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

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