Sitting Bull Mountain via Lyman Lakes + Spider Meadow / 坐牛山

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Sitting Bull Mountain, Bannock Mountain, and Plummer Mountain share the long, rugged Ptarmigan Crest atop Canyon Creek. The last of the three is the high point of Miners Ridge. Lyman Lakes via Spider Meadow is one of the many ways to these peaks.

Sitting Bull Mountain from Bannock Mountain
Sitting Bull Mountain from Bannock Mountain

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Sitting Bull Mountain at a Glance

Environs = Bannock Mountain + Plummer Mountain
周圍地區=班諾克山+普拉瑪山

Access: Phelps Creek Trailhead
Round Trip: 44.6 miles
Elevation Range: 3520′-7870′
Essential Gear: helmet
Route Info: Cascade Alpine Guide, Eric Eames
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no

September 24-26

Day 1 – Saturday, September 24
Spider Meadow + Lyman Lakes + Sitting Bull Mountain
Night 1 – 6480′ meadow SE of Canyon Lake

Day 2 – Sunday, September 25
Bannock Mountain + Plummer Mountain
Night 2 – Lake 6800

Day 3 – Monday, September 26
Exit


Day 1

Spider Meadow + Lyman Lakes + Sitting Bull Mountain

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

The Preface on Sitting Bull Mountain

Sitting Bull Mountain et al. wasn’t on my radar until more fires broke out earlier this month. The other goals were out for the season due to trail closures. So I figured I’d visit these high points before losing them to more wildfires.

I would’ve liked to start from Suiattle River Road for different scenery. But the area we visited seven years ago was still off-limits due to Downey Creek Fire. To top it off, Bolt Creek Fire had forced a reroute through Snoqualmie Pass.

Phelps Creek Trail
Phelps Creek Trail

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Phelps Creek Trail to Sitting Bull Mountain

After checking Cascade Alpine Guide for info, I stumbled upon Eric‘s report from July. Despite not wanting to go in via Phelps Creek, it was the closest approach. From Suiattle Pass, I’d climb the peaks going counterclockwise.

I left the trailhead at 5 AM, anticipating a long day ahead. I reached Spider Meadow at sunrise and walked past two campers with their dog. But the photo stops kept me from going through the field quickly.

Sitting Bull Mountain via Spider Meadow
Sitting Bull Mountain via Spider Meadow

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Spider Glacier to Spider Gap

I went back into the trees to Spider Gap Trail and up the rocky path. After a long rise over several switchbacks, I was at the bottom of the glacier. I waved at two folks camping on Larch Knob and then continued.

The glacier was a snowfield now that most snow had melted. I hugged east of the route to avoid the holes and reached Spider Gap shortly after. Then I spotted the double-peaked Sitting Bull Mountain still far away.

Spider Glacier below Spider Gap
Spider Glacier below Spider Gap

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Lyman Lakes to Cloudy Pass

We had missed the reroute through the lower lake four years ago. But we only found that out after seeing the washed-out bridge at Railroad Creek. I walked across the new bridge this time and soon went on Cloudy Pass Trail to the pass.

Glacier Peak slowly appeared as I dropped through the switchbacks. In hindsight, I could’ve skipped Suiattle Pass by taking Agnes Creek Trail at the next fork. But I only realized this after seeing the connector trail from the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

Sitting Bull Mountain poking out behind lower Lyman Lake
Sitting Bull Mountain poking out behind lower Lyman Lake

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Sitting Bull Mountain South Route via Suiattle Pass and PCT

Instead, I took the upper trail through a talus field to Suiattle Pass. I went a short way south from the pass before turning onto the PCT to go north. Then I dropped 900′ in the forest to arrive at the sharp turn in two miles.

I left the trail and walked straight into a basin full of giant boulders. It took time to go through the debris before walking up the grass slope below the headwall. Then I found ramps among the cliff bands through the sheer terrain.

PCT below Sitting Bull Mountain
Leaving the PCT below Sitting Bull Mountain

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Final Stretch on Sitting Bull Mountain

I climbed in a straight line over heather and slabs. At one point, I walked inside what would be a waterfall gully in the early season. Since I was almost at the crest, I skipped the south notch and took the east ridge instead.

