Ascent of Bald Eagle Peak on 2012-10-06

Climber: Craig Willis

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Saturday, October 6, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Bald Eagle Peak
    Elevation:6259 ft / 1907 m

Ascent Trip Report

I am writing this trip report as a reference for future potential summiters of this peak, as past trip reports on this website and elsewhere online make the "north ridge" route seem trivial and nothing much more than a steep hike.

Although the route seems straightforward (i.e. "follow the ridgeline"), the reality is that the upper half of the route ( above 4400') involves a substantial amount of bushwhacking, steep forest-duff slopes (where a slip could have disasterous consequences), steep side-hilling, Class 2-3 scrambling, and necessary veggie belays. Some past trip reports elude to this route as being a good hike for people just learning to go off-trail; I do not agree. Again, although the general route is straightforward, enough extra technical aspects are encountered that would not be advised for a novice hiker.

At 5400', a steep rock cliff is encountered. Some people have opted to scramble (more like rock-climb) over it. I found a decent steep hidden gully on its east side which allowed me safe passage to the top, but then the amount of continued scrambling/rock climbing (coupled with me being solo) along that upper rock rib made me use my better judgement to head back down the gully and go the "normal" way. The standard route skirts along the eastern base of the rock rib at approximately 5400', and eventually drops slightly in elevation. It is, at times, a little cumbersome and has some narrow steeply-slanted slopes, but manageable with caution.

Once beyond the rock rib, a brief meadow is encountered and then a boulder slope. Continue walking through those, between 5350'-5400' elevation, until reaching the side of the hidden large gully that leads to the upper ridge of the mountain. Once near the side of the large gully, either drop down to the snow patch at its base or steeply ascend along the right side of the gully for approximately 100' until finding an easy and safe way to enter the gully.

Following the large gully is straightforward. It heads up boulder slopes, then angles upward left, and then at its top end (where another lower gully intersects on the leftside) a narrow hidden gully leads steeply up to the right. In my opinion, these gullies might be better with snow to kick-step (but that is only a guess on my behalf), because some sections were not fun "dry" like I found it. The bottom half of this upper gully is dirt and steep rock, and then it angles left where it becomes very steep meadow.

Once at the top of the upper gully, turn right and head up the steep hill. It might be possible to drop down into the snow gully on the left side and then ascend that gully, but I did not do that. Once at the top of the hill, which has a lot of fir trees, summiters will *finally* get their first clear view of the true summit. But stay away from the major cliff drop-off on the right!

From here, follow the ridgetop around to the false summit, and then scramble around it on the right side. Drop down, and then steeply ascend up through fir trees to the summit.

-> Bring trekking poles, a GPS, and sturdy mountaineering boots. Helmet not required.
-> I highly recommend traction devices (such as microspikes or crampons) due to the steep forest-duff slopes and slanted meadow slopes. I slipped on one steep slope during my ascent, temporarily dislocating one shoulder (it popped back into its socket within one minute) and pulled a leg muscle. Not fun. I continued the ascent after taking a short break and Ibuprofen, but I wore my microspikes for the entire route down from summit to car.
-> Bushwhacking is typically more difficult going uphill than downhill.
-> Following a forest ridge is typically easier going uphill than downhill. When descending the north ridge, multiple sub-ridges and sidehills are encountered which are probably not noticed during ascents. It could be very easy for somebody to get off-route during the descent. Use the GPS!
-> At approximately 5200', some open areas of the ridge had evidence of recent mountain goat activity (i.e. rest areas in dirt). Sadly, I did not see any on this day.
-> I only saw one piece of flagging (pink ribbon) on the entire trip, and that was around 2500' elevation and not very helpful. I left several small rock cairns on the ridgetop between 5200' and 5400', although in retrospect thos are not helpful, either, due to them being in obvious places on the ridge. Oh, well.

As one final thought, it bothers me that so many people and websites still refer to this mountain as "Silver Eagle Peak"... all due to a clerical error by the USGS years ago. This is "Bald Eagle Peak" all of the way!
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:5177 ft / 1576 m
    Extra Gain:239 ft / 72 m
    Distance:5.5 mi / 8.9 km
    Route:North Ridge
    Trailhead:1560 ft / 475 m
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Open Country, Bushwhack, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Crampons, Ski Poles
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time Up:0 Days 5 Hours 0 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time Down:0 Days 4 Hours 55 Minutes

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