Bowan Mountain on Rainbow Ridge via McAlester Pass / 波恩山

  • Reading time:26 mins read

Bowan Mountain on Rainbow Ridge sits atop the famous Rainbow Lake-McAlester Pass loop. To the west rises the massive McGregor Mountain. Then on the east stand the awe-inspiring McAlester Mountain and West Level Peak.

Bowan Mountain and Rainbow Ridge from West Level Peak
Bowan Mountain and Rainbow Ridge from West Level Peak

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Bowan Mountain at a Glance

Environs = Rainbow Ridge + McAlester Mountain + West Level Peak + Dee Dee Peak
週圍地區=彩虹脊+麥卡利斯特山+西平峯+迪迪峯

Access: Bridge Creek Trailhead
Round Trip: 39 miles
Elevation Range: 3600′-7928′
Gear: helmet, crampons, ice ax
Route Info: Eric Eames, Brett Dyson
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no pets

July 15-17, 2022

Day 1 – Friday, July 15
McAlester Pass + Rainbow Ridge + Bowan Mountain
Night 1 – McAlester Pass

Day 2 – Saturday, July 16
West Level Peak + McAlester Mountain
Night 2 – Dee Dee Pass @ 6640′

Day 3 – Sunday, July 17
Dee Dee Peak + Exit


Day 1

McAlester Pass + Rainbow Ridge + Bowan Mountain

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

The Preface on Bowan Mountain

I didn’t enjoy the uphill hike back to Highway 20 the last time. So for this trip, I had planned to come in from the south via Stehekin. But managing two dogs plus the transportation logistics wouldn’t have worked out well.

Apart from Bowan Mountain, I also visited Rainbow Ridge, West Level Peak, McAlester Mountain, and Dee Dee Peak. Leaving the pup behind was a good thing, as they likely wouldn’t have enjoyed the outing.

Pacific Crest Trail (Bridge Creek)
Pacific Crest Trail (Bridge Creek)

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Bridge Creek Trail to East Fork McAlester Creek

I was on this trail seven years ago on the way to Goode Mountain. This time, I didn’t run into any hikers and enjoyed a quiet hike on the decent path. The 3.5 miles to McAlester Lake Trail went by in the blink of an eye.

It’d been a pleasant walk in the cold morning but would soon turn warm. I crossed the log bridge over Bridge Creek past the fork. Then I reached East Fork McAlester Creek in a mile and saw the half-split log bridge.

Fording East Fork McAlester Creek
Fording East Fork McAlester Creek

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McAlester Lake Trail

Without a place to cross the shallow water, I forded in slippers used for camp. Then I stayed straight for two miles before the first switchback. During this, I went through two clearings with Hock Mountain overhead.

Spotty views in the forest included Three Wives’ lower ridges plus some Rainbow Ridge. After going up several switchbacks, I soon walked past McAlester Lake, hidden from view. I’d visit it briefly on the last day.

Rainbow Ridge from the trail
Rainbow Ridge from the trail

See more trip photos here.

McAlester Pass to Rainbow Ridge

I reached McAlester Pass in another mile and expected to see a woodsy saddle. Instead, it was a lush, expansive meadow that welcomed my arrival. Meanwhile, I kept staring at the seemingly superimposed McAlester Mountain.

After dropping off some gear, I looked for the Rainbow Ridge Trail as I headed south. Then I stumbled upon it in the trees on the other side of the pass. As it turned out, I had missed the fork in the meadow before the woods.

McAlester Pass at last
McAlester Pass at last

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Rainbow Ridge to Bowan Mountain

There was a lot of standing water from the snowmelt at the start. Parts of the trail were less defined but stayed south of the small stream. I’d sometimes lose it to snow patches but soon found the next stretch to continue.

The traverse through Rainbow Ridge seemed to take forever, and it was long. From the pass to the Bowan Mountain’s south saddle was over four miles. Along the rolling terrain, I needed to go through two lake basins.

