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Tvashtar
Tvashtalker



Joined: 22 Aug 2005
Posts: 1226 | TRs
Location: The 11th Dimension
Tvashtar
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Tvashtalker
PostSun Oct 01, 2006 2:18 pm 
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Bath Lakes High Route

Route Summary:
Day 1:  Downey Creek washout > Sulfur Mtn TH (via mtn bike) > Sulfur Mt
Day 2:  Sulfur Man > Bath Glacier Pass
Day 3:  Bath Glacier Pass > Canyon Lake > Image Lake > Suiattle River Trail > Milk Creek Trail intersection
Day 4:  Out.

Trip Summary:  Bearmart Blueberry Special

Day 1 (Sep 26, 2006):  When a nice little creek turns bad

The Downey Creek bridge, now a half-bridge, is a fully engineered, reinforced concrete monolith formerly capable of handling the traffic of any two lane highway in America.  During one torrential day on October 20th, 2003, over 10 inches of rain fell on the Glacier Peak Wilderness.  Downey Creek, normally a pleasant little stream, destroyed two of the bridge’s huge concrete stanchions, shearing the entire structure in half.  What is left is a surreal monument to the enormous power of that slippery little Mickey Mouse molecule that sculpts the face of our planet. Nineteen other major bridges in the Glacier Peak Wilderness were also destroyed, some so completely their remains were never found.

Downey Creek Bridge
Downey Creek Bridge

The Downey Creek washout cut off only two miles of road, but this relatively minor inconvenience transformed one of the most popular trailheads in Washington into a seldom visited backwater.  As a result of this near total erasure of human presence and the lack of trail, the Bath Lakes High Route offers an incredible concentration of wildlife in a pristine alpine setting, particularly in the fall.

After I stashed my mountain bike in a mossy hollow, I began trudging up the Sulfur Mtn trail at 1:30 pm.  The previously night’s carbo loading at the Reading Gaol seemed like such a great idea at the time.

I emerged above tree line, dropped and the head of the swampy valley just beneath Sulfur Mtn, and climbed the steep slopes just NW of the peak to gain the beautiful high benches that run along part of the ridge’s western side.  I contoured along these benches until they ended, then followed the ridge crest, dropping east when convenient, crossed a saddle, and dropped to another west side bench, where the setting sun suggested that it might be time to bivouac.  A snow patch provided water.  (Note:  This is a very dry route; take extra water carrying capacity and a little extra fuel for melting snow).

Blueberry, Day 1
Blueberry, Day 1

Day 2:  Navigation by Oscillation

I hoped to reach Canyon Lake by evening.  This would put me in a comfortable position to be back in Seattle by around noon on Friday to take care of some unfinished business.

At 7:15 a.m. I was heading for the next pass, a beautiful spot of sculpted granite slabs, an unobstructed view of Glacier Peak, and a few seeps for water. From here the route contours high along the southern alp slopes of the divide until drops to a small, grassy pass just SW of Bath Lakes.  I tried to drop into the valley before this.  Don’t.  Delay # 1.

Dome Peak, early on Day 2
Dome Peak, early on Day 2
Dome Peak and Sinister, Day 2
Dome Peak and Sinister, Day 2
Tvashtar Lake, just East of Sulfur Lake
Tvashtar Lake, just East of Sulfur Lake

At this point, an excellent goat trail (do these animals except any pay?) provides efficient passage across the ridge’s cliffy N side to Bath Lakes.  Lower Bath Lake is deep, below tree line, and seems to have a healthy fish population.  Unfortunately, the trailer dwellers had gotten to it, so, for the Nth time, I erased their fire ring and packed out their trash so their toothless, methed-out mommies wouldn’t have to.  Deny global warming, embrace intelligent design, believe whatever you want, Dick Bo, but Copenhagen tins are definitely not flammable.

Upper Bath Lake is a lovely affair surrounded by meadows and scarred by only one wife-beater campsite.

Upper Bath Lake
Upper Bath Lake
Upper Bath Lake
Upper Bath Lake
Upper Bath Lake, looking back
Upper Bath Lake, looking back

Once over the pass above Bath Lakes, high country low culture disappeared entirely.  I had been granted a temporary pass into bear heaven.  Over the next two days I saw 14 of these animals; up to four at a time on a single alp slope.  The area was lousy with them.

