Forum Index > Trip Reports > Buck Mountain, Little Giant in, Buck Creek out 8/26-8/28/14
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Fletcher
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Fletcher
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PostFri Aug 29, 2014 11:55 am 
Michael and I climbed Buck Mountain via Little Giant Pass and the Napeequa River this week. We also summited its western neighbors, Mt. Berge and Mt. Cleator on our way out to Buck Creek Pass. It was a great trip on a difficult route.

I got off work late Monday night and went to pick up Michael. We drove  straight out to the trailhead, not arriving until 4:30am. Upon arrival we walked down to the Chiwawa to check out the ford and saw a bunch of spawning salmon in the river, pretty cool. After a couple hours of crappy sleep in the car, it was time to begin our slog to Little Giant Pass.
fording the Chiwawa
fording the Chiwawa

The Chiwawa ford was extremely cold in the morning but only knee deep at the highest. On the other side of the river we booted up and quickly found the trail. I was so exhausted with sleep deprivation that I didnt know if I was going to make it to the pass. My morale improved as we ascended into the highcountry.
blueberries were great below Little Giant Pass
blueberries were great below Little Giant Pass
almost to the pass
almost to the pass

It took us too long to get to the pass. When we got there I told Michael I needed to take a nap or I would be garbage the rest of the day. Little Giant Pass sports the coolest view of Clark I have ever seen.
Clark from Little Giant
Clark from Little Giant
Clark and Glacier
Clark and Glacier
7 Fingered Jack and Maude
7 Fingered Jack and Maude
The Napeequa, more pleasant from above
The Napeequa, more pleasant from above

After gaining almost 4k from the car to Little Giant, it was time to lose over half of that on our descent into the Napeequa. The trail that drops into the valley kind of sucks. Its brushy, narrow, and exposed. It took us longer than we thought it would to get to the valley floor.
looking toward Buck
looking toward Buck
the Napeequa
the Napeequa
getting closer
getting closer

Once down in the valley, we made our way to the river to get more water and have a snack. It was a hot day. I was excited to check out a new river valley that I have been interested in for a long time.
nice color
nice color
looking up river toward our destination
looking up river toward our destination

The miles of river to Loius Creek Falls are not easy. We lost the trail more than once, and got stuck shwacking through alder more than once too. Even when we did manage to stay on the trail, it was very brushy. This would not be a pleasant place to hike when wet.
typical Napeequa trail
typical Napeequa trail
typical Napeequa trail
typical Napeequa trail

The views looking up at the Walrus Glacier were awe inspring.

After hours of trudging up the valley we finally arrived at Louis Creek Falls. What a spot! We took a long break here, chugging water and eating in preparation for our ascent into Louis Creek Basin. We would need it!
Louis Creek Falls
Louis Creek Falls

From Louis Creek, we walked the trail a few hundred more yards and turnd up hill. It is possible to avoid the alder completely but we were not that lucky. After roughly 15 minutes of grunts and f-bombs we popped out onto the grassy slope we were looking for. Its steep. If you are looking for a pleasant route, this is not it.
we worked the grass and ferns up to the depression to the right of the lowest band of trees, our route went up a steep loose pumice/sand/dirt/scree gully from there
we worked the grass and ferns up to the depression to the right of the lowest band of trees, our route went up a steep loose pumice/sand/dirt/scree gully from there
Michael pretending to be happy
Michael pretending to be happy
the grass and ferns are taller than they look from below (above thigh height)
the grass and ferns are taller than they look from below (above thigh height)
Michael used his axe, I had trekking poles so didnt pull mine out
Michael used his axe, I had trekking poles so didnt pull mine out
getting closer to the gully
getting closer to the gully

We made it out of the grass but the dirty gully was not much better. I had a brand new pair of La Sportiva Trangos so I would kick my toes into the soft dirt and make my way up with little struggle. Michael had hiking boots that had seen better days and had a rougher time with it.
nasty
nasty

Having had enough of the loose sh##, I saw a way to exit the gully and get on a treed rib that looked much more pleasant. It involved some class 3 scree and rock, no hold to be trusted.
exiting the gully
exiting the gully
up the rib
up the rib

