So what the heck is a saska anyway? Well, Saska was the name of a chief of the Entiat Tribe (the appellation provided by A.H. Sylvester). Alright, so what is Saska Peak? Saska Peak is one of the highest summits in the Chelan Mountains and is third-highest in the region around the head of the North Fork Entiat River. The two higher summits are Cardinal Peak
(8,590 ft) and Emerald Peak
(8,422 ft). Saska is the easiest of these three to climb, it being merely a short scramble from the trail that crosses its South Ridge near Saska Pass. A technical route on the North Face was done by Peter Hendrickson and Jim Smith on May 14, 1979.
Saska is characterized by a moderate talus slope and ridge on its south, a complex East Face, an equally precipitous north side, and a steep but gully-cut Northwest Face. There is a small icefield at 7,700 ft on a shelf on the north side of the peak. Below this, a small tarn occupies a basin draining to Snow Brushy Creek.
There are a number of ways to get to this peak (see below for more info). One is via the North Fork Entiat River drainage. Within this drainage, there are three trail approaches that could be used. Another way to get to the peak is via Emerald Park Trail No. 1230 to the north side of the peak. This trail starts from Lucerne on the shores of Lake Chelan. The third approach route is via Snow Brushy Creek. There are just so many trails interconnecting in the area, it is best to consult maps.
All three N. Fork Entiat River trail approaches begin at the North Fork Entiat River Trail No. 1437. To get to the trailhead, exit Alt.US-97 just south of the town of Entiat on the west side of the Columbia River and take the Entiat River Road northwestward. Keep on the road (paved for most of the way) for 32.5 miles to where North Fork Entiat Road No. 5606 junctions off to the right. (If you come to North Fork Campground, you've gone too far.) Take the North Fork road for about three switchbacking miles to its end at ~3,700 ft.
To get to Lucerne for the Emerald Park route, it will be necessary to take The Lady of the Lake
to Lucerne and start from there. This slow boat leaves from the south end of Lake Chelan once a day. Faster boats make two trips a day.
The Snow Brushy Creek approach begins using Entiat River Trail No. 1400. To get to this trailhead, drive the Entiat River Road (see above) to its end in about 38 miles just past Cottonwood Camp. Elevation = 3,140 ft.
Entiat Approach #1 -- North Fork Entiat Trail
You can take this trail all the way to the southeast base of Saska. It is the least scenic (forest-bound river views notwithstanding) of the three approaches but the most direct. The trail follows the river for the first 7+ miles to 5,800 ft at which point it turns sharply right (east) to ascend a half-a-mile or so to a junction with the Pyramid Mountain Trail at 6,600 ft. This junction is about a mile southwest of Cardinal's summit. Go left (north) at the junction and walk the trail for maybe a half-mile to an open area. Good camping here
. Total distance to camp = 8.5 miles; gain = 2900 ft.
Entiat Approach #2 -- Pugh Ridge Trail
This trail follows semi-alpine Pugh Ridge. It is quite scenic but not as direct and certainly more of a grunt--especially in the approach direction. It can be used as a deproach route to make for a nice loop back to the trailhead. This is what I did. However, I shall describe this way as if it were to be used as an approach to Cardinal. Take the North Fork Trail as per Approach #1 for about 5 miles to the 4,280-ft level a couple of hundred yards past a creek crossing. A trail (possibly signed as the "Pugh Ridge Trail"), will lead off to the right. The trail climbs steeply up the north bank of the (unnamed) creek crossed previously. In three arduous miles on a trail haphazardly strewn with debris, pine cones, and burned forest (I don't think the trail is maintained), you will finally reach the crest of Pugh Ridge at 6,600 ft. The views now open up to you and you'll be glad (relieved) you went this way. Turning left (north), the trail then follows the crest. Beige pumice from Glacier Peak covers much of the ground. About two-tenths of a mile from where the trail gains the ridge crest there was a strange manmade metal tower (near triangulation Pt. 6661) which baffled me as to its purpose. The trail keeps to the crest for 1.5 miles before dismounting it. At times the "trail" does not exist and one must instead follow cairns. But this is not a problem, for the cairns are generally placed in the grasses within easy site of each other. The trail leaves the crest and descends 400 ft to Buck Camp
(6,527 ft). (Note: this camp is at a big meadow. If coming this way on the deproach, it can be difficult to locate the Pugh Ridge Trail. It sort of starts up the other side of the meadow. There might be some marker cairns. If you start descending a trail that follows the creek draining the meadow then you've gone the wrong way).
