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puzzlr
Mid Fork Rocks



Joined: 13 Feb 2007
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puzzlr
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Mid Fork Rocks
PostMon Oct 12, 2020 9:22 pm 
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I first climbed Russian Butte in 2015 solo via the Granite Lakes route with an overnight near Thompson Point. That way doesn't present difficulties other than the length, lack of water, and finding a good route up the summit block. Some do that route in a really long day (2008 in 17.5 hours and 2016 in 21 hours).  Outside and Stuff has an excellent video on YouTube

The prospect of a quicker trip via the Pratt has intrigued me for a long time but I was nervous about bushwhacking 3500' up the east side just to get to the summit block. The only report here on the Pratt route is this 2010 trip that took almost 19 hours!. This route requires fording both the Middle Fork and Pratt Rivers so doing it in the fall when the Middle Fork gage reads close to 1 foot is best -- that makes the ford at the Pratt River Bar only knee high.

Bryan and I started from the Pratt River Bar at 7am and quickly crossed the Middle Fork in water shoes then put on our boots. The Pratt River trail is familiar to me because I spent a few days on a WTA BCRT a few years ago brushing and clearing blow down. Our plan was to cross Trestle Creek and then drop down to the Pratt where we could pick up the desired ridge on the other side. This worked out well although we had to scout around to find a decent rock hop across the Pratt -- it had a lot more water in October than I expected.

GPS track from our trip
GPS track from our trip
Fording the low running Middle Fork River. Only 350 cfs and 1.8 feet at the gage. Here (4 miles upstream) the flow would be the same but only just over knee high for a few steps while in a channel.
Fording the low running Middle Fork River. Only 350 cfs and 1.8 feet at the gage. Here (4 miles upstream) the flow would be the same but only just over knee high for a few steps while in a channel.
Trail split at the Big Trees sign. We took the upper trail to get onto the old RR grade
Trail split at the Big Trees sign. We took the upper trail to get onto the old RR grade
A fresh gravel run came down last winter and partially covered the RR grade
A fresh gravel run came down last winter and partially covered the RR grade
2 miles up the Pratt River trail it zig-zags uphill a bit to cross Trestle Creek. The RR used to cross a since fallen trestle here, hence the name. We hiked to the far side and headed down to the Pratt River from this flat landing.
2 miles up the Pratt River trail it zig-zags uphill a bit to cross Trestle Creek. The RR used to cross a since fallen trestle here, hence the name. We hiked to the far side and headed down to the Pratt River from this flat landing.
A spongy moss forest floor made for a mostly easy descent to the river
A spongy moss forest floor made for a mostly easy descent to the river
Pratt River where we first intercepted it. We didn't see a reasonable rock hop here so we went upstream about 200'
Pratt River where we first intercepted it. We didn't see a reasonable rock hop here so we went upstream about 200'
The Pratt River was channeled into some gaps between big rocks here. The rocks were wet and a little slippery but we made it work. We found an easier crossing more upstream on the way out.
The Pratt River was channeled into some gaps between big rocks here. The rocks were wet and a little slippery but we made it work. We found an easier crossing more upstream on the way out.

Once on the other side it was up, up, up. A pleasant surprise was that once past the ferns near the river, the wide open second growth forest allowed for steady uphill progress for 2000'. Along the way we crossed several Cat roads that were used to log the west slope (the RR went up the east side of the valley). In 1936, this was one of the first uses of bulldozers to log in the Middle Fork. An oral history summarizes it as "Despite the difficulties, the big cat side produced enough logs to fill fourteen or fifteen railroad cars each day". Nearing the talus field at 3000' we ran into a short section of vine maple, but quickly broke out onto the rocks. This gave us our first views of the day including a pyramid-like ridge to the north that ends in a steep 200' gap.

