Ascent of Bearcat Ridge on 2020-09-21

Climber: Milda Tautvydas

Others in Party:David Salinger
Date:Monday, September 21, 2020
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Bearcat Ridge
    Elevation:7960 ft / 2426 m

Ascent Trip Report

Bearcat Ridge Summit Route via Bear Creek Basin (North Fork) 9-21-2020

Our approach to the col/point 7316' on Bearcat Ridge turned out to be the same as the 1992 FKA route by John Roper and Mark Allaback, which was via the North Fork Entiat River and Bear Creek Basin. The route is pleasant, quick, rugged and beautiful; and, it was easy, off-trail travel. The entirety of our approach was never more than class 2. The short summit tower of Bearcat Ridge is class 3. The approach from Bear Creek basin provides a good view of the SE Face and all possible routes to the top from south. Party of two: Milda Tautvydas and David Salinger 2020-09-21.

INTRO: In 2008 Dave and I climbed climbed Pinnacle, Saska, Emerald, and Cardinal from our 6860' camp on the N Fork Entiat River headwaters (where we met Beth Blattenberger). In 2017 (2017-09-08) we re-climbed Emerald Peak while on a Choral - Gopher peakbagging circuit from Fern Lake to Saska Pass (with Crispin Prahl). Dave and I wanted to get a look at Bearcat Ridge and it's summit. We spotted a feasible route from Bear Creek basin to col/pt 7,316' on Bearcat Ridge. We also noted that we could climb on broad ledges on or near the ridge crest to the summit of "Bearcat". Three years later Dave and I spontaneously decided to investigate this approach.

ROUTE DESCRIPTION: On 2020-09-20 we left NF Entiat River TH ~1PM. We hiked the NF Entiat RT #1437 to Pyramid Mountain Trail #1433, and set up camp at the NF Entiat River headwaters on a rocky knob at 6,860’ that overlooks the North Fork Entiat River valley. 2020-9-21 Just out of camp (rocky outcrop, 6860', Saska-Emerald peaks basin), we crossed the broad meadow and traversed northeasterly then southerly for a short way, then contoured below cliffs at ~7,000’. We proceeded at a slight rising traverse into a broad, grassy gully that we ascended to the Emerald Peak-Cardinal Peak col. This grassy slope becomes rock and sand as it nears the ridge crest. You can access this gully directly from the Pyramid Mountain Trail. High in the gully we stayed on ascenders right for firm footing. We quickly gained the broad col between Emerald and Cardinal Peaks, which is NW of point 8,023’. From this col we contoured northerly, high in the Bear Creek Basin on hard sand and gained the ridge that descends northeasterly into Bear Creek Basin (North Fork). We descended directly down the ridge crest (easy, beautiful walking terrain) to ~ 7,200 feet, then made a gradual downward traverse northerly to ~7,000’ feet, then contoured northerly at ~7,000’ to a gully EAST of Point 7,316’ (Bearcat Ridge). We ascended this gully, making a rising traverse (northerly) towards the first tower north of Point 7,316’ on Bearcat ridge. Just below the steep face of this tower we contoured northerly towards the summit on broad ledges (class 2; staying on the south side of the tower). By staying on or near the ridge crest, we easily passed under steep gendarmes, and traveled above and across the tops of steep gullies that intersect Bearcat Ridge’s SOUTH face. We soon came to the summit block and we went past the summit tower on ledges; then turned back and scrambled rising ledges and broken rock (class 3) to the small summit. As if we weren’t having enough fun already, we were rewarded with fabulous summit views. We spent over an hour on top. There was no summit register. We reversed our route and returned to camp. We saw no people on our trip except for the first day we hiked in (three parties, see* at end of post). On 2020-9-22, when we returned to the NF Entiat River trailhead (via the Pyramid Mtn Trail and the Pugh Ridge Trail), our car was the only car in the parking lot. A rare site these days.

GEAR: Paper Maps (Green Trails; USGS/CalTOPO print); compass; altimeter; MSR water bags (4 and 6 liter bags for storing water at camp); No GPS; summit route notes from Eric Eames (Bearcat Ridge ledges), Fred Newman (Bearcat Ridge ledges), and John Porter (broad, gray gully on south (SE) face of Bearcat Ridge summit; we did not go this way). Eric, Fred, and John approached Bearcat Ridge via Emerald Park Creek basin (we did not). Fred Newman descended into Bear Creek basin and traversed the basin to Cardinal Peak. He camped in Bear Creek basin at 7,200'.

If short on time, Bearcat Ridge summit can be climbed as a day trip from the car (12-16 hours). It is possible to do much of this route as a trail run, possibly reducing the RT time to ~10 hours. The NF Entiat Trail and Pyramid Mountain Trail have good footing for running.

