Trip Report    

Alpine Scramble - Copper Mountain, Iron Mountain & Pyramid Peak

A strenuous single day traverse of Pyramid, Copper, and Iron peaks via the Kautz Creek Trail.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • The bugs were by far the biggest issue on this trip. We could not escape them, and bug spray wasn't even helping folks too much.

    Water sources were abundant in running streams above Indian Henry's. We all brought capacity for 2-3 liters and refilled twice throughout the day. It was a scorcher of a day and some people felt slightly dehydrated despite drinking 4-7 liters of water.

    We encountered some small snow patches, but ice axes and traction were unnecessary. People wore the footwear that they thought would best suit them to cover 20 miles with some off trail terrain, which ranged from approach shoes to hiking boots to mountaineering boots. All worked fine.

I have scheduled Pyramid, Copper, and Iron as an overnight traverse three times over the last several years and they've all been canceled for various reasons. I had an unexpected free Saturday and felt like I was in decent shape coming off some other big trips, so I thought I'd try to put together a day trip to tag all three summits. I set it up as a Mountaineers trip knowing other folks were going after the 100 Peaks and might want to join me. I tried to be specific in the trip posting about pacing, distance, and elevation, and followed it up with a lengthy email that explained that this might be a 12-15 hour day with a lot of elevation and mileage. Quite a few people canceled as a result, but at the last minute several others joined. In the end, 8 people also thought that this was a good idea! We had our team! Everyone went pretty light on gear: helmet, trekking poles, 10 essentials. I let them choose the footwear they'd be most comfortable in over that much distance and elevation, knowing that the route didn't have much snow or rock scrambling.


We departed the Kautz trailhead at 6:20 AM. We were careful to maintain an all-day pace from the start, paying attention to whether people were having full conversations as they ascended. We ascended around 1000'/hour, even with 5 minute breaks every hour, all the way up to the summit of Pyramid Peak, which we reached at around 11:20 AM. 5000'of gain in 5 hours, not bad! The route up to Pyramid is no more than a class 2 scramble. There is a boot path all the way up to the rocky summit pyramid. At that point we put on helmets and most of us stayed close to the ridge line where it was the least loose and steep. The bugs were so bad that we only spent the amount of time we needed to eat some food, apply sunscreen, and take a photo or two.

We descended and refilled our water at a stream between Pyramid and Copper. At around 1 PM we reached a saddle on the Pyramid Peak trail at around 5640' where we stopped and discussed as a team whether we would like to go home from there or traverse over to Copper then Iron. All but one person wanted to continue, and they were willing to go if everybody else was up for it. Their main concern was the bugs, not their fitness or ability. So we continued up Copper, reaching the summit at around 1:40. It was a little brushy on the way up, with some loose rock that could be avoided by traveling on snow patches. 

We started the descent basically following the ridge to the saddle between Copper and Iron, and all of a sudden one person noticed a large animal in a tree, right in the direction we were headed. It turned out to be a bear cub, and we quickly spotted the mom as well. We reversed direction and found a different way down, skiers right from the ridge. The descent from Copper ended up being the most tedious part of the trip. With the re-route we ended up descending a very steep hillside covered in heather. It was slow-going but everyone made it down just fine. We got to a less steep section, bears out of sight, and made a gradually gaining traverse toward the northwest ridge of Iron. At around 6000' we encountered a very large, flat section where we knew we would eventually descend to the patrol cabin at Indian Henry's. At this point, one participant opted to stay there and rest rather than tag the Iron summit. The rest of us continued up a steep brushy slope to Iron, reaching the summit at around 3:15. Iron was probably the neatest summit of the three, with a large open field and expansive views at the top.


We found a better use trail down from Iron than we found on the way up and rejoined our friend who opted to rest rather than summit. On the descent, one party member lost their cellular phone, so if anyone is up there anytime soon and finds it, please contact me.

The descent to Indian Henry's was tedious. There was a clear bootpath for most of it, but it was a little bushwhacky and had already been a long hot day, which we were all starting to feel. We found running water and refilled for the second time. We ended up traveling slightly skier's right of our intended direct path to Indian Henry's on the descent, and hit a large boggy marsh. We traveled around it to the left and within minutes were on the backside of the patrol cabin. At this point, we ran into the only people we saw all day: a Wonderland Trail backpacker and two trail runners. All were on the Wonderland Trail rather than Kautz. From there we only had 5.7 miles and 3000' of descent to go. We arrived back at our cars at around 7:35 PM. All in all it was a fantastic day that everybody on the trip should be proud of hiking and scrambling 17 miles and 6500' of gain in 13 hours, 15 minutes.