October 19-20, 2013

Late Golden Larch Hiking & Climbing Trip:  Entiat Mountains

Carne-Leroy Loop:  Carne Creek to Leroy Creek

The Snowcone (7880’+)

——————– Trip Report Summary ——————–

Region: North-Central Cascades

Starting & Ending Point: Phelps Creek Trailhead (Phelps Creek Road)

Way Points: Carne Creek & Carne Basin & Carne Pass & Rock Creek Pass & Box Creek Basin & Box Creek Pass & Freezer Pass & Leroy Pass & Leroy Basin & Leroy Creek & Phelps Creek return via Carne Creek (hike & snow hike)

Campsite: Box Creek Pass

Summit: The Snowcone (climb via West Slope—Northwest Ridge)

Approximate Total Stats: 14 miles traveled; 6500 feet gained and lost.

——————– Full Trip Report ——————–

Inspired by a blast of Indian Summer last weekend, Lisa and Mary-Beth joined me for a “late golden larch” version of the classic Carne-Leroy Traverse in the Entiat Mountains. This was my fifth or sixth time doing the traverse, but it never gets old. In fact, the fall color and partial snowcover made this one seem more grand than ever.

Day 1 – Trailhead to Carne Basin to Box Creek Pass:

The Phelps Creek Trailhead was bustling with day-hikers and backpackers on Saturday morning. Most people appeared to be headed up Carne Mountain. The view of nearby Buck Mountain, still wearing its cloak of early October snow, was easily worth the price of admission.

Buck Mountain From Carne Mountain

We encountered about a foot of crusty snow in Carne Basin and on all shady slopes above 6000 feet. After descending to Rock Creek Pass, however, we could see that most southern and western slopes along our high traverse route were largely free of snow.

High Route View From Rock Creek Pass

The patchy snow cover caused us some minor problems as we tried to follow the old sheepherder’s trail northward from Rock Creek Pass. We lost the trail several times in snowy areas but were always able to regain it in the bare areas. After a few hours, we ascended into lower Box Creek Basin. Golden larch trees—most of which were just past their peak of color—ringed the basin.

Carne Mountain and Lower Box Creek Basin

The day had started out a bit cool but became progressively warmer. By mid-afternoon, it was downright hot. To be honest, this would have felt like just a typical warm day if it had been August; today, however, with our heat tolerance in a state of autumn decline, the sun seemed nothing short of oppressive! We huffed and puffed up the final slopes to 7000-foot Box Creek Pass and made camp (6.1 hours from TH).

Lisa and Mary Beth Approaching Box Creek Pass

Given a couple hours of remaining daylight, we took a side trip up to the crest of Ice Creek Ridge above camp. The views of Ice Lakes and the surrounding peaks were excellent from the crest.

Ice Lakes From Ice Creek Ridge

Lisa had spotted a high snow-covered dome (Point 7880+) closely south of our position on the crest and insisted that we tuck this in. In keeping with the icy theme, we dubbed it “The Snowcone.”

Mary Beth Ascending The Snowcone


Mt Maude and Lisa From The Snowcone
Carne Mountain From The Snowcone

The sun was setting as we descended back to camp, giving a soft glow to the larch trees and snow. This was “magic light.”

Fortress Mountain and Chiwawa Mountains From Camp

Day 2 – Box Creek Pass to Leroy Basin to Trailhead:

The night had been unexpectedly warm and calm, with a full moon and no clouds. We awoke to a crystal-clear morning.

Morning Moon Over Box Creek Pass Camp
Sunlit Larches Below Camp

Our route from camp made a descending traverse on breakable crust to Chipmunk Creek. From here, the old sheepherder’s trail (I should clarify that the trail is old, but the sheepherders were not necessarily old) contours out to the left on a spur ridge. Instead of following the trail, we ascended to 7400-foot “Freezer Pass.” This pass provides access to Ice Lakes, for those so inclined.

Freezer Pass From Box Creek Pass
Traversing To Freezer Pass From Box Creek Pass

From Freezer Pass, we wallowed down a steep slope of cold powder snow, then regained the sheepherder’s trail as it angled up to 6900-foot “Leroy Pass.” The contrast between north-facing slopes (with 2 to 3 feet of snow) and south-facing slopes (completely snow-free) was quite striking here.

Descending To Leroy Pass

After descending from Leroy Pass, we continued traversing below the west face of Mt. Maude. The infamous erosion gully, which resulted from the devastating October 2003 rainstorm, had eased back over the past decade and was relatively easy to cross.

Crossing 2003 Erosion Gully

More traversing and descending eventually brought us into expansive Leroy Basin (3.2 hours from camp). We stopped for lunch in the empty basin before heading down the Leroy Creek Trail. It was another hot day, and we wished for a swimming lake here.

Seven Fingered Jack From Leroy Basin

The final 5 miles back to the trailhead (6.1 hours from camp) felt like a summertime hike. I contemplated the fact that this excellent traverse had not been so much a golden larch trip as a broiled larch trip!


——————– Photo Gallery (click to enlarge) ——————–