Sunday, July 27, 2014

Upper Wildcat Lake, Caroline Peak 7.25-26/14




  While I had expected to have another week of work before I leave on vacation,.  Life had other plans. My  place of work is in a Bellevue tower and when the fire department was testing the fire suppression a pipe failed over my livelihood.  The deluge filled the space into two feet of water, forcing the closure for the foreseeable future. It appears that this may be a blessing since because of the closure I was able to experience this memorable trip.  I have been told that insurance is covering my salary until repairs can be made. I love my job but believe me I am in no hurry for anything to be fixed.


   I now have an immense of free time, what to do. I have always loved the campsite at Upper Wildcat and I could knock off Caroline and maybe give Wild Dare a shot.  I had feared that the Snow Lake Trail would be crowded but nothing could prepare me for the hordes I encountered. I saw more people in the first mile than I have seen in the last 3 years combined. Thankfully the weather was cool and some cloud cover blocking the midday sun. I struggled with making any reasonable time  to Snow Lake. If I stopped for every person coming down I would have taken all day to get to Snow Lake. I managed to make decent time to the overlook and the short descent to the lake




The trail now meanders the length of the lake crossing the outflow on an impressive log. Finally after some up and downs the trail climbs to Gem Lake. There is an interesting mix of terrain and area peaks start standing out. A short ways before reaching Gem I passed a young couple with a young one making the hike. It was good to see a young one that far in. I changed my plans to camp at Gem instead and go Caroline the next day. All I could think was passing him gave me a better choice of camps..... if any were available. I laughed a few minutes later the man passed me. I was sure he had thought he had better get the jump on getting the best spot. When I reached the lake I thought I saw the man going to the East. I could see the prime camping on the Eastern shore was taken. I dropped pack and scouted the area finding a spot that would work.  A short time later the wife who I had passed earlier was unsure which way her husband had gone. I pointed in direction that she needed to go. A short time later her husband came from the West looking for his wife and child.  Feeling a bit foolish about leading the wife astray, I decided that it best to continue on to Upper Wildcat. I was thankful when I passed the couple on the way out and found out that the husband had gone the entire way around the lake. The trail climbs to saddle and drops steeply to  valley below. The trail is good shape and provides some nice views.


There were some larger areas of snow to negotiate before the grade lessens and meanders to Lower Wildcat Lake. There is a decent campsite at the end of the maintained trail. Just after the campsite there is a distinct fisherman's trail that climbs 400' steeply before reaching the lake. I had a real concern that may spot would be taken. I wasn't too surprised when there was a single man camped. The spot is huge so I debated on asking if he minded sharing but I thought better to continue. The fisherman's trail continues along the lake and I found a spot that I could make work. Had I continued there are two other camps that would have been much better. I set up camp in the midst a swarm of black gnats. After quickly getting the tent set up I decided to wait them out in the tent. I was very thankful that I had brought a tent just because to the bugs. As I laid there I could see the clouds building above me reminding me in order to save space and weight I hadn't brought a rainfly. When the sun started waning the mosquitoes added to the hordes of bugs present. I decided to eat some food that needn't be cooked and retire for the night. I awoke thinking I heard the patter of rain but when I opened my eyes all I saw was stars. I rested much more peacefully after that. As always Bosco ran out some animals in the night. I was sorry that it bothered my close neighbor but having the dog standing watch always gives me a sense of peace. Getting woken up by the dog barking is small price to pay to sleep peacefully the rest of the time. I had erred and not brought enough shirts and I soaked the two I had. I decided that my best course of action was to sleep until I saw sunlight on my tent. At 10am the sun finally made it way down to my tent. Thankfully I had laid my wet shirts in spot the welcomed the sun a bit earlier. I really don't like putting on a wet shirt in the morning, or any other time for that matter. I cooked up some food and filtered some water.  I  took off on the path heading the lake I started a rising traverse to reach the col  between Wild Dare and Caroline Peaks. My objective dominating the landscape



I had been on the fisherman's trail that goes to Caroline Lake on a previous so I knew what to expect.Now your see me.


Now you don't




I was feeling sluggish and started to get frustrated with losing the trail. I had planned on 3 hour round trip but after an hour I had little to show for it. I contemplated turning around when magically the trail would reappear forcing me to continue. As I started getting closer to Caroline Lake the trail became much easier to follow. The trail crests and drops to lake. Here I left the trail making my a short ways where I found a nice campsite. While I hadn't thought I would end up on the Eastern side of the ridge. I could see a gully heading up for an easy run further up the ridge. I dropped to this gully and easily made my way up. It was wet in spots but was an easy ascent line. I now was on the ridge with a view of the summit block. There were enough snow patches that I could leave directional arrows pointing my way to the correct gully.




