Cardinal Peak

Cardinal Peak (8,590ft)

In the meadow below the summit

Eric Gilbertson

September 17, 2017

I left Seattle around 9:30pm Saturday evening and made it to the North Fork Entiat River trailhead about 4 hours later, sleeping in the back of the car by 1:30am. I knew there was a chance of afternoon snow showers starting around 3pm on Sunday, so needed to start early to get the ~20-mile hike of Cardinal Peak done in a day. Luckily I had a secret weapon – my mountain bike.

The trail to Cardinal is not in wilderness, so mountain bikes are allowed, and the first 6 miles are a very gentle gradient. After fixing a flat tire in the morning, I hit the trail around 7:45am. I made excellent time on the mountain bike, hardly needing to walk at all until the trail steepened after mile 6.

Here I pushed the bike up steep switchbacks for a few miles, until it leveled out again after intersecting the Pyramid Mountain trail. I passed two guys hiking out who’d climbed Cardinal that morning, and kept biking another mile on rolling hills to the edge of a meadow beneath the peak.

Ascending the talus

I hid my bike in the woods, and continued on foot. After walking through easy open forest, I crossed a talus field and then hiked up the scree gully to the notch between the north and middle (true) summits. From the notch, I scrambled easily up to the right, then at the ridge crest scrambled right on easy class 3 terrain to the summit.

I was at the top by noon, well before the snow was expected to start. Unfortunately the views were extremely hazy from the nearby forest fires, and I hoped the coming precipitation would help stop the burns. After a brief rest I hiked back down to the bike, and started my amazing ascent.

It took me half the time to descend as ascending, and I cruised back to the car by 2:30pm. My hands were actually pretty tired from riding the brakes for several hours, but it was definitely worth bringing the bike for the extra fun and speed.

Right on schedule, as I started driving out the rain started at 3pm, but I was already in the car and headed to my next objectives – Star and Courtney peaks.

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