This way to Bowan Mountain
This way to Bowan Mountain

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Rainbow Ridge High Point to Bowan Mountain

I lost the trail to the snow shortly past Lake 6111, but it’d show up later in some places. Above the lake, I put on crampons and aimed at the Rainbow Ridge high point. Then I went up to the south ridge and finished the rest via slabs.

It was another 1.5 miles to the top of Bowan Mountain. But first, I needed to drop 600′ via the west ridge to the top of Lake 6495. Then I went into the east basin while checking out the cornices draping the south shoulder.

Next stop, Bowan Mountain
Next stop, Bowan Mountain

See more trip photos here.

The Final Stretch on Bowan Mountain

I found a dry spot higher on the ridge and knew it’d be the better option. So I went to the notch and ended up topping out at 6500′, 100′ higher. The incredible sight of McGregor Mountain soon appeared behind the ridgeline.

After rounding the buttress, I entered the broad gully through loose rocks and slabs. En route was two more gullies, which I bypassed te second one atop the east ridge. Then the rest was via ledges behind the snow on the north side.

Bowan Mountain summit tower
Bowan Mountain summit tower

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Bowan Mountain Summit Views

It was the closest I’d seen McGregor Mountain, and it was gratifying. That trip was logistically elaborate without views on top. Then I turned and saw the next day’s goals to the east and knew it’d be another long day.

McAlester Mountain and West Level Peak looked much farther and less distinct. Everything inside the national park was visible, it seemed. Then came the unexpected and stunning view of Lake Chelan just south of Stehekin.

Northwestern panoramic view from Bowan Mountain
Northwestern panoramic view from Bowan Mountain

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Back to McAlester Pass

Camping in one of the two lake basins sounded like a great idea. But I needed to take my arse back to the pass for another long day ahead. After downclimbing the gravel slabs, I made my exit toward Rainbow Ridge.

As much as I wanted to bypass it, it was better to retrace my steps. So I gained back 600′ and then another 200′ past Lake 6111 before returning to the pass. After a quick dinner and some Go Back to China, I had a restful night in the bivy sack.

Looking back at Bowan Mountain
Looking back at Bowan Mountain

See more trip photos here.


Day 2

West Level Peak + McAlester Mountain

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

En Route to Dee Dee Lakes

I woke up at 5 AM to prepare for the long day. After breakfast, I passed some campers nearby and went to South Pass. The trail soon took me to a beautiful meadow, where the impressive McAlester Mountain sat front and center.

I stopped every few minutes to admire the landscape. Before long, I reached South Pass and found the faint trail to Dee Dee Lakes. From the lower pond, it’s only 50′ up to the much larger upper lake below McAlester Mountain.

Upper Dee Dee Lake
Upper Dee Dee Lake

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Dee Dee Pass to McAlester Moutain East Saddle

From the upper lake, I went southeast through steep, rocky terrain to the 6640′ pass. It would be my camp for the second night. After dropping off some gear, I went up the snowy slope to the 7080′ notch west of Point 7371.

It wasn’t smooth sailing up to the pass as much of the snow toward the top had melted. So I bypassed the snow and climbed over the boulders instead, hoping for a faster ascent. But I don’t know if it saved me anytime.

This way to West Level Peak
This way to West Level Peak

See more trip photos here.

En Route to West Level Peak by Bowan Mountain

From the pass, I looked at West Level Peak and knew what was in store. Then for the next 1.5 miles, it was a nonstop side traverse via the top of Rennie Creek Basin. I looked for Rennie Peak but wasn’t sure if I ever saw it.

The first part of the traverse involved dropping 500′ to the moraine. I alternated between rocks and snow and kept the altitude between 6400′ and 6600′. Then en route were the endless vistas of Reynolds Peak and Camels Hump.

Snow gully approach
Snow gully approach

See more trip photos here.

The Final Stretch on West Level Peak

After rounding the east ridge at 6500′, I went into the broad east gully. The traverse was direct but not straightforward as I had expected. As the terrain steepened, I went up via snow or wet rocks from the running water.

