Ascent of Copper Butte on 2004-07-27

Climber: Scott Surgent

Others in Party:Beth Cousland
Date:Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Copper Butte
    Elevation:7140 ft / 2176 m

Ascent Trip Report

It had been five full days since our last hike, Mount Constitution out on the San Juan Islands, but in the meanwhile we had kept ourselves busy, spending three days in Seattle—visiting the Space Needle, the flagship REI store, the Pike Street Fish Market and a lunch out on Alki Island, Beth pointing out old residences and favorite haunts from when she lived here. This was my first extended stay in Seattle, not counting two very short visits, one in 1982, another in 1997.

We were also attending the National Highpointers Convention in Puyallup, which took up a couple of the days. Once that was over, we began our inland trek of the trip, venturing into British Columbia, Canada. The border agent was a jackass, at one point asking my wife in a terse tone "how do you know this man", not exactly sure why he was so distrusting of us. We got in anyway, and spent a night at Harrison Hot Springs, then drove around and enjoyed the magnificent scenery. I treated myself to ketchup-flavored potato chips. You can't get those in 'merica.

We re-entered the USA at the town of Osoyoos, planning to stay at the Lake Osoyoos State Park, but a major forest fire in Canada was sending smoke our way, so we drove into the town of Republic and got a hotel for the night. The hotel was quite a place: built on a hillside, the whole place was slowly coming apart and sliding down the slope. The toilet in our room leaned. There were defects in the floor where the slab dropped an inch or two in spots. I am surprised they kept it open.

The next morning, we awoke not under a mound of hotel rubble. It had stayed up, which was good. On today's agenda was a hike up Copper Butte, highpoint of Ferry County and of the Kettle River Range. From Republic, we followed state route WA-20 east 20 miles, passing Sherman Pass, which at over 5,000 feet, is the highest paved road in the state of Washington. On the east side of the pass, evidence of a massive forest fire from 1988 was still present. Although there was a lot of new green growth, there were still a lot of tracts of burnt trees.

We turned off the highway onto Albian Road (Forest Road 2030) and followed a good, well-graded dirt road north for 7.3 miles to the "Old Stage Road" trailhead, also known as the "Old State Road". This road was built around 1890 and was the first state-funded throughway in the state of Washington. We drove in a short way to the parking area at the trailhead. It was about 9 a.m. and we had clear conditions, a bit cool, but nice. The air was slightly smoky but not a problem.

For the first half of the hike, about 1.5 miles, the route is along the old road (now called Trail 75). It makes just one switchback turn and gains very gently through the forest. After a mile, we came into a section still bearing the scars of the 1988 burn. Ironically, these burned areas allow for better views to the valleys below and of the gentle, rounded summit above us. We passed through a wire gate along this section then shortly came to the main saddle, placing us north of the summit. It had taken us 45 minutes to get here, with a gain of about 600 feet.

Continuing south briefly along the road (Now Trail 1), we turned left onto the Kettle Crest Trail (Trail 13). Steeper than the road, our pace slowed but we still made good time. We took our only extended break at the first of the two switchback turns. Shortly, we resumed our hike and achieved the elongated summit ridge. The summit was still a quarter-mile away but it was mostly flat walking up here. The top ridge was not heavily forested, featuring small stands of pine amid grass meadows and lots of rock piles (and cairns). We achieved the top shortly and took our normal half-hour snack break here.

The views were quite pretty. To the east we had clear, crisp conditions, while to the west the views were slightly smoky. The summit itself features literally over a dozen large rock cairns, as well as evidence of a long-ago lookout. A rusted bed frame sat near the summit rocks. The climb had taken us two hours, covering 3 miles one way with about 1,700 feet of gain. The only downside were the incessant insects: bees, big flies and little no-see-ums that would bite us everytime one landed on us. We got moving after a short while.

The hike down went quick. We found a compass just laying on the trail toward the bottom, so we picked it up for our collection. We were back to our car in just over an hour, for a total time out of about 4 hours (I think we were something like 3:57). We drove back to Republic for a lunch, then drove south for a number of miles, eventually getting a hotel in Moses Lake. After a rest day, we tackled Strawberry Mountain.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:1700 ft / 518 m
    Distance:5 mi / 8 km
    Trailhead:5440 ft / 1658 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Open Country

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