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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot



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Tea, Earl Grey, Hot
PostFri Oct 16, 2020 1:09 am 
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Dates: October 1-4, 2020
Party:  Matt & Carla, plus Suzanne & Barry at Star Lake

Itinerary:
1) Hike Eagle Creek trail to Eagle Pass.  Side trip to Duckhead Mtn.
2) Side trip over Battle Mtn to Sun Mtn.  Hike Chelan Crest trail to Star Lake.
3) Side trip to Baldy.  Side trip to Scaffold.
4) Hike trails to Tuckaway Lake and Oval Pass, then down Oval Creek to Eagle Creek.

This trip combined an assortment of goals
1)Visit the golden larches – The Chelan Sawtooths have more larches than anywhere else.
2) Meet up with friends – Suzanne and Barry were staying four nights at Star Lake.
3) Visit some new places –  Some uncommon peaks (Duckhead, Sun, Scaffold) and some new lakes (Oval 6936 & 7138, Tuckaway, West Oval)
4) Hike through beauty – we started out in smoke haze, but the golden larches and red meadows were both at peak color, for some amazing hikes through beautiful basins, over and over.

Morning light at Eagle Pass
Morning light at Eagle Pass
The view en route to Sun Mtn
The view en route to Sun Mtn
180-degree panorama from Baldy Mtn
180-degree panorama from Baldy Mtn
Tuckaway Lake
Tuckaway Lake
Larches east of Oval Pass
Larches east of Oval Pass
West Oval Lake
West Oval Lake
GPS Track
GPS Track

Thursday

Eagle Creek Trailhead to Eagle Pass, with side trip to Duckhead Mtn (11:00am – 6:40pm)

Lower parts of the Eagle Creek trail had burned, but the fireweed made some bright fall colors.  A couple miles in, we met a youth group that was doing trail maintenance.  They had used the charred trees to draw mustaches and beards on their faces.

Fireweed along the Eagle Creek trail
Fireweed along the Eagle Creek trail
Youth group doing trail work
Youth group doing trail work

At 5800 feet, we turned off to visit "Duckhead" 6538, the high point of Duckbill Ridge.  We made the mistake of going to Silver Lake.  Don't go there, it's surrounded by swamps and blowdown.  It's better to go directly to the saddle below Duckhead, it's mostly open forest floor.  Duckhead's south ridge had also burned, but it was easy to walk around the small downed trees on rocks and duff.  Smoke hazed obscured the area, but on a clear day, Duckhead would actually have pretty good views of the faces of Oval Peak and Snowshoe Ridge.

Duckhead summit register
Duckhead summit register
Looking upstream to Silver Lake and Eagle Pass (at right edge)
Looking upstream to Silver Lake and Eagle Pass (at right edge)

We wanted to camp at Eagle Pass, so we filled up on water at the last stream.  We each carried about 5 liters of water uphill 600 feet, to ensure we'd have water for camp and for a morning ridge run to Sun Mtn.

We arrived at camp as dusk turned the haze to a wild pink color.

Crazy pink sunset light
Crazy pink sunset light
Part of our beverage supply for the night.
Part of our beverage supply for the night.

Eagle Creek Trailhead to Eagle Pass: 8.6 miles, 4250 gain
Side trip to Duckhead, round trip: 2.2 miles, 800 gain


Friday

Eagle Pass to Sun Mtn, via The Red Carpet (7:35 – 10:45am)

From Eagle Pass, we followed the ridge crest north to Battle Mountain, traversing a bit left of the crest to get past a couple rocky outcrops.  The sun topped over Oval Peak just as we departed camp, so our day began by walking upward into haze-tined golden sunshine.  The larch basins east of the ridge lit up beautifully, despite haze obscuring the background peaks.

A bigger larch tree along the way
A bigger larch tree along the way
Looking up the crest to Battle, but there are some outcrops hidden in between
Looking up the crest to Battle, but there are some outcrops hidden in between
Carla after going around the rocky areas
Carla after going around the rocky areas
Meadows between Battle and Snowshoe
Meadows between Battle and Snowshoe
View from Battle Mtn ahead to Sun Mtn
View from Battle Mtn ahead to Sun Mtn

Getting down from Battle required some steeper talus hopping, which slowed progress.  In between Battle and Sun are several 7500+ intermediate points, which required more ups and downs.  Northwest of Point 7568, we hit an obstacle, which led us to the highlight of the day.  The crest itself was tediously steep and rocky, but west of the crest was a gorgeous acre-wide red meadow dotted with golden larches.  The closer side of the basin was steep scree, but a deer path led us neatly downward, and then meadow made beautiful easy hiking back up.   .  I named it "The Red Carpet" and it felt like a premier honor just to hike through it.

