kept us from reaching the mountain.

The Lowdown on Wy’East Mountain

Access: Tenmile Falls Trailhead
Round Trip: TBD
Elevation Range: 3240′-8280′
Gear: helmet, ice ax, microspikes
GPS Track: available

The Plan

The Forest Service reopened the area in mid-September. But then the early snow came during the last week of that month. So I put the plan on hold once again. I didn’t have a way of knowing the amount of snow we’d find in the area. This weekend’s weather looked promising. So I decided to check out Wy’East Mountain for myself before the next snowfall.

There was another reason for trying to make the trip this week. The off-season ferry schedule was to begin the following week. Only Lady Express operates during the slow season. So the ferry company doesn’t allow pets on the smaller boat. Boohoo. To top it off, we were also at the mercy of transportation to the village. So that meant an alpine start was a must to catch the bus on the way out.

Promising weather ahead
Promising weather ahead

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Lake Chelan, the Ferry, and the Bus

Over the years, I continued to enjoy the scenic, albeit non-eventful ride on Lake Chelan. Mainly because I enjoyed the sense of disconnection from everyday life as I stepped onto the boat. The pup, on the other hand, didn’t find it thrilling to be in the crate for the duration. We met was another lady with her five-year-old pitbull heading to the Prince Creek drop-off.

Only the four of us, including the pup and another couple, were going into Holden Village. The rest of the ferry passengers went up to Stehekin. So the village had dispatched a smaller vehicle from the Port of Lucerne. It reminded me of a red armored truck I’d see in the city. The driver, Daniel, gave a brief history of the area. Then we began the 10-mile, scenic, and bumpy ride up to the small community.

Getting some love from the kids in Holden Village
Getting some love from the kids in Holden Village

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Hiking to Tenmile Pass

Like our last Labor Day trip, we began walking after a break in front of Holden Village’s main house. The kids playing nearby were excited to see Mr. Cody. Each of them took turns to pet him. The pup couldn’t get enough of all the attention. Soon afterward, we located the Monkey Bear/Tenmile Falls Trailhead on the east end of the village. Without stopping by the falls, we continued on the Tenmile Pass Trail.

We reached the Devore Trail junction in a short time and then went through the lower switchbacks. Soon, we were looking south from the 5800′ lookout area. Views through the burned forest were excellent. From there, I could see Copper Peak and Buckskin Mountain amid the low clouds. The meadow area felt like a wetland from the snowmelt.

En route to Tenmile Pass
En route to Tenmile Pass

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Tenmile Pass Camp

Microspikes provided traction in the few inches of recent, slick snow. Hiking to the pass felt much quicker this time. Before long, we were overlooking the Devore Creek Valley to the north. Surprisingly, there wasn’t nearly as much snow in the Fourth of July Basin as I expected. Upon first glance, there wasn’t much snow on Wy’East Mountain.

I then realized we didn’t have enough time to climb and be back before dark. Of course, that would’ve been the best-case scenario. But the more realistic plan would be sticking to the original itinerary and begin climbing in the dark. We went to bed shortly after dark in the early evening. But the pup was on edge throughout the night.

The first view of Wy'East Mountain
The first view of Wy’East Mountain

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Early Start Time

Neither of us had much sleep when the alarmed sounded at 3 AM. But we managed to get ready and start walking by 4 AM. This routine brought back the memory of our outing on McGregor Mountain back in June. Hard to believe it’d been four months since we took that trip. With a headlamp, we followed the trail down the north side of the pass into the basin.

I couldn’t locate the hikers’ path off Devore Creek. So after crossing the creek at 5400′, the pup and I left the trail and went up into the forest. There were many down trees lower down. But they thinned out as we slowly made our way out into the clearing. At 6200′, we got our first glimpse of Wy’East Mountain under the Milky Way.

Wy'East Mountain under the Milky Way
Wy’East Mountain under the Milky Way

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Wy’East Mountain Climb

After some route-finding, we eventually got above the tree line. Then with a rising traverse, we began making our way toward the head of the basin. But we climbed too high too soon. So we ended up crossing the bottom of a few buttresses on loose rocks. The new snow and black ice also slowed us down a bit.

Of the two reports I found, one recommended climbing up through the narrow gully just west of the summit. After comparing the three write-ups, including one from Beckey’s Guide, that looked like the most straightforward approach. I also hoped to reduce the amount of ridge traverse in the new snow with the pup.

Fourth of July Basin from the south gully
Fourth of July Basin from the south gully

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Wy’East Mountain Summit

The sun was rising just as we got up to the 8120′ notch. Shortly afterward, we went up the adjacent snow gully to the false summit. All of the reports mentioned a downsloping slab crux before the top. So when I finally saw it for myself from the false summit, it looked even sketchier in the snow. The pup and I agreed that he would stay put while I went to tag the real summit.

There was another notch between the two summits. But getting down to it took careful maneuvering. I finally took out my ice ax to get past this section. The exposed downsloping slab sat above a steep drop-off. So I took extra caution getting through while hugging big rocks. Even without the snow, I wasn’t so sure if this part would’ve been less difficult to get through.

McGregor Mountain and Black Peak
McGregor Mountain and Black Peak

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Summit Stay Plus Outro

The top wasn’t too cold, and it was virtually windless. It also started to get warmer as the sun rose higher in the distance. As I looked around, many familiar high points were now under a coating of snow. Some of them were unrecognizable at first. Tupshin Peak, Devore Peak, and Wy’North looked just as dramatic from the south.

I minimized the length of my stay so that I could meet back up with the pup soon. After reuniting at the false summit, we continued to downclimb in the icy gully back to the notch. Then from there, we made our way down the steep southern slopes in the shade. We didn’t see the sun again until we were back in the basin.

Fourth of July Basin panoramic view
Fourth of July Basin panoramic view

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Back to Tenmile Pass and Holden Village

We made it back Tenmile Pass an hour later than planned. So I packed up as fast as I could to get back to the village on time. We still had to catch the early afternoon bus to get us down to Lucerne for the 2:30 PM ferry. By chance, we met a group of four hikers as we all made the mistake of taking a spur trail.

Back on the main path, the pup and I started half running down the trail. We reached Tenmile Falls in half a mile. Then we proceeded to fast walk back to the village. Amazingly, we got back to the community at 15 minutes before the departure time. Big whew! Just as we settled down on the grass, all eyes were on Mr. Cody. The pup was in heaven as everyone took turns rubbing his belly.

In time to catch the bus back in Holden Village
In time to catch the bus back in Holden Village

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Back to Fields Point Landing

The ferry from Stehekin arrived later than scheduled. Back on the boat, we met the same lady with her Pitbull. She then introduced me to a guy she’d met during her hiking and camping trip. All of us ended up talking for a while. Later, another woman came to say hello to Mr. Cody, who was in the crate and half-asleep.

A few minutes into our conversation, the lady asked me if were so and so. It turned out that she works for the WTA, and in the past, we’ve had many email exchanges. She said Mr. Cody and the GPS device I was carrying gave her the clues. Small world! Before long, we were back at Fields Point Landing. Only three more hours until we got back home!

Lady of the Lake II at last
Lady of the Lake II at last

See more trip photos here.

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