Getting closer.



Knowing that I couldn't tackle head the summit block head on. I instead headed to the West Ridge on some large snow fields. The snow made more much faster travel that what lies beneath it. I could see the West Ridge and could see that I could make it up without too much bother.





I dropped pack and broke out the ice axe. I really never needed it but I thought I might, so I took it. It seems the closer you try to access the ridge to the summit the harder it is. I angled further down the ridge to find some easier access. I reached the ridge  after 75' of scrambling. I found easy going to the summit. I found a huge cairn but sadly I couldn't find the summit register. What I did was find views beyond compare. Standing out was Lake Caroline below.




It had taken me 3 hours to reach the summit from camp. I still needed to get back to camp and huff it out in time for dark. now just to make my way back. I easily scrambled back to my pack. I made great time on the snowfields. I was thankful to find my snow arrow pointing me in the right direction. I dropped the gully and climbed back to the campsite without any issues. I managed to stay more on the trail than not as I made my way back. I had hoped to climb Wild Dare, but I had neither the legs or the time. I thankfully found myself at the col and I found manageable travel back to camp. I had some lunch before packing up. I was dreading the 1000' climb back to Gem Lake. Thankfully it was later in the day making staying in the shade easier. I kept it grinding finally making it to Gem. I found some nice views in the fading light.



Now it was mostly down hill. I just kept the wheels turning. The last mile seemed twice as long but in the end I beat sundown back to the car. I very thankfully changed into some very dry clothes. 



Approx 21 miles 6800/' of climb 31 hours car to car

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tinkham, East Tinkham and Silver Peaks Loop 7.21.14




I had hoped to do a 3 night camping trip but as things sometimes go, life got in the way. Instead I was limited to just Monday. I wasn't able to land any partners so I was again solo. A recent report I had read rekindled my interest on a loop trip I had attempted last year. Since I hadn't done either Tinkham or its Eastern summit I thought I could bundle it all together. I was expecting cloudy weather but instead I was fortunate to have full sun all day with comfortable temperatures. I was also expecting the bugs to be bad but again I was fortunate. I only had some minor bug issues near Silver's summit. I got a late start but I knew I had plenty of time. The road to the PCT intersection was in much worse shape than the last time I was there. Be wary there are some bigger potholes. I was the only car parked at the PCT intersection.  I kept a good pace for the nearly 2 miles to the climbers path leading to the ridgeline. On a previous trip I had walked past this junction but today I didn't make that mistake. I found a bit funny that the only people I saw on this day I crossed paths with right at the junction. It made me feel like someone was watching out for me. I quickly made it up the good tread to reach the ridge. My first objective came into view.





  The climber's trail starts on the ridge keeping North of the boundary for the watershed.. The trail was mostly easy to follow. A few time I got suckered too far North on way trails that led to overlooks.  The trail becomes quite steep but there isn't any exposure. The Last 200' are more of a rock scramble with some slabby areas.  I was rewarded with some nice views as I topped out along with a view of my next objective.






  The path continues on to the Eastern summit which is 3' lower. The going is surprisingly easy and soon I found myself on the Eastern summit. My next objective of Silver Peak looking very far away.



I quickly retraced my steps taking great car to stay on route on the way down. I missed one obscure turn following a worn path leading to some very steep down climbing. I resisted the urge to take a more direct line and instead found my error and kept myself on trail back to the lower reaches of the ridge. Thinking I had made it through the worst of it, I  instead had much more trouble on the lower portions. The recent rain had made some of the exposed roots exceedingly slippery. Thankfully the grade is much less so it didn't pose any real issues. I followed the path and dropped a short way just after the junction with the Abiel climber's trail. I was surprised to find some very large lingering snow patches.



As I climbed a bit higher the views of where I had come from opened up





The initial portion of the climb is very tedious with a lot of very loose rock. After 200' of climb the footing improves greatly. I passed a neat snow patch that was 10' tall and small cave melted out. Soon I found myself on the summit. I continued heading NWon a defined climber's path. The path traversed on the West side of the ridge high above lake Annette. I followed for some time before climbing up to the ridge line and dropping to the East. I think had a gone a bit further I would have found an easier way to the snowfields below. I angled a bit North and found some lower angled terrain to get me onto snow.











