Forum Index > Trip Reports > 6 Days in Eagle Cap Wilderness Oregon | The Highlight Highway Loop LATE JULY 27/Aug1
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backpacker92out
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PostFri Sep 11, 2020 4:05 pm 
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Hello all, I lurk here a lot but don't post often. Today is a bit slower for me so might as well post something I did this year.

This route involved chaining several routes together into one fun loop that involves most of everything from hiking, river crossings, cross country and scrambling. This would hit a good majority of the Eagle Cap Wilderness "Highlights" in which we would call the loop the Highlight Highway loop as there is never a point during the trip that is lacking in views.

One thing I must say though is holy heck the Eagle Caps got busy! Tons of people! Luckily we didn't have to contest much as we were in lesser known cross country areas most of the time.

Day 1 | Wallowa Lake State Park > Aneroid Lake > Dollar Lake
6.9 Miles & ~4000ft of net Elevation gain


The hike up was very mellow and easy, much better grade than the steep misery of the Olympics. This was due to the equestrian attraction of the area. We started late (2pm) and got to Aneroid lake. The sun was in a horrific spot and made photos of the lake poor frown.gif the mosquitoes so far were fine. No where near as bad as they were when I was there in 2018 or earlier that year in the Winds / Chelan Sawtooths (i got a good clip of my wife getting swarmed by the 100+ mosquitoes here lol). I shouldn't say the mosquitoes weren't "bad". After experiencing the might of the Winds and Lake Chelan-Sawtooths at the height of mosquito season the later drier end of the month in the Wallowas didn't phase me too much. Aaron and Sarah however didn't enjoy the bugs too much haha. We pushed on to Dollar Lake where we camped alone, very gorgeous area that looked like Colorado / Alaska hybrid. The Wallowas are the perfect combination of an orgy of ranges across the United States molded into one area.

Meadows after Aneroid Lake
Dollar Lake

Day 2 | Dollar Lake > Imnaha Divide > Tenderfoot Pass > Polaris Pass > Sentinal Peak > Cusik Basin
6.64 Miles & 2722 ft of Elev. Gain


The miles and elevation gain are a lot lower on this trip compared to the others i've had this year as planning it I didn't know when I'd make it back to the area so I wanted time to relax and explore in the areas we camp at. This worked well, unfortunately it was extremely hot. We woke up after sleeping in and got a nice relaxing start on our x-country leg up onto the Imnaha divide from Dollar lake then cut over to Tenderfoot Pass on an easy ridge walk.

The Imnaha Divide

Tenderfoot Pass
Headed to Polaris Pass

View of the core from Polaris Pass

Aaron on Sentinal Peak as we begin our goat walk. Headed to Cusik basin
elk
First sight of Cusik Basin! All the maps we had didn't have names for the two lakes so for video and our own purposes temporarily called the upper one "Many Goat Lake" and the lower one "Gem Lake". If you know the official name of these lakes please let me know!
Down climb into Cusik Basin. This doesn't have to be done if you walk the ridge another half mile or so it will take you to a more mellow unnamed pass into the basin. We just wanted in sooner rather than later.
Many goats by Many Goat Lake.

Intense thunderstorm rolled in right as we set up camp and rained all night. One of the two crux's of the trip was coming up. We had to figure a way off of the headwall of Cusik Basin. So we took a rest day to explore the basin in sunnier weather and to figure out if there was even a way off the Cusik Basin headwall without having to rappel with rope and harness. From Polaris to Cusik Basin and the remainder of our stay here to Frazier lake we didn't see a single person.

DAY 3 | Rest Day - EXPLORE

Following the outfall to the headwall to probe for ways down. The headwall section near Many Goat lake can't be done without rope and harness. It is STEEP and VERY VERY exposed. I was getting nervous. I didn't want to back track and I wanted the loop to work badly! Eagle Cap and Glacier Peak near Gem Lakes outfall. INSANELY BEAUTIFUL. We probed and probed. I followed a cliff band down to a cave then continued to the right of the cave toward an opening on the furthest corner of the headwall and there was a very steep but manageable way down off the headwall! IT CAN BE DONE! I could now relax.

Day 4 | Cusik Basin > Headwall Downclimb > Frazier Lake > Upper/Little Frazier Lake > Prospect Lake > Glacier Lake
6.14 Miles & 3265ft of Elev. Gain


Off the headwall

Upper Frazier / Little Frazier lake
What we climbed down. We then began another x-country leg up to prospect lake.
Prospect.
Unnamed pass between prospect and glacier lake
Headed to eagle Cap summit via east snowfields
summit
Mosquito Lakes Basin
We then went back to camp @ Glacier lake

Day 5 | Glacier Lake > Glacier Pass > Lakes Basin > Razz Lakes
8 Miles & 3123 ft of Elev. Gain