The terrain quickly opened up and we could see that we were getting close to Louis Creek Basin. It was also getting close to sunset. Yep, we were moving slow that day.
more waterfalls
more waterfalls
not much further to go
not much further to go
Clark again
Clark again
much easier terrain to finish off the day
much easier terrain to finish off the day
Alpenglow on Jonathan
Alpenglow on Jonathan

We finally arrived in the basin at sunset and found a spot to bivy on the edge of a huge meadow.
looking up to Buck
looking up to Buck
Fortress at dusk
Fortress at dusk

This night ended up being one of the best I have ever had in the mountains. It was dead calm and the air was crisp. The star gazing was amazing. Around 2am I woke up to check out the stars and saw a strange greenish hue to the north. "That cant be sunrise already.." I thought to myself. Then I realized it was the Aurora Borealis!! It was a bit more faint than pictures I have seen from Alaska but beautiful none the less. I woke Michael up and we enjoyed it for a half hour before going back to sleep.

Everything ended up being damp in the morning due to dew, so we didnt get out of our bags until we were hit by the sun. So much for that early start... shakehead.gif

It was a beautiful morning as we had coffee and packed up for a day a peakbagging. Louis Creek Basin is a cool place, and the fact that the price of admission is so high, makes it feel well deserved.
our water spot
our water spot
the basin
the basin
Clark again
Clark again

We headed over toward the Buck/Berge col and dropped a bunch of gear at a larchy knoll below what looked like a decent route up toward Buck. I marked the spot with my bright yellow sleeping pad and we started heading up hill.
Fortress
Fortress
we headed to just left of the lowest snow patch, a loose class 3 step got us above the cliff band
we headed to just left of the lowest snow patch, a loose class 3 step got us above the cliff band
I took a lot of pictures of Clark on this trip
I took a lot of pictures of Clark on this trip
Berge
Berge

Above the cliff bands was a bunch of loose scree and talus but nothing too difficult.
loose crap
loose crap
Michael climbs loose crap
Michael climbs loose crap
When I crested this bit of rock, I saw that we were not far from the summit area
When I crested this bit of rock, I saw that we were not far from the summit area
amazing views
amazing views
Buck summit
Buck summit
south summit
south summit
Michael overlooks the basin below Buck summit
Michael overlooks the basin below Buck summit

With the summit scramble just a stones throw away, we dropped into the basin below the three summits and climbed snow to the col between the middle (main) summit and the south one. From there up the ridge crest is fairly easy to start with an airy class 3 finish. Fun stuff!
Buck summit
Buck summit
NW horn of Buck
NW horn of Buck
scramble
scramble
south Buck
south Buck
King Lake below exposed scrambling
King Lake below exposed scrambling
summit getting close
summit getting close
fun finish along the ridge
fun finish along the ridge
looking back down, unfortunately, Glacier wouldnt loose its cap
looking back down, unfortunately, Glacier wouldnt loose its cap
new Buck register (only 10 days since placement when we were there)
new Buck register (only 10 days since placement when we were there)
summitshot
summitshot
Fernow group
Fernow group
Dakobeds
Dakobeds

With a lot of ground yet to cover, we did not linger on the summit long before making our way back down. We altered our route a bit to avoid some of the sketchy scrambling encountered on the ascent.
Micheal glissades
Micheal glissades

Back down to our gear, we sat in the shade and ate. Then we packed up and headed over toward Berge.
meadows on the way to basin below Berge
meadows on the way to basin below Berge
Berge Basin
Berge Basin
nice spot to refill, we didnt filter  :drink:
nice spot to refill, we didnt filter  drink.gif
route up to Berge
route up to Berge

Our route info up to Berge was easy to follow. There was a little bit of class 3 getting onto the upper scree slopes but you could probably avoid them if you wanted to.
Buck Creek Valley
Buck Creek Valley
up the pumice scree
up the pumice scree
and through the slabs
and through the slabs
to the col
to the col

From the col between Berge and south Berge, we dropped our packs and scrambled up to the summit. Another fun scramble with great views.
fun ridge scramble to Berge
fun ridge scramble to Berge
Buck from Berge
Buck from Berge
Berge summit
Berge summit
Napeequa, Cirque and Glacier
Napeequa, Cirque and Glacier
High Pass area
High Pass area
Berge summitshot
Berge summitshot

