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rubywrangler
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rubywrangler
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PostFri Aug 10, 2018 12:43 am 
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Ruby dog and I spent a couple hot, smoky and buggy days in the Alpine Lakes this week to climb Summit Chief and visit the lakes and tarns nearby. There's a lot of exploring to do up there. I wish we had stayed another day!

To avoid the long PCT switchbacks past Pete Lake, we followed the route described in Matt's 2011 report and exited via the old Escondito ridge trail described by Neek.  The off-trail portion of the approach route was very easy, just a couple short (<20ft) brushy sections.


escondito lake
escondito lake
escondito tarns
escondito tarns
meadow near escondito tarns
meadow near escondito tarns
mossy
mossy
escondito tarns
escondito tarns
escondito tarns
escondito tarns

We meandered through the Escondito tarns and hopped on the PCT at their southern end. When we arrived at the first Vista lake there were already a couple parties camped so we continued to the next one, which we ended up having all to ourselves.  I set up camp above the lake and had dinner with a view of the sun setting behind Chimney Rock.  We went to bed early in hopes of getting an early start to beat the heat and the bugs.

upper vista view
upper vista view
view from dinner spot
view from dinner spot
sun setting behind chimney rock
sun setting behind chimney rock
mosquito bite near ruby's eye. her face was covered with bites
mosquito bite near ruby's eye. her face was covered with bites
camp
camp

My alarm went off at 4:30am and it was still dark so I hit snooze a few times.  Gradually the sky changed from dark gray to light gray with no hint of sun or color.  Mosquitoes were already hovering on the tent door when I opened it at 5:30.  So much for sunrise and beating the bugs.  It was a hot and smoky morning with no breeze, and the smoke worsened as we made our way to Summit Chief.  From the 5700' col above Summit Chief lake we tried to maintain elevation but had to backtrack several times and go lower.  On the way back we traversed 50-100 feet lower which was much quicker/easier.


morning "light" on lemah, chimney, overcoat from a meadow above vista lakes
morning "light" on lemah, chimney, overcoat from a meadow above vista lakes
near summit chief pass
near summit chief pass
peach sky
peach sky
eerie light on chimney rock
eerie light on chimney rock
summit chief mtn and lake
summit chief mtn and lake
summit chief lake
summit chief lake
relaxation
relaxation

The route is described in detail in Matt's and others' reports. From the SE snowy basin, ascend to upper basin, take rock and snow ramp to notch.  Getting off of the snow and onto the ramp involved hard mud with some loose rock which was not that fun. Once we crossed over the notch, I expected to find snow since a number of trip reports, Smoot, the Mounties, etc note that the route goes up a snowy gully. But there was no snow, so we continued traversing.  I stopped to investigate one gully - the second (and correct) one - but it appeared to turn a corner and I couldn't tell what happened after the turn so I kept looking.  After wasting a bunch of time poking around and being indecisive and not finding the snowy gully, we scrambled up a steep, loose slope to access the final summit scramble.  Views from the summit were... smoky.

always ahead
always ahead
approaching the notch
approaching the notch
summit view
summit view
chimney rock
chimney rock
big snow in a smoky blue haze
big snow in a smoky blue haze
looking toward vista lakes, u-shaped tarn where we ate lunch at lower center
looking toward vista lakes, u-shaped tarn where we ate lunch at lower center
summit nap
summit nap
williams, hinman in the haze
williams, hinman in the haze
gray crawford
gray crawford

We descended via the correct gully, which I was happy to locate since downclimbing the way we had ascended seemed potentially treacherous. There was a little loose rock but by this time Ruby and I had perfected human-dog tandem climbing smile.gif After crossing back through the notch I was both dismayed and delighted to see a little blue sky and puffy clouds.  It continued to clear as we worked our way down to the Summit Chief tarns for a lunch break.  By the time we got there, the smoke had almost totally cleared, at least in the immediate vicinity.


correct gully
correct gully
clouds appearing as smoke starts to clear on our descent
clouds appearing as smoke starts to clear on our descent
not summit chief lake
not summit chief lake
cooling paws in u tarn
cooling paws in u tarn
chiefs and tarn
chiefs and tarn
reflection
reflection

After refueling and taking a ton of photos, we made our way back to Summit Chief pass and then to camp.  I took a dip in upper Vista lake and then we packed up and headed out.  We picked up the old Escondito ridge trail easily after leaving the PCT, but then lost it and had to backtrack a bit to find it.  Then we were able to stay on it until about 4600-4700 when we lost it for good.  From there it was a very brushy and unpleasant 700' bushwhack back to the escondito lake trail. I doubt we saved much time by going this way.  We stopped for a snack at Pete lake and were moving again at 8:30pm. I let Ruby set the pace to the car and we arrived at 9:50pm.  18:25/mile - not too shabby for an old dog!


summit chief lake
summit chief lake
5700' col at upper right.  we ascended the green ramps left of it.
5700' col at upper right.  we ascended the green ramps left of it.
summit chief, middle chief, little big chief, bears breast, daniel, summit chief lake
summit chief, middle chief, little big chief, bears breast, daniel, summit chief lake

More photos
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neek
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Joined: 12 Sep 2011
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neek
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PostFri Aug 10, 2018 5:52 am 
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Cool!  Sounds like the lower part of Escondido ridge has filled in a bit.  Hope these bugs go away soon.  I've been having better luck these past few weeks.
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BigBrunyon
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BigBrunyon
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PostFri Aug 10, 2018 4:21 pm 
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i been up round there!! bugs were real bad on them ridgelines!!! no clothes needed to jump in those tarn lakes but you need em for the bugs!

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i go to the FITNESS GYMS!!!
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awilsondc
Scramblin' Fool



Joined: 03 Apr 2016
Posts: 639 | TRs

awilsondc
Scramblin' Fool
PostSat Aug 11, 2018 8:58 am 
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Lovely trip! This is another one that's up there on my wish list. Hoping to get it this year or next! Great photos as always.  up.gif  up.gif
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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot



Joined: 30 Jan 2007
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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot
PostSat Aug 11, 2018 9:40 am 
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Nice trip.  Sorry to see the bug bites on Ruby, but she looked very happy rolling on the snow.

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“As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
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puzzlr
Mid Fork Rocks



Joined: 13 Feb 2007
Posts: 6382 | TRs
Location: Stuck in the middle
puzzlr
Mid Fork Rocks
PostSat Aug 11, 2018 11:09 pm 
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rubywrangler wrote:
chimney rock
chimney rock

Great shot of Chimney Rock, one of many good ones in your report.

Thanks for the info on the Escondido trail. I swore I wouldn't go up those PCT switchbacks again, but this is making me reconsider. I want to get up there for Middle Chief some day.

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Mid Fork Rocks • flickr
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rubywrangler
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rubywrangler
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PostMon Aug 13, 2018 10:56 am 
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After looking at the gps track in his report, I see that my path diverged from Neek's below 4600'. He went ~due south from there, and we stayed on the ridge proper until it hit the trail. So, it's possible that his route is still in good shape.
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D. Inscho
Not bored yet...



Joined: 28 Feb 2010
Posts: 873 | TRs
Location: Bellingham,WA
D. Inscho
Not bored yet...
PostThu Aug 16, 2018 7:08 am 
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Lovely and exciting terrain Ruby!  So many places to quietly rest one's bones.  I believe Contour5 can add more to this body of excellent effort.

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http://david-inscho.smugmug.com/

The key to a successful trip is to do the planning during work hours.       --  John Muir
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > escondito lake/tarns, vista lakes, summit chief - 8.5 - 8.6.18
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