Forum Index > Trip Reports > central entiat - saska pass, pyramid 29 jun - 1 jul 2018
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kitya
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kitya
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PostTue Jul 03, 2018 4:58 pm 
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Longer summer days mean it is possible to get further away from home, so I went to Entiat. Upper Entiat is such beautiful wild area, but it is 4.5 hours drive from home ☹ Not that many people seem to go there, and it is hard to figure out conditions. Trip reports are rare, and most are from autumn (larch time). Forest service has no updated road conditions since May. And they basically just say have a high clearance truck, be experienced driver and always carry a chainsaw. Great. Some trails are maintained, but some exist on a map only. River runs high and bridges are burned or washed out. Snow and fire can happen on a same day. But Entiat is such a beautiful place full of larches, so it is all worth it. And to make it all even better, Entiat is full of quirky and beautiful patterned Sylvester names: Aurora creek comes down from Borealis pass, Choral and Anthem rivers run down together as two singing streams, Ice Box, Freezer and Chilly form a rugged ridge above two Ice Lakes, just on the other side of two Spectacle Buttes. The name Entiat itself comes from Entiat tribe that used to live along Entiat river (now they are moved to Colville reservation). Entiat mountains are high, with three highest peaks over 9000 feet and many peaks over 8000, rugged and rocky, have several glaciers, burn in many fires and have most larches of any other place I know. They are now protected as a part of Glacier peak wilderness.
 
My first ever visit to upper Entiat was back in autumn of 2010, and I still remember the golden larches on Carne, rocky Leroy creek high route, menacing Maude mountain and lonely Ice Lakes (that time I accessed it from the west, from the ever-horrible Phelps creek trailhead, that I hope to never drive again). In winter this year, I hiked the snowy Steliko ridge at the eastern side of Entiat, meeting the winter deer and wild turkeys. Finally it was time to force myself and do a really-really long drive to the core of it all – central Entiat. HWY 2 was as busy and trafficy as ever on Friday after work. From HWY 2 to HWY 97A along Columbia river to Entiat river road turn off it is hot. Thankfully Entiat river road is paved and is actually in a very good shape most of the time. Unfortunately, one side effect of persistent fires is landslides, so there are a few miles where the road basically got destroyed by a landslide, but they dug out one lane and it is all good and drivable. WTA for North Fork Entiat trailhead says that trailhead is inaccessible due to road washout (and forest service website is silent), but thankfully the road to trailhead (NF-5606, North Fork Entiat road) turned out to be in a really good condition. It is very much drivable for all 8 miles towards the road end and someone even recently cut all of the downed trees and the road bed is mostly flat and clear. One thing though: there are 5 or 6 places where creeks washed out the road and they were recently ‘repaired’ by dumping huge piles of very large and sharp rocks into washout areas. It works, but it does scratch the regular clearance car bottom and it is only a matter of luck to get a flat tire, which is not nice in an area with no mobile phone reception or other cars ☹ There is alternative access to the same area from Shady pass and I read that shady pass road might be better condition, but the alternative access starts a lot higher (at above 6000 feet!), so that might be less fun.
 
North Fork Entiat river trail is usually described as boring and not scenic, but I think it is pretty in its own creepy way. The trail goes through dark burned forest. There were some bugs, but not too many. The bridges over Pyramid creeks and Pough creeks are washed out and creeks run high, but manageable. Trail goes flat along the river for about 8 miles and eventually climbs steeply up toward meadows below Cardinal peak. Getting late after work meant night hiking on Friday and setting up tent in freezing cold after midnight on snow – but, guess what, once above 6000 feet – no bugs!
 
In the morning we woke up early and found everything frozen. The meadow between Saska, Emerald and Cardinal is so beautiful, full of snow and green larches. All larches on this side of the basin so far survived the fires. We wanted to climb Saska, one of the bulgers, and basically just scrambled (using ice axe and crampons) via the steep snowfield on south east slope. Perhaps I should have read something about Saska first. Eventually snowfield ended and it got too scary for me to continue about 400 feet away from the peak. The rock was just too loose and there was some rockfall happening right above me with no provocation on my part. Very scary. Cookie would have done it, though, she just hops on rocks like a mountain goat. I don’t know why I didn’t just went on the ridge from Saska Pass like normal people. It looked a bit too gendarmy from the basin. Anyway, my fault. Stupid. Disappointed, I went down the snowfield back to the basin and just hiked to Saska pass again to peek onto the other side and see the burned down larches of Borealis ridge basin. It was gloomy and moody, with rain and clouds over all peaks.
 
