Heather Ridge by Lyall Ridge via Agnes Creek + PCT / 海瑟脊

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Heather Ridge by Lyall Ridge straddles Pass Creek and Cabin Creek atop Stehekin Valley. It meets Sisi Ridge through Cassiope (Peak 7832) above Company Creek. The northwest ridge via the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) also offers the most direct route.

The final stretch on Heather Ridge
The final stretch on Heather Ridge

See more trip photos here.

Heather Ridge at a Glance

Access: High Bridge (PCT southbound)
Round Trip: 19.4 miles
Elevation Range: 1600′-7928′
Essential Gear: helmet
Route Info: Cascade Alpine Guide, Eric Eames
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no
Playlist: Keep Moving


Saturday, September 30

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2

High Bridge + Heather Ridge Camp @ 5200′

Wrapping up the Third-Hundred Tallest Peak of Washington State

Alas, my fourth and final trip to Stehekin this season marked the end of another chapter. I kept returning as of late because I wanted to finish the last of the third-hundred tallest peaks this year. It was a three-year active pursuit right after my last effort of completing the second-hundred highest.

When I first saw Heather Ridge on the list, my mind immediately went to the one by Sky Mountain on Stevens Pass. “Nah, I thought. Really?” Since that one is shorter by about 2500′, I had to double-check the map. Then, when I saw the location of this one, I screamed (quietly), “Noooooo!”.

Riding Lady Express through Lake Chelan
Riding Lady Express through Lake Chelan

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Instagram: Agnes Gorge Tidbits

Agnes Gorge Tidbits

See more trip photos here.

Return to Stehekin One Last Time for Heather Ridge

I thought I had to postpone due to the Dome Peak Fire closure of the PCT south of High Bridge. But I booked a boat ticket anyway since I wanted to close the loop now rather than later. As luck would have it, the stars aligned. And the forest service had reopened the trail the day before.

I admire PCT hikers’ tenacity in dealing with various fire detours. Depending on the time, some would hike twice as many miles between Suiattle Pass and Hart’s Pass (interactive map). Only then would they be back on a continuous path to the border. That’s wild!

The final trip through Stehekin, Washington
The final trip through Stehekin, Washington

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One More Shuttle Ride from Stehekin Landing to High Bridge

Besides PCT, my other concern was getting from the ferry dock to High Bridge. According to Stehekin Shuttle, their service would end on the last day of September. So, imagine my excitement when I learned they had extended it for two more weeks. Bringing my bike would’ve been my very last resort!

While waiting on the shuttle, I met a lovely couple, Ina [EE-na] and Jay, from Sammamish. They’ve been visiting the last two days and wanted to day hike Agnes Gorge Trail (NPS|WTA) before leaving. We boarded the bus and chatted with other hikers who had hoped to reach the border soon.

High Bridge atop the gorge over Stehekin River
High Bridge atop the gorge over Stehekin River

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PCT, Pass Creek, Plus My 5200′ Wild Camp

After our goodbyes, I walked 6 miles down PCT to Pass Creek instead of the 9 just weeks before. Hoping to go high on the ridge before dark, I dove into the bushes after getting four liters of water. Staying within earshot of the ravine lower down helped me avoid most brush.

But even the route of the least resistance had its fair share of debris. After an area of crisscrossing logs over steepening terrain, I found a decent bivy spot at 5200′, viewing Lyall Ridge. However, if it weren’t getting dark, I would’ve liked the open views another 1000′ higher and closer to my goal.

West Fork Agnes Creek Valley in the evening
West Fork Agnes Creek Valley in the evening

See more trip photos here.


Sunday, October 1

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2

Heather Ridge + High Bridge Campground

Traversing the Northwest Ridge to Heather Ridge

I was glad to have brought the heavier comforter as the night temperatures dipped lower. It was a chilly morning, and I awoke before the first light and started walking east uphill after sunrise. The approach was direct, even with areas of tall grass, shrubs, and cliffs to bypass. Views expanded from 6200′ onward.

Between 6400′ and 6600′ were several great camp spots among larches where I wanted to sleep. As I began the arduous traverse, the scenery mainly comprised the west. After going through a deep notch at 7040′, I stayed within 200′ of elevation to the adjacent south rib.

Agnes Mountain through larches on the northwest ridge
Agnes Mountain through larches on the northwest ridge

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Traversing the Steep West Slope Atop Pass Creek

There was no shortage of loose and terrible rocks on Heather Ridge. Instead of going lower, I stayed high and ended up downclimbing 100′ through a sketchy chimney. Soon, I traversed the broad gully, which I thought would’ve been great to come up from Pass Creek if possible.

I remembered seeing a dusting of snow higher on the mountain from the 6400′ camp. I regretted not bringing at least the microspikes, but I knew I’d cross the snow at some point. Soon, I climbed 500 feet through the scree before entering the shade. Then I encountered half a foot of snow, plus ice on rocks!

No signs of Heather Ridge yet
No signs of Heather Ridge yet

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The Final Stretch via Sketchy Terrain

I stuck my boots into the edge of the snow and inched my way up to the rib at 7700′. At least now, I was in the light despite still seeing pockets of snow and ice. After going around a short buttress, I first saw today’s goal. I aimed for the summit, not knowing another deep notch on the ridge would soon stop me in my tracks.

So, I went around the south to reach the notch and soon climbed steep ledges to the platform above. Then came the sloping rock covered in snow and ice, which I carefully stepped through using the features. Finally, it was snow-free beyond there, with a short walk to one of the obscure places in the North Cascades.

Early snow at the top of the broad gully
Early snow at the top of the broad gully

See more trip photos here.

Viewing More of Glacier Peak Wilder from Heather Ridge

Since last week, more larches have turned colors, with their gold colors strewing the slopes. The ones on the sun-facing ridges were exceptionally bright, as on Sisi Ridge. An hour was plenty to savor views of all the familiar places, including Lyall Ridge. Sable Ridge and Black Tower were nearly unrecognizable from this angle.

The south crest of Heather Ridge, with a layer of new snow, looked quite impressive. The entire ridge looked incredibly jagged from the top, not to mention the towers along the north. Besides the occasional overhead ravens checking on their “dinner,” it was pretty quiet and virtually no wind.

Southeast panorama with White Goat Mountain in the upper left
Southeast panorama with White Goat Mountain in the upper left

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Back to Camp, PCT, and High Bridge Campground

On the way down, I lost my cell phone twice as it slipped out of my pocket when I scooched. Luckily, I found it amid the rocks both times by slowly retracing my steps; what a close call! Below the snow, I followed my track closely back to camp and quickly packed to head out.

Not far below the camp, I made a beeline, trying to speed up the descent for the trail. In turn, I fumbled through tall brushes and cliffs I’d missed on the way up; grr. Then, it was an unexciting walk down to High Bridge with a water break by the wilderness boundary. But I did spot two tents right by the path. Go, PCT hikers, go!

En route back to camp at the end of day two
En route back to camp at the end of day two

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Leaving Stehekin Valley for Good, for Now

It was another restful night at the High Bridge Campground, and a friendly squirrel greeted me as I packed. It’d be my last time getting my grub on at the bakery until I returned sometime “as a tourist.” I must’ve picked out 7 or 8 pastries and stuffed my face with half of the food at the landing.

The number of people at the dock had noticeably reduced as the high season slowly ended. Instead of waiting under the boardwalk as usual, I walked to the lakeshore from the ranger station. As I took my last photos, I spotted the express boat approaching.

South view of Lake Chelan from Stehekin landing
South view of Lake Chelan from Stehekin landing

See more trip photos here.

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2

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