Once across the Pratt River we had 3500' of gain through forest just to get to the final summit climb. We expected a lot of brush but right off we only had to make our way through a forest filled with very healthy sword ferns.
Once across the Pratt River we had 3500' of gain through forest just to get to the final summit climb. We expected a lot of brush but right off we only had to make our way through a forest filled with very healthy sword ferns.
Crossing the third caterpiller logging road at ~1550'
Crossing the third caterpiller logging road at ~1550'
Open second growth forest at 1700'
Open second growth forest at 1700'
Springboard stump at 2100', still open forest
Springboard stump at 2100', still open forest
Continuing open second growth forest at 2300'
Continuing open second growth forest at 2300'
Looking up the talus field from it's lower end at 3000'
Looking up the talus field from it's lower end at 3000'
Big douglas fir at the talus field. Most were not this size, despite it being well above the upper limit of logging
Big douglas fir at the talus field. Most were not this size, despite it being well above the upper limit of logging
My first ever look at the cliff that terminated the pyramid shaped subpeak on the east side of Russian Butte. I've wanted to get a look at this for a long time.
My first ever look at the cliff that terminated the pyramid shaped subpeak on the east side of Russian Butte. I've wanted to get a look at this for a long time.
Nearing the top of the talus field after 400' elevation gain from the bottom. Our route went left before the very end to catch a steep part of the ridge leading up 200' to a the narrowest ridge on the whole trip -- kind of like a rooster comb.
Nearing the top of the talus field after 400' elevation gain from the bottom. Our route went left before the very end to catch a steep part of the ridge leading up 200' to a the narrowest ridge on the whole trip -- kind of like a rooster comb.

The logging ended at the level of the talus field and the rest of the way up the ridge was in old growth forest, but at this elevation the trees aren't that big. However, for the most part the forest stayed open with some areas having thicker blueberry brush than others. When we reached the base of the summit rocks we swung right to reach the easier NE route to the summit. We deliberately stayed on the talus and reached the ridge near the pass between the main and north peaks. It was a dead end because the ridge to the summit was too steep, but the view down into the western gullies here can make your knees weak. I also had a half-plan to climb the north peak but gave up on that -- too tired and it would have taken an extra couple of hours.

On the rooster comb ridge above the talus field at 3450'
On the rooster comb ridge above the talus field at 3450'
At 3600' the ridge flattens out for a while and has some surprsingly large trees for this elevation. The three biggest in the photo are a hemlock, cedar, and douglas fir.
At 3600' the ridge flattens out for a while and has some surprsingly large trees for this elevation. The three biggest in the photo are a hemlock, cedar, and douglas fir.
At 3800' we started to get into the blueberry zone which continued all the up to the base of the summit block
At 3800' we started to get into the blueberry zone which continued all the up to the base of the summit block
We broke into more open forest again near the base of the summit block at 4100', but still 1000' below the summit
We broke into more open forest again near the base of the summit block at 4100', but still 1000' below the summit
At 4150' we swung around below this big rock prow at the base of the NE ridge and headed up talus slope toward the ridge line
At 4150' we swung around below this big rock prow at the base of the NE ridge and headed up talus slope toward the ridge line
This is where we crested the ridge. It was the wrong spot but the scenery was dramatic.
This is where we crested the ridge. It was the wrong spot but the scenery was dramatic.
View down into the spectacluarly rugged gully betwee the main and north peak
View down into the spectacluarly rugged gully betwee the main and north peak

We backed off about 50' and traversed over to the normal steep duff and blueberry bush scramble that is the easiest way to the summit. We spent about 45 minutes on the summit. I really wanted to find the old mason jar register that others have reported, but couldn't find it. I upgraded the protection for the double summit registers with a new pelican case that fit perfectly inside the ammo box. There aren't a lot of entries, but several recent ascents have been via the Pratt valley route.

A short steep blueberry choked passage through the cliffs is the crux of this route. There are other ways up but this 5-minute effort is the only spot here with any danger of falling.
A short steep blueberry choked passage through the cliffs is the crux of this route. There are other ways up but this 5-minute effort is the only spot here with any danger of falling.
The NE slopes break out onto this ridge just below the summit
The NE slopes break out onto this ridge just below the summit
The February 2020 Bessemer mud flow is visible across the valley
The February 2020 Bessemer mud flow is visible across the valley
North peak of Russian Butte
North peak of Russian Butte
Russian Butte register book 1 placed in 2010
Russian Butte register book 1 placed in 2010
Russian Butte register book 1 placed in 2010
Russian Butte register book 1 placed in 2010
Russian Butte register book 2 placed in 2015
Russian Butte register book 2 placed in 2015
Russian Butte register book 2 placed in 2015
Russian Butte register book 2 placed in 2015
Russian Butte register book 2 placed in 2015
Russian Butte register book 2 placed in 2015
I replaced the baggies and water bottle containers with a new Pelican case. It fit perfectly inside the ammo box so this register is well protected now.
I replaced the baggies and water bottle containers with a new Pelican case. It fit perfectly inside the ammo box so this register is well protected now.