Apart from the usual exposed class 3 terrain, the ridge route was quite doable. Above the steep part was a walk-up as I scoped out the drop-offs on the north. Then I went up several tall steps before reaching the rocky summit.

The final stretch on Sitting Bull Mountain
The final stretch on Sitting Bull Mountain

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Sitting Bull Mountain Summit Views

I lay down the heavy pack and quickly checked out the views. It must’ve been the adrenaline that got me here because I was ready to crash at any moment. But glad that 15 of the 16 miles hiked today were on a trail.

Plummer Mountain was 1.5 miles south across the rugged crest. But Bannock Mountain was farther north, with the impressive Dome Peak and Sinister Peak in the backdrop. Then I saw what looked like the onset of some fire to the west. Uh oh.

North panorama from Sitting Bull Mountain
North panorama from Sitting Bull Mountain

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Leaving Sitting Bull Mountain

On the way to the south notch, I discovered I couldn’t go straight down on the crest. So I looked to the more feasible south face. Then I slowly weaved my way through class 4 terrain to the talus field below.

From the notch, I dropped west onto the typical scree and hard dirt. Soon, I was at the talus by the snow patches as the sun dipped to the horizon. What followed was perhaps the most beautiful green hills I’d ever traversed.

Exiting through the west
Exiting through the west

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6500′ Camp in Canyon Lake Basin

I haven’t had a drop of water since Railroad Creek. Of course, the seasonal streams had dried up when I needed some. As I eyed the buttress ahead, I saw a black figure moving in the same direction. Yikes, bear #1.

The animal fast left the scene when I started beating the trekking poles. Then I hurried past and dropped to Canyon Creek Trail at 6400′ and found water nearby. I put on the headlamp and walked to a flat area before settling in for the night.

One last look at Sitting Bull Mountain
One last look at Sitting Bull Mountain

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Day 2

Bannock Mountain + Plummer Mountain

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Bannock Mountain by Sitting Bull Mountain

Bannock Mountain is taller than Sitting Bull Mountain by a whopping one foot. It’s the farthest north of my three goals and the closest to Dome Peak. Meanwhile, it straddles three lake basins, including Sulphur Creek and Spruce Creek.

The reports I found had gone around Canyon Lake to the southwest ridge. While the water looked refreshing, I didn’t feel like losing 1000′ and regaining it. So I got on the trail by the camp and went straight for the mountain.

First light on Bannock Mountain
First light on Bannock Mountain

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En Route to Bannock Mountain

I left the trail at 6400′ as it started dipping toward the lake. Then I rounded a buttress and made a rising traverse into the slab basin at 6000′. It was much broader than I had pictured and would make a great camp spot.

Traversing the sloping slabs in the basin was my favorite part of the approach. But that was until I reached the talus halfway through. As I neared the south gully, the giant rocks soon gave way to scree and hard dirt.

The elusive Canyon Lake below Stonehenge Ridge
The elusive Canyon Lake below Stonehenge Ridge

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Bannock Mountain South Gully

At first, I didn’t see a feasible way to go above the cliffs, so I tried out the gully. Though steep, the narrow passage was manageable with lots of solid holds. But I found water dripping down the slabs higher on the route.

The ledges along the west wall looked promising from below but sketchy at eye level. I thought I could exit at some point until the route dead-ended at an alcove. So I backtracked to the heather ramp I’d seen earlier from below.

Gully alcove a no-go
Gully alcove a no-go

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Final Stretch on Bannock Mountain

A sloping rock ramp was past the short stretch of grass, which gave access to more moderate terrain. The were several decent holds to help go through the exposure. Then that put me on the south face west of the gully.

The graveled ledges made the going slow as I looked for holds. But once I went onto the heather slope, I moved faster and soon was at the talus. Then it was continuous rocks to the bouldered summit for the last 500′.

No rest for the weary
No rest for the weary

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Bannock Mountain Summit Views

The moment I had waited to view the north side was finally here. Seeing Spire Point, Dome Peak, and Agnes Mountain was incredibly surreal. Farther north were more peaks in the national park that I hadn’t expected to see.

