Forum Index > Trip Reports > Star Lake & Peak, Courtney Peak 9/9-11/2012
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Foist
Sultan of Sweat



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PostFri Sep 14, 2012 12:29 pm 
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My dad and I got out for our first backpacking trip together in 5 years.  He really wanted to do Copper Ridge in NCNP.  But of course, the nights we were scheduled to go out, the forecast called for rain in much of the Cascades for the first time in weeks.  So, backup plan: the Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness, with only 20-30 percent of showers one night and cold temps.

We camped at Star Lake two nights, and I scrambled Star Peak in between.  On the way out, we both walked up Courtney.  In a way, I'm glad the weather forced us to change.  I've been to Copper Ridge before, and the Star Lake/Peak area is breathtaking and wholly unlike anywhere else I've been.

We took the W. Fork Buttermilk Trail in.  The access roads are fine (just a few somewhat large potholes in the concrete section of the E Buttermilk road).  The trail is in good shape.  It is a bit beaten in by horses, but not too bad.  We did not actually see any horses, and some rain the previous night prevented the trail from being too dusty.  We saw very few people on the trip too, just 4 people total (including 2 other guys camped at Star Lake the first night).  The upside of the horse traffic is that the horseman appear to carry saws to cut away the many, many downed trees.

The W.F. Buttermilk trail is very monotonous, though.  After 6.5 miles, we finally reached a grove of larches with views up at Star Peak and then, shortly thereafter, dramatic Fish Creek Pass.

There is really only one good campsite at Star Lake, and it was taken.  We took another mediocre one for the first night that was not very level. 

On the second day, I considered hiking over to Finney Peak Lakes, but I guess a peakbagging impulse bit me and I went for Star Peak instead.  In trip reports, people just talked about hiking via the west ridge.  Looking at the topo map, it looked like the easiest way to do that was to use the trail toward Surprise Lake to gain the ridge between Star and Baldy, and then go up the ridge from there.  The worst part was some loose rock getting from the first bump over toward point 7912.  It was at that point my dad decided he wasn't up for it.

Below pt 7912 I picked up a trail in more stable talus that wrapped around the point and brought me up to the ridge on the other side.  Then I tried to just stay on the ridge but there was a blocky section.  I got annoyed as I kept going down into the dust and loose rock and then back up, finding it too blocky, and then having to go back down again.  Just as I was thinking, geez, when can I just walk on the ridgetop, I spotted a cairn!  There was my answer!  The rest of the ascent was pretty easy, only made difficult by the wind and cold.  It was so windy and cold that I only spent about 5 minutes at the top.  I had views of the developing forest fires, including a plume of red smoke in what appeared to be the eastern Glacier Peak Wilderness?  Maybe someone can identify from the photo.  I'm not used to the perspective from this area so I had trouble ID'ing mountains, except a few big ones.

On the way home, I looked on summitpost which said that the standard route is actually to head up talus straight from Star Lake to gain the ridge.   That really surprised me, those slopes looked really steep and unpleasant to put it mildly, both to the eyes and on the topo.  Taking the trail was maybe a little circuitous but seemed easier to me.  I'm happy with how I went.  Maybe I'm a talus wuss.  Actually I know that I'm a talus wuss.  But whatever, I made it to the top, so there.

On the third day my dad and I both scrambled up Courtney on the way out.  The weather was clearer and warmer and we had spectacular views.


We found a water filter/pump by the lake.  We packed it out.  It probably belonged to the two guys from Tacoma that camped there the first night (but unfortunately we didn't find it until they left).  If you think its yours, send me a PM or email with description and we'll get it to you.

The hike out the WF Buttermilk trail was as tedious as expected.  But nothing prepared us for what happened on the drive home.  What follows is a description of, without exaggeration, the most bizarre and disgusting thing that I have seen.  If you are even moderately squeamish, you may just want to read this lesson learned and stop reading this trip report: NEVER leave your windows cracked at a trailhead.

My dad keeps a water bottle in his car.  It is a hard, green plastic flip-top bottle.  He often just leaves it in his car and just drinks from it the next time he gets in the car if there's water in it, refilling it only if it's empty.  Frankly, I always thought this practice made the water kind of stale and am not in the habit of partaking from his car water.  Thank God for that. 

