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Kuato

[TR] BOWAN MOUNTAIN (7895') - South Ridge / Southwest Face 09/03/2022

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Trip: BOWAN MOUNTAIN (7895') - South Ridge / Southwest Face

Trip Date: 09/03/2022

Trip Report:

BOWAN MOUNTAIN (7895') – Rainbow Ridge Traverse Approach – SEPT. 3-5, 2022 (Sat, Sun, Mon)

Another perfect weather weekend for climbing and a long holiday weekend to boot.  Dan O texted and wanted to know what I was doing.  I said planning a climb.  He said can I go, I said sure.  So I had company for this trip, which was a nice change. 

Saturday: We started from Bridge Creek Trailhead at 6:45am.  We headed down the Bridge Creek Trail to McAlester Creek Trail arriving at McAlester Pass (6000’) at 12:00 noon.  There is water at McAlester Pass at a lake at the end of the meadow, not the best looking water, but water nonetheless.  Distance was about 9.5 miles to the pass and the trails were in excellent shape. 

5 minutes down the trail past  McAlester Pass was the bootpath for Rainbow Ridge.  The bootpath went along a shelf at the base of a boulder field.  We walked past it the 1st time and doubled back.  The bootpath was well defined with a few sections requiring some searching.   The ridge was nice traveling with views of McAlester Mountain.  There was some smoke coming up the valley from Lake Chelan, not bad, but enough to make the views hazy. 

We made it to the main lake on Rainbow Ridge (6100’) at 1:15pm.  The lake was very nice and would make a great camp.  We made our way up the ridge above the lake, the path was faint at times going up the slope.  We made it to another set of lakes on the ridge (6750’) at 2:45pm.  Along the way I jumped on top of a rock for a better view and noticed a bush shaking about 50’ away down slope.  Out of the back side of the bush came a Grizzly Bear running down the slope heading toward Lake Chelan.  I’ve heard of Grizzly Bear sightings in the North Cascades but I had never seen one for myself in the wild.  The Grizzly was medium sized and looked pretty young, classic chocolate brown color with the blonde tipped punk rock hair hump between the shoulders.  We were both a bit stunned.  Holy shit, there are Grizzlies out here!  There were several sets of fairly fresh bear tracks in the mud at the second set of lakes.  It seems we had worked our way into a bear utopia. 

We headed up to the summit of Rainbow Ridge (7200’) that offered a great view of Bowan Lake and Mountain.  The bootpath ended at the summit.  We headed down the ridge toward Bowan Lake.  The travel was a bit steep and loose in sections but doable.  We arrived at Bowan Lake (6500’) at 5:15pm and decided to make this our camp for the evening.  There were also a fair amount of bear tracks around Bowan Lake but they looked to be a day or two old. 

Sunday:  We were up and moving at 6:30am.  We headed up the valley toward the south col of Bowan Mountain.  We arrived at the south col (7400’) at 7:45am.  Our plan was to go up and over Bowan and drop over the summit and follow the ridge down to the Rainbow Lake Trail.  One of the maps we had with us made this look like a good option.  We started up the south ridge of Bowan, mostly Class 3 rock.  We reached a deep gully on the ridge that we could not cross up high, so we headed down looking for a better crossing area for the gully.  We found one probably 100 feet down from the ridge.  The gully crossing was Class 3 with a little Class 4 depending on your route.  We continued across the slope angling up on Class 2 rock.  We crossed a couple more gullies using shelf systems along the way that were Class 3.  We reached the summit of Bowan at 9:30am.

I climbed over to the other side of the summit to check out the route down the ridge and it looked a lot more difficult than expected.  Mostly Class 4-5 rock that would require a rope and gear.  We had neither so we headed back down the way we came up.  Once back at the south col we headed southwest down the slope toward a heather shelf.  Once at the heather shelf we headed down and diagonal trending northwest.  The hill side was steep heather and rock cliffs all the way down.  When we would cliff out we would head across the slope until we found a down route.  This pattern was repeated the whole way down.  We finally reached the bottom of a deep gully that spit us out on the Rainbow Lake Trail.  We headed down the trail to Rainbow Lake arriving at 2:45pm and setup camp for the night.  The camps at Rainbow Lake are very nice with a pit toilet. 

I had planned on climbing McGregor Mountain on this trip along with Bowan.  After figuring the amount of time it took to climb Rainbow Ridge and Bowan Mountain, I figured I’d need an extra day to complete the trip over to McGregor and back.  I didn’t have an extra day to spare so we settled on summiting Bowan alone. 