What we thought was our off trail to Razz Lakes only lasted 100 yards before we found a very well kept trail that isn't on the Green trails map. It made making it to the lakes in the heat more pleasant lol.
Lower Razz lake from our camp spot! To complete our loop we would follow the tree line on the cliff band below the tower to a secondary skree slope down to Ice lake.
We took shelter in our tents on the hottest part of the day and these fly-bee looking things kept getting trapped under my rain fly and MADE THE MOST ANNOYING FREAKING NOISE. EVEN WHEN THEY GOT NEAR THE VESTIBULE EXIT OR AIR FLOW EXIT - EVEN WHILE LOOKING AT FREEDOM - THE BASTARDS COULDN'T FIND A WAY OUT. SO ANNOYING. AT NO POINT DID THEY EVER STOP BUZZING INTO THE SAME 3 SQUARE INCH SPOT OF THE RAIN FLY AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

When it cooled down we went to check out Upper Razz lake. It was also very spectacular. I prefer lower Razz Lake but Aaron liked upper Razz more.

Scouting our route on our 2nd crux of the trip. To see if we can get from Razz to Ice Lake without a rappel device. Up the cliff band we go.
...at the top there are two gullies separted by a thick grove of pines. The first gully closest to the tower was a complete no-go. Rotted and steep. "ugh oh" This wasn't looking promising in completing the loop.
I squeezed through the pines out to the 2nd gully and was much happier with what I was seeing. I couldn't believe we were a day away from completing a route my dumb ass drew up on caltopo.


Day 6 | Razz Lake > Cliff band > Ice Lake > OUT
9.77 Miles & 4674 ft of Elevation LOSS.


Headed down the 2nd gully
We squeezed out to the left of this waterfall between the trees and we saw a faint trail. We were level with Ice lake. VICTORY WAS OURS!

It was Saturday morning and Ice Lake WAS PACKED WITH PEOPLE. On our hike out we counted 30 groups headed up to the lake. Half day hikers half overnighters.

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awilsondc
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PostFri Sep 11, 2020 4:41 pm 
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Dude!  Great looking trip! Seeing Petes point reminded me how much I like that area. I need to go back.  And hey, post more often!  Great report! rocker.gif
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Slugman
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Itís a Slugfest!
PostSat Sep 12, 2020 1:26 pm 
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Awesome. You faced some real dangers. The downclimbs, the lightning, the fly-bee creatures. The sheer stupidity of the creatures can probably induce a mild headache.  embarassedlaugh.gif

I love that area, been to Glacier, Ice, Dollar, but by the regular trail routes. Your trip looks like it was a blast. Thanks for posting.

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ďThe jerking motion of a knee does not reflect the operation of a mindĒ  Slugman, January 24th 2020
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RossJames
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PostSat Sep 12, 2020 4:54 pm 
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Great videos you've got there! Gave you a subscribe on youtube  biggrin.gif
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Bosterson
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PostSun Sep 13, 2020 7:57 pm 
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Nice trip! Eagle Cap is the best place in Oregon and you saw a good chunk of it and threw in some nice off trail for good measure.  smile.gif

I don't believe the lakes north of Cusick are named. The basin is called Honeymoon Basin on Summitpost, which is how I refer to it. It's definitely a lovely spot - did you go up the ridge to the top of Cusick? I'm trying to figure out how you descended to Frazier, with all the climbing down a rocky gully - can you draw it on a map or pic of the "headwall"? I did that descent in 2018 and we went down a series of ramps in a skier's right direction from in front of the lower lake. In this pic, we would've started from the left of the left bump and then descended leftwardly (from this view) down and out of the frame. (Photo taken from Frazier, notch upper right is Hawkins Pass.)


Nice work on finding the hidden ramp up from Razz up to the notch that leads back down to Ice Lake. That is a fun scramble. I did it from the Ice Lake side (traversing west from Razzberry Mtn) and got down to the Razz Lakes and was shocked to discover some guys down there who had come up from the Lakes Basin. I think that trail is mentioned in the Barstad Eagle Cap guidebook, but yeah it's weird it's not on maps. I don't think it's a user trail - I think it's decommissioned. There's also an abandoned trail segment leading over to Unit Lake from Horseshoe.

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Follow the river until it turns to ice. Follow the ice until it turns to rock. Follow the rock until it turns to sky. Then we will be there.
--Woodrow Wilson Sayre
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backpacker92out
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PostWed Sep 16, 2020 8:29 pm 
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I can post a detailed caltopo of the whole route in a week when I have more time.

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backpacker92out
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PostWed Sep 16, 2020 8:34 pm 
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awilsondc wrote:
Dude!  Great looking trip! Seeing Petes point reminded me how much I like that area. I need to go back.  And hey, post more often!  Great report! rocker.gif

Thanks! I don't post too often because I only do cross country routes / backpacking. The average posts here indicate the main hobby amongst nwhikers seems to be peak bagging which doesn't interest me too much just as my routes/hiking probably don't interest the general nwhikers too much so I don't want to take up nwhikers web space spamming backpacking trips haha

when i get more free time i can post my bailey trip as that place seems to be one of the favorites here, understandable. it's gorgeous.

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