We went back onto nice and flat Pyarmid mountain trail. This section of the trail had no human prints on the snow, but constant presence of bear prints. I love the fact that bear gets to use human trails. Sometimes, by accident and never by design, and we humans can do something good for animals. They only deserve it, after all in ancient times humans used to use animal trails all the time. Grouse pass was beautiful and appropriately had a grouse. Well, there are grouses everywhere there, but there was one sitting right by the Grouse pass too.
 
I setup tent on the dry hill that I later learned is called Graham Harbour mountain and from there hiked to another *edit: NOT* bulger – 8243 feet Pyramid mountain. Pyramid is very easy and has trail all the way to the top. Itself it is rocky and windy, but the view is among the most beautiful as it gets. There is a good view to the enormous lake Chelan, but for me the most favorite part was seeing the immense rugged cliffs of Cloudcomb Peak rising directly above Chelan.
 
Next morning we went back to Pyramid trail and continued on it all the way to Butte creek trail, visiting (short off-trail scramble through the open forest) Graham Mountain on the way. I’m really glad I visited Graham Mountain. Even though Graham is lower and not very popular, the view to Chelan from Graham is even better than the view from Pyramid.
 
Now Butte creek trail was a different beast. There are no signs to it and for all purposes it is abandoned and doesn’t exist anymore. Forest service says: “Trail is not regularly maintained, tread is sporadic and steep and requires some route finding.  Trail not recommended for stock. This is an old sheep drive trail that is primitive and very steep, and difficult to follow. Rated MOST DIFFICULT to hikers. Pack and saddle stock not recommended.” (https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/okawen/recreation/recarea/?recid=57939&actid=50) They underestimate. It starts innocently enough with some thread through semi open forest. I found a few cairns, but most cairns I found turned out to be just chipmunks sitting on rocks. If your cairn suddenly moves, it is a good indication that it is not a cairn. Than trail enters a burn. It is still visible in places, but now it is just a maze of ash and fallen trees. Still manageable, but very slow. Where it gets super fun is once it nears the Butte creek itself. Butte creek drainage didn’t burn. Which means it has a LOT OF VERY DENSE BRUSH. And cliffs. And roaring deep creek. I found no way to cross the creek like trail map suggests and basically squeezed my way through brush and downed trees all the way down on the east side of the creek. It was quite brutal, but only a couple miles. After that it was nice maintained South Pyramid creek trail again, back to washed out bridge and North Fork Entiat trail completing nice 46 miles loop (about 10810 feet gain): https://caltopo.com/m/33A8

Once we came back to the trailhead, we saw a huge cloud of smoke near Entiat river. Stormy creek fire just started and was burning bright with one helicopter battling the flames. As of now it is 10% contained, last time I checked.

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RichP
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PostTue Jul 03, 2018 5:21 pm 
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A very nice loop. I've done quite a bit of hiking in that area and have never even heard of the Butte Creek Trail. Sounds like one I won't be hiking soon though.

Cloudcomb is indeed a sight to behold. The bump to the west of it is a walk up and is almost as high.

Pyramid just misses the "Bulger" status but does make the T/200 which is the following list of highest peaks with sufficient prominence.

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Without obsession, life is nothing. John Waters
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Bootpathguy
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PostTue Jul 03, 2018 5:22 pm 
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Very enjoyable read. Thanks for sharing.

Not sure how many people use this forum like I do.

I use it in 2 ways.

First, it's my own personal hiking journal that I choose to make public ( Big thanks to Tom )

Second, it's a way to share my adventures with other outdoor enthusiasts who I think would / will enjoy a hiking story / report

Appears you do alot of solo adventuring like I do and I really enjoy your reports.

Again, thanks for the enjoyable read

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Experience is what'cha get, when you get what'cha don't want
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kitya
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kitya
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PostTue Jul 03, 2018 5:37 pm 
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RichP wrote:
A very nice loop. I've done quite a bit of hiking in that area and have never even heard of the Butte Creek Trail. Sounds like one I won't be hiking soon though.

Cloudcomb is indeed a sight to behold. The bump to the west of it is a walk up and is almost as high.

Pyramid just misses the "Bulger" status but does make the T/200 which is the following list of highest peaks with sufficient prominence.

Oh, thank you for correcting! You are right, Pyramid is not bulger, I don't know why I thought that. But it is still totally great mountain for the Cloudcomb view. Photos don't give Cloudcomb justice, it is crazy majestic. By bump to the west, do you mean Squaretop Mountain? Or something else?

Yeah, Butte Creek trail is not a trail frown.gif But without it the loop is a lot less loopy and shorter, if you go down on Pyramid creek trail. But than you miss Graham Mountain, that has a really great view to Chelan or you need to walk back a lot. Butte Creek would be a really nice trail to have, if it would to really exist smile.gif
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kitya
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kitya
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PostTue Jul 03, 2018 5:53 pm 
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Bootpathguy wrote:
Very enjoyable read. Thanks for sharing.

