Top 200 Peak in Washington

Prominence 709 feet

USGS Silver Star Mountain

May 29, 2005


Party: John Roper, Jim Richards, Sofy roper-dog


Shelokum is Chinook jargon for “mirror.” Shelokum Peaks are a hall of mirrors.


Shelokum Peaks from SE                                                                                                                                                                                                                   JR photo May 25, 1986

The highest 8069-foot peak is on the left.

Shelokum Creek and Lake lie in the valley on the right. North Gardner Mtn is out of view to right.

Shelokum Peaks "sketch" from SE

Located 1¼ miles WSW of Top 100 peak, North Gardner Mountain (the highest point in Okanogan County), right above Shelokum Creek and Lake, and 3.6 miles SE of Silver Star Mountain across Cedar Creek, "Shelokum Peaks" is a multi-summited ridge that has gone pretty much unnoticed in local mountain literature and lore, except by those who know of John Lixvar's Top 196/200 list developed in 1975-76 (held back from public display until the mid-1980s), and the maverick, peak-bagging Trail Blazer duo of Cliff Lawson and Dan Sjolseth.


There are at least seven summits on this high ridge running N-S for a mile above 7800-feet in elevation that deserve investigation. Perhaps someday, the enchainment gang will connect all the dots. If the numbering is started on the southernmost and highest point, the peaks and elevations running north are,


Shelokum Peak #1 8069 feet

SP 2 7920+ “Pocket Mirror,” a little plug that does not show as a closed contour

SP 3 8040+ "Mirror Image S”

SP 4 8040+ “Mirror Image N”

SP 5 8000+ “Looking Glass”

SP 6 7960+ (north shoulder of 8000+)

SP 7 7844   (“Reflection Tower”--looks to have some difficulty)


Call them what you want, as usual.  This naming exercise just helps me keep them straight.  Note that the Mirror Images, Shelokum Peaks 3 and 4 are drawn in at the same 8040+ contour on the map as the highest point, and have no officially surveyed elevation number, but they may be in the running for the high point on this ridge.


Interestingly, even though Shelokum 8069 and its neighbor to the immediate SE, Peak 8082 (Wolf Head or Lamont Mtn), both Top 200 Peaks in WA by the 400' Rule, and with respective, respectable prominences of 709 feet and 402 feet, are only hinted at in Beckey's Cascade Alpine Guide 3 (under the description of North Gardner, p. 283),“There are high subsidiary points on ridges, S, WSW, and NE of the true summit.” The newest version of CAG-3 (Third Edition) will be out shortly, so take a look soon and see if they get their dues there. Steve Fry once called this “Stegosaurus Mountain,” for obvious reasons.


On paper, Shelokum looks to be a daytrip for the young gazelles. Short story: Drive North Cascades HW 20 over Washington Pass, then down Early Winters Creek to the Cedar Creek spur, and up to park at a 3000-foot TH (trailhead). It's about 7 miles and 2000 vertical by the trail to the x-c turnoff, then less than 2 miles and another 3069-foot gain to the top. RT Totals: <18 miles, 5069 feet up and down.  Easily said, but not so easily done.


Saturday, May 28, 2005

Costa Rica Jim and I got a lazy start on the Saturday of this Memorial Day Weekend, passing two county cops and one WSP trooper on the Arlington-Darrington run. By chance we ran into Jim Brisbine, Suzanne Rowen, and a couple of their buddies (Janet Putz and Beth Blattenberger) in Newhalem on their way to do Robinson. A 150-foot vertical chunk of Ross Mountain had recently fallen off the hillside right at the end of Newhalem's Main Street, narrowly missing a transmission line tower.

We didn't get walking until after noon, and stopped for a lunch rest to gander at Cedar Falls, running impressively full as a double tumble, the higher of which drops maybe 40-50 feet, about 1¾ miles up the Cedar Creek trail.

Cedar Falls


The trail was surprisingly pleasant on this 80+ degree day, largely in evergreen shade, passing through a couple of nice meadows and open groves of aspen. At one point we got a view of what I now realize are the Mirror Images 8040+, looking much more formidable than we expected.

Mirror Images, 8040+ feet each


We stopped early and made camp about here, at 4900 feet, near where the Main and South Forks of Cedar Creek join. Sofy, our Roper family's newest addition, a heart-winning little 10-month old, 13-pound terrier had done a great job to this 7-mile point on the trail. This was to be her first “real” mountain test (though she had warmed up on Lobotomy Hill), and little did we know what was to lie ahead. She made the whole trip under her own steam to here, except for one log crossing (below) over the brisk West Fork of Cedar Creek.