A hazy view westward to Moore and Splawn, on the far side of Fish Creek
A hazy view westward to Moore and Splawn, on the far side of Fish Creek
Rocky travel over high points on the crest
Rocky travel over high points on the crest
The route down scree and up the red carpet to Sun Mtn
The route down scree and up the red carpet to Sun Mtn
Hiking up across the red carpet
Hiking up across the red carpet
Me enjoying the red carpet
Me enjoying the red carpet
Carla on Sun Mtn, looking out toward Reynolds Peak, Williams Butte, and Black Ridge
Carla on Sun Mtn, looking out toward Reynolds Peak, Williams Butte, and Black Ridge

Sun Mtn to Eagle Pass (11:15am – 2:00pm)

On our return, we saved some time and gain by traversing across the west faces of some high points rather than going over the top.  Open meadows and small talus allowed for an easy traverse below Point 7568, more dense brush allowed for a shorter shortcut below the summit of Battle.  And the red carpet was even more vivid with clearing skies and backlit sunlight.

Back to the red carpet
Back to the red carpet
Carla descending the carpet
Carla descending the carpet
Carla foraging for miniature blueberries
Carla foraging for miniature blueberries
My shadow on the far side
My shadow on the far side
Hiking back past Battle Mtn
Hiking back past Battle Mtn
Returning to Eagle Pass
Returning to Eagle Pass
Our campsite finally in the sun
Our campsite finally in the sun

Sun Mtn Round Trip:  6.0 miles, 1480 gain.

Eagle Pass to Star Lake (2:40 – 6:50pm)

There were two possible ways to get from Eagle Pass to Star Lake.  The shorter way is to follow the ridge southeast to the col above Tuckaway Lake, then drop down Horseshoe Basin.  Later on, I found that Google Earth shows a well-defined way trail over the top.   The longer way is the Chelan Summit trail, which curves way out around an intervening ridge and then back to Horseshoe Basin.   For this day, we took the trail.  After filling in this section of the Chelan Summit trail, I've hiked on all of the trail from Purple Pass to South Navarre, except for a short section north of Deadhorse Pass.

Heading down from camp, Carla stopped at the first corner and put a finger to her lips, gesturing for silence.  Was it maybe a bear or some other animal around the corner?   Reaching the corner, Carla said "be quiet, it's a larch nursery."   Spread out in the lower meadow was a stand of small larches, and then a spread of even tinier larches.

Heading down the basin west of Eagle Pass
Heading down the basin west of Eagle Pass
The larch nursery
The larch nursery
More hiking through red meadows
More hiking through red meadows
Turning back from the far point to head toward Horseshoe Basin
Turning back from the far point to head toward Horseshoe Basin
Pretty tree in Horseshoe Basin
Pretty tree in Horseshoe Basin
Even the grass is vivid in hazy golden evening light
Even the grass is vivid in hazy golden evening light
Sun going down in the smoky haze
Sun going down in the smoky haze
Campsite at Star Lake
Campsite at Star Lake

Just before Star Lake, we noticed a large group of tents camped on the outlying meadows.  I didn't know it till I a later trip report, but that was Jim & Eileen Brisbine's group.

Suzanne and Barry had snagged a prime campsite near Star Lake, with nice log benches and even a warm fire burning when we arrived.  During the day, they had gone up to Tuckaway Lake and explored the ridges above.

Eagle Pass to Star Lake via Chelan Summit Trail:  6.9 miles, 1740 gain, 1790 loss.

Saturday

Baldy Mtn (8:50am – 12:15pm)

In the morning, we headed for Baldy Mtn.

Taking a break at the Star-Baldy saddle.
Taking a break at the Star-Baldy saddle.
Layers of peaks southward toward the Bigelow/Cheops/Martin/Switchback crest
Layers of peaks southward toward the Bigelow/Cheops/Martin/Switchback crest
And more hiking pretty meadows toward Baldy
And more hiking pretty meadows toward Baldy

Along the way, I changed to a different plan.  While hiking up from camp, I realized that I could probably fit in a side trip to Scaffold today.  But I also wanted to spend time with friends, so we traveled together to Baldy's summit first.