Not sure how many people use this forum like I do.

I use it in 2 ways.

First, it's my own personal hiking journal that I choose to make public ( Big thanks to Tom )

Second, it's a way to share my adventures with other outdoor enthusiasts who I think would / will enjoy a hiking story / report

Appears you do alot of solo adventuring like I do and I really enjoy your reports.

Again, thanks for the enjoyable read

I'm glad you found it interesting! But I'm actually never-ever solo, because of the dog. She is always up for exploring. I don't try to climb high, visit every major mountain, I don't really have technical skills, I'm not the fastest or strongest, and I don't cross glaciers, but I do love basins and valleys, especially if they feel a little bit wild, remote and a little bit off the most beaten path. I really appreciate all the interesting and reports many people share on this forum. It gives me idea of places to explore and I also love learning a little bit of history behind the places and names. I did learn quite a bit from your reports too! And finally I really appreciate when people describe road conditions as I don't have a high clearance or 4x4 car and driving is often hard on forest roads here.
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Get Out and Go
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PostTue Jul 03, 2018 8:29 pm 
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I like it! agree.gif  Your trip report, photos, and the area.  cool.gif

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RichP
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PostWed Jul 04, 2018 6:14 am 
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kitya wrote:
By bump to the west, do you mean Squaretop Mountain?

Yes, that's the one. A beautiful larch filled basin below it makes it a worthy destination in the fall.



I could camp here for a few days..
I could camp here for a few days..

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wildernessed
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PostWed Jul 04, 2018 7:03 am 
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A nice area to explore.

One entry point on Saska’s lower ridge from the West.

Early morning ascending just to the West of the South Ridge before gaining and following it.
Early morning ascending just to the West of the South Ridge before gaining and following it.

Saska is pretty straightforward, the trail goes just beyond the end of the ridge, after that gain the ridge from it's left (west) side using the rock instead of trying to battle the loose talus and scree following the path of least resistance. It is a T100, so you will see past wear marks. There are several loose gully's and you switch sides of the ridge to avoid gendarmes, but it works and is generally pleasant. You'll eventually come to a higpoint after which there is a break in the ridge and you have two options, to either downclimb the ridge and then reascend the craggy ridge and exit to your right onto a talus - scree slope or just downclimb to the talus - scree slope and ascend. Near the summit you will again climb up some easy class 3 rock. Though the route has a lot of loose rock, there is always some good rock for hand and foot holds, just check it first. I really wish the haze to the North wasn't so bad we would have had so many more views.

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HitTheTrail
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PostWed Jul 04, 2018 8:30 pm 
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Quite some trip you did there! up.gif
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kitya
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kitya
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PostWed Jul 04, 2018 10:38 pm 
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RichP wrote:
Yes, that's the one. A beautiful larch filled basin below it makes it a worthy destination in the fall.



I could camp here for a few days..
I could camp here for a few days..


Amazing indeed! Larches are so great any time of the year. I think even when they are green, they are still special, but obviously golden time is the best.
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kitya
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kitya
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PostWed Jul 04, 2018 10:38 pm 
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wildernessed wrote:
Saska is pretty straightforward, the trail goes just beyond the end of the ridge, after that gain the ridge from it's left (west) side using the rock instead of trying to battle the loose talus and scree following the path of least resistance. It is a T100, so you will see past wear marks. There are several loose gully's and you switch sides of the ridge to avoid gendarmes, but it works and is generally pleasant. You'll eventually come to a higpoint after which there is a break in the ridge and you have two options, to either downclimb the ridge and then reascend the craggy ridge and exit to your right onto a talus - scree slope or just downclimb to the talus - scree slope and ascend. Near the summit you will again climb up some easy class 3 rock. Though the route has a lot of loose rock, there is always some good rock for hand and foot holds, just check it first. I really wish the haze to the North wasn't so bad we would have had so many more views.

Thank you! If I ever get a chance to come back, I'll try this correct route.
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Cascade Bill
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PostTue Jul 10, 2018 8:53 pm 
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We had to use the Butte Cr Trail on a Scout hike in 1998 because the Big Hill road was closed due to a fire.  There was a sheriff's car at the turnoff on the Entiat road and wasn't letting anyone go up.  Nothing like changing your plans on the fly - so we hiked up the NF, up to Fern Lake and over to Pyramid and down Butte Cr.  It was bad back then and it's hard to imagine how bad it would be now.

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But turned out to be Gabby Hayes instead.
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Dale Wick
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PostWed Jul 11, 2018 10:42 pm 
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Wonderful report.  Love the ground squirrel/marmot shots but the Snow Brushy and Cow Creek meadow photos are really great.  Thanks for sharing.
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > central entiat - saska pass, pyramid 29 jun - 1 jul 2018
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