We descended the same way and detoured a bit to a small tarn at 4100' to refill on water. I didn't know this was here in 2015 or I would have dropped down to get water then too. But in some years it might dry up by late summer. Heading down was long and a little tedious, but you really lose elevation fast in the open forest and the soft duff is easy on the knees. We crossed the Pratt at an easier spot a little upstream where it splits into two channels. Then it was a short climb up the RR grade and an easy hike out.

Descending the north ridge off the summit. The easy way down drops left at the farthest rocky area visible
Descending the north ridge off the summit. The easy way down drops left at the farthest rocky area visible
Rounding the 4150' rock prow on the way down
Rounding the 4150' rock prow on the way down
We diverted briefly to the small pond at 4100' to refill our water bottles for the trip down.
We diverted briefly to the small pond at 4100' to refill our water bottles for the trip down.
Back to the top of the talus slope
Back to the top of the talus slope
At the bottom of the talus slope we had to bushwhack through the vine maple. Below the vine maple there is a short section of scrub hemlocks which are annoying.
At the bottom of the talus slope we had to bushwhack through the vine maple. Below the vine maple there is a short section of scrub hemlocks which are annoying.
Not far below the talus the forest floor becomes bare in the second growth and stays like this for nearly 2000'
Not far below the talus the forest floor becomes bare in the second growth and stays like this for nearly 2000'
Crossing the Pratt
Crossing the Pratt
Ginger Falls
Ginger Falls
Walking out the pleasantly flat Pratt River RR grade
Walking out the pleasantly flat Pratt River RR grade
Finally we reach the Middle Fork river again at 5:45 pm, about an hour before sunset.
Finally we reach the Middle Fork river again at 5:45 pm, about an hour before sunset.
Crossing the Middle Fork river to the Pratt River bar
Crossing the Middle Fork river to the Pratt River bar
Our route superimposed on the 1937 Pratt cruiser map. Our crossings were really close to the location of the big switchback of the NBTC logging RR
Our route superimposed on the 1937 Pratt cruiser map. Our crossings were really close to the location of the big switchback of the NBTC logging RR

Stats are ~11 miles RT and ~6000' of gain, 11 hours (including 45 minutes on top). About 700' of that is the extra descent/ascent to cross the Pratt both ways.

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Mid Fork Rocks flickr
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RichP
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here and there
PostMon Oct 12, 2020 9:33 pm 
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Oooh.. I like this route. I remember you talking about it. Glad it worked out well.
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Cyclopath
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Faster than light
PostMon Oct 12, 2020 9:42 pm 
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That river must have been chilly?  What a towering and seldom visited peak!
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cascadeclimber
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PostTue Oct 13, 2020 9:05 am 
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Great adventure outing. This one has been on my list for a long while.

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If not now, when?
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awilsondc
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PostTue Oct 13, 2020 9:19 am 
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Nice trip!  Thanks for posting some beta on this route, it seems like an appealing alternative to the longer route so many take.  Man, this is a tough peak!  Great job getting it done.  up.gif  up.gif
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OutOfOffice
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PostTue Oct 13, 2020 9:38 am 
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Your TR reminded me of this peak! I haven't climbed it yet, but now excited to have another sizable peak in the north bend area to bag. Both routes sound fun
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NowIFly
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PostTue Oct 13, 2020 11:03 am 
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Sorry I missed it, but so glad you two got it done!
Good job!!!
Excellent TR, Monty!
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MangyMarmot
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PostWed Oct 14, 2020 3:38 pm 
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Nice trip! That's an interesting peak. I've looked upon it many times but I have not headed up there yet.
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Rob
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PostWed Oct 14, 2020 8:56 pm 
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From Russian Butte in August 1972 via Pratt river

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Snowdog
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PostFri Oct 16, 2020 10:13 am 
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great trip report!  I *think* I'm sorry to have missed.   biggrin.gif

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'we don't have time for a shortcut'
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