Lake Chelan Wilderness – rugged, wild and beautiful but due to the long drive from Seattle seldomly visited. Approximately 194 miles of trail traverse the region. They stretch from deep valleys and reach to the bases of mountains, some of which top the list of 100 highest peaks in Washington State.
Courtney Peak with its heights of 8,392 ft occupies number 81 on this list. It’s summit is bit shorter than its neighbors – Star and Oval Peaks – but the views it offers are just as impressive and from this trio Courtney is the easiest one to be climbed.
Shortly after leaving West Fork Buttermilk trailhead, stream crossing is encountered over a swiftly flowing creek. Make-shift bridge of fallen trees aids the crossing but not everybody will feel comfortable on the unsecured, and often wobbly logs and those who don’t might prefer taking their shoes off and wading the stream.
From there the trail climbs gently towards Fish Creek Pass. It gains 3700 feet before reaching the pass but only a few short sections are steep enough for one’s legs and lungs to take a notice.
Fish Creek Pass is base of the climb which follows an obvious northwest trending ridge all the way to the summit. It gains additional 1000 feet on easy class 2 terrain. Few class 2+ moves might be required near the summit.
Courtney Peak can be climbed in one long day but unless you live in the area and can easily visit again, it would be a shame to leave without exploring beautiful Star Lake basin below the peak filled with larch trees or an opportunity to attempt another summit.
Campsites are scattered through the basin, most of them in the proximity of Star Lake. If you venture across the basin you will find larger site in a cluster of trees with a great view of Star Peak. You can easily fit 3 tents here and amenities include fire pit with large benches and a crystal clear stream to obtain your water from.
Hiked: 7/2/16 – 7/4/16
From the small town of Twisp on Highway 20, head west on the Twisp River Road for about 10 miles and turn left onto West Buttermilk Creek road. At the “Y” in the road veer right onto East Buttermilk Creek Road and go 3 miles before veering right on Road 500. Follow this road almost 3 miles to the trailhead. You will need NW Forest Pass or America the Beautiful Pass to park here.