Ascent of Russian Butte on 2020-09-30
|Date:||Wednesday, September 30, 2020|
|Ascent Type:||Successful Summit Attained|
| Elevation:||5123 ft / 1561 m|
Ascent Trip ReportAfter 4 previous attempts on Russian Butte, (only 2 were serious, the others were "let's hike and see how far we get"), I feel qualified to provide a little feedback on the Peak.
My previous attempts were via Granite Creek/Revolution Peak. The traverse from Thompson Point (5124) to Revolution Peak is not an easy stroll. It's not possible to stay on the ridge top and most parties drop off the SE side to by-pass obstructions. Generally it's not necessary to drop more than one or two hundred feet or so, but the hillside is steep, studded with cliff obstacles, and tree cover makes mapping a traverse plan difficult. Lots of steep hill-siding on pine needle/branches loam. The way north from Revolution Peak to the base of Russian Butte is easier, but still not a gimme. It's easier to stay near the ridge crest on this longish traverse, bypassing the summit of 4932 to the east. The times I did get to the base of the summit block (about 4600 feet), the slabs above were dripping with water and the moss was wet and slick. I would not want to have to down-climb that without a rope. The summit slabs are much more pleasant when dry. Overall, the approach via Revolution Peak is long, difficult, and requires much mental concentration on route-finding. The new Granite Creek trailhead off the middle fork road probably shortens the distance somewhat.
For the 5th attempt (successful), we tried the Pratt River approach. This was shorter, faster, and generally quite pleasant. We forded the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie at the ford spot just upstream from the Pratt River confluence. In September, the water was never above knee depth. There have been lots of reports that the Pratt River trail is abandoned and overgrown, but we found it to be in good shape and quite lovely hiking. Crossed the Pratt rock-hoping on the way up, on a tree log on the way down. The hike up from the Pratt River crossing, up the east slope of Russian Butte, follows a small ridge line to the flatish east flank at 4000. It was mostly under thick tree cover with very little undergrowth, so the bushwhacking was minimal. Some down-fall to avoid, but not bad at all. The ridge makes the macro-navigation easy and all you have to worry about are micro-navigation choices to avoid downfall. At about the 3000/3100 foot level you loose the tiny ridge for a bit, busting through a short alder section to an open talus slope. Climb the talus, at its upper end, head left up steep dirt/loam to regain the tiny ridge. The only thick brush is right along the Pratt River when trying to cross.
The summit of Russian Butte can be done a number of ways, but we did the SE side. We did a slab/small water gully at the far climber's left of the big rock face. If you go any further left, you start getting tree-filled gullies. Our route was class 3+/4, lots of moss-covered slabs that would not be fun wet. Came down, with 2 single 60m rope raps (30m rap) and some down-climbing in the trees, slightly to the climber's left of where we went up.
I suspect there is a scramble 3+ ascent if you gain the "bench" at the 4800 foot level to the south of Russian Butte (and south of the little horn (just over 5000 feet) south of the summit), and follow that bench north/north-east along the east face below the little horn. Below the saddle between the little horn and the main summit, I believe you can ascend a tree slope to the saddle at just under 5000 feet. Then it's scrambling up the south ridge to the summit.
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