Bunker Hill (Pasayten, WA)

August 29, 2022


Pasayten Wilderness, WA

Bunker Hill is a lesser known summit buried deeply in the Pasayten Wilderness. The Boundary Trail traverses pretty much over its summit, but to get to this spot via Boundary Trail’s either direction takes several days. This is not a significant summit by any measure so those who summitted Bunker Hill likely did it as part of the Boundary Trail through-hike. I obviously had some other plans. I noticed this peak while doing Sheep Mountain a couple months ago. The Pasayten River FSR goes to within 1 km from the BC/WA border and from the BC side Bunker Hill seems like a quick ascent albeit with some bushwhacking. I wouldn’t drive this far just to do Bunker Hill but I did keep this objective in mind when I happened to be in the area.

This happened to be the case on this Monday. Matt Lemke drove north to give Castle Peak an attempt and I agreed to join. We decided to follow Eric Gilbertson’s route but taking bikes to shorten the approach. The idea seemed brilliant but the reality was cruel. We arrived at Monument 83 trail-head the night before only to see a trail closure sign saying some bridges were out. We ignored the closure sign as usual and even carried the bikes over two creeks (taking shoes off) but then we encountered hundreds of dead-falls. Lifting the bikes over some dead-falls wouldn’t be problematic, but within a few kilometers we had seen 100 of them. This was starting to become stupid so we made the decision to cut the loss and go back. After wasting 2 hours for nothing we were back to the truck. I threw out a few possible consolation objectives including Three Brothers and Chuwanten but clearly Matt was more keen on peaks in Washington. Matt picked Bunker Hill out of the three suggestions. This would be my last pick out of the three, but it’s on my “list” so I agreed to give it a try. The access road seemed to be in a better shape than last time I was here, such that we cruised down to mainline in no time. The spur roads labelled on my maps seemed rather non-existent so we turned around and parked on the main road. We pushed the bikes for about 100 m into the overgrown spur road and locked them onto a tree. These two fatbikes together worth over 10,000 dollars so we didn’t want to risk losing them.

This is how Monument 78 trail looks like…
Two bridges at the beginning were completely gone
Bikes and bushwhacking do not seem to mix up well..
Bunker Hill via north slopes access.

Due to the lack of cell reception we couldn’t download the satellite images so the navigation would have to be done purely on Gaia’s topo map. For complicated logging roads assisted hikes in lesser-known areas the Gaia map can be undertooled and this one was surely the case. The spur “road” shown on the map was basically too overgrown to walk on, so we made the decision to just bail into the bush to go straight up the slopes. The bushwhacking was definitely annoying, but within a tolerable range. After a while we popped onto another road that seemed much more defined and followed that road to the end, within 500 m from BC/WA border. We talked about to take this road back on the descent but we had no idea where this road originated from. The thrash to the border was starting to become worse and the worst was the first kilometer on the Washington side of the border. We were literally traversing ground that every square foot is filled in with pick-up-sticks. Thankfully those sticks weren’t super mangled so we were actually able to maintain a steady pace. This trip started to become stupid again but we were already too far into the pain to cut the loss. This was overall not a long hike so we were committed to get the job done.

A couple hours later here’s Matt starting to bushwhack up Bunker Hill
Chuwanten Mountain in the horizon was another possibility on this day
The Washington side of the border was full of pick-up-sticks
Matt taking a needed break from the bushwhacking
A dip on the ridge followed by a steep grunt over more pick-up-sticks

We kept checking the maps to see how far we still had to bushwhack to reach Boundary Trail on the west side of Bunker Hill and the progress took a lot longer than anticipated. It was a few kilometers’ of bushwhacking to get there. This was shaping up to become an “ultimate” definition of dumpster-diving but thankfully the upper mountain wasn’t as bad. Once joining the trail we had a pleasant hike to the summit covering another 3 km distance. The trailed portion was also longer than expected, but with good views into the Pasayten and northwards into Canada. From the summit we could see the bulk mass of Sheep Mountain to the east as well as some familiar Bulgers from unfamiliar angles. We even caught some strong cell receptions so we spent about an hour reconnecting to the society.

Finally we joined Boundary Trail. The summit was still far away…
Matt leading up the Boundary Trail through more burnt forest
Finally breaking out of the trees, looking back towards Chuwanten Mountain
The other parts of Bunker Hill finally started to look smaller
Castle Peak is that taller peak in the distance. We should’ve been up there…
The north face of Ptarmigan Peak, one of the deepest Bulgers in Pasayten
Farther north in BC was very smoky and cloudy
Sheep Mountain in that bulk mass in foreground
Matt exploring the summit with logging roads in BC behind…
Matt on the summit of Bunker Hill
Me on the summit of Bunker Hill

Eventually we must face the descent and the bushwhack. I let Matt to lead in front for most of the time while I stayed behind to check GPS and to correct our bearing. The downhill travel over pick-up-sticks was overall not as terrible as on the ascent. After the border I took over the lead to find the end of the road. I was literally bushwhacking while holding the phone on my hand to retrace our GPS tracks. Lower down we decided to more-or-less stick to the known and dived back into the bush to get back to the truck. Overall I cannot say that I enjoyed this ascent, but for a low-expectation summit this was actually not too terrible. The drive home was long and tiring. We eventually drove back to Abbotsford to meet up with Matt Juhasz who lent us the second fatbike. Matt had just finished an ascent of Tulameen Mountain so we exchanged our stories of the day.

After a long while it was finally the time to start descending
Matt hiking in front of Ptarmigan Peak etc.
Matt now descending with Chuwanten Mtn. behind
There were actually quite a lot of cairns on this trail as it’s faint at places
Into the forest. This was a very hot and dry day
We were still on the trail here traversing through burnt forest
Eventually we had to leave the trail to deal with the pick-up-sticks
Looking back towards Bunker Hill. That’s just a fore summit
Thankfully most of the time the bushwhacking wasn’t bad
Nearing the border the sticks started to become more intense
Matt negotiating the worst stretch of bushwhacking
“Border Lake Peak” and Sheep Mtn. to the east, two peaks that I did in June
The truck’s visible but we had to bushwhack more to get there…