Monday:  We were up and moving at 6:45am, heading for home.  It was a bit chilly in the morning, Fall was definitely in the air.  We headed down Rainbow Lake Trail to Bridge Creek Trail back to the trailhead arriving at 2:15pm.  The trails were in excellent condition.

            On the way back to the trailhead we passed a few people holding a sign about a get together at the trailhead.  They said there was a bunch of food for us at the trailhead.  We thought OK, we’ll check it out.  Little did we know there was a church group that had setup a fantastic spread of food complete with chairs and a shelter.  They had hot dogs, chili, beans, cornbread, cookies, brownies, lemonade and more.  Coming off the trail dirty and tired, we felt like kings.  It was the best ending to a climb I’ve ever had.  The people were very friendly and we left with a bag full of food, a homemade cross and a prayer.  With so much going wrong in the world today, it was uplifting to experience such great people doing good for total strangers. 

  

Some Tips and Notes:

1.       There is a lot of bear activity on Rainbow Ridge right now. 

2.       It requires a lot of work and route finding to get up or down Bowan Mountain from the Rainbow Lake area.

3.       Water access was pretty good the whole loop. 

 

Travel Time for reference:

Saturday:  Trailhead to Bowan Lake Camp (6500’) – 10:30 hours.

Sunday:  Camp to Summit to Camp 2 – 8:30 hours.

Monday:  Camp 2 to Parking Area – 7:30 hours.  

  

Total Mileage:   around 28 miles

Total Elevation Gain: around 5800’

 

Gear used:   Trekking Poles, Helmet.

 

Lake at McAlester Pass.

631ab58fe8242_McAlesterPassLake.jpg.62a840a3559e02e158b4e184e1d05d53.jpg

Rainbow Ridge Bootpath.

631ab5f3b09cf_RainbowRidgeTrail2.jpg.abd4d779b8aef6fa77dd7e3d63ef0be6.jpg

Dan O climbing out of the 1st Rainbow Ridge Lake area.

631ab662dc7d0_AboveRainbowRidgeLake.jpg.6791c540c7d345d9325bed7e017b8b44.jpg

Bear utopia party on the beach at the 2nd set of lakes along Rainbow Ridge.

631ab6e5511d2_beartrackatridgelake.jpg.8bf23b6327bfce059f61bf8d335d467f.jpg

On the way down to Bowan Lake.

631ab7cf4773e_Bowanlake.jpg.178762debc7c9fe4ac892414d51868d3.jpg

On the way up to the south col of Bowan Mountain from Bowan Lake Camp.

631ab814d632e_onwaytosouthcol.jpg.b6754de11c071035787f98d61b586ad3.jpg

Heading up the South Ridge of Bowan Mountain.

631ab862e4c02_BowanMtnsouthridge2.jpg.7e27242ab9339b0f91c8e1f32fa8ec60.jpg

On the South Ridge of Bowan Mountain, Lake Chelan Valley in the background.

631ab88e77898_chelanvalleyfrombowan.jpg.4e6481515086b1685620d86179fb1865.jpg

1st Gully Crossing on Bowan.  Class 3-4.

631ab90f157fa_gullycrossingonbowan.jpg.77ce72cd1f842784ba56b8bd40387cdf.jpg

Final gully exit coming down from Bowan, popping out on Rainbow Lake Trail.

631ab98da6773_finalgullyfrombowan.jpg.423cea73909572f341e7727bd95fb82e.jpg

Bowan Mountain from Rainbow Lake.

631aba3e93a37_bowanfromrainbowlake.jpg.f13a078b1ed628188c23ceb85152efa0.jpg

View of McGregor Mountain on the way down Rainbow Lake Trail.  

631abaab37a47_McGregorfromRainbowLakeTrail.jpg.e1ec63425421ea587ec63d8bfe1a8330.jpg

Gear Notes:
Trekking Poles, Helmet.

Approach Notes:
Entered via McAlester Creek Trail, did the Rainbow Ridge Traverse, Exited via Rainbow Lake Trail
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Super cool looking trip!  Thanks for the idea....

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1 hour ago, Kuato said:

Out of the back side of the bush came a Grizzly Bear running down the slope heading toward Lake Chelan.

😱😱😱😱 

Wow!! Incredible! Lucky you to get to see one! I'm kind of terrified of grizzlies so I hope these are the only kinds of (rare) reports we'll get out of the North Cascades...