 There are two broad gullies here, I chose the western gully. After reaching the end of the snow I had some steeper areas to contend with to get me down to trail visible below. Once reaching the trail it promptly led to another rock slide. Growing weary of walking on rocks I instead stayed in the light forest. This led me to an steeper area that I didn't want to climb down to reach the more benign slopes below. I had intended on backtracking a short way back to get back on route. I instead found some easier slopes to the East which gave me access to some more rock slides. I stayed on the margin of the rock finding some evidence of prior traffic. I reached an are of steeper wet, loose rock in a small gully. Fearing rock fall from the dog after I dislodged a huge rock that fell 200', I urged the dog ahead. Thinking the dog was out of harms way I continued down dislodging another big rock. I waited with bated breath as I feared the rock would connect with my pup. Thankfully the rock crashed harmlessly below. I was now back in low angled forest as I did a Westerly tending traverse. I found a fire ring just before the another rock slide with a structure built of timber and stacked rocks. It was like a big rock cabin with no roof. Thankfully a short time later I found the path leading to the logging road I needed to connect with to make my way back to the car. I highly recommend this rout because it has a lot of varied terrain.

Approx 7 miles 3000' of climb 4:45 car to car

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fisher, Ptarmigan and Upper Ptarmigan Lakes 7.14-15.14




  A recent dual family tragedy had left me alone to tend to the kids, household and work while my wife was in Colorado aiding her parents. I was happy to say that many friends and family made themselves and their homes available to help watch my kids when I had to work. It is always nice to see people step up to help those in need. I managed to get the kids everywhere they needed to go on time and still make it to work. While the circumstances why this needed to be weren't great the end result was that I got some great time with my kids which I am as always very grateful.  I had to take the kids to the airport on Monday morning in order to get them on a plane so they could reunite with my wife. Both girls had never flown by themselves but , just like everything else they took it in stride. My oldest had a emotional time boarding the plane, crying about missing me already. While I don't usually like to see my kids express all their emotions for the world to see, in this instance it gave me some bittersweet feelings. I am very happy that my kids will indeed miss me as I will dearly miss them.   Since I had to wait until the plane actually took off before leaving I was waiting around. A man approached me to give me some emotional support. He had incorrectly assumed that the kids were flying off to see there mother for the summer. When I told him that they were meeting my wife due to family emergency he seemed overjoyed. He was quick to say sorry about the family tragedy but I knew what he was happy to see a family still as one unit. It was a trivial encounter to some extent but it did give me some warm feelings when I thought about how complete my life is.


    Since I don't have anyone but the dog to answer to on the home front I decided a overnighter would be fun. Steve and I had planned on going next week since my family was scheduled to be in Colorado then. I thought it might be a good idea to shake the kinks out and go before next week. My packing was a bit behind since I had left the tent out to air not knowing it was going to rain so I had to wait until I returned from the airport and the tent had some time to dry out.  By the time I picked up Steve in Lake Stevens it was nearly 2. The plan was to drive to the end of The Tonga Ridge Road to use the Eastern Trailhead to access the fisherman's trail to Fisher Lake. By the time we reached the trailhead it was already past 4. The trail climbs 1400' on good tread to connect with the fisherman's trail.  There are a couple of options here. Coming from the East the first trail mainly traverses before descending to the lake. This trail is flagged and a bit marshy to start. The trail itself isn't hard to follow and it is the way I prefer to get to Fisher Lake. You can also bypass this trail and continue a bit further and there is the more used trail that climbs up and over two bumps befroe dropping to the Fisher Lake. This trail is mostly unpleasant with a lot of running water and generally unfavorable travel.


    Once we reached the lake I decided it best to camp at Fisher Lake instead of the goal of the great campsite between Upper and Lower Ptarmigan Lakes. We quickly set up shop and I was happy that the bugs were relatively benign for me. Steve on the other hand looked like he had been attacked by a swarm. Even his back was devastated with welts despite the fact that he was wearing a shirt.  I made dinner and Steve retired to the tent to gain a reprieve from the bugs. I stayed out until after sundown enjoying the light breeze and emerging stars.



I went to sleep quite early and had a restful night of sleep. The dog ran off something in the middle of the night waking me once and the moon shining on me like a spotlight woke me up another time but other than that it was a peaceful night.  We had a lazy morning before heading to the outlet where the trail to Ptarmigan Lakes starts. The trail was mostly easy to follow and soon it spit us out on the rockslide on the Western shore.



