Joined: 17 Sep 2020
Posts: 1 | TRs
Here’s my first post on nwhikers! I’ve been waiting for an awesome trip to start the trip reports, and this last one was definitely worthy!
After experiencing the west fork buttermilk trail & Courtney peak area in June, I knew this wilderness would look incredible during the golden larches of fall!! So after months of waiting I finally put the trip together, called up my good friends hans and Lucas, and we set out to find some gold In the Chelan Sawtooth Wilderness!😁
We arrived at the trailhead about 1:30am and slept on the side of the road, the plan was to wake at first light and set forth on our adventure!
Well we slept in later than expected and spent longer at the trailhead than expected. But we hit trail at exactly 10am and what a beautiful day to start a gold hunt!
We had 4.6 miles of really nice trail to do along the west fork of the buttermilk creek! (Note this trail has one of the most spectacular wildflower shows I’ve ever seen during the spring and early summer, definitely a gorgeous trail in any season!) anyways we shredded the 4.6 miles in 50 minutes! wow it’s good to be back! At 4.6 miles we decided this is where we will enter the woods, it was at this point that hans asked “are we really just going in there?”- “yup” I replied “it’s time to shwhack!😆✊🏼“
At about 5900 feet we encountered some small talus fields, and began to cross them in NW direction.
At 6400 feet, me and Lucas began to really feel the weight of our packs. We realized that we might not have it in us to make the summit. We talked with hans, he tried his best to convince us to go obtain the summit with him, but we felt we would have only slowed him down. So he relaxed on the talus, enjoyed a few bowls, and joked about good times! Oh did I mention we also got the first sight of the gold vein of larches that run down spirt mountain across the way! Oh man the excitement was exhilarating!
After studying the maps with hans and agreeing on a set camp location at lake 6936, we wished him luck and he set out to conquer oval peak!
Lucas and I continued directly up the ridge, knowing that the hill we were on would taper out and flatten to a nice hill top forest meadow. We pushed 300 feet N uphill, to the nice alpine forest. No larches yet, but we counted at least 7 grouse! Ah the mountain chicken how graceful. We moved west across the ridge and gained 200 feet to the unnamed lake, lake 6936. About a quarter mile before the lake we ran into our first up-close larches of the trip. Lucas was shocked at their vibrancy, as he had never seen a golden larch in person before. He remarked at its softness and it’s delicate smell. “What a beautiful tree” he said.
We broke camp at 3 pm. What a gorgeous setting of the lake. Oval peak rises to the East above the lake while the buttermilk ridge rises In the west. The lake itself is wrapped all around entirely in golden larches!! US PROSPECTORS HAVE FINALLY STRUCK GOLD! Oh man were we feeling the gold fever, i couldn’t stop starring in awe!
We explored around the lake a found the most amazing groves of larches I have ever seen! I truly did not want to leave this incredible place. Like an alpine Eldorado, a city of gold!
This next part of the report was written up by sir hans!
The oval peak summit report:
After leaving the boys, I pressed on holding the same trend up the mountain, through a light forest before finding myself on a small spur. This was the sighting of the first larch of the day for me, and one of the first larches I've seen in full in real life period!
A wave of golden ecstasy took hold from there on and guided me up the draw till I came to the upper tarn, just below the Oval Ridge access point. A beautiful little pond in the grass surrounded by larches 360. I ate a little snack, filtered some water and looked up at my goal just a thousand feet over head or so. My dumbass thought this was the agreed upon lake for camping, and dropped my gear. Bringing some water, a protein bar, and some hash I made my way around the little tarn, into the bush, and up a small hill to the Boulder fields of talus, littered with the Golden glow of larches contrasted by the sapphire skys and white granite. From here the world opened up and the route was self evident. I hugged the treeline below the rocks following the beautiful display of gold, crimson, and orange fall foliage to below the low point of the ridge.
