Traversing through the Larches to Pyramid: A Triple Bagger
Time is clearly beginning to run out on yet another great hiking season in the northwest. This summer has been a great one for me in that I crossed a number of boundaries in the mountaineering world, attained two of the harder state highpoints and climbed a mountain that only two years ago I thought was going to be an impossibility. But time is running out so it is time to hit some mountains before snowshoe season starts.
My friend Aaron and his wife Kate had an 18-mile trip set up on a mountain that I knew little about in a region I knew little about. Kate had already done this peak before but enjoyed it so much that she wanted to go back. I looked at a map and realized that there were two summits near the trail to the summit of Pyramid and Aaron was definitely very interested in going for this mountain as well. We knew that when we hit the trailhead at 11:00 am we were going to have to run part of the trek to get back before sunset. Most years I would have not been in that good of shape to do this mountain but this year was very different.
Heading up the rough road to the Pyramid Mountain Trail we ran into a guy whose car had broken down due to a flat tire. We tried to help him but our spare didn't fit his car. We promised him that if he were still there when we headed back we would give him a ride to town. I felt bad for the guy but he had enough food and water and looked in good shape. Once we he was ok, we headed to the trailhead.
Once out of the car a little after 11 am. We started our quick race toward the summit of Pyramid Mountain. Crow Hill my first goal was staring me right in the face. I showed Aaron and his Kate the summit and ran a little ahead so I could tackle it. Running on the trail was easy and we all went the first mile and a half in 20 minutes. I dropped my pack and ran to the summit of Crow Hill. But on the way up the 7000 feet altitude was making me breath much heavier than I have in a long time. That was the most painful 5-minute and 360 feet of elevation gain I have ever had. I made the summit and took quick pictures and looked for the summit but I could not find one. So I ran back with my lungs still burning a little to meet up with Aaron and Kate. They were shocked that the summit was so close. So I tagged Crow Hill and now it is time for the goal destination, Pyramid Mountain.
After Crow Hill the trail dipped around 600 feet along a bunch of switchbacks. Once it reached the bottom the trail then goes up to Graham Mountain. The map shows another trail that intersects here but I don't ever remember seeing one. Up the trail went saddling Graham Mountain. I this summit for on the way back because Pyramid was our goal. We continued at a fairly quick pace through a number of forest and fields, some which contained the larches. The color has started on the larches and I had to take many pictures of these trees.
We took a three-minute break at a scenic gap and then continued at our brisk pace to the summit of Pyramid Mountain. Soon we hit the last major intersection where we made a right and headed on up. The trail took a quick dip and then headed up at a gradual grade to the summit. Views really began to break out at 7700 feet where views went on for miles.
On the last little bit the pace slowed a little but this trail was in good shape and was very gradual. We hit the summit at around 2:30 pm and spent 30 minutes to enjoy the beautiful views. This mountain has some very special views of hundreds of mountains. On a clear day I can only of a few other summit with views that rank with Pyramid Mountain. I hope my pictures can do some justice but I doubt they do. Lake Chelan, Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier, Mount Daniel, Mount Stuart, Bonanza, Mount Maude and many others lies right in front of you. This mountain was clearly worth the 3 1/2 of fast pace walking. I wish we had more time to soak in the views more but I feel thankful to get to see this beautiful mountain.
On the way back Kate start a quick pace down. It was 3 pm. and we knew we had to hurry back. But I still wanted to get Graham Mountain, so I decided to run ahead set my pack down on the highest part of the trail and head for the summit of Graham Mountain. I had to fight off some of the fatigue of the previous 14 miles but I quickly paced myself for the summit. This time I wasn't winded but my legs were getting weak. I hung in there and got to the cairned summit of Graham Mountain and was very glad that I did. The evening views here were incredible and the shadow of Graham Mountain and Pyramid were just starting to form over Lake Chelan. It was another incredible of the countryside as well as a great vantage point of Pyramid Mountain.
But it was time to head back from there and there was one more 600 + foot uphill section to go. I headed back down to meet Aaron Kate who had only had to wait 10 minutes. My legs by now were really beginning to feel it. At this point I offered to lead. I knew that everyone had a headlamp and we all had maps and compasses so if it did hit dark we would be very safe heading back. I kept though a good pace though and we up over the 600 + elevation gain in no time. Once over that hump we cruised on the way back, watching the sun lower minute by minute. The lighting of the western Cascades was incredible and was something that I will never forget.
We got back to the car around 6:30 pm making the total trip 7 hours not including the 30 minutes on Pyramid Mountain. For me it was 19 miles and 4850-elevation gain and my legs at this point were in pain from the speed factor. But we all made it back safely and in good condition. More importantly we beat the sunset. On our way down we realized that the guy who car broke down had left. That is a great sign and I hope he made into town safely.
Overall this was a great trip to celebrate a good mountain season. This trip by far won't rap things up for me though. It is larch season I hope to see many more of them.
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