South Spectacle Butte (8,392ft), Mt Maude (9,040ft), Seven Fingered Jack (9,100ft), Mt Fernow (9,249ft)
September 11-13, 2017
I had five days to do some mountaineering and decided to tag a bunch of Washington Hundred Highest mountains near Lake Wenatchee. After dropping off Katie at the ferry terminal at 8am Monday morning. I started driving into the mountains. It took a bit longer than expected, after lots of road construction on route 2, me picking up a few PCT hikers, and the road to the trailhead being in rough shape. By 1pm, though, I was parked on the side of the road a mile from the trailhead at the start of some shin-deep quick-sand-like dust pits, and started hiking. I reached the Phelps Creek trailhead around 1:30pm.
A few miles in I turned up the steep unmaintained Leroy Creek trail and was soon at the scenic Leroy Meadows. My goal was to climb South Spectacle Butte that day, but I had to hustle given the 3 hours of delays getting to the
trailhead. I traversed from the meadows and followed a climber trail up to a pass south of Mt Maude, then dropped down to Ice Lakes. This area is really scenic, with a big alpine lake flanked by granite slabs and a few larch trees, with snow patches leading into the lake.
I dropped my bivy sack and extra gear at 5pm and continued on the route to South Spectacle Butte (SSB). It looked unlikely I could get back by dark (around 8pm), but I thought I might be able to summit before dark. I dropped down to another lake, followed a rough trail farther down, then traversed across talus and through woods to the southwest ridge of SSB.
From here I climbed steeply up the ridge, scambling up slabs and talus. A few times I met steep gendarmes, and I traversed around these to the right, following cairns. The route was complicated, and at times exposed, and I was happy that it was still daylight.
I ended up cresting the summit almost exactly at sunset, and caught the last amazing view of the 9,000ft mountains
to the north. I hastily signed in the summit register and started descending after about 3 minutes on the top. I knew the route would be hard enough to follow in the daylight, and I wanted to utilize any remaining photons to my advantage.
Luckily on the way up I had carefully memorized the route, and managed to make it down the exact same way in the dark. By 10pm I was back at camp, and after a quick dinner of liptons I crawled into my bivy sack and went to sleep on the edge of the lake.
My watch battery died that night, so I let the sun wake me up. I quickly packed up and hiked back to the col below Mt Maude. Here I ditched my overnight gear and hiked up the easy talus and scree to the summit. The views were a lot better today, given that it was actually light out, and I could see my next objective to the north – Seven Fingered Jack.
There was a ridge connecting the mountains, but it looked very technical, so I descended back to my pack and hiked back to Leroy Meadows. I planned to camp there for the night, so I hung my food in a tree, left my overnight gear, and started hiking up Seven Fingered Jack. I followed a rough climbers trail to exit the meadow basin, then traversed easy talus and scree slopes all the way to the summit.
I had considered tagging another mountain that day, but was too worn out from the previous night climb that I just descended to camp and went to sleep early at 7pm. A few other climbers arrived, which was a bit surprising given it was a Tuesday, but I suppose that meadow is well-known for being very scenic.
The sun woke me up early the next morning, and after stashing my camping gear I set off to climb Mt Fernow. This time I brought my crampons and ice ax (whippet) since I’d read there may be a small glacier crossing. I hiked through steep forest and meadows, then talus slopes to the pass just west of seven fingered jack. From here I descended, following cairns, towards a small tarn to the left.
The standard route descends from the ridge above the tarn to the gloomy glacier, but at this time of year much of the snow had melted out and it looked like steep slab with scree on top above cliffs. I decided to take a less-sketchy detour, and descended to the lake and wrapped around the promontory to reach the base of the gloomy glacier. The route was a bit longer, but much safer.
I crossed the moraine, then scrambled up to the right of a waterfall to reach the 7000ft bivy basin. From here I scrambled up ledges and slabs to the right of the upper waterfall, eventually reaching large talus fields. After crossing an upper snowfield, I climbed almost to the crest of the south ridge of Fernow, then ascended the gully with the obvious chockstone.
I passed under the chockstone, then followed cairns along ledges to reach the east ridge of Fernow. Just before cresting the ridge, I
scrambled up an unlikely-looking route on a ledgey face, to gain the ridge just below the summit. I soon topped out and was treated to sweeping views all around.
Unfortunately there was no summit register, but it was pretty clearly the summit. I retraced my route back, encountered one other hiker going up. For the return I tried the more direct route, instead of hiking around to the tarn. Ascending wasn’t too bad, but I still wouldn’t recommend descending late season.
By 2pm I was back at Leroy Meadows and ready for my next objectives – Dumbell and Greenwood Mountains.