Sunday, June 28, 2015

Pasayten Wilderness: Amphitheater Mountain, The Pope, Apex Mountain

Last winter Ethan and I planned a Pasayten Wilderness mega-excursion, summiting a whole bunch of the Eastern Pasayten's highest peaks over a ~70-mile lollipop. I was also interested in seeing all the views I'd missed on the same trails in June 2014 (1' of fresh snow, clouds, fog).

The way our schedules aligned, however, had us going out yesterday into a Heat Advisory where it hit 105F in Winthrop and the point forecast for 7600' was 80F. The summer of 2015/2070 has not been good to me. I'm a cool-weather guy and long days at high temperatures continually have shut my stomach down; a problem I've never had in not-hot weather.

Trying to beat at least a little of the heat, we left Aunt Janie's cabin at 2:29am, were at the Thirtymile Trailhead an hour later and hit the trail at 3:51am. It was already 65F out.

High motivation had us on top of our first peak, Amphitheater Mountain 8358', in 4:40 elapsed at 8:30am. We descended Amphitheater and got on the Boundary Trail through Cathedral basin, over the pass and descended to where the trail passes slabs below The Pope 8264'.

We started the climb up at about 10am and it was steep, hot and south facing. It really took it out of us and we were tired on the summit, even though the views from the top were great: first time we'd seen the border swath and Canadian peaks in Cathedral Provincial Park. We descended and headed over to Apex Pass to climb Apex Mountain 8297'.

It's a long slog up and we reached the false summit and took a little break before heading over to the true summit further south. Something about sitting down seems to induce the sickness I've had on hot days; the rest on the summit incited my fall into an unpleasant afternoon and early evening (which was not much fun for Ethan either).

We made our way over to Wolframite 8137' which Ethan summited as I rested in the shade off the trail, trying to turn things around. By the summit of Apex we already were behind schedule and now it was 1:30pm and entering the hottest part of the day.

Tungsten Creek was the only bail option on our entire route, so we pointed south and started back toward the Thirtymile Trailhead. It was a sad second half to the day as we both had a great time during the first ~8 hours, covering 28 miles and summiting three 8,000'+ peaks.

Pretty sure I owe Ethan a six pack...or two...

On the plus side, we didn't see another person all day and my new Pearl Izumi N3 was great and probably will be my 50m+ shoe going forward (make one with a trail outsole!).

Relevant trail conditions:
  • Chewuch River trail: lots of dead fall through the burn (50+); decent shape after that. All streams can be crossed staying dry. 
  • Boundary Trail (Cathedral to Tungsten): Good shape, no issues. Good stream below The Pope, most others were trickles.
  • Tungsten Creek: OK shape, some dead fall/blowdown, but better than Chewuch. 

Approaching Amphitheater Mountain on the Lesamiz cutoff trail
Pano looking west from Amphitheater Mountain 8358'; from Baker to Remmel
Amphitheater summit
Descending Amphitheater through larches
Upper Cathderal Lake and the north face of Amphitheater
Cathedral Lakes basin
East side of Cathedral Pass; same view from June 2014.
Climbing The Pope 8264'; summit visible above Ethan
US-Canada border swath west, from the summit of The Pope
Sheep Mountain, Cathedral Peak, Amphitheater Mountain, Remmel Mountain; from the summit of The Pope
Signing The Pope summit register
Canadian peaks: Matriarch, Grimface, The Pyramid, The Deacon, Orthodox
Feeling a little beat on The Pope
Approaching Apex's false summit; true summit back left

Apex Mountain 8297' summit register
Descending Apex back to the pass
Butterflies along Horseshoe Creek on the way back to the trailhead


  1. Hey Luke,

    I stumbled across your website and like the stuff. I have a couple questions for you...could you email me at when you get a chance?