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Ascent of Russian Butte on 2013-07-20

Climber: Fred Beavon

Date:Saturday, July 20, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Russian Butte
    Location:USA-Washington
    Elevation:5123 ft / 1561 m

Ascent Trip Report

Researching Russian Butte, these reports concerned me since I don't like coming out in the dark.

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The Chris S., aka "Huron" or "Magnum", trip took 17.5 hours to climb Russian Butte, not getting back to the car until midnight:

http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=7968329

Chris', aka "Omega", report of the same trip that included Mark S (Mesahchie):

http://www.metatropo.com/reports/russianbutte071208.htm

Gabriel Deal and Ian took two days and used mountain bikes:

http://www.yellowleaf.org/scramble/g/r/2005-07-01--02-The-Butte.html

Nordic took three tries, culminating in an over 15 hour trip:

http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=7991445&highlight=russian+butte

Mike Collins said, "I have climbed Russian Butte but never wrote it up for internet access. My route can only be done in the dryness of August as the approach involves climbing right up a pour off of Gifford Creek. My route involved crossing private land to access Gifford Creek. One of the must-see sights is the abandoned meth lab along the private road. The route was so exposed I went five miles out of my way by dropping into the Pratt River drainage and then fording the Middle Fork Snoq. River to avoid returning to my car via the ascent route. The route up from the Pratt (our descent route) is much more user friendly. Most people traverse over from Revolution Mtn though. Our ascent route followed Carl Dreisbach's writeup for Russian Butte in his Middle Fork Guide".

The Cascade Alpine Guide says "Because of the relief and rugged terrain, the summit would be a trying adventure from the valley of the Middle Fork".

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So I left the Granite Lakes trailhead at 5:45 a.m. after leaving home shortly after 4:30 a.m. determined to get out before dark. The unmarked trailhead is .2 miles beyond the Mailbox Peak trailhead. The previously ugly gated logging road I used for doing Revolution Peak has been beautifully transformed into a meandering up and down trail. Up and down for the huge waterbars diverting streams from coming onto the trail. The route looks ugly after the Thompson Lake turnoff, but it is only temporary.

Skipping the last switchback to the cabin, I continued on the old logging road to its end and scrambled up to the ridge. Since the ridge was brushy and following the ridge seemed a long ways, I dropped into the Gifford Lakes valley and traversed above the lakes to the saddle south of Russian Butte. The shade in the valley also lured me into it. A good picture of the area by sgiles:

http://www.summitpost.org/users/sgiles/78025

is at:

http://www.summitpost.org/russian-butte/785129/c-662528

I'm not sure if that was a good route selection since I ran into some sticker bushes, but even with that, it still seemed faster.

While traversing on the east, I made the mistake of going up too soon and climbed Russian Butte's south summit by mistake, shown here by Chris S. from:

http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/download.php?id=2664592620_54dc2c6818&p=391456

I tried to continue along the ridge but it was too precipitous. Backtracking the way I went up, it took a long hour and a half to get from the false summit to the true summit, where I only spent about five minutes due to lack of shade, admiring the clouds still left in the valleys. No register any more that I could find. The rock scrambling was harder than expected, due to steepness and loose rock, but it went okay, up and down. It's avoidable by traversing further and going up from the NE on steep heather slopes. Gabriel Deal and the Chris S. party descended that way.

The long flat saddle north of 4932', plus the shade and an occasional pleasant breeze lured me to stay on the ridge, a fortunate decision, for while traversing Revolution Peak, I ran into some creeks melting from snow. Since I had been rationing my water, it was a relief not to have to continue doing so. Not owning a filter, I drank the water untreated. It wasn't the first time and I've never experience any ill effects. I do try to limit myself to water melting directly from snow, though I know that can be contaminated, too. The entire ridge back to Revolution Peak is comparatively brush free, a pleasant surprise. The worst brush was from Revolution Peak to the cabin that I visited on the return. It was nice to see the cabin again since it had been over nine years since my Revolution Peak trip. The cabin looks gloomy though, with only two small windows, besides the one by the door.

Time from car to summit was 6 and 1/2 hours, reaching the summit at 12:15 p.m. Got back to the car at 6:05 p.m., delayed by munching on many thimble berries, the only food I ate all day since leaving home. The cashews and an apple I brought with me was eaten on the drive home. No rest breaks. No pictures. The only camera I own is an antique collecting dust in a drawer. It's nice there is such a challenging summit only an hours drive from home. I even got home in time to see Jeopardy, the only show I ever watch. I do turn on the news and a music channel at times, but that's just for the audio.

My only recommendation is to take the shortcut trail as the Chris S. party did. That would have been faster but I didn't know its condition. It appeared fine though, where it met up with the Granite Lakes trail.

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