Sawtooth Ridge - Star & Courtney (std), September 2014
Taking advantage of the great autumn weather, Dan and I ventured into the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness for some mindless peakbagging and to enjoy the Fall colors. As an area we hadn’t explored yet, I present to you the culmination of Sawtooth Ridge! While nearby Oval Peak is higher, Star Peak is the highest point on the 20+ mile long Sawtooth Ridge proper and according to Paul’s SummitPost page, “…aesthetically, [Oval] is nothing compared to its neighbor two miles to the southwest: 8,690-ft Star Peak.” Well then, ‘nuff said!
The 9.5 miles along West Fork Buttermilk Creek Trail to Fish Creek Pass went by much faster than anticipated, allowing us to nab both Courtney Peak and Star Peak on the first day. After a night spent at Star Lake, we set out on a half-hearted attempt on Oval via Buttermilk Ridge. Up and over Pk 8267 then on to the summit of Pt. 7978, at which point we aborted the climb. We’d grown weary of the endless talus and boulder hopping and motivation for the ascent of Oval’s long South Ridge, which features more of the same talus tedium, was sorely lacking. After a long break we descended the slope south of Pt. 7978 only to stumble upon an obscure and unmaintained trail that parallels the W. Fork Buttermilk Trail. We were able to follow this to the junction with the main trail closely east of Fish Creek Pass, and then returned to the trailhead for the long drive back to Seattle. With reasonably good access and short, casual climbing routes on a cluster of lonely peaks near the eastern edge of the range, Star, Courtney (even Oval) make for ideal late-season objectives with stunning 360-degree summit panoramas.
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
McGregor BM - Rainbow Lake Trail, September 2014
Foiled by poor weather the day I was to climb Mount McGregor, all I have are these shots captured the previous afternoon after having established camp. The Sandalee Glacier cradled on the peak’s north-facing flank was not meant to be, so the pass at the head of South Fork Bridge Creek Valley (Rainbow Lake Trail) and nearby McGregor BM (a.k.a. East Summit of McGregor) will have to suffice for now. More often climbed via the Mt. McGregor trail on the less appealing south side, McGregor is an attractive and remote-feeling peak with outstanding views overlooking Lake Chelan and the Stehekin Valley. A non-technical ridge traverse from the East Summit, gaining the upper glacier for the finish to the true summit seems possible and would probably be preferable to the brush bash on approach to the base of the Sandalee Glacier.
Monday, December 22, 2014
Frisco Mountain - North Ridge, September 2014
Our plan to climb Bacon Peak was thwarted just shy of the trailhead that morning due to bridge repairs, so Dan and I made an impromptu course correction for Frisco Mountain. Though it is not nearby or even in the same county for that matter, Frisco fit our backup needs simply because I had previously looked into it and felt confident I could successfully climb the peak with only my recollection to go on.
Despite the unexpected change of venue and late start, the quick approach combined with an aesthetic and exposed North Ridge scramble and easy Southeast Ridge descent all made for a worthwhile alternative. And the unbeatable scenery around Maple Pass and beyond was an added bonus! While we could have made it back to the parking lot shortly after dusk, we instead made camp on the ridge top near Maple Pass and enjoyed a pleasant evening under the stars. If you are in search of a short day-trip to satisfy an urge to scramble, then look no further!
Friday, November 14, 2014
Mount Lago - South Face/South Ridge, August 2014
Eli and I gambled on a marginal Labor Day weekend weather forecast and headed deep into the Pasayten Wildnerness in search of the elusive Mount Lago. Guarded by a long 16-mile approach starting from Slate Pass, down the Middle Fork Pasayten River then up to Freds Pass and across upper Eureka Creek, Lago is by all accounts a remote peak. While it is the highest peak in the Pasayten Wilderness outside of Jack Mountain, Lago is flanked on all sides by other Cascades big boys such as Osceola Peak and Mount Carru, itself only 0.8 miles to the west. Other noteworthy peaks in the immediate area include Ptarmigan Peak to the north, Lost Peak, Lake Mountain, Monument Peak and Blackcap Mountain to the south. All of these, including the nearby Mount Robinson are of interest to those pursuing the Washington Top 100 list.
For Eli and me, the point was simply to visit a corner of The Cascades we hadn’t yet been to and bag what may be considered the most significant peak in the area. We also had a secondary objective of making the traverse out to Ptarmigan Peak up and over Dot Peak via the connecting ridge to Lago, but iffy weather and being short on time convinced us otherwise. Having climbed Lago via an interminable talus slope on its South Face, we instead returned via the South Ridge to Shellrock Pass, making for an aesthetic loop we jokingly dubbed Tour de Lago.
Having cut our teeth kayaking in the San Juan’s last summer, we returned on multiple occasions this year to explore other area paddles as well as revisit a couple favorites. This summer we added a twist and upped the ante…
On the suggestion of Agata’s former co-worker and her husband, both long-time sailors and San Juan gunkholers extraordinaire, we took the Island Express water taxi from the Skyline Marina in Anacortes across Rosario Strait to James Island State Park. Once there, we spent the rest of the day circumnavigating Decatur Island and all of the following day paddling along the southeast and rugged south shore of Lopez Island to reach Aleck Bay. Highlights include our first ever orca sighting and breach from the safety of the beach at Aleck Bay. With unexpectedly calm and glassy conditions on the return paddle, we took a direct line from Cape St. Mary to James for a ~4 mile crossing, our longest yet. Our friends then joined us at James later that afternoon and generously invited us for dinner and drinks aboard their beautiful yacht. We also joined them the next day for a tour around Blakely Island, across Rosario Strait to Cypress Island and down Bellingham Channel ending finally at the Cap Sante Marina in Anacortes. It is thanks to this tour and Dave and Pat’s patience with my incessant questions that the idea for the next trip-The San Juan Traverse-was hatched!
The Traverse – a logical next step for us, connecting the dots and filling in the blanks by linking ‘familiar’ passages, crossings and island camps on a 5-day odyssey starting from the put-in adjacent to the Guemes Island ferry terminal in Anacortes and ending at Stuart Island just shy of the border with Canada. We paddled about 60 nautical miles in total and made 8 major crossings (Guemes, Bellingham, Rosario, Lopez, Upright, Wasp, San Juan and Spieden) each of which had to be timed according to the tides, currents and wind. En route, we overnighted on Strawberry, Jones, Posey and Stuart Islands, and finished it all off by circumnavigating Stuart before our scheduled pick-up and return to Anacortes. Words and photos cannot do this trip justice and while it is easily a classic, the options for other multi-day link-ups in the San Juan’s are limited only by one’s imagination.