Forum Index > Trip Reports > Bearcat, Cardinal, Pyramid ~~ Nov 10-11 2019
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freddyfredpants
saucy



Joined: 08 Jul 2018
Posts: 33 | TRs | Pics
Location: Seattle
freddyfredpants
saucy
PostWed Nov 13, 2019 9:44 pm 
I had Monday off work so decided to go for some November peaks.  This was my second shot at Bearcat Ridge after turning back the previous month due to routefinding issues.  This time I wanted to link up Bearcat, Cardinal, Cloudcomb, and Pyramid in a big loop.  Despite favorable weather, lingering snow on the boulderfield north of the Pyramid-Squaretop col convinced me to save Cloudcomb for another time.

First some history.  I went for Bearcat over a weekend in mid October, tagging Choral and Gopher on the way to Milham Pass.  The larches were splendid.

Looking NNE from Choral towards Gopher at center.  Beautiful.  Dry.
Looking NNE from Choral towards Gopher at center.  Beautiful.  Dry.
Cardinal and larches
Cardinal and larches
Near Saska Pass looking NW across Snow Brushy Creek.  There is a small tan dot just left of center which is a hunter's tent.
Near Saska Pass looking NW across Snow Brushy Creek.  There is a small tan dot just left of center which is a hunter's tent.

Because of my late start on the first day I did not reach Milham Pass until after dark, so I did not see the obvious brown gully to access the saddle north of pt7316 from the west.  I had it in my head to go directly SE from Emerald Park proper to gain a ~7600' saddle on the Ridge closer to the summit.  This notion was particularly difficult to dislodge due to the poor visibility in fog after hours of rain and snow that had arrived overnight.

After some time it did occur to me that I was off-route.  But at that point I had committed myself to that spot so I poked around a while.  From the 400' slabs more or less directly W of the summit I tried a couple of approaches that ultimately did not work out.  One was an attempt to use a ledge system to move more directly up the left side of the slab, but I backed off when I lost confidence in too many holds all at once.  The other was a steep gully scramble to the saddle between the summit area and a huge gendarme on the north side.  Making a right and a short traverse on the north side of the summit block there appeared to be another steep gully around the corner that might have gone in drier conditions.  As it was lightly covered in snow, I couldn't see the top, and didn't have confidence that the descent that way would work, I was unwilling to commit to it.  Pretty sure these would be doable routes in summer though.

Snowy boulder torture
Snowy boulder torture
Slabs
Slabs
Looking back down to the slabs after heading over to the scramble gully
Looking back down to the slabs after heading over to the scramble gully
Gully
Gully
NE Chute
NE Chute
Slabs after some melt.  Bearcat Ridge practically giving me the middle finger.
Slabs after some melt.  Bearcat Ridge practically giving me the middle finger.

BTW on my way out I finally saw the brown gully.  But I digress.  I came here to talk about bagging peaks, not scraping around their bases!

So, back to Sunday the 10th...

The weather had been mostly clear and sunny for the previous couple of weeks so I was optimistic about my prospects for efficient travel.  At the Entiat River Trail parking lot I got maybe 90 minutes of sleep, then was moving up the ERT at 5.  I encountered snow below Milham Pass where the area is mostly shaded by Saska, then quite a bit of snow and hidden ice on the trail east of the pass where it is even more shaded.  From about 6200' I headed east across the boulderfield towards the infamous brown gully.  Once I got into it I stayed to the right hand side, using snow patches when I could.  Between the snow and mostly frozen dirt the footing was reasonably secure, though in a couple of spots the manky crumbling rock was the most secure option.  There was one slightly sketchy crossing of a frozen waterflow to cross between usable snow patches.  Overall I think the conditions made the ascent easier than I've heard described, but I would not want to have had to descend it.

A now snowy Emerald Park
A now snowy Emerald Park
The brown gully.  I stayed completely on the right, exiting via a short, easy gullies.
The brown gully.  I stayed completely on the right, exiting via a short, easy gullies.

At the saddle by 1230 and finally in the sun, I finally got a look at what I was planning to cross.  The northern aspect of the ridge that connects Cardinal to Saska still holds a bit of snow.  Not too bad, but not summer either.  I turned my attention to the ridge which was mostly snow free.  Following raising3hikers advice I traversed the first bulge in the ridge rather than ascend and get cliffed out.  After that the ridge is a series of gullies, and the objective is to stay on the SE side towards their upper reaches.  I don't imagine there's a lot of human traffic through there, but the goats seem to have worn paths in the vegetation so usually there's a sensible path.  I ended up passing the summit, then making a left and going directly up the ridge.  After a short summit stay and not finding a register I headed down blocky ledges more directly to pick up my path and reverse it along the ridge.  I'll include some pictures along the ridge, but their perspective is mostly too close to be useful for routefinding.