I was in awe of the jagged ridgeline joining Sitting Bull Mountain. Meanwhile, the serene Canyon Lake was lying on the bottom. Between Bonanza Peak and Glacier Peak was a sea of Washington State’s highest.

North panorama from Bannock Mountain
North panorama from Bannock Mountain

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Back to 6500′ Camp

I retraced my steps and soon reached the sloping ledge at the bottom. Going in reverse was more nerve-racking, but thanks for the holds! Before long, I traversed the talus and went through the slabs to the other side.

As I rounded the buttress above the trail, a bear nearby was busy looking for food. I waited until it slowly moved past my tent before dropping onto the path. Then I cautiously looked in all directions and walked back to camp.

Bear #1 below the camp
Bear #1 below the camp

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Bypassing Sitting Bull Mountain to Plummer Mountain

The area was in a thick haze after I packed up and left. The path slowly dipped and soon took me through the trees as I peeked at the upper basin. Then the same bear was back at the same spot where I first saw it the day before.

By crossing the stream east of Sitting Bull Mountain, I had lost 1100′. Then I slowly gain back every foot through the talus in Plummer Mountain’s north basin. Soon, I was on Miners Gap above Image Lake.

Exiting in fall colors
Exiting in fall colors

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Traversing Miners Ridge

I went east on the ridge trail over the gentle terrain without stopping. It wasn’t until after going above the wooded pass that I saw Image Lake glistening under the hazy sun. The path soon took me through Point 6922.

By now, I was low on energy as I went over Point 6896. Then I heard someone shout from below as I rounded Point 7440; I ignored them. More talus and scree stretched across the ridge east of the high point.

This way to Plummer Mountain
This way to Plummer Mountain

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Final Stretch on Plummer Mountain

I thought I had more than enough daylight to climb both mountains. But all the photo stops had eaten up lots of time. Even with all the food I’d eaten throughout the day, I was moving slowly and ready to lie down anytime.

During this, I kept glancing back at Glacier Peak, which looked mesmerizing in the haze. Before I knew it, it was 10 minutes past sunset when I made the false summit. Then a 100′ ridge traverse put me on the sloping top.

Summit ridge traverse
Summit ridge traverse

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Plummer Mountain Summit Views

The golden hour lighting faded when I reached the summit. After 13 years of using a DSLR, I switched to a point-and-shoot camera in September. But I remember from my early hiking days that it doesn’t fair well in low light.

I could barely make out Sitting Bull Mountain in the haze. More smoke had moved in, as the nearby Fortress Mountain and Chiwawa Mountain were hard to discern. I left the top 10 minutes later as the sky fast dimmed.

Miners Ridge from Plummer Mountain
Miners Ridge from Plummer Mountain

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A Night at Lake 6800

I couldn’t tell the best way to drop to the lake in the east basin. But after checking the slope angle, I made a beeline for the pond. I dropped 100′ onto the southeast ridge from the false summit before plunging through the scree.

The steep places had hard dirt, making an exciting descent in the dark. Then I crossed a snowfield below the cliff bands to the outlet with remnants of an old structure. I set up camp by the stream and made dinner before bed.

Second night by Lake 6800
Second night by Lake 6800

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Day 3

Exit

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

En Route to Suiattle Pass

I wanted to sleep in after a restless night, but I planned to leave early to pick up the dog. Rumor had it that Highway 2 was to reopen on Saturday, so I wouldn’t need to reroute; woot! But first, let me get through the 16 miles.

From the lake, I dropped 700′ to the narrow east basin. After going onto the lower ridge to the east, I stepped into the most idyllic spot of this trip. According to Richard’s Flickr comment, it was likely the same place this book depicted. Now I’m curious to read it.

Cloudy Pass awaits
Cloudy Pass awaits

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Spider Gap, Spider Meadow, and Out

A faint trail took me back to Suiattle Pass from the tucked-away meadows. Without wasting time, I continued through Cloudy Pass and Lyman Lakes. During this, I startled a bear around the switchback down to the lower lake. Sorry!

A long lunch below the bridge, and it was uphill to Spider Gap around the upper lake. Smoke had long filled the basin, and Sitting Bull Mountain et al. was no longer visible from the pass. It was a quiet walk back to an empty lot through Spider Meadow.

Finding my way home
Finding my way home

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Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

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