Back at our packs, our next objective would be to pick our way down into the basin SE of High Pass. This was tricky. We descended steep grassy slopes that all seemed to cliff out a couple hundred feet above the basin.
descending the steeps
descending the steeps
Michael descends
Michael descends

After poking our heads around for a while, I found a dirty gully that looked like it was permanent snow up until recently. It was really muddy and loose but it looked like it might go. I went down to check it out, it was a little hairy but we would make it work. There was a class 4 move to get to safer terrain into the gully.
actually worse than this picture makes it look
actually worse than this picture makes it look
Michael drops into the gully
Michael drops into the gully

We carefully made our way down loose, muddy talus to snow which lead us down into the basin. Another cool place, we filled up on water thinking we might bivy at High Pass making this possibly our last spot for it.
looking back, our gully is the one with the narrow snow finger
looking back, our gully is the one with the narrow snow finger
High Pass just ahead
High Pass just ahead
Cleator
Cleator

Once at High Pass, we took yet another food break and decided to run up what we thought was the main summit of Mt. Cleator because it was there. I think it was around 6pm.
High Pass
High Pass
Triad Lake
Triad Lake
up steep heather to Cleator
up steep heather to Cleator
fun scramble option on Cleator
fun scramble option on Cleator
Buck from Cleator
Buck from Cleator
Berge from Cleator
Berge from Cleator

From the top, it definitely look like the summit to our NE was substantially higher but it looked way too gnarly to traverse from where we were. It did look like an easy hike from the ridge across from High Pass. We descended back down to our packs. Along the way, I came across some juvenile ptarmigans.
Napeequa, Cirque, and Triad Lake
Napeequa, Cirque, and Triad Lake
ptarmigan
ptarmigan

Back at High Pass, it was really windy. We decided to head over to the ridge across from the pass to find a place to bivy. The notorious steep snow just below High Pass is almost totally gone. I just rock hopped across the top so I did not have to pull my axe out.
where I crossed the snow
where I crossed the snow
looking back at the notorious snow
looking back at the notorious snow
evening light
evening light

We found a cool bivy spot behind a large boulder that sort of sheltered us from the wind but not really.
bivy spot
bivy spot

After establishing that nights home, we ran up to the true summit of Cleator as low clouds rolled in.
sun on Cleator
sun on Cleator
Clark and Luahna
Clark and Luahna
fun evening hike up Cleator
fun evening hike up Cleator
Cleator summit
Cleator summit

We tagged the summit and hiked back down to camp. Sunset was interesting, wtih all of the clouds action.
Michael heads back to camp.
Michael heads back to camp.
sunset clouds
sunset clouds

It was blowing pretty hard all night which made quality sleep a real challenge. Luckily, it never rained but around 1am we were totally socked in. At first light, around 5:30, we decided to pack up and head out, abandoning any aspirations for Napeequa and Cirque. The hike down toward Buck Creek Pass displayed some interesting morning light through the thick clouds.
there is a sunrise out there somewhere
there is a sunrise out there somewhere
gloomy morning
gloomy morning
sunrise sucker hole above SE ridge of Fortress
sunrise sucker hole above SE ridge of Fortress
looking toward Glacier Peak
looking toward Glacier Peak

I was surprised by the masses camped at Buck Creek Pass, that place was packed! It was cool to see yet another famous location of the Cascades that I had never been to before. We even saw a bear on the slopes below Helmet Butte.
bear
bear
bear
bear

We stopped and ate breakfast on the trail just above the pass. It seemed like Glacier Peak almost wanted to make an appearance.
common Glacier!
common Glacier!