West Fork Cedar Creek with Sofy


May 29, 2005

We slept in and headed out of our 4900' camp at 7AM. The woods were a bit bushy initially, with tight evergreens then azaleas, but not bad. We eventually broke out on a rocky bald and stopped for photos of the eastern wall across Cedar Creek, sporting unfamiliar views of this side of Kangaroo Temple, Wallaby, Half Moon, Big Kangaroo, Big Snagtooth, Silver Star, and Silver Moon. Nice stuff.


Proceeding onward, at 6700 feet we looked up to the rocky rampart above an open basin to our right. The real-life topography at the summit crest (with Mirror Image S Peak on the left and Pocket (Plug) Mirror center) seemed much more severe than the topo map suggested.   We decided to aim, at the map's suggestion, for the farthest right bump across the basin and a ridgelet to the right. The snow patches we crossed were totally unconsolidated and even light-weight Sofy sunk in up to her belly. Much as I hate to admit it, I've got to give Jim's GPS some credit here, since before we reached what I hoped might be the top, he announced that his techie machine told him that the summit would be beyond what we could see, and indeed, that was the case as we crested the ridge.

The true top was not only beyond, but unclimbable by us via the most direct route along a wicked divide, with no gear and a small dog along. From our false summit, we could look down to Shelokum Lake which was so shallow I'd be surprised if it didn't freeze to the bottom in real winters, killing any fish that might get planted there. Above the lake, the west side of North Gardner was one big ugly-mother pile of no-thank-you scree.


So here we were, tantalizingly close to the peak top, just 200 vertical-feet above us to the right, yet the twin "Mirror Images" looked equally high to the left.  We felt like we were trapped in a House of Mirrors with no clear way to turn. We decided to side with the map's conclusion, but in so doing, we were forced to drop down about 300-vertical feet, then go around another couple of riblets to access what we hoped would be the final key scree-filled gully to the top.

This elevation-loss disappointment as I was running out of steam, coupled with the combination of heat, 61-age, a winter of slothfulness, leading to even more excess poundage than usual made me wonder why I ever thought this would be fun, "because this sure wasn't." Time was also becoming a worry, since I'd told Karen we'd be back that night, and the car seemed to be a very long ways away.


In a pathetic 5.8 hours from camp to gain 3159 feet, we finally reached the summit, and the pain turned back to pleasure, and for the moment at least, it all seemed worth it again. A small, white "Ibuprofen" bottle peeked out from under the highest rocks, and upon opening it, the recent climbing history of the mountain was revealed.


On July 4, 1999, Don Goodman (who will soon become the first person to complete the Top 200 Peaks in WA by P400) and Chris Robertson were the first to sign in on Shelokum Peaks in their new register, approaching from Shelokum Lake. Don and Chris found an old cairn, but no note--not at all in the style of Cliff Lawson and Dan Sjolseth. Then as they were lounging atop enjoying the day, they heard voices coming from the very SE ridge that they had just climbed.

Coming in from a totally different route-plan, over Sandy Butte and Gardner Mtn, and unbeknownst to each party, Mitch Blanton and Mike Torok arrived at the top of Shelokum to surprise Don and Chris that same Independence Day.

This was the same busy weekend that Ian Mackay ripped his ACL while descending North Gardner, on a simple downhill step that went too-deep, plunging and lunging his big body forward, while his leg stayed stuck. His companions, Don Beavon and Greg Koenig, honorably aborted thoughts of a climb of Shelokum to go for help for their injured buddy, who was later flown out by helicopter to a Wenatchee hospital. 

Later that year, on 10/17/99, Grant Myers and Sam Houston came up via Lamont Lake, picking off Wolf Head (Lamont) on the same trip.

The final entry before ours was on 5/4/02 by Stefan Feller and James Fishburn, when Stefan wrote, “I know everyone who has signed in. We all must be sick.”  Yes, indeed, and I know all of these folks too.  And I understand Stefan's sense of humor, and that he really meant that our "sickness" makes us healthy, and very well.

Jim Richards and sweet Sofy atop Shelokum Peaks 8069 feet

Big Snagtooth, Silver Star, Silver Moon, and South Mirror Image in background


I was wishing for Fay Pullen's clinometer here, or some kind of survey instrument, since from 8069, the top of "South Mirror Image" 8040+ was looking suspiciously close to our elevation.


Wolf Head 8082, another Top 200 Peak just SE of us, looked as though it had been in a fight with a feline with scratches all across its north face.

Wolf Head from Shelokum

In 1976, Lixvar originally borrowed the Lamont name for this summit from the lake at its base, but since this name is the same as a bankrupt Seattle-area clothing store, the name Wolf Head was coined by our second ascent party on 5/25/86, noting that this is the peak at the Head of Wolf Creek, a common approach to the Gardners.