Almost like summer!
Almost like summer!
The way over to Cardinal
The way over to Cardinal

Once I was back near pt7316 I dropped east down a ledge system and made my way towards  pt6618.  From there I turned right to make my way into the basin NNW of Cardinal, passing near pt7025 a little before sunset.  I found a bivy spot around 7200' and settled in.

SE side of Bearcat Ridge
SE side of Bearcat Ridge
The rarely seen side of Emerald
The rarely seen side of Emerald
Running water not too far from my bivy spot
Running water not too far from my bivy spot

The next morning I got going around 630 and made my way over the next saddle and into the basin just NE of Cardinal.  This section was by far the toughest going, with a couple feet of consolidated snow which presented stretches of both firm cramponing and loose postholing.  I went slowly more or less directly up the right side of the snow covered boulders and talus, using visible rocks for steps when I could, and cursing the snow when I couldn't.  As opposed to the mostly autumnal conditions I had experienced thus far, this section had a decidedly wintery flavor.  Finally I reached the NE arm of Cardinal at 830.  Since it was so close I dropped my pack and went over to tag Cardinal again.

Ugh
Ugh
Looking back
Looking back
Ugh
Ugh
Slightly better!
Slightly better!
Cardinal again
Cardinal again
Cloudcomb to Pyramid
Cloudcomb to Pyramid

Back at my pack I made a descending rightward traverse across the bowl to reach the Cardinal-Skidgravel col.  From there it was an easy ridge walk to the top of Skidgravel.  The wind sent me over to the north side near the top.

Cloudcomb
Cloudcomb

I continued east and then SE towards Grouse Pass, picking up the trail around 7000'.  I had fairly low confidence by this point that there was enough time to go get Cloudcomb and still be a person at work the next day.  There was some acknowledgement of the slower than expected going up Cardinal, some kicking of self for not waking up at 2 instead of 5, etc.  In any case it looked like the most efficient way to reach the Pyramid-Squaretop saddle to access Cloudcomb was to continue on the trail for a while, then turn uphill at 6600'.  This is what I did.  I followed the ridge directly until 7600', then veered left to reach a good vantage point at about 8000', about 1230.  What I saw there cinched the deal for me.  A half mile or more of boulderfield lightly covered in soul and enthusiasm sucking snow guarded the trek to the base of Cloudcomb.  To cross that twice, uphill both ways, deal with the complex summit, then face potentially both climbing Pyramid and heading down the trail in the dark was all too unappealing for me to seriously contemplate.  So I headed towards Squaretop a little ways to get some more photos, then turned to walk the ridge to Pyramid.

Pyramid from Grouse Pass
Pyramid from Grouse Pass
Look upon me, and despair!
Look upon me, and despair!

I went down from the top of Pyramid directly south, picking up the trail around 6200'.  As I got down to the shaded Pyramid Creek I encountered more patchy ice on the trail which lasted for miles until I was well below 5000'.  Around dark I reached the NF Entiat River Trail and finally my bike which I had stashed at the trailhead early Sunday morning.  After a 9 mile bike ride I was back at my car just before 6.  I saw no one the whole time, and saw no vehicles at either trailhead.

Head south
Head south
Snow on the trail
Snow on the trail

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Fletcher
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Fletcher
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PostThu Nov 14, 2019 2:02 am 
Nice! I bet it felt lonely out there in November, and it was!

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Jake Robinson
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Jake Robinson
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PostThu Nov 14, 2019 8:00 am 
Good stuff, thanks for the beta  up.gif

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RichP
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PostThu Nov 14, 2019 9:45 am 
Excellent adventure. Wild country for sure. Great job connecting those.

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raising3hikers
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raising3hikers
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PostThu Nov 14, 2019 7:16 pm 
Fred, nice job going back in there to tag those peaks up.gif   Don't worry too much about Cloudcomb, you probably wouldn't have liked the final gully in those conditions anyways.

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Eric Eames
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Bearcat, Cardinal, Pyramid ~~ Nov 10-11 2019
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