The start for this climb is at Trinity (2,772 ft) at the end of the Chiwawa River Road. The Chiwawa River Road is accessed from US-2 (Stevens Pass Highway) by turning north onto SR-207 at Coles Corner. It is about 33 miles from US-2 to Trinity.
Buck Creek Trail No. 1513 starts from the Trinity parking lot (Trail Park Pass currently still required). The Chiwawa River Trail No. 1550 forks at 1.5 miles (~3,000 ft). Choose the left fork.
This route contains seven distinct sections:
Section 1 - The Trail. Take the Buck Creek Trail to about 5-1/4 miles from Trinity (~4,300 ft). When a clearing presents itself, look left across Buck Creek for the unmistakable timbered East Ridge of Mt. Cleator.
Section 2 - The Timbered Ridge. You want to cross the creek here and aim for this timbered ridge. You essentially want to bear WSW to the ridge. If you venture too far left, you'll get into brushier, lower angle underforest at ridge-terminus (plus you'll be covering more ground). If you venture too far right, you'll run into steeper (and somewhat cliff-banded) forest. Initially, the underforest is a little more open. The density gets slightly worse (more windfall, etc.) the closer you get to the broad lower ridge. However, once you get to what you believe is the corner of the ridge (it can be hard to tell here without distant reference points to guide you), turn right and ascend the ridge. Shortly the ridge will open up to much more manageable terrain.
Section 3 - The High Pass Basin. This is the first critical point: at a large open area campsite circa 5,800 ft on the ridge, angle down to the left (a trail might be located) into the basin south of the East Ridge. This basin is below High Pass. (If you continue going up the East Ridge from this camp you will find it increasingly more difficult to get off of it. The ridge starts to get cliffy on the south side. Some steep access gullies are available higher up though.) The lower end of this basin is super-brushy. DON'T GO THERE! The middle of the basin is forested but cut by many intervening gullies and some streamcourses. Not a wise route to take. The upper basin is open heather, grasses, and sundry other weedy forms. It is easiest to climb up directly toward High Pass and then traverse the basin this way. You want to contour around the upper basin toward the prominent East Buttress of Mt. Berge. Once at the buttress wall (it abruptly meets heather at its base; no talus slope), follow it downhill eastward for about 1/3rd of a mile to the FIRST break in the buttress at approximately 5,900 ft. This is the second critical point and the all-important ramp Fred Beckey speaks of in his Cascade Alpine Guide. In the summer of 2002 there was a still-leafed rust-colored snag at this ramp. Look for it. The ramp is easy. If you miss the ramp and go too far down the buttress (the buttress turns slabby here at its lower terminus), you might as well kiss your summit bid goodbye unless you go back up to the ramp. The brush down there is formidable green shit. Not black schist, green shit!
Section 4 - The Ramp. The ramp rounds the buttress into subalpine forest, snags, windfall, and moderate brush. Follow a boot path or game slots up and right and then left again until a view south into the next basin presents itself. You'll see your next objective: the open upper part of the next basin. You might want to make cairns in order to find the entrance into this ramp area on the way back (if you come back this way).
Section 5 - The Berge-Buck Basin. The upper part of the basin is heathery and bouldery. The lower part is brushy. Stay high and contour to the final rocky slopes to the prominent timbered crest of the basin headwall. At the timbered crest, turn left toward Buck Mountain, whose stupendous North Face will have been staring you down for the last couple of hours. Keep going left (east) until you come to a long, beautiful pool. You can get around this pool at its north end where it abruptly plunges away into a chasm. Be careful with the crossing! One false step and you may never been seen again. The crossing isn't really that hard (nice slabs). The leap is about 3 feet.
Section 6: - Approaching the West Summit. Don't be fooled by the prominent peak directly above you at the pool. That's not the true summit! That's the 8,254-ft west summit. The west side of this point is rocky and cliffy in places. It looks like you could climb directly up to the west summit but this is unnecessary class 4. Instead, aim for the southern skyline of this false summit. The slope up to skyline starts out as the most tedious volcanic Glacier Peak pumice you can imagine (two steps forward, half a step back)--especially when you're already tired after the first five sections. The higher you go up the slope the steeper and more rocky the terrain becomes. Eventually, it will be necessary to route-find a way up a break in the rocks and cliffs (class 3). Some steep snow patches may have to be crossed. This is where bringing that ice-axe comes in handy--even in late season. The south slope/ridge of the west summit will eventually be reached in about an hour from the pool (1,300 ft of gain).
Section 7 - The Final Push. If it's not foggy, once you round the corner of the west summit the first thing you'll exclaim is "What, still that far to go?!" The second thing you'll exclaim is "How are we going to get up that?!" In regard to the first exclamation, it will only be upon rounding the corner that you will realize you've still got an hour of climbing to go. By about this time your daylight will be waning and you'll start cussing at the slow pace you were maintaining earlier. Three nearby highest points will present themselves to you. Which point is the highest one you should aim for? Your first guess would be the rightmost of the three because it is so obvious from your perspective that this is the highest point. Unfortunately for your psyche, this high point looks like it contains some hard class 4+ cliffs. Add to this an ugly ice remnant with insurmountable cornice/wall and you'll be thinking you're done for. But, ahh, no so, for that craggy rightmost peak is NOT the highest point. In fact, it's not even close. That is the 8,360+ ft south summit. Phew! To your left will be two long ramp-like slopes above a large, permanent snowfield. The one on the left with the silver rock is the 8528-ft north summit. The one in the middle with the red rock and long white scar bissecting it is the 8,528+ ft middle summit. The silver summit looks to be the lowest of the three from your perspective, but it may be the "true summit". For sure there is a register at its apex. Essentially, you should choose either the north or middle summit and go for it. The north summit is mostly class 3 at the summit rocks but the final twenty feet are exposed enough to be considered class 4. The middle summit has a slightly steeper slope than the north summit, but it looks no harder than class 3. The summit blocks of the middle summit are probably a little less exposed, though, than the north summit. A small cairn was visible on the middle summit but we did not go over there. We only had 2 hours of daylight left and we were a long way from the trail. You may not have time to do both summits either. If in doubt, go for the middle summit. I have heard there is a summit register on the middle summit too, but I wouldn't know for sure.
The ten essentials and an ice-axe; crampons optional (but probably better to have in early season). Lots of energy food as this climb is a grunt. Water is plentiful on the route (at least up to the Berge-Buck saddle), so no need to carry extra water. Bug repellent might be worthwhile in the thick of summer, as would gators to keep brush and pebbles out of your boots.
The North Summit
The summit at last! Not too much daylight left and we've still got such a long way to go.