I could see that Steve was struggling with the rockslide and the very warm sun so decided that any climbing just wasn't in the cards. Thankfully we made it through the blazing hot rocks to reach the north shore and the continuation of the trail to the Upper Lake. We made our way to the primo camp site and dropped packs. We both tried a bit of fishing but I only have hardheartedly tried since the fish I did see where so small. I instead found a nice shady spot to take a nap. I could see that getting to the ridge West above me would be easy enough and I could see the heather gully granting access to Shroud Mt's East ridge all looked doable. There was still quite a bit of snow guarding the access gully but this would probably be helpful. I was a bit sad that I wouldn't be able to muster an attempt but I felt like it was the right thing to do given the circumstances.



After giving up fishing we decided to head back to camp. The way out was much faster despite the fact that we had to climb a couple hundred feet of elevation to get back to camp. Upon returning to camp we packed up and started heading out. For the return I decided to stick to the main fisherman's trail instead of the secondary one we used for our approach. I thought I remember a signed junction heading to Jewel Lake on a previous visit but I couldn't find a distinct path although large portions of the trail where still snow covered.




After cresting a bump we descended a short way to reach a nice flat meadowy area.  I  thought I remember a spur trail that continues straight instead of following the main path. I could see signs in the meadow so we continued on this lesser path. I started growing concerned when this path started heading more to the lake instead of heading out as I had hoped. I didn't want to find myself back at the lake so I decided to backtrack and rejoin the main path. Upon seeing my GPS track I wish I would have continued a bit further since we would have connected with the secondary path we had used to get to the lake. Instead we stayed on the main path for an unpleasant trail back to the main trail. Steve had several cramping episodes on the way out adding some time to the descent but we both were happy to make back to the car to enjoy some semi cold beers.



Approx 12 miles 2400' of climb 24:30 Car to car




Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Bare Mt. 5335' 7.1.14



I had hoped for some companionship on this day but in the end I couldn't coordinate schedules to make that happen. I had kid patrol until 12:30 which didn't make me excited to try something more challenging. With the very warm temperatures I didn't want to stray too far off trail. I had planned on doing Bare Mt. with my friends so I figured I would still give a go solo. The North Fork Road  was in descent shape and much better on the way out as they are currently grading it. In fact the way out was as good as one could hope for. I always forget how long of a drive it is to the Bare Mt. Trailhead. Finally I made it to find one other rig parked. I was happy that it wasn't as hot as I feared and the bugs have still not made an appearance. 













I headed up the trail excited to find even cooler temperatures in the shade of the forest. While the water was high when I reached the crossing I was able to easily cross on twin logs. Be wary however one of the logs is past it's prime and I nearly snapped it going across.  Soon I broke out of the trees to find that there was much more than expected snow above 5000'. I had expected the slopes under Canoe Peak to be mostly melted out. It appeared that everything above Bear Lakes was still snow covered. I gave some thought to changing my plans and climbing Canoe instead. I had no way of letting my wife know my change of plans so I decided to stick with my original plan. Once reaching the first switchback there is a cairn marking the fisherman's trail to Bear Lakes. The initial portion looks to be in better shape than I remember. The trail thankfully passes a few springs to keep the dog hydrated. I tried to speed through the sunny portions and go slower in the few shady portions because the sun was blazing down on me. Finally I reached the saddle and dropped pack. I could see that Paradise Lakes below me were mostly still frozen. I passed a couple of young women on there way down, they were the only two people I saw on the whole trip. There were a few annoying patches of snow on the summit push but nothing that was too bothersome. I was greeted on the summit with some stiff wind which took much of the sting on the very warm sunshine. I snapped many pictures since Bare provides a very nice vantage point of the surrounding area. 









After a short rest I made my way back to my pack and started the descent to the car.  I was able to make good time and soon I found myself back at the car. The drive out was made more difficult because for many portions I was driving straight into the sun making it nearly impossible to see. I also wanted to give a hearty thank you to the moron who was heading in with an immense light bar on the top of his truck. The lights were so bright that even with my sun glasses on I couldn't see anything but the blinding light. This setup could not be even close to being legal. I thought the sun was bad but these lights were considerably worse. I thankfully didn't run into him since I really couldn't see.


Approx 9 miles 3200ft of climb 4 hours car to car

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