Upon taking the ridge I was greeted with the beautiful sight of what I believe is oval lake off in the distance, surrounded by gold, green, and granite. So beautiful. The larches kept me company along the Ridgeline, highlighting the edge like some some sort of golden aura. About 200 foot below the summit I met two ladies who were coming over from Courtney. They said its beautiful and connecting the two peaks required a bit more work than they were expecting. Mental note taken for snowshoeing season as I have heard great things about the range in snow cover. Slow moving around these parts. Maybe because I was feeling lazy, or because it actually is hard to maneuver over large granite that much, I made the summit at about 5pm. To my surprise I had some reception up there. Finally I was able to call my sister in Arizona and show her the summit vista of a peak in these parts. She was not disappointed. Seeing the smoke from the wild fires hanging off west over NCNP, and knowing the sun was to set in less than an hour I made the decision to wait out up there and watch the sunset. I walked east to the smaller summit, and was blown away by the steepness of the north face from that view. Quite a contrast to the mellow pile of rocks that made up the face I walked up. After some hash bowls the, the sky started glowing wild red. I knew I was in for a treat. The smoke killed the suns brightness, but complimented its colors. Rays of red, peach, yellow, orange, and oddly enough a greenish hue flew towards me and landed amongst the larches, peaks, and nameless hillsides as far as the eye could see. My wide angle lense did a fine job of capturing the glow on courtney, and the setting of the sun over NCNP. Wowee that was a blessing. Best sunset of my life hands down.
With the sun gone, I knew I still had a bit of work to put out to make it down to the lake and see the boys again. So down we went. With the remaining light hanging out in the sky I made it back down the the low point of the ridge and took a note of where they posted up camp, as I had seen the lake from the summit. Lysha was even flashing his light at me and I did in return. So making like the sun and dipping down I decided to trend out and down staying on the boulders amongst the larches to avoid the forest in the dark. With the sun gone and night taking over I turned on my headlamp and started down towards the treeline I hugged on my way up. On my way down noticed a strange evil red off to the east. No sh## it was the very epitome of a blood moon. I cant describe how gnarly the moon looked rising through all that smoke, and i certainly can't photograph it. But it was sickk. After taking in some views and some subpar shots I decided to press on towards camp.
Now it was like 9:30 and I was hungry. I carry on down the tree line and cut towards the lake i dropped my gear at, and to my surprise a camp was set up there and the people informed me that my friend was at the lower lake about a quarter mile down, and this was the upper lake. So I assumed I must have f### up shwacking in the dark and pressed to the other lake. Seeing a camp that sounded more like my friends, but a lake that was clearly different, I knew some sh## was a foot. I met up with Lysha who was cooking up a nice beef pho on the jet boil and got into talking. We quickly realized that i had been wrong the whole time and put my gear at the upper tarn in the first place. What a cherry. So with dinner on the jet boil, I set out under headlamp on the apparent 2nd leg of my trip. It was too easy to follow the creek up which connects the two bodies of water, and i made it back just in time for dinner and a blunt.
What a beautiful wilderness, and glorious natural display of colors. A memorable trip to say the least!
Thank you hans for that great addition to the report! A true savage of the mountain!
All together now we joked into the night and enjoyed a fresh cooked meal. Life is good! As the wind rolled in, the temperatures dropped to 52 degrees. Wow what a warm night!....We woke early to watch a glorious sunrise! I didn’t think the larches could get brighter, but leave it to Mother Nature to prove me wrong! She turned up the brightness on her beautiful golden larches, and shinned so bright I swear you could see those golden larches from outer space!
(Breaking in my moose hide moccasins and sleeping in a tipi, I love living the native way!)
After studying the maps, and reviewing hans summit pictures of the surrounding area, we thought we might find an easier and more enjoyable route back.
So at 10am exactly again, we headed into the bush! This trail through the bush for the first mile was Actually very enjoyable! A very cool alpine forest, we definitely had the sense of adventure! We followed game trails until we encountered talus fields, and then burn forests. The terrain and forests were constantly changing, we had no idea what we would encounter next!
At 6700 feet we encountered a small cliff. The only way down was to just crawl down. Haha more adventure!!
We descended another 600 feet. Then we really began studying the maps and realizing, we might be heading for more cliffs. We decided to make a detour directly down to the trail. Dropping from 6100 feet to 4900 feet to reach the main trail. Man was I feeling like a rookie, I was mad at myself for leading us to cliffs, and upset that I led the boys a somewhat more difficult route down than the way up, I apologized for the mistake and the waste of time. We had a good chat on the hillside, then descended the 1200 feet through sh##ty burn forest. We hit actual trail at 2pm, and oh how amazing it felt to be back on real trail.
We made it back to the car at 3:30 pm. Wow that’s way later than we should’ve been, I knew the boys had to be to work early the next day and felt bad they wouldn’t be getting home till 10pm or later. Man what a rookie mistake. But we hit the local twisp sub shop (which I highly recommend, they make delicious sandwiches) and cruised on into the night, jamming to good tunes rejoicing in the memory of our golden larch adventure!!
The lake Chelan Sawtooth wilderness is truly an incredible place and highly recommend it to anyone seeking beauty, adventure, and High alpine peaks!