Ascent of Emerald Peak on 2018-09-01

Climber: Eric Gilbertson

Date:Saturday, September 1, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Emerald Peak
    Elevation:8422 ft / 2567 m

Ascent Trip Report

Pinnacle Mountain (8,400ft) and Emerald Peak (8,422ft)

Eric Gilbertson

September 1, 2018

30 miles

I had just finished climbing the Bulgers on Mt Buckner on August 31, and after hiking back to my car at the Cascade Pass trailhead I started driving to eastern Washington. I was hoping to re-climb a few dozen more Bulger peaks to tighten my finishing time window. I was hoping to do a few peaks from the Foggy Dew trailhead in the Sawtooths.

I drove through Washington pass, down south of Twisp, and got to within a quarter mile of the Foggy Dew campground, but the road was blocked by a barricade. All online resources said the road was open, but the sign on the barricade said that, effective August 31 the road was closed due to fires. The air was indeed smoky and it was probably a good idea not to be any closer to the forest fires.

It was 11pm by then, and I scrambled to make a new plan. There were many other peaks I needed to reclimb, and Pinnacle and Emerald were the closest to my current location. I had checked online that evening when I got cell service and found that the entiat river road had coincidentally just been reopened from a months-long fire closure. But it was late and I was tired, so I pulled off into the woods and slept in the car.

At 5am the next morning I started driving and by 8am reached the north fork entiat trailhead. I’d been here three times before over the years, so was familiar with the trail. A few hunters were in the lot, but I appeared to be the only hiker.

I set off at 8:30am on the North Fork Entiat trail with a small daypack and a few hours later reached the intersection with the Grouse Pass trail. I turned left and continued to the wilderness boundary near Saska Pass. My plan was to climb Pinnacle first, since it was farther away, then tag Emerald on the hike back to the car. Unfortunately the trail west of Saska Pass has been mostly wiped out by an old forest fire, so travel is at times difficult.

I followed the trail down until I lost it in the burn zone around 6,400ft. There I made a beeline toward Pinnacle, dropping down to Brushy Creek and back up the opposite side. It was very dusty descending to the creek, but soon on the other side I climbed out above the burn zone into pleasant meadows.

I hiked up to Borealis Pass, following occasional cairns, then turned right and followed the ridge to the base of Pinnacle. After a short scramble up a steep scree slope I reached the summit. I found the old sign in Katie and I had made from September 21, 2016, and added another one. I was the second person up in 2018, after a group in May. This is probably because the normal approach road had been closed most of the summer.

After a short break I descended back down, this time taking a more direct route dropping straight down into the cirque northeast of Borealis Path. After scrambling down 3rd class terrain I rejoinged my ascent route and hiked back up to the trail near Saska Pass.

I then descended the trail and until I was directly beneath Emerald Peak in a meadow. I hiked through the meadow and up a gully to a small shoulder. Here I hiked up a right trending scree gully, then turned left at some cliffs and found myself on the west ridge of Emerald Peak. The route was familiar from the last time I’d climbed Emerald, so I scrambled up the ridge/gully following occasional cairns and soon reached the summit.

After signing in I retraced my route and soon reached the trail. It was now 4pm, and I was tempted to tag Saska and Cardinal too while I was out there. But that would probably mean I would get back very late to the trailhead and end up sleeping at the trailhead. My goal was to be very efficient with peaks I needed to reclimb, and I wanted to climb Argonaut the next day. That would be difficult if I couldn’t make it to the Argonaut trailhead that night. I didn’t really need to reclimb Saska and Cardinal as part of my time tightening plan since I had climbed them less than a year earlier and was targeting a 13-month finishing time.

So, somewhat reluctantly, I continued back to the car and got back a bit before dark. I started driving immediately, but after a half hour I realized I was too tired to continue, so I pulled off at the nearest pullout and went to sleep for the night.

Link to full trip report and pictures.
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