Ascent of Buck Mountain on 2019-09-01

Climber: Patty Cokus

Others in Party:Sean Albert
(The Dog) Ava
Date:Sunday, September 1, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Buck Mountain
    Elevation:8560 ft / 2609 m

Ascent Trip Report

Labor Day Weekend with Sean and Ava. Talked about the Pasayten's (Blackcap/Lago/Ptarmigan) but the weather wasn't looking good enough for that drive and hike especially considering I had hiked in there last year (for Noel's finish) and got smoked out...looking forward to going back there for a stellar sunny, clear air and gold larch ramble.

Weather looked decent enough for a repeat attempt at Chiwawa and Fortress but wasn't sure about that plus it's hard not to use three days when you are gifted them with a holiday....decided on Buck the same way Sean did it via the high route. It's a lot of walking but the trail is nice (minus the two spots where bees are feisty) and some of the most stellar views I have ever seen on a hiking trail between Buck Pass and High Pass.

Drove the road again to Trinity but this time we had Sean's much higher clearance Sub Outback so no scraping and a lot less stress. Numerous horse trailers were in the lot with a group loading up - hunters getting a ride. So that meant leash time for Ava and glad we brought her orange coat again.

Buck Creek Trail is very popular with backpackers.

Satureday 8/31 - 10:30am? Hiked in Sat with nice sunny/partly cloudy skies, very pleasant but as we were getting between Buck Pass (Glacier was mostly shrouded) the clouds were coming in. By the time we were getting to High Pass area it was clear we needed to find water and setup the tent ASAP! 3:30pm? passed a few tents and setup in a slightly sheltered spot below the trail not far from water. Turned out to be a very good decision to bring the vestibule but it took a minute to figure out since it was literally the second time we ever used it. Once the tent was up and all our stuff in it we got a little lulled by the stop in the sprinkles...I setup the pads/bags and Sean went to pump water.....then the skies opened and he had to bail partway and run back. His pants were pretty soaked and Ava was a tad wet too. Spent an hour or so wondering if we made the right decision but figured it was still better to get one night out and maybe if needed wait out all the next day and hike back Monday which had the best forecast (second weekend in a row where 20% rain turned out to be 100%!).

It ended up with the rain stopping and cool mist floating in and out with gorgeous sun breaks. We finished pumping water, had dinner, spent some time taking in the peek a boo views and then went to bed. Figured we would wake early, check the weather and plan the day that way.

Sunday 9/1 - Woke at 5:30am - very heavy fog - checked every half hour and eventually got up around 7 or 7:30am and then it lifted and we headed out 8ish? crossing our fingers it would hold enough until we were back to fortunately turned out to be quite nice. The clouds came in some in the afternoon but nothing too threatening and definitely no more rain.

.... saw a group Sean knew some folks in as we just were getting to the real High Pass... they had come in on Friday via Louis Creek approach and climbed Buck on Sat. steep heather traversing and ascending was wet and slippery....lots and lots of pumice...reached the notch and you see that classic view of Buck and it's numerous peaks.....still a long ways away....lots of water everywhere.....traversed around and down the treed tongue to get to the base. This is where the larch are plentiful and I can't even imagine how stunning this would be all in gold. Made our way up using Sean's track from 5 years ago. Some cairns are to be found marking some turns and gully/weaknesses. Some very interesting rock but with all the pumice it was quite abrasive on Ava's paws.

Crossing the permanent snowfield there were slushy melty spots....we both got our feet a bit wet. Saw a group of two heading up the North Summit - figured they were planning to do both north and middle and perhaps had already done the middle. It is such an illusion as to what peak is wonder there is much discussion, numerous photos on summit post showing all peaks with elevations and noting that it has been determined to be the middle....even having been there I am not quite convinced from my own eyes that the middle was highest but alas that is what the beta says. We got to the middle of the middle summit and there is a cool slanting dike of very different rock creating a little notch. Not knowing which side was higher I touched both but could not find a summit register although I didn't move any rocks to see if it was keeping with our concern around whether the weather might change we pushed on, neither desiring to climb the north peak. Talked to the two guys on the snow as they were traversing over to head up the middle. They said there was a register on the middle and that they got a nice pic of us with Ava (very bright in her orange coat) while on the summit.

