There were seven of us on this outing: Craig Beaver, Don Beavon, Randy Busch, Stefan Feller, Jeremy Goins, Paul Klenke, and Greg Koenig.
This is Randy's write-up (I have added the photo links):
Stefan organized a swell outing to Helen Buttes and with the promising weekend weather forecast (the first since November!) I wasn’t going to miss out. It had been since September or so since I’d gotten up at the butt-crack of 0400, but I stayed focused and motivated and managed to get to Craig’s place by 0505. We met the rest of the peakbagging gang at the Cow Heaven trailhead just a few minutes after 0700. Joining us on the trip were Jeremy, Paul, Stefan, Don, and Greg. After farting around with gear and other assorted matters we left the cars around 0730.
The trail starts at a whopping 400’, not much higher than my place on Queen Anne. Two plus hours of driving and no elevation gain! Whatever. The trail is a great conduit in which to gain elevation quickly which was a good thing because we had over 5000’ feet to gain before reaching the summit. We didn’t hit consistent snow until about 2500’ and by 3200’ it was near a foot deep. We continued to follow the outline of the trail as it broke out of the trees and then somewhat lost it as we began to gain the NW trending ridge to the south of Helen Buttes. Upon gaining the ridge top at roughly 4800', we followed it over several ups and downs over to the base of the SW Helen Butte. There was probably 2' of unconsolidated snow along the ridge, but we never did use snowshoes the entire day. Instead of climbing the non-prominent SW Butte, six of us continued on by dropping and traversing over to an east-trending rock wall hoping for some way through. We quickly found a place to ascend up and over the wall and continued to the north until we came to a more substantial buttress also trending to the east. Debate ensued on which was the best way through - some wanted the mossy, 4th class gully and some wanted to drop 150’ down and around the buttress. Shoot, I just wanted to go the way more people were going, so I’d have more people to draft behind on the way up to the pass. I went down with Stefan, Craig and Greg while Paul and Don went up the moss. The four of us dropped then quickly started our ascent to the pass between the SW Butte and the main summit. The four of us got to the pass then started up the SW ridge of the summit followed by Paul and Don not too far behind. The route was pretty straight forward up to the final summit tower which involved maybe 40 ft of Class 3 mixed with a bit of snow. We made the summit at about 1250 and enjoyed nearly an hour of warm weather and sunny skies – the views (example) held their own as well. Craig and I had no intentions of climbing an unnamed bonus peak that Stefan was eyeing, so we stayed behind while Stefan, Greg, Paul and Don headed off to the east.
The return trip for Craig and I followed our exact route in – it wasn’t like we were going to start cutting in a new trail at this point in the day! I cursed all the uphill sections, but nevertheless we finally made it back to bare dirt and on back to the car around 1730. Jeremy was there waiting in Paul’s car for the rest of the guys when we returned, but unfortunately they probably weren’t returning too soon. Man, if it were me I would have taken that car into town and waited at a nice restaurant with beer at my side! Anyhow, good trip with a bunch of fun folks.
For the trip report for the traverse out to Pk 4960+, click here.