The last couple days of September Fletcher asked me to join him on Courtney, Star and Oval Peaks in the Chelan Sawtooths. Given that the Larches were peaking, weather was looking perfect and I missed that show last year, I had to go. Given the long ride out there from Kirkland, we arrived at the TH sometime after 11am on the 29th. Going over Washington Pass we had excellent views of the foliage and knew we were in for a treat. I was excited to be packed very light and testing a new camera on the gorgeous scene. Unfortunately the camera turned out to be a let down, but I'll see about using some of Fletcher's phone pics. The Buttermilk Road was in decent shape except for a large ditch near the last mile where clearance of 9 inches or so might be handy. The trail itself was open and easy dirt/soot. The soot on the trail from older fires came up in plumes, though, and gave both me and Fletcher a hard time when it became suspended. I suspect there may have been some damage to the lungs. Oh well, worth it.
Whitehorse from Darrington
About half-way we encountered some trail building supplies left behind in large bundles along side the trail. It looked like serious work and it was right around this point that the trail became a little swampy from water flow -- probably what they intend on fixing. After this it was steady gain and the larches began appearing. I suspected we wouldn't have views until the last mile to the pass based on the map which turned out to be true. Also at this point we kept an eye out for the spur trail to Oval which we planned on doing the following day. We couldn't agree if we had found it so we just continued on saving it for tomorrow. We dropped our not so heavy gear at the pass and waltzed up Courtney following its gentle East ridge. Nothing more than Class 2 and no exposure until the summit rock where you could see all the way to Oval lakes. Fletcher took a short nap while I looked around taking lousy pictures.
first peak at Star Peak
West to Grey
Fletcher napping on Courtney
Star Lake basin
Lady bugs huddling
reflection of Courtney
Upon awaking we both agreed we would go to Star Lake, set up camp and try to tackle Star Peak before Sunset. We had about 2 hours to work with and it ended up working perfectly. The camp site we chose was amazing with views into the Sawtooths and towards Lake Chelan. Heading up Star was loose scree for the first 600' or so to gain its SW Ridge which wasn't too bad. Once up high it was gravel trail mixed with class 2 boulders here and there, a bit more physical than Courtney. I fell behind to take care of business and didn't catch Fletcher until he was on the summit. I arrived just before sunset in time to take my silly Starburst shot. The scene was intense with orange hues being cast on the golden landscape swept with purple shadows. Knowing how loose getting off the ridge was, we hurried down to the lake before it got too dark and had supper. I couldn't sleep so I wandered around in the basin below the lake until about midnight when I had finally had enough.
Starburst on Star Peak
Sunset from Star
North Cascades from Star
Fading light near Star Lake
The shadow of Star made it really easy to sleep in so we again had a semi-late start of about 9am. It was a little sad for me to be packing up camp but we had to get Oval. We kept an eye out for the spur trail and easily found its cairn. The trail drops a lot then regains it all and is not in the best shape. Many a log had to be hopped and by the time we arrived at the lake I was a bit tired. Fletcher filtered us some water at the outlet stream and I took what I thought was an interesting shot of reflections on the lake.
Star reflected in Star Lake
Last glance south from the pass
Oval from fish creek pass
Larch color reflected on Lake 6938
We stashed some gear and made our way to Oval's South ridge which had faint tracks here and there but no really a trail. Travel was easy until we gained the ridge. All of sudden it felt like summer and I was pouring sweat scrambling over the awkwardly large boulders to the summit. Not technical but time consuming. We both arrived at the same time where a nice breeze greeted us. Clear skies meant views in every direction. It felt pretty satisfying to get all three bulgers in. Looking through the register we found a kid named Ethan Graham working on the Bulger list. If he finishes, he might be the youngest ever to complete it. A quick snack later and we dropped back down to the lake. From here we cut strait down the mountain following the drainage to the Buttermilk Trail and made quick work of it to the trail head. Dining at the local pub was a real treat. Good times!
Buttermilk Ridge Courney and Star
Watch out Ethan is on a roll
View West from Oval
stoked we made all three bulgers
Fletcher's report with better photos: http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=8018453
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