Star Lake basin between Courtney & Star
Star Lake basin between Courtney & Star
Meadows at the Star-Baldy saddle
Meadows at the Star-Baldy saddle
Larches and peaks stretching southward
Larches and peaks stretching southward
Finney Peak
Finney Peak

The rest of the group continued southward to visit the lakes below Finney.  I hiked back to camp to get some extra food for a longer day.  The meadows by Star Lake were also extra pretty in mid-day light.

Fish Creek trail near Star Lake
Fish Creek trail near Star Lake
An especially decorative rock
An especially decorative rock
Closer to Star Lake
Closer to Star Lake
Star Lake camp at mid-day
Star Lake camp at mid-day

Scaffold Peak (12:30 – 10:10pm)

It seemed like a good idea:   Find the old Scaffold Ridge trail, follow it in a sweeping traverse around the flanks of Buttermilk and Oval, travel through some larch basins, check the view from Scaffold's 7652-foot high point, hopefully about 8 miles and 6 hours round trip, back in camp for dinner at sunset.

The reality:  the trail is fairly easy to follow but has many downed logs, its traverse includes many smaller ups and downs, it stays in lower forest the whole time, Scaffold's summit is mostly burned, and the actual round trip was about 12 miles and 4100 feet of cumulative gain in 9.5 hours, back in camp long after dark.

Scaffold GPS track
Scaffold GPS track
Scaffold elevation profile
Scaffold elevation profile

My old map showed the Scaffold trail meeting the West Fork Buttermilk trail around 6800 feet.  I didn't find it there, but turned off about 6700, angled back uphill a bit, and found the trail.  It neatly traversed across slopes with clear tread to follow, so I hiked along happily chanting "I'm on the trail, I'm on the trail."  Under Buttermilk, it made small downs and ups around rock fields, usually with large tree trunks fallen at the bottom, but still maintained a pretty good path wiggling around the trees.  Then it met more trees, many old trees sawed through, but also newer ones blocking the tread, but still with beaten paths working around the obstacles.  Then came more serious, multiple drops of 200-400 feet. 

Lake 6936 had a couple nice camps nearby, probably used by people climbing Oval.   By that time, it was obvious I wouldn't finish before dark, but I really wanted to push through and see if I could finish the trip. 
At Oval's east ridge came the worst diversion, a 600 foot drop, followed by edging around a swamp, then uphill amid more frequent downed trees till I lost the track.  At that point I was below the summit anyway, so I just continued uphill.  My salvation was the burned forest in the final 800 vertical feet, because it left quite open terrain underneath the standing trees for easier hiking up to the top.

I reached the summit about 5pm, and many slopes were already shadowed.  Never mind, after this much work, I took my time for a decent lunch break in the sunshine that was left.

Traversing below one of the rock fields
Traversing below one of the rock fields
Lake 6936
Lake 6936
Looking across West Fork Buttermilk to Spirit Mtn
Looking across West Fork Buttermilk to Spirit Mtn
North side of Oval
North side of Oval

For my return, I decided to take a different route, because that's always a wise choice late in the day.  I hated the big drop and messy forest on the final part of the approach.  Looking down at Oval's northeast basin, I saw a much nicer mixed-larch forest flanking Oval's east ridge.  I bet that I could descend Scaffold's south ridge, traverse to near Lake 7138, and then follow the margin between forest and talus right around the corner to meet the trail.  The traverse was all open green meadows under the trees, I stopped for a brief swim in remote Lake 7138, and followed nice meadowy margins at the edge of the talus, which led me right around the corner back to the trail.  At that point I turned the wrong way on the trail, as I am famous for doing, and descending 200 unnecessary feet before turning around and going back up the right way.   

The rest of the return was retracing the trail in increasing darkness.  At Lake 6938, I was surprised to find a couple people camping.  At the west end of the trail, I continued following the track to find out where it met the West Fork Buttermilk trail, but it kept turning uphill and not merging.  By then my refrain was "please let me off this trail, please let me off this trail."  Meanwhile my GPS insisted the main trail was just 100 feet to my left, while also flashing a red critically low battery warning.  So I cut sideways and rejoined the trail around 7100 feet.  Later Barry told me that the junction is actually about 6900, but I missed a turn in the dark.

Alternate route back to Oval's east ridge
Alternate route back to Oval's east ridge
Lake 7138
Lake 7138
turning the corner below the talus
turning the corner below the talus
downed trees at night
downed trees at night
stats for the return to Star Lake
stats for the return to Star Lake

Back at camp, my sleeping companions seemed unimpressed when I finally showed up and announced that I was still alive.  They told me their trip to Finney tarns was amazingly beautiful and showed me photos the next morning. 