The overhead cliffs and cornices kept from going straight up the ridgeline. So I went to the southeast ridge at 7400′ and propped myself over the snowbank with my ice ax. Then the final 400′ was a class 2 walk up to another fine vantage point.

The final stretch on West Level Peak
The final stretch on West Level Peak

See more trip photos here.

West Level Peak Summit Views

Despite the proximity, it was an exhausting climb. Perhaps it’s because I hadn’t recovered from the day before and had less sleep than I would’ve liked. But I limited my visit to half an hour since I still needed to get to McAlester Mountain.

It may have been the best angle to see Bowan Mountain. Or it was the few Washington State’s highest peaks, including Goode Mountain, in the backdrop that dramatized the landscape considerably.

Northern panoramic view from West Level Peak
Northern panoramic view from West Level Peak

See more trip photos here.

En Route to McAlester Mountain by Bowan Mountain

Dropping from the snowbank was tricky. So I walked farther down n the edge and downclimbed rocks instead for a safer ascent. Then I plunge-stepped through the snowfields before rounding the east ridge to the other side.

Going the other way felt much smoother as I followed my tracks back to the moraine. But instead of alternating between rocks and snow, I took the snowfields up to the south ridge this time. Soon, I was on the summit crest.

Next stop, McAlester Mountain
Next stop, McAlester Mountain

See more trip photos here.

The Final Stretch on McAlester Mountain

The east peak looked deceptively taller from below until I neared it. I tried bypassing it initially, but climbing over the high point was much more manageable. But of course, the actual summit sat on the west end of the ridgeline.

The closer I was to the top, the easier (yet exposed) it was to traverse the crest. But en route was a few small notches, where it was safer to stay right below the ridgeline. Soon, I reached the top half an hour before sunset, eek!

The final stretch on McAlester Mountain
The final stretch on McAlester Mountain

See more trip photos here.

McAlester Mountain Summit Views

Where did the day go?! But at least the lighting was more suitable for photos. It felt like I was moving every waking minute without time to process anything. I was glad to have decided to camp closer to the mountain.

Bowan Mountain looked as far away as it was when I saw McAlester Mountain from there. But my favorite view was the curving ridgeline from here to West Level peak. Soon, I left the top right before the sun dipped onto the horizon.

Western panoramic view from McAlester Mountain
Western panoramic view from McAlester Mountain

See more trip photos here.

Back to Dee Dee Pass

I went through 200′ of scree from the summit ridge’s edge to the snow. Then I made a beeline down to the saddle west of Point 7371. But the most annoying part was finding a feasible way to drop into the north side.

The campsite had no running water, so I grabbed some from a higher-up stream. The wind had picked up shortly after reaching camp. So I chowed down dinner, slipped into the bivy sack, and crossed my fingers for no rats.

Southern panoramic view from McAlester Mountain east ridge
Southern panoramic view from McAlester Mountain east ridge

See more trip photos here.


Day 3

Dee Dee Peak + Exit

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Exiting Through Dee Dee Peak

Dee Dee Peak was a 400′ bump above camp. So I decided to take the scenic route and return to South Pass on the north side. Along the way was the direct view of Mother Lode Peak and Crescent Mountain above South Creek.

Morning mists soon subsided as I returned to McAlester Pass. On their way to Banshee Peak, I ran into two people by the meadow. I didn’t see a trail on my map, but I hoped they had found the spur path to the top.

South Creek Valley from Dee Dee Peak
South Creek Valley from Dee Dee Peak

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Back to North Cascades Highway (Highway 20)

Without stopping, I walked through McAlester Pass and down the trail. I took the side path to check out McAlester Lake before moving again. Before long, I was at the creek crossing and forded back to the other side.

I later waved hello to some hikers resting by the PCT junction. Then I started my least favorite part of the trip–walking uphill to finish. I was an hour behind schedule but hoped to pick up the dogs from boarding on time.

Finding my way home
Finding my way home

See more trip photos here.

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

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