In writing for yet another unofficially named mountain in the Leavenworth area I have ran into yet another controversy. This time it is writing up the summit of Big Lou which has two summit areas that almost ideally the same size. From being on both highpoint, the northwest summit list as Peak 7760 on Peakbagger was according to Gimpilator’s GPS higher (7783 feet) than what is list as the unofficial named summit of Big Lou at (7768 feet according to Gimpilator’s GPS. Of course that is just Gimpilator’s GPS and there is always a plus minus of 9 feet on the GPS, so I put this out as more food for thought or in case something measurement or name changes happen in the near future. But the Southeast summit is the one with the register. Some consider these completely separate summits while others consider this all the same mountain. With the Wenatchee Back Court List as well as the amount of prominence in question I wanted to put in this disclaimer. So to tame this controversy this page will actually be written for BOTH highpoints.
The two highpoints question
Looking over to the south summit where the register is
Summit shot from Gimpilator
Big Lou Mountain (and Point 7760-see disclaimer) is the highest summit on Icicle Ridge. Located on the western side of Icicle Ridge this rounded mountain has quite a different character from nearby peaks such as Grindstone and Cashmere. The mountain was orginally named Big Slide Mountain and some of the older locals and past books call it by that named. The peak was later unoffically changed to Big Lou after Lou Whitaker, a famous Washington State Climber who climbed Mount Everest back in the 1960’s. It should be noted that the summit register on top still lists this peak as Big Slide Mountain. His brother Jim Whitaker has another mountain about two miles to the north that is also named after him which just happens to be around the same height. Both world renown climbing brothers were twins which is why both mountains are now unofficially named Big Jim and Big Lou. According to the Wenatchee Back Court List this summit actually ranks #14th. The prominence on this peak is actually up for debate because both Big Lou Mountain and Big Jim Mountain actually have the same elevation and are on the same ridge.
Map of the Spring Route to the summit
At 14 miles and 5600 feet of elevation from the easiest route by the Chatter Creek trailhead this is a full day of work for most. There is only an established trail to 4600 feet of elevation and then to continue to go up you must either take a faint boot path to Lake Ida (in late summer and fall) or snow climb up the 30-40 degree gully which due to the large talus in the middle of the gully gives you no chance for a good glissade. From the snow climb you must go over the side of an unrecognized peak or sub-point then drop into Lake Ida. From there a 1000 climb to the summit (or 1150 foot elevation gain) walk up to the summit up at about 30 degree angle is needed to summit this peak. As for technical difficulty this is barely Class 2 at worse if you stay on the correct route. The difficult here is not exposure but route-finding and endurance.
Heading up the gully
This peak might take a lot of work but on a clear day this peak gives massive rewards. The views of the Enchantments and Stuart are simply breathtaking and the views to the north towards Big Jim and Glacier Peak are absolutely outstanding. The view on this mountain is worth every feeling of pain you go through. Honestly on a clear May afternoon I have not experience much better. The view towards Grindstone and Frigid is simply remarkable. Though nearby Point 7029 “Icicle Ridge” and Grindstone have incredible views in my opinion this blows them both out of the water.
The Enchantments from Big Lou Mountain
If you are looking for a good mountain to check out the change in season this mountain and neighboring Lake Ida is home to large larch grove and when photographed correctly can serve in the foreground with the towering but distant Enchantments in the background. Though I climbed this mountain in spring, my thinking is if the Lake Ida boot path is decently developed fall might be the better time for this peak. Spring though wasn’t too back though with the snow filled gully though at the bottom I found myself post-holing into the rocks.
Awesome cliff near the northwestern highpoint.
The north ridge of Big Lou
VIA THE CHATTER CREEK TRAILHEAD: Located just north of downtown Leavenworth off of Route 2 take Icicle Creek road for roughly 12 miles all the way down to the Chatter Creek Trailhead on your right just before the Chatter Creek Campground.
The Chatter Creek Trailhead requires a Northwest Forest Pass.
Bivy area near Lake Ida; no campfires allowed here though
The Chatter Creek Campground is located very close to the Chatter Creek Trailhead. In addition there were two small camping areas along the Chatter Creek trail by Chatter Creek. One was about at the elevation of 4200 and the other was around 4600. There are no campfires permitted above 5000 feet. Lake Ida is an ideal bivy area just keep in mind that no campfire are allow there.