oval from hoodoo.jpg (77258 bytes)
Oval from the summit of Hoodoo Mountain!

Oval Peak 8,795'!

In the Lake Chelan/Sawtooth Wilderness Area

October 12, 2002



Back to Treks Home!

Back to History!

Backcountry Hiking!

Back to Trails!



A few weeks earlier Doerte and I were in this neighborhood, but could not do the Sawtooth Ridge to Oval Peak due to high winds and poor visibility. A spectacular series of warm Indian Summer days brought us back to try Oval in a day.

The West Buttermilk Creek Trailhead at 4,000’ is located off the Twisp River Road. We felt like we were in a Loony Tunes Cartoon all the way from Washington Pass. Both sides of Highway 20 and the Forest Roads were lined with orange vested hunters. Not a good day to be a Buck within sight of the road! Luckily the Trailhead only had three parties of hunters. We heard the pop! pop! pop! of their firearms in the distance as we headed up trail.

Larches in their fall color! Looking back at Star Mountain through the Larches! The ground was a carpet of needles! I wonder what makes them drop off the tree? Is it the cold temperatures, snow, or short days?

It was 22 degrees but not a cloud in the sky. The air was fresh and crisp. Perfect weather to be on the trail. Higher up everything would be frozen and place and unwelcome rockfall would be minimal. Doerte wore a big red hat and I had my traffic control vest for a little extra visibility, but the hunters don’t go on a trail very often. They prefer to stay within sight of their trucks.

We followed the trail to just below Fish Creek Pass, about 7.7 miles where we came to a small cairn and a flag indicating the turn on the old trail to below Oval. We were about 7,000’ and just beginning to see the Larch Trees in their bright fall color.

Big Jack from Oval! There is massive Jack Mountain far to the North above Ross Lake. There was new snow over 8,000'!

We followed the old trail, to the North back the way we had come, and painfully even losing some elevation. We stayed underneath Buttermilk Ridge and soon reached a beautiful spot below the Oval/Buttermilk Saddle in a Larch Forest at a small lake. A single campsite would be a great place to camp. To our surprise the lake was frozen! The new ice was about 1-2 inches thick already. We turned west and quickly gained the South Ridge of Oval.

A mile of Class 2 up the ridge brought us to the summit of Oval, 8,795’, and the 29th highest mountain in Washington. We had great views of the Oval Lakes to the west, and the entire Sawtooth Wilderness area. Hoodoo and Raven Ridge dominated the view to the east, with the Twisp River Valley below us. Huge Glacier Peak shimmered in the low fall sun. The Gardners, Silver Star, and Kangaroo Ridge dominated the view to the North. The most outstanding view was far off to the Northwest, the forbidding summit of Jack Mountain, 9,066’. Jack is the sentinel of the North Cascades, sitting proudly by itself. Jack was dusted in new snow above the turnaround snowfield a little above 8,000’.

Doerte and Mike on the summit of Oval! Doerte and Mike on Oval's summit. Oval is a big pile of rubble, that is called an anthill mountain.

It was warm on the summit with only the slightest of a breeze. There was brand new summit register placed by Fay Pullen. It is always fun to see names we know in the summit registers, even if we only know them from other summit registers. It seems like there are Washington Alpine Club member names in each summit register in Washington!

Doerte descending Oval! Doerte descending the big blocks of Talus to the larches far below. Early season would be a good time to go into the Sawtooths.

Doerte and I took our time descending the loose talus back to the Larches, and then headed for the trail of a bearing through the forest. Rather than backtracking on the old trail, we picked a spot and then bushwhacked east and down to intersect the main trail saving 2 miles.

As expected, we arrived back at the trailhead by headlamp, in time to see the Space Station fly over for the first time. We estimated it to be three times brighter than Venus, and a lot lower! Here is the link to find out when to see the Space Station: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/sightings/SSapplications/Post/SightingData/Seattle.html

19.4 miles, 5,000’ gain and eleven hours for the day.


This website is a photographic and descriptive resource of routes and climbs, not a hiking guide. By using this site the viewer releases the creator from any and all liability. Hiking/climbing is a potentially dangerous activity and requires proper equipment, skill, experience, preparedness and awareness at all times.

All contents of all pages   copyright 1997 - 2002  by Mike Mahanay, All Rights Reserved

Do you have any off trail stories or descriptions you would like to add?

Do you have any questions, comments, or corrections? If so, drop me a  email at mike@grandcanyontreks.org