Was my trip worth it?  Actually, yes, I was happy to meet the challenge of finding my way up an unknown route to a new place.  On another day, though, it would also be satisfying to spend more time together and revisit previous places.  Both have their own kinds of rewards.

Scaffold Ridge round trip: 12.9 miles, 4210 cumulative gain

Sunday

Star Lake to Oval Pass to Eagle Creek Trailhead (8:50am – 4:50pm)

We decided to hike the trail back to Oval Pass, with a visit to Tuckaway Lake, which I think is a really cool name for a lake.

Morning sun coming over the ridge
Morning sun coming over the ridge
Horseshoe Basin meadows
Horseshoe Basin meadows
Tuckaway Lake
Tuckaway Lake
Hiking toward Oval Pass
Hiking toward Oval Pass
Beautiful reds and golds in the center of Horseshoe Basin
Beautiful reds and golds in the center of Horseshoe Basin
Horse at Oval Pass
Horse at Oval Pass
Tuckaway Lake from Oval Pass
Tuckaway Lake from Oval Pass
Trails in Horseshoe Basin and peaks on the far side of Lake Chelan
Trails in Horseshoe Basin and peaks on the far side of Lake Chelan

Then we hiked down the Oval Creek trail, with a stop at West Oval Lake.

Trail travesing toward the other Oval Lakes (sort of wish I'd gone to the edge to take a look)
Trail travesing toward the other Oval Lakes (sort of wish I'd gone to the edge to take a look)
Dropping down from the pass
Dropping down from the pass
West Oval Lake
West Oval Lake

Star Lake to Oval Pass to Eagle Creek Trailhead:  12.9 miles, 1500 gain, 5690 loss.
Trip total: 54.3 miles, 16510 gain.


--------------
“As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
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awilsondc
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PostFri Oct 16, 2020 6:17 am 
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Nobody writes trip reports quite like you Matt.  This is awesome!  Thank you!   up.gif  up.gif  up.gif
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Sadie's Driver
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PostFri Oct 16, 2020 10:31 am 
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Matt wrote:
For my return, I decided to take a different route, because that's always a wise choice late in the day. . . . I stopped for a brief swim in remote Lake 7138 . . .  At that point I turned the wrong way on the trail, as I am famous for doing . . . .

Back at camp, my sleeping companions seemed unimpressed when I finally showed up and announced that I was still alive.  They told me their trip to Finney tarns was amazingly beautiful and showed me photos the next morning. 

It truly was beautiful at Finney . . .  and you wonder why we were unimpressed? We knew you would show up at some point based on the examples in the quote above! . . . well, Barry did stay awake worrying about you, anyway. Carla and I slept soundly.   lol.gif  redface.gif  tongue.gif

Gorgeous trip all around - our route to Bernice Lake (the day you left) treated us to even more spectacular color. We timed this trip perfectly! Thanks for joining us.   agree.gif

--------------
Four-paw buddy lets me tag along!
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triad
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PostFri Oct 16, 2020 10:41 am 
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Great report and larch photos! Love the larch photos with the red berry plants.

Lake 7138 has been on my radar for a bit now. Thought about checking it and Buttermilk Meadows out when I went up Oval earlier this year, but ran out of time. Do you have any photos from the summit looking east toward Buttermilk Meadows/Scaffold Ridge by any chance?
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BarbE
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PostFri Oct 16, 2020 7:23 pm 
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Impossible to pick one favorite photo, but the red carpet experience must have been spectacular!
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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot



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Tea, Earl Grey, Hot
PostFri Oct 16, 2020 9:48 pm 
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triad wrote:
Do you have any photos from the summit looking east toward Buttermilk Meadows/Scaffold Ridge by any chance?

Looking east to Scaffold Ridge
Looking east to Scaffold Ridge

There's the only photo I have looking east, but it doesn't show the Buttermilk Meadows area.  People who hiked in from that side have said that it looked the whole area was burned.

--------------
“As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
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Fletcher
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PostFri Oct 16, 2020 10:48 pm 
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Absolutely epic fall colors!
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MangyMarmot
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PostMon Oct 19, 2020 5:05 pm 
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What a trip. Awesome colors. What a great area.
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Nancyann
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PostTue Oct 20, 2020 9:13 pm 
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Wonderful trip report, Matt! You're a great storyteller and photographer. I especially loved the larches on red carpet pictures!
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