FIRST KNOWN ASCENT (FKA): The FKA of Bearcat Ridge Summit was on August 6, 1992, by John Roper and Mark Allaback. From John Roper: "Mark Allaback and I first tried yet failed on Bearcat in 1991 from Domke Lake/Emerald Park Creek trail (time/route probs). But we did climb Cool Mtn. 7738’. P979c. Named for Adelbert Lorenzo Cool who lived at Domke Lake for years just down the NE ridge of this peak. He died there when his cabin burned in 1941, age 83. Claude Ewing Rusk and A. L. Cool explored the east side of Glacier Peak in 1906 (via horses from Lake Chelan). Rusk applied Cool’s name to a glacier flowing E from between Glacier Peak and Disappointment Peak to Suiattle River. LoJ. PB. (1gm02). CAG-. *nepa or FA? on Cool September 2, 1991, Mark Allaback, John Roper. Mark and I then descended to a camp at Lucerne CG and were picked up by John “Norm” Burke the next morning in his boat. The three of us went on to climb Agnes which was my last peak in the WA T100xP1000." Also per John Roper: "First Known Ascent of Bearcat Ridge Summit on August 6, 1992, John Roper and Mark Allaback up N Fk Entiat trail to Saska-Emerald-Cardinal basin, over pass between Cardinal/Emerald, contouring the upper Bear Creek basin finishing on a CCW corkscrew to the top."

After point 7316' our summit route was essentially the same as that of Eric Eames, Fred Newman (approached from Emerald Park Creek basin), and possibly Roper's/Allaback's. It is the "obvious" way to go, once you are near the ridge top. John Porter, who approached from the Emerald Park Creek basin, descended below point 7316' on the SE side Bearcat Ridge and traversed at /below 7,200' across gullies and below cliffs, then ascended a big, steep, 3rd class, broad gully (gray rock) that descends the SSE face of Bearcat Ridge from the summit tower. He had his climbing canine buddy with him, and was uncertain if his pup could do the ridge top ledges. John Porter:

EXIT VARIATION: Rather than return to the NF ENTIAT RIVER TH as we had come, on 2020-9-22 we hiked out via the high route on the Pyramid Mountain Trail #1433. We hiked south over Grouse Pass and down to Buck Camp on South Pyramid Creek. To carry water up to Grouse Pass and camp there would be heavenly. From Grouse Pass we descended to Buck Camp at the headwaters of South Pyramid Creek and were amazed at the size of the camp, and all of its amenities (picnic tables; sitting benches around a huge fire pit and hearthstone; a high line for more than 8 head of livestock; a bear box for food storage; etc.). From Buck Camp we ascended the Pugh Ridge Trail #1438. There are established camps on the ridge, but no water (carry up from Buck camp). The last time we were on the Pugh Ridge Trail #1438 was in 2013, the year I had two rotator cuff surgeries (Jan. and June, 2013; we hiked up Pyramid Mountain (8,243’) as a test to see if my repaired shoulders were ready to carry a pack. We camped on the summit of Pyramid Mountain with our friend Julie Brugger, then returned to the NF Entiat TH via the Pugh Ridge Trail #1438 which had burned in 2012 (?). The trail was still intact in 2013, despite the amount of destruction from the fire). In 2020, the south end of the Pugh Ridge Trail is difficult to find between 6600' to about 5800'. The trail has likely been abandoned because of threat from windfall (burnt timber). Between 6600' and 5800' , the tread is barely discernable in the deep ash, new vegetation, and blowdown. A few cut logs mark the way like cairns. The key is to switchback down this charred slope while staying as near the creek as possible. Below 5800', the trail is in good shape and is easy to follow.

* THREE PARTIES: We saw no one on our trip, except for the fist day when we crossed paths with three parties: a local couple from "down river", going for a short hike; two cousins (one from Moses Lake, the other from Oregon) who had camped at Fern Lake and were heading up to the Pyramid Mtn. Trail to camp beyond Grouse Pass (likely Buck camp); and a party of three young peak-baggers from the Mountaineers named Hannah Hanson; Andrew Tangsombatvisit, who works with our friend Chris Robertson(!); and another female climber, we did not get her name. They were heading out after having climbed Saska, Emerald, and Cardinal peaks.

NOTE: If time allows, nine of the "top" 200 (top 217) peaks of WA can be climbed as a loop in this NF Entiat River area. Starting from NF Entiat TH hike to Fern Lake > climb Choral, climb Gopher, climb Pinnacle > go over Saska Pass to the NF Entiat River headwaters basin (Emerald-Saska peaks basin) and climb Saska, Emerald, Bearcat Ridge Summit and Cardinal > hike east on the Pyramid Mountain Trail and climb Cloudcomb and Pyramid peaks > hike out to the NF Entiat River TH (or do this in the reverse).
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles

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