Forum Index > Trip Reports > Ice Lakes (aka Shoulda Brought Snowshoes), 10/5 - 10/6/07
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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot



Joined: 30 Jan 2007
Posts: 4046 | TRs
Location: Shoreline
Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot
PostThu Oct 11, 2007 12:00 am 
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Day 1, Should Have Brought Snowshoes

My advertisement for this trip said, “Must see golden larches before it’s too late, even if winter is too early.”
As the forecast deteriorated, Dicey was the only one brave enough to stay aboard.
We decided to camp at Ice Lakes and scramble North Spectacle Butte, but we didn’t make it that far.

We got an not-so-early alpine afternoon start by taking 5 hours for the 3-hour drive to the Phelps Creek trailhead.  You can accomplish this by being indecisive about your destination, driving a circuitous route through Cle Elum and Wenatchee, and pausing for road construction and an overheated radiator.

There was about an inch of snow bending down brush at the trailhead.  The sky was clear blue with the Buck Mountain crest plastered with bright white snow.  The trail was mostly dry under the trees along Phelps Creek and up Leroy Creek.  Then circa 5000 feet we began hitting snow.  Circa 5500 feet it turned calf-deep and our progress slowed.  By the time we hit the Leroy basin meadows at 6000, it was knee-deep and every step required extra effort.

Above the trailhead
Above the trailhead
Layers of trees stretching up toward Maude
Layers of trees stretching up toward Maude
Frosty Seven-Fingered Jack
Frosty Seven-Fingered Jack

Our progress steadily slowed as we…
Trudged across the meadows of ominously deepening snow,
Zigzagged through the steep woods of obstructive branches,
Carefully plodded across the boulder fields of imminent postholing,
Dove in and out of the gully of slippery doom,
Crawled up the shadowed slope of unconsolidated thrashing,
And finally arrived at the 6800-foot col of reduced expectations.

Seriously I love the route through Leroy Basin.  It’s a glorious curve of alpine terrain, just not in these conditions.

Flocked Ridges of Maude
Flocked Ridges of Maude
Dicey Postholing
Dicey Postholing
The Shadowed 6800 Col
The Shadowed 6800 Col

Around us, the forests gradually shifted from dark firs to bright larches, and the larches themselves shifted from green to yellow as we went higher.

Dialogue along the way, from Leroy Basin to the 6800 col:
“We should have brought snowshoes.  Look, the larches are 99% green and 1% gold.”
“We should have brought snowshoes.  Look, the larches are 98% green and 2% gold.”
“We should have brought snowshoes.  Look, the larches are 97% green and 3% gold.”
Repeat every 3 minutes for the next four hours.

Tall Gold
Tall Gold
Every shade of green and gold
Every shade of green and gold
Bright Green & Gold
Bright Green & Gold
Green, Gold & Jack (note how much frost has melted off Jack in a couple hours)
Green, Gold & Jack (note how much frost has melted off Jack in a couple hours)
Little & Big, Green & Gold
Little & Big, Green & Gold
Ridge of Green & Gold, Black & White
Ridge of Green & Gold, Black & White

Overhead the skies stayed clear.  Above to our left, the snow-spattered crests of Seven-Fingered Jack and Maude scraped the blue sky.  Across the valley to our right, a thick layer of clouds pushed over the crests around Buck and at the head of the valley, but the summits stayed clear in the blue skies.

Clouds Pushing Over Chiwawa
Clouds Pushing Over Chiwawa
Backlit Buck
Backlit Buck
Looking back down toward Phelps Creek
Looking back down toward Phelps Creek

As we climbed up to the col, the sunlight outraced us, it’s last golden rays moving higher up the trees until the western bank of clouds absorbed the sun and left us with just the reflected pastel light of the sky.

Dicey climbing up the slope
Dicey climbing up the slope
Shadows outrunning Dicey to the Col
Shadows outrunning Dicey to the Col
Last Light at the Col
Last Light at the Col

The long bank of western clouds left us in shadow, but the hidden setting sun washed soft colors onto the valleys and peaks around.