Cliff Lawson and Dan Sjolseth were the first to climb Wolf Head (calling it “LaShelokum”) on 10/5/80. I just heard from Dan who notes that he and Cliff also climbed Shelokum that trip, which I presume was also a FA. This is all assuming that a curious prospector didn't wander over here from his mine north of Abernathy in the 1890s.

Curiously, both Lamont and Shelokum Lakes were unnamed on the 1919 Slate Pass Quad (1:125,000), but both names show up on Lage Wernstedt's 1931 Mt. Baker National Forest map, yet the 1962 Concrete quad has Lamont Lake draining into Wolf Creek.


Other thoughts from the top. Classic views of Abernathy, Gilbert, and “Marsupial Mtn” 7917' (N of Gilbert) are enjoyed from Shelokum this time of year. The most striking rock climb visible from our route to Shelokum was a buttress/wall system I'd never heard of, or regarded. I took a shot of it, and was planning on emailing the photo as an unknown, maybe unclimbed mystery to some of my real rock-jock buddies to watch them drool. Here it is.

Belly Roll at the head of Cedar Creek (right)


It has 1400 feet of pretty-darn-steep contours, 800 feet of which are extreme. This elegant nose, with walls on either side lies on the Cedar Creek side of the ridge with North Creek, just north of where the trail goes over Cedar/Abernathy Pass. I came home to look in CAG-3 to see if it had been discovered, and smiled at the revelation that this is where Beckey shines as a point-man and researcher. He not only had it nailed, calling it Point 7002, but he had talked with Geoffrey Childs (who did separate routes here in 1980 and 81) and spiderman Pete Doorish (two routes in 1990), who alone and with friends had put up not one, but four different lines on this feature, all 5.9, Grade III-IV (most of a day, to a full day). In a rare proof-reader/editor snafu, Childs' paragraph-long first route (called “Belly Roll”) is reported in two separate places in CAG-3 (2nd edition), on p. 283 with Abernathy, and on p. 312 with the Kangaroo Ridge climbs.


Sofy-dog, Jim, and I left the top of Shelokum at 1:30 PM, and about 45 seconds later, Sofy began whimpering. She didn't mind doing the uphill on teetery talus, but going down was not going to be her cup of tea. Her solution was to explore off to the side of the gully where the rock was more solid, but then she'd run into steep sections that she had trouble navigating.

Jim and I continued on, and she figured her way out of a couple of dead-end jams, but then she got seriously hung up on one steep pitch and refused to let go of her unworkable notion, much as we tried to sweet talk (and not-so-sweet talk) her into trying a different route. After we went out of her sight around a corner to wait and see if she could work herself out of a self-imposed pickle (without success), she let out enough sad whelps that I finally relented, regaining 150-vertical feet to rescue her. After this failed experiment, I put her on a leash so she'd follow along where I knew she could go.


After dropping several hundred feet down a SW gully, avoiding our up route, we stopped at a snowpatch where I kicked out a platform for Sofy to rest and cool off. She chomped at the snow and seemed quite content to just stay there.

Sofy in snow

Jim noticed that one of her paws was bleeding a bit, and her belly and bottom were barked up as well from the talus descent. At this point I simply put her in my pack and we continued down another thousand feet vertical, where we turned right into softer ground in the woods where Sofy was able to trot along on her own again.

Sofy gets a lift

We reached our camp, locating it spot-on in deep woods, about 3 hours from the top, and though Jim wasn't particularly impressed with my precise internal GPS location of this spot, I was happy my natural navigation system still worked.  We packed up, then headed out on the trail at 5PM. Those 7 miles back to the car were zero fun, and took and inordinate 3.5 hours.

Along the way out, clouds rolled in and thunder clapped frequently, applauding our departure, but then nature decided to rain and hail on our homecoming parade. A friendly couple that had packed in with llamas were sitting by a fire in the aspen grove about 4 miles in. Sofy plugged and pranced along right behind me the whole way, occasionally trotting ahead to see how Jim was doing, then would limp back to make sure I hadn't died along the way.


The trip was tough on Sofy and she pretty much slept the next two days, and wobbled up the stairs like an ancient dog when we didn't feel sorry enough to carry her. Karen and Aaron probably won't let me take her out on a tough mountain again, but she does have the FDA (first dog ascent) on Shelokum Peaks, and you can't take that away from her.

PS to you animal-rights freaks:  Now four days after Shelokum, Sofy is bounding back up the stairs again, two at a time, and is totally back to her old self.  "What can we climb next?" she asks, looking me straight in the eye.