Busted!  Above Canyon Lake
Busted!  Above Canyon Lake
Alp slope east of Bath Lakes, Sloan Pk in backround
Alp slope east of Bath Lakes, Sloan Pk in backround
Glacier Peak, Day 2
Glacier Peak, Day 2

The route continues contouring high along the ridge’s crest or south side until it reaches the Great Impasse, an east facing cliff (obvious on the map) that runs from the crest downward more than 1500 ft.  It was here that I wasted much time and energy searching for a chink in this barrier.  Part of my objective on these trips is to boldly go where better men have gone before.  In the end, however, I resorted to brute force by dropping the 1500 or so feet and slinking beneath this cliff via a steep deer trail.   It might be feasible to down climb or rap either the ridge crest (steep, exposed, and chossy), or a ramp about 2/3 of the way up the cliff, but, frankly, it’s probably quicker to employ gluteus rather than sphincter power and just do the end run.

Glacier Peak, from below the Great Impasse
Glacier Peak, from below the Great Impasse

From here Beckey describes the route as continuing along the south side, but there’s another cliff further east.  A better route is to avoid this hassle by traversing the Tvashtar Glacier via a pass where the glacier gently kisses the crest (obvious on the map).  I camped on a beautiful perch just beneath this pass and watched embers of alpenglow cool on Glacier Peak.

Crescent Moon over Glacier Peak from Camp 2
Crescent Moon over Glacier Peak from Camp 2
Dawn on Glacier Peak from Camp 2
Dawn on Glacier Peak from Camp 2
Dawn on Glacier Peak from Camp 2
Dawn on Glacier Peak from Camp 2

Day 3:    The Exploding Bear

Fresh snow covered a bit of the glacier’s western lobe, so to avoid any surprises I skirted around it on moraine and slabs, then dropped via some scree ramps about 500 feet to the lower, eastern glacier.   From here I donned six point crampons (love them) and tiptoed across low angle, un-crevassed ice to Totem Pass.  From here I contoured around the final high point and descended alp slopes to a game trail which leads directly to Canyon Lake.  Above me, three bears plied the blueberries on Bannock’s southern slopes.

Pass to glaciers, Dome Peak in distance
Pass to glaciers, Dome Peak in distance
Tiptoeing Across the Glacier towards Totem Pass
Tiptoeing Across the Glacier towards Totem Pass
Descent into Canyon Lake
Descent into Canyon Lake

It’s trail from here on.  The walk from Canyon to Image Lake is gorgeous and bear infested.  I saw 8 in three hours.  While photographing one, I heard a “whomp!” turned, and saw a huge, furry ass explode out of a gulley right in front of me.  He tore full speed down the talus for half a mile, paws flying, fur flapping.

Alp Slope, Canyon-Image Lake Trail
Alp Slope, Canyon-Image Lake Trail
Plummer Mnt from Canyon - Image Trail
Plummer Mnt from Canyon - Image Trail
Canyon to Image Lake, Day 3
Canyon to Image Lake, Day 3
Camp 2 (center saddle) from Image Pass
Camp 2 (center saddle) from Image Pass
Glacier Panorama, from Miners Ridge
Glacier Panorama, from Miners Ridge

The trail from the Miner’s Ridge Lookout to the Suiattle River must have been graded by someone’s grandmother.  It’s so flat I had to jog it to avoid dying of old age.  Due to the lack of use, particularly by horsies, the Suiattle River trail is in superb condition, with the exception of some blow downs.  The Fred Flintstonian Canyon Creek Bridge should be its own national monument.  The adjacent campsites, enough to accommodate an open air rock concert, match the colossal scale of this eighth unnatural wonder.

Canyon Creek Bridge
Canyon Creek Bridge

Further down, the Suiattle’s fat free milky waters have devoured several miles of trail, which has been newly rebuilt on higher ground.  The freshly hewn rock still smells of sulfur.

I rarely camp below tree line, but night overtook me at the Milk Creek Junction and, after 25 miles, I was more than happy to lie down on the soft, untrammeled trail under a cathedral of ancient conifers.  No bugs, save the occasional ground beetle rummaging through the rats nest where my hair used to be.  A still night in an old growth forest is such a luxurious way to end a high traverse.

Hello There, Mother Nature!
Hello There, Mother Nature!

Day 4:  The Final Hour

I was back at the car in an hour to find my aerial adorned with a crawdad head.  An hour after that I was sitting in a McDonald’s, taking full advantage of what our civilization has to offer.

If you share my contention that Glacier Peak is one of our most majestic mountains, crave solitude, alpine fall colors, and don’t mind sharing a bit of steep terrain with a few bears, then I couldn’t recommend this route more highly.

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"We are, all of us, in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." - Oscar Wilde
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RayD
the griz ate my pass



Joined: 20 Aug 2005
Posts: 1703 | TRs
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the griz ate my pass
PostSun Oct 01, 2006 2:55 pm 
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I enjoyed your TR of a wonderful area!  up.gif  And, as you noted, its bear heaven.

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don't believe everything you think
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Tvashtar
Tvashtalker



Joined: 22 Aug 2005
Posts: 1226 | TRs
Location: The 11th Dimension
Tvashtar
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Tvashtalker
PostSun Oct 01, 2006 6:20 pm 
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How about that big impasse in the middle of the traverse?  Did you find a way through it without dropping and doing an end run?