Last Light on Leroy Basin
Last Light on Leroy Basin
Last Light on Seven-Fingered Jack
Last Light on Seven-Fingered Jack
Last Light on the Ridge Above
Last Light on the Ridge Above
Looking down the col at sunset
Looking down the col at sunset

We set our tent a couple hundred feet up the ridge under some big larch trees, where the winds stayed blessedly calm all night, and the clear night sky darkened from pale colors in the west to a river of bright stars overhead.

Dicey Moves up to Camp
Dicey Moves up to Camp
View from Camp: Buck & Glacier
View from Camp: Buck & Glacier
View from Camp: Tide of Clouds Flowing Between Fortress & Chiwawa
View from Camp: Tide of Clouds Flowing Between Fortress & Chiwawa

Inside the tent, we finally we settled down to sleep after building a wall of boots and bags to keep me off of Dicey.

The difference snow made for our pace:
First 3 hours:  5.5 miles, 2500 feet of gain
Next 3 hours:  1.5 miles, 1000 feet of gain

Day 2, Sunbreaks at Upper Ice Lake

In the morning we hiked to the lakes, following the rib up to about 7250, then traversing up to the 7600-foot col above the lakes.  Higher up, the snow was more wind-packed and easier to travel.  The col itself was cloud-covered and very windy.  It was even already forming cornices on the far side.

Dicey leaving camp in the morning
Dicey leaving camp in the morning
Frosty Ridge above camp
Frosty Ridge above camp
Dicey on the col
Dicey on the col

But beyond the col was a happy reward for our efforts: despite the overcast above, the lakes basin itself was clear of clouds and even partly sunlit!!!  Upper Ice Lake & North Spectacle Butte were indeed a spectacle to see, all black-and-white depths and highlights under the clouds.

Upper Ice Lake & North Spectacle Butte, from 7600 Col
Upper Ice Lake & North Spectacle Butte, from 7600 Col
North Spectacle Butte
North Spectacle Butte

Ice Lakes seem to earn their name, at least when I’m around.  Visiting in stormy October, the lake surface has always been a stark, dark wind-ruffled plane of somber hues, with hardly a hint of brightness or warmth.

On the rib east of the lake, larches provided some welcome warmer color.

Stands of Larches
Stands of Larches
Windswept Larches
Windswept Larches
Looking back up to the col
Looking back up to the col

At the 7350 high point alongside the lake, we stopped to admire the view of the Spectacle Buttes and down the Entiat valley.
(In hindsight, I wish I pushed on to the further lakeside high point for a view of the lower lake.)

North & South Spectacle Butte, and upper end of Lower Ice Lake
North & South Spectacle Butte, and upper end of Lower Ice Lake
Matt with the Spectacles
Matt with the Spectacles
Dicey with the Specatacles
Dicey with the Specatacles
Entiat Valley
Entiat Valley

I couldn’t resist the challenge of a quick swim in the lake.  Actually I felt less cold than some other swims, but perhaps that’s because most of my skin was too numb to feel anything.

Time for a brisk swim
Time for a brisk swim

Sunbreaks let us enjoy lunch on a rock, and then we wandered among some of the larch patches near the lake on our way out.

Dicey departing our lunch spot
Dicey departing our lunch spot
Snowflakes over the lake
Snowflakes over the lake
Larches & North Spectacle
Larches & North Spectacle
Dicey above the lake
Dicey above the lake
Larches & Lake
Larches & Lake

On our way out, I walked around to the head of the lake for a water-level view, and then we hiked back up the wind-swept slope to the cloud-shrouded col.

Water-Level View
Water-Level View
Point 8017 hiding in the clouds.
Point 8017 hiding in the clouds.
Dicey at the 7600 col
Dicey at the 7600 col

Dropping down the rib on the far side, our camp gradually appeared out of the mist, and the weather cleared as we packed up.

Looking down the rib to our camp
Looking down the rib to our camp
Camp hiding under the trees
Camp hiding under the trees
Camp
Camp

As we hiked down, we paused occasionally to admire the shaded colors and soft feel of the larch needles.

More Green & Gold, on a smaller scale
Needles, lichens, & snow
Needles, lichens, & snow
Larch needles turning from green to yellow
Larch needles turning from green to yellow
Looking up at green & gold branches
Looking up at green & gold branches
Larch branch with ice and snow
Larch branch with ice and snow
Delicate tracery of branches
Delicate tracery of branches
Needles and cone pieces in our tracks
Needles and cone pieces in our tracks

The snow had packed down somewhat more since yesterday, and we had our tracks and were going downhill, so progress back to the car went smoothly.  In my trunk, I found a mouse had worked diligently to build a nest.

