September 28-30, 2007

Cooney / Switchback Peak (8321′)
Old Maid Mountain (7882′)  

——————– Summary ——————–

Golden Larch Hiking & Climbing Trip:  Chelan Sawtooth Mountains

Starting Point: Crater Creek & Eagle Creek & Martin Creek & Cooney Meadows & Cooney Lake & Cooney Pass & Angel’s Staircase & Old Maid Pass & Prince Creek Meadows & Boiling Lake & Horsehead Pass & Eagle Creek & Middle Eagle Lake return via Crater Creek  (hike)

Campsites: Cooney Lake & Middle Eagle Lake

Summit: Cooney/Switchback Peak  (climb via Southwest Ridge)

Summit: Old Maid Mountain  (climb via East Ridge—South Face)

——————– Full Report ——————–

For our golden larch trip this year, Eileen and I headed to the southern Chelan Sawtooths in hopes of escaping the forecasted foul weather.  We did the classic Golden Lakes Loop (as per 100 Hikes, but clockwise), which is a superb trek through vast meadowland, over alpine ridges, and past several nice lakes–all on well-maintained trails.  The weather was very good when it needed to be, and the dusting of snow merely added to the picturesque terrain.

Day 1  —  We started at the Crater/Martin Creek Trailhead and hiked to Cooney Lake.  The afternoon was sunny and mild, and the trail was bare the whole way, although we did encounter scattered skiffs of snow beside the trail above 6500 feet.  Most larch trees around Cooney Lake had turned golden but didn’t appear to have peaked yet.  A cold, gusty wind whipped up as we established camp, and it stayed with us all night–along with a full moon.

Switchback Peak From Cooney Meadows

Day 2  —  Thanks to effective radiation cooling during the cloudless night, we awoke to many frozen water bottles in the morning.  But the air was calm, and sunny mountains beckoned.  We broke camp and hiked up to the shoulder of Switchback/Cooney Peak, then dropped packs and scrambled up the south ridge.

Eileen Scrambling Up Switchback Peak

The clear sky allowed views as far as Mt Rainier to the south, Glacier Peak to the west, and the Craggy Peaks to the north.

Eileen On Switchback Peak Summit

After retrieving packs, we continued down Angel’s Staircase to the rolling meadowland of upper Prince Creek.  The Sawtooths feature many gorgeous meadows but perhaps none finer than Sunset Basin at the head of Prince Creek’s east fork.

Sunset Basin From Angels Staircase

At a broad saddle 1 mile to the north, we dropped packs again and headed out for Old Maid Mountain.  Alluring meadow slopes curve upward from the saddle, but these slopes belie the fact that this Old Maid is quite craggy and aloof.

Traversing To Summit Of Old Maid Mountain

It took us nearly 2 hours to get beyond all the false summits and then determine which of the twin summit points is higher (it’s the east one).  We rebuilt the summit cairn and left a small register there.  On top, we were surprised by the sudden appearance of another climber, whom we soon learned was part of a ten-person group doing the Golden Lakes Loop in a counter-clockwise direction.

Star Peak and Oval Peak From Old Maid Mountain

It was late afternoon when we re-shouldered our packs and continued northward to the middle fork of Prince Creek.  From a major junction, we hiked past Boiling Lake, over Horsehead Pass, and then dropped down to Eagle Lakes by headlamp.  A very light snowfall started just as we finished pitching our tent at Middle Eagle Lake.

Middle Eagle Lake

Day 3  —  Despite a steady snowfall throughout the night, there was only ½ inch of snow outside our door in the morning.  It continued snowing lightly all morning, which made for a delightfully scenic hike back to the 4800-foot trailhead.

Leaving Middle Eagle Lake

Somewhere around 4000 feet, the snow transitioned into rain.  Our timing had been spot on for this wonderful three-day trek!

Stats (car to car):  26 miles, 7000 feet gained and lost.

———————– Route Map ———————–

Golden Lakes Loop Map

————————— Photo Gallery —————————-