On the way home from our Star/Courtney hike, he took a swig from his car water.  I glanced over at him as he did so and thought I saw something inside.  I said, "Is that ice in the bottle?"  It had been EXTREMELY cold the night before, and everything we owned that had any moisture at all had frozen solid.

He said, "I don't know, but the water tastes really off."

I looked at the bottle in the cup holder.  "Wait, it looks like something solid.  What is that?"

My dad, who was driving, started to get impatient.  "What the hell is it!  Just hold it up so we can see!"  I picked up the bottle and held it up. 

There were two dead mice in the water.

My dad took it really well.  He just gasped and then started laughing.  He was a bit worried that he could get sick, but what was done was done. 

We were baffled as to how the heck they got in there. We knew that it must have happened while the car was parked at the trailhead, because we refilled the bottle on the way to the trailhead and drank from it right before hiking.  Usually my dad closes the flip-top closed, but he MUST not have done so. Even with the top open, the mouth of the bottle is only about the size of an index finger.  But mice can squeeze through remarkably small spaces, so they were probably able to get through.  My dad had also cracked the windows (since it was actually hot out on Sunday when we parked the car), for whatever dubious benefit that practice bestows.  So our best theory was that these mice squeezed through the window cracks in pursuit of a lingering food scent, even though there was no actual food left in the car.  Then, in desperation, they squeezed into the water bottle to get at the only water in the car, could not get back out, and drowned/died. 

My dad thought it was pretty hilarious how cartoonishly stupid these mice had been.  I was just revolted.

So far he has not shown any ill effects.  And his doctor was not concerned. 

No, I did not take a photo of the mice in the water bottle, despite the novelty.  I considered it, but decided not to.  It's bad enough that I have that disgusting image in my memory, I did not want to sharpen the memory with a photo.
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pasayten
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PostFri Sep 14, 2012 12:43 pm 
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Nice report...   Great that you got to hike with your dad...   up.gif  up.gif

I camped in a little basin just above Star Lake...  towards Fish Pass side...  It was decent and level...   

I am not a technical climber by any means,  but I found the climbers trail up from the basin above and south of Star Lake acceptable to my comfort and expertise levels...  very steep, but I always felt safe on it...   Folks have a trail thru the scree pretty well formed... You can just see the faint trail to the left of the snow patches on the picture...  It looks a lot worse than it actually was...  I also added a label to the picture that will show up as you mouse over...   smile.gif  (I also added a label to your P1020363 pic as your picture had a better overall view of the basin...  feel free to delete...)

Scree trail to saddle on west shoulder of Star Peak
1 label
Scree trail to saddle on west shoulder of Star Peak
Zoom of scree trail to saddle on way to Star Peak
Zoom of scree trail to saddle on way to Star Peak

And yes,  the pull up to the top of Star Peak is an effort...  certainly was for me on 64 y/o legs...   lol...   and it was also very cool and windy last year when I was up there...    redface.gif

Love the story about the mice in the water bottle...  Had a similar experience many years back when somebody forgot to check the bottom of the coffee pot before they made our morning coffee on the campfire one morning...   It also had a little "off taste" to it...    hockeygrin.gif

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Happy Trails...     pasayten
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Foist
Sultan of Sweat



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PostFri Sep 14, 2012 1:06 pm 
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Thanks for the details on the short route.

I realized in randomly clicking photos from my album I neglected to include the one with the plume of smoke...


Anyone know where that is?
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pasayten
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PostFri Sep 14, 2012 1:12 pm 
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Looks like the fires in  the Pyramid Mountain and Klone Peak areas on the Entiat...  Assuming this picture is looking towards the west...

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Happy Trails...     pasayten
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John Morrow
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PostFri Sep 14, 2012 3:29 pm 
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Looks like that is Pyramid Mountain in the photo.  Something burning in the N Fk Entiat, if not on the south side of Pyramid mountain istelf.

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“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”-Mary Oliver

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wolfs
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PostFri Sep 14, 2012 3:54 pm 
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Yeesh! Friend of mine had similar mouse experience w a bottle of beer at night. This was with a fairly normal beer, not a Mickeys widemouth or anything. Crazy mice. Harder to notice "off flavor" in beer too.
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pasayten
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PostFri Sep 14, 2012 4:01 pm 
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The off taste of the mouse in the coffee pot was not bad...  but those little mouse hairs getting caught in your teeth were a little strange...    winksmile.gif

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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Star Lake & Peak, Courtney Peak 9/9-11/2012
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