The Pugh Ridge Trail ends at this camp whereupon it junctions with the Pyramid Mountain Trail. Go left (north) at the junction and hike up to Grouse Pass (7,160+ ft). There is another camp along the trail at the head of Grouse Creek (it may be called Grouse Camp). From Grouse Pass to the junction with the North Fork Entiat Trail it is 2.6 miles. Go straight (north) at the junction and walk the trail for maybe a half-mile to an open area. Good camping here
. Total distance to camp = 13 miles; gain = 4100 ft (more ups and downs).
Entiat Approach #3 -- S. Pyramid Creek Trail
I have not been this way for the lower half. The upper half coincides with the Pugh Ridge approach past Buck Camp
. Before Buck Camp, the trail is the South Pyramid Creek Trail. After the camp, it goes by the name Pyramid Mountain Trail. Take the North Fork Entiat Trail for two miles to where it crosses South Pyramid Creek at 4,000 ft. The SPCT junctions off a couple hundred yards past the crossing. The SPCT follows the north side of the creek for a little over a mile then crosses to the south side. The trail may meet two old connector trails along the way. Keep straight paralleling the creek. The trail crosses the creek three more times before finally reaching Buck Camp in 5 miles. Hike up to Grouse Pass (7,160+ ft). There is another camp along the trail at the head of Grouse Creek (it may be called Grouse Camp). From Grouse Pass to the junction with the North Fork Entiat Trail it is 2.6 miles. Go straight (north) at the junction and walk the trail for maybe a half-mile to an open area. Good camping here
. Total distance to camp = 10.5 miles; gain = 3000 ft.
Emerald Park Approach
From Lucerne (1,100 ft), find the trail up to Domke Lake. In about 1.5 miles at 2,180 ft, stay right at the junction (the left fork goes to the lake). In another 0.5 miles is another junction. This time take the left fork and climb the long forest slope above Domke Lake until the trail comes to Emerald Park Creek, whereupon it follows the creek southwestward. Emerald Park (5,400 ft) is reached in 6.5 miles. Probably good camping here. Milham Pass (6,663 ft) is two miles further on. Beyond the pass is Snow Brushy Creek. You can descend 1.5 miles west from the pass to join the Snow Brushy Creek Route to the summit or use this route as a way to return to camp.
For a climb of the North Face from Emerald Park, hike over Milham Pass and descend about 60 feet down the other side to the first major switchback. Saska should be visible beyond the basin to the south. Leave the trail at the switchback and bear southeast to the tarn at 7,200 ft. Climb southwest from the tarn up to the upper ice patch then on to the North Face. Class 3-4?
Snow Brushy Creek Approach & Climbs
Hike the Entiat River Trail for 6.5 miles to 3,980 ft. The Snow Brushy Creek Trail junctions off to the right. Hike SBCT for 4.5 miles to 5,800 ft. The Pyramid Mountain Trail junctions off here and leads over Saska Pass to the ESE. It is about 1.8 miles from this junction to the pass. Cross the pass (the South Ridge of Saska) then leave the trail to climb the south slope. Simply follow the path of least resistance to the top. Mostly class 2 & 3. Total distance from trailhead to summit = 13.5 miles; gain = 5,300 ft.
To climb the North Face, continue up the SBCT almost to Milham Pass. At maybe 6,400 ft, leave the trail and bear southeastward to the tarn at 7,200 ft. Climb southwest from the tarn up to the upper ice patch then on to the North Face. Class 3-4?
This peak resides at the edge of the Glacier Peak Wilderness, therefore the "leave no trace" policies, etc. apply here. There would probably also be a Trail Park Pass requirement for the trailhead.
When To Climb
Spring to fall.
See the approach descriptions for campsites. Most of the terrain is fairly open, meaning you could camp just about anywhere. But for the sake of erosion, it is best to select unvegetated ground.
(the nearest town with weather info)
Views from the Mountain, Part I
Views from the Mountain, Part II
Views from the Mountain, Part III