And the church group with the smorgasbord at the trailhead -- also incredible. I'd be an easy convert in this context, I think.

 

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11 hours ago, Kuato said:

Holy shit, there are Grizzlies out here! 

You do know that black bears can be brown, right?  Despite 10 years and hundreds of DNA samples from hair snares, park biologists were never able to confirm a grizzly in the North Cascades.  Do you have a photo?  All the "grizzly" photos I've seen from the area have been clearly cinnamon black bears.

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16 minutes ago, JasonG said:

You do know that black bears can be brown, right?  Despite 10 years and hundreds of DNA samples from hair snares, park biologists were never able to confirm a grizzly in the North Cascades.  Do you have a photo?  All the "grizzly" photos I've seen from the area have been clearly cinnamon black bears.

Black bears come in many different colors and they get really big too.  It wasn't the color or size that tipped me off, it was the big ass hump between the shoulder blades with the blonde tipped rough hair on top.  Black bears don't have that.  I wish I had a high end camera ready to go and knew the bear was in the bush, but I didn't.  I've seen a picture from the Cascade Pass area of a Grizzly Bear in a side profile on a ridge from a few years ago.  Pictures aren't enough to convince people.  There's smoking gun video evidence of Sasquatch from 1967, the Patterson-Gimlin Film, people still try to say it was a dude in a monkey suit.  In all my time out in the mountains, I've never seen a park biologist, sometimes I doubt that they even exist.  I've seen pictures though.  

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The real question is whether Sasquatch is an inter-dimensional traveling super intelligent alien, or is he just another shy earthbound critter?

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15 hours ago, Kuato said:

Bear utopia party on the beach at the 2nd set of lakes along Rainbow Ridge.

631ab6e5511d2_beartrackatridgelake.jpg.8bf23b6327bfce059f61bf8d335d467f.jpg

I've seen a black bear with a complete white stripe down it's back, looked like a giant skunk.  Tracks are definitely black bear.  I had a cinnamon colored black bear encounter this spring in the upper Methow and found this guide on how to tell tracks apart useful:

 https://westernwildlife.org/black-bear-ursus-americanus/know-your-bears/

                   
Edited by Bronco

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2 hours ago, Kuato said:

I've never seen a park biologist, sometimes I doubt that they even exist.  I've seen pictures though.  

They hang with the grizzlies at all times.

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3 hours ago, Kuato said:

 

Black bears come in many different colors and they get really big too.  It wasn't the color or size that tipped me off, it was the big ass hump between the shoulder blades with the blonde tipped rough hair on top.  Black bears don't have that.  I wish I had a high end camera ready to go and knew the bear was in the bush, but I didn't.  I've seen a picture from the Cascade Pass area of a Grizzly Bear in a side profile on a ridge from a few years ago.  Pictures aren't enough to convince people.  There's smoking gun video evidence of Sasquatch from 1967, the Patterson-Gimlin Film, people still try to say it was a dude in a monkey suit.  In all my time out in the mountains, I've never seen a park biologist, sometimes I doubt that they even exist.  I've seen pictures though.  

There was a lot of initial excitement about the Cascade Pass photos being a grizzly but it was quietly withdrawn as a grizzly sighting due to some additional clear photos of the same bear from a different person.

Also NPS Resource Management folks typically work a more traditional M-Th/Fri schedule and aren't out and about on the weekends.  Bowan Lake is visited quite frequently by the NPS aquatics program.

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Looks like a lovely outing. Cool to see bears.

A while back, my wife and I did a day hike that involved hiking up the S ridge of Rainbow Mtn, traversing the ridge toward McGregor, dropping over to Rainbow Lakes, and returning on the endless trail back around. Twas a lovely outing and a very long day. 

The only grizzlies I've seen have been in Yellowstone or the Canadian Rockies. Lots of black bears of all different hues around the upper Stehekin valley. I'm not going to challenge you saying you saw a Grizzly. You might let the NPS rangers know about your sighting as they get up there and would be very interested to see one.

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3 hours ago, olyclimber said:

an inter-dimensional traveling super intelligent alien

I think you solved the Sasquatch mystery AND DB Cooper!

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On second thought, the Grizzly sighting was probably just a baby sasquatch riding a black bear like a horse down the mountain, just for fun.  That would explain the yeehaw sound and the large hump between the shoulder blades.  

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