From there it was just 10 more miles out to the trailhead. It went by fairly painlessly in the cool morning air. Surely more pleasant than hiking out on the same trail on a hot day after traversing over Fortress from Chiwawa a month earlier.
Buck from Buck Creek
Buck from Buck Creek

I got back to the trailhead before noon but still had to walk to Little Giant trailhead to retrieve my car. I thought I would be able to hitch a ride earlier but no one drove for the first 2 miles  shakehead.gif Finally, 3 old guys that had just done the Spider Gap-Buck Creek loop gave me a ride the last mile. I was very grateful. And the IPAs were still ice cold in the cooler. cool.gif

~ 10,000 ft of gain
~ 32 miles
~ 53 hrs

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Bryan K
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Bryan K
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PostFri Aug 29, 2014 12:16 pm 
Great looking trip my friend!!! Wish I could be there to join you on these great routes......
Stay safe and climb high buddy!!!

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HitTheTrail
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HitTheTrail
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PostFri Aug 29, 2014 12:40 pm 
Sounds brutal but worth the effort.  up.gif  I have always been interested in doing a quick overnighter at the top of Little Giant just for the view. Is there any water up there?

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cartman
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cartman
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PostFri Aug 29, 2014 12:41 pm 
Great pics in a fantastic area, and good to know the conditions there.  Thanks for the report!

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mbravenboer
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mbravenboer
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PostFri Aug 29, 2014 1:18 pm 
Very nice trip! Beautiful area.

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kyle d
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kyle d
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PostFri Aug 29, 2014 1:32 pm 
Great looking trip.

Your description of dropping into the Napeequa from Little Giant, hiking along the Napeequa and then climbing into Louis Basin bring back memories from a few years ago, and sound accurate.

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Kim Brown
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PostFri Aug 29, 2014 2:03 pm 
Did you run across a WTA work party on the Li'l Giant trail?  Whats-her-face is there working; Gwen Tollefson.  up.gif

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Fletcher
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Fletcher
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PostFri Aug 29, 2014 2:13 pm 
HitTheTrail wrote:
I have always been interested in doing a quick overnighter at the top of Little Giant just for the view. Is there any water up there?

No water at the pass but there is running water maybe 300 feet below the pass on the Chiwawa side.

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Fletcher
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Fletcher
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PostFri Aug 29, 2014 2:14 pm 
Kim Brown wrote:
Did you run across a WTA work party on the Li'l Giant trail?  Whats-her-face is there working; Gwen Tollefson.  up.gif

Yeah, we saw the work party. Must have ran into Gwen as well.

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puzzlr
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puzzlr
Mid Fork Rocks
PostFri Aug 29, 2014 8:19 pm 
Quote:
This would not be a pleasant place to hike when wet.

Tell me about it -- we went through on a sunny but dewy morning and might as well been wading through a river
only dew, but just as wet
only dew, but just as wet

Congrats on getting up to Buck from the Napeequa. We looked at that route while we were coming down the valley and were glad that wasn't on our itinerary.

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Mid Fork Rocks flickr
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Magellan
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Magellan
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PostFri Aug 29, 2014 9:39 pm 
Sounds like an amazing trip over less traveled ground.  up.gif  Congratulations on a cool trip.

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Michael Lewis
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Michael Lewis
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PostSat Aug 30, 2014 2:13 am 
Thanks for having me along Fletcher. Here's some pics I took from the trip:


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mtn.climber
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PostMon Sep 01, 2014 9:01 am 
Nice job Fletcher and Mike.  Makes me think back to when I did it a couple of years ago.  It was in September, and that steep snow below high pass was really intimidating.  Felt like one slip and I would've ended up in the lake.  I thought that snow field was always there.  Amazing to see it melted out so much.
We camped at high pass our first night.  Then climbed Napeequa and spent the second night camped in the Berge basin area.  Summited Buck on the 3rd day, then reversed our steps.
Thanks for the memories.

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wildernessed
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PostMon Sep 01, 2014 9:16 am 
up.gif Awesomeness !

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Living in the Anthropocene
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DIYSteve
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DIYSteve
seeking hygge
PostMon Sep 01, 2014 11:10 am 
Nice work capturing the essence of the Louis Creek HR ascent.  Most people don't get their cameras out on the PITA stretch.  You did the right thing by gaining the rib next to the creek.  FWIW, R&R rates the route as "intermediate."  dizzy.gif

Travel from upper Louis Creek basin over to High Pass is always an adventure.

I am now fully persuaded that the glacial remnant N of High Pass has melted out and that it is now seasonal snow.

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