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"We are, all of us, in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." - Oscar Wilde
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Backpacker Joe
NWH Joe-Bob



Joined: 16 Dec 2001
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NWH Joe-Bob
PostSun Oct 01, 2006 6:50 pm 
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That's an impressive trip. I heard that wasnt an easy traverse.  Why didnt you go to Bannocks while you were so close?  Good job.  How about some pics of Canyon lake?

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"If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide."

— Abraham Lincoln
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ree
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ree
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PostSun Oct 01, 2006 8:29 pm 
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Nice TR!
That mushroom picture... dood, this is a family site!!! clown.gif
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Rich Baldwin
Mister Eddie



Joined: 22 Dec 2001
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Mister Eddie
PostSun Oct 01, 2006 8:34 pm 
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Man! 1:30 PM is a bit of a late start for Sulphur! Great views up there.

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Was you ever bit by a dead bee?
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reststep
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PostSun Oct 01, 2006 8:50 pm 
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Another great trip report and pictures.  You need to get out more.  smile.gif   smile.gif

Did you carry your bicycle up that ladder?

For Backpacker Joe, read this report.  Link

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"The mountains are calling and I must go." - John Muir
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Tvashtar
Tvashtalker



Joined: 22 Aug 2005
Posts: 1226 | TRs
Location: The 11th Dimension
Tvashtar
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Tvashtalker
PostSun Oct 01, 2006 9:59 pm 
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I explored the Bannock area during a previous trip (TR:  A walk Around Sitting Bull).  Sorry, didn't get very good lighting for Canyon Lake, and my close ups didn't really come out very well.

I could have shot a fantastic shot of Canyon during my last trip...if my camera battery hadn't been dead as a doornail.  Dang.

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"We are, all of us, in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." - Oscar Wilde
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Tvashtar
Tvashtalker



Joined: 22 Aug 2005
Posts: 1226 | TRs
Location: The 11th Dimension
Tvashtar
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Tvashtalker
PostSun Oct 01, 2006 10:04 pm 
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A construction guy offered to hand my bike to me on the way in, but I did carry it down the ladder on the way out.  I took it nice and slow.

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"We are, all of us, in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." - Oscar Wilde
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Tvashtar
Tvashtalker



Joined: 22 Aug 2005
Posts: 1226 | TRs
Location: The 11th Dimension
Tvashtar
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Tvashtalker
PostSun Oct 01, 2006 10:05 pm 
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I think that's how families are created, no?

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"We are, all of us, in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." - Oscar Wilde
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Quark
Niece of Alvy Moore



Joined: 15 May 2003
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Quark
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Niece of Alvy Moore
PostSun Oct 01, 2006 11:12 pm 
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14 bears!  rant.gif   I've only seen 2 this whole fricken' year, and one of em doesn't really count cause it was just his butt as he was beat-feeting away from me.  huh.gif

Nice TR, nice that you got in before all the damage is repaired, allowing the hoardes in once again.

Excellent write-up; a combination of entertainment and useful information.  up.gif

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"...Other than that, the post was more or less accurate."

Bernardo, NW Hikers' Bureau Chief of Reporting
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Dayhike Mike
Bad MFKer



Joined: 02 Mar 2003
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Bad MFKer
PostMon Oct 02, 2006 12:36 am 
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Quite the phenomenal trip, Tvashtar! Keep the TR's coming...you've obviously got great taste in destinations! wink.gif

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"There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." -P.J. O'Rourke
"Ignorance is natural. Stupidity takes commitment." -Solomon Short
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lopper
off-route



Joined: 22 Jan 2002
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lopper
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off-route
PostMon Oct 02, 2006 2:00 pm 
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Thanks for the words and images

"gluteus rather than sphincter power".

An effective new way to express the timeless dilemma of the mountain routefinder.

A question:  the flinstonian Canyon Cr bridge looks like it is made of new wood.....but the design remains identical (see my linked photo from April 1973)  Anybody know the story ??
http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/download.php?id=4391p43905&order=u
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Allison
Feckless Swooner



Joined: 17 Dec 2001
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Feckless Swooner
PostMon Oct 02, 2006 2:06 pm 
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Dayhike Mike wrote:
Quite the phenomenal trip, Tvashtar! Keep the TR's coming...you've obviously got great taste in destinations! wink.gif

Don't encourage him!! lol.gif
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Mike M.
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PostTue Oct 03, 2006 4:05 pm 
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Geat TR. I had wanted to do that traverse ever since reading it in Routes & Rocks, but only managed to get to Bath lks (in mid '60s). Saw a bear at Bath Lks that was huuuge!
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