Headed down the way we came and back up towards the high traverse around the basin. On the way it is just a short little uphill to a notch for the ridge on Berge although there are very different peaks as well on this peak and we admired the ridge that last weekend we talked with Kyle and Kyle in the parking lot that they had climbed. Perhaps in the future...what an amazing location for a long ridge climb.

Reaching the notch there were some extremely loose big rocks that we didn't desire to deal with Ava around so I waited first with her while Sean checked out the ridge. He went to the summit and then came back saying there was a little down climb into a notch and then back up on some exposed moves on very black lichen covered rock...did I want to do it? I said I didn't know until I saw it but would check it out. Turned out not that bad. Not hard scrambling and the exposure wasn't super visual but you definitely didn't want to fall so I made it. Returned to Sean and Ava and we headed out. Reached our camp maybe around 5pm? Decided to camp another night here instead of packing up and heading to Buck Pass.

I was considering Fortress on Monday as you do pass by quite close but wasn't 100% sure. I was concerned about Ava's paws as we saw her normally fuzzy fur around the pads was eroded to nothing and her pads were swollen with some turned a bit raw / oozy in between pads....she of course didn't limp at all and wasn't slowed down in the slightest but with the long hike just to get back out I was skeptical of doing the same add on of Fortress like Sean did 5 years ago with Ava...back when she was half her current age (now 10, then 5). We figured we would look at them again in the morning and decided we would get up early and try for it considering weather was supposed to be the best on Monday.

Monday 9/2 - Woke at 5:30 this time and while breaking camp with Ava snuggled in her puffy on the pad she licked her paws non-stop.....I couldn't with good conscience even consider having her climb another dumb peak making her feet worse so we decided to forgo it and just head out. We skipped breakfast and enjoyed the immensely beautiful glowing morning light with the clearest skies we had so far. These huge valleys and white barren rocky steep peaks and glaciers and pockets of pumice contrasted with super lush heather and meadow...this place is just incredibly stunning!!!! Glacier was on full display bathed in pink morning light... the dew made our feet and pants wet - a different issue from the previous days constant dumping out of debris from our approach shoes (must get the tiny gaiters...) Sean had the brilliant idea to pick berries from the bountiful patch we had seen at Buck Pass and have them with oatmeal so that was a nice treat with Glacier as a backdrop. Continued on our way out on the long trail... back at the cars at 1pm with very sore feet. Late lunch/dinner at SOUTH in very busy Leavenworth but no problem getting seated in the ever pleasant back patio.

Not often you see the peak you are to climb from so early on the trail only to continue along one side of the valley away from the peak to then loop back around and return higher up on the other side of the valley to reach the hidden side of the peak. It really is beautiful and easy is possibly the most dusty trail I've been on and you do take quite a few steps but they bring you along some very stunning terrain. It seemed every single person we passed and talked with had the most awe inspiring lit up smiles and stated how amazing it was....these are views that rival the Sahale arm (albeit without as many snow capped peaks) and views you often can only get with more technical scrambling.

Oh and we saw a couple (Larry and Jordy with their 11 year old very happy pup) that we had seen numerous times randomly in years past (in the Pasayten and _____) while pumping water at Buck Pass. They recognized us and Ava and asked if we used to have two dogs....yes, our brown girl Sienna has been gone a few years now. Sienna was a special one and miss her everyday....

The drive home via Blewett/I-90 was no worse than any other summer weekend so it went pretty easily. Slow but never stopped ...home definitely by 7 at the latest.

Summary Total Data
Ascent Statistics
    Route:High route to Buck Creek Pass / High Pass
    Start Trailhead:Trinity - Buck Creek Trail  
Descent Statistics

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