Mouse Nest
Mouse Nest

So the trip left me with good memories of dramatic scenery and larches of every hue, and ambitions to come back again in larch season to explore more of the peaks and high routes whenn they're accented with that special jewelry of green & gold.

--------------
“As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
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GeoHiker
Rocky Walker



Joined: 26 Feb 2005
Posts: 6042 | TRs
Location: Off the Deep End
GeoHiker
Rocky Walker
PostThu Oct 11, 2007 1:36 am 
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Great job and TR!  I was looking at some earlier pics near there and wondering what the snow level was doing.  Thanks for the timely report.

Now the "brisk swim" pic has me questioning your sanity though.   agree.gif

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You call some place paradise, kiss it goodbye......Eagles
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Backpacker Joe
NWH Joe-Bob



Joined: 16 Dec 2001
Posts: 22728 | TRs
Location: Cle Elum
Backpacker Joe
NWH Joe-Bob
PostThu Oct 11, 2007 1:56 am 
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Fantastic report Matthew.  You two are bullet proof and that's for sure and for certain!  Nice job. up.gif

--------------
"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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kleet
meat tornado



Joined: 06 Feb 2002
Posts: 5319 | TRs
Location: O no they dih ent
kleet
meat tornado
PostThu Oct 11, 2007 6:22 am 
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Quote:
the steep woods of obstructive branches
the boulder fields of imminent postholing
the gully of slippery doom
the shadowed slope of unconsolidated thrashing

ykm.gif
I've been to all of those places.  I think they move around the Cascades to wherever I plan a trip.

Were you frightened when you met the hiking ninja?

Thanks for bagging a great TR and congrats on the perseverance!

--------------
A fuxk, why do I not give one?
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ree
Member
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Joined: 29 Jun 2004
Posts: 4324 | TRs

ree
Member
PostThu Oct 11, 2007 6:40 am 
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Quote:
Inside the tent, we finally we settled down to sleep after building a wall of boots and bags to keep me off of Dicey.

She does that to me too.  wub.gif

Great tr!  So entertaining to read.  I love that hike too.  kleet and I were there exactly 2 months ago... Aug. 11 -12.  Wow!

You're not kidding winter came early.

I can't believe you swam.  Or was it really jump in, jump out?  clown.gif   When I see snow on the ground, I'm done with my alpine swims for the season.
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kleet
meat tornado



Joined: 06 Feb 2002
Posts: 5319 | TRs
Location: O no they dih ent
kleet
meat tornado
PostThu Oct 11, 2007 7:07 am 
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Popular overlook!
Entiat Valley October
Entiat Valley October
Entiat Valley August
Entiat Valley August

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A fuxk, why do I not give one?
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ActionBetty
Im a dirty hippie!



Joined: 06 Jul 2003
Posts: 4808 | TRs
Location: kennewick, wa
ActionBetty
Im a dirty hippie!
PostThu Oct 11, 2007 8:48 am 
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Sweet pics, but you're crazy getting in the icey water..BRRRRRRRRR wink.gif

--------------
"If you're not living good, you gotta travel wide"...Bob Marley
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silence
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Member


Joined: 25 Apr 2005
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silence
Member
PostThu Oct 11, 2007 9:29 am 
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awesome trip and reporting; beautiful scenery -- thanks for bringing it back to us.

aarrrg ... it's too soon for snowshoes!!
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wildernessed
viewbagger



Joined: 31 Oct 2004
Posts: 8852 | TRs
Location: Wenatchee
wildernessed
viewbagger
PostThu Oct 11, 2007 9:34 am 
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WOW !, how things can quickly change. Great effort and pics. I was talking to a fellow backpacker here in Wenatchee, he along with kyled from this site did that trip a week earlier, they never mentioned much snow, but coming down they decided to do an off trail route so they descended down the gulley the whole way to the trail below next to the Chiwawa. Kyle thought they might save some time, but I think they suffered some gear casualties along the way. The guy I talked to said, "never again". hockeygrin.gif
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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot



Joined: 30 Jan 2007
Posts: 4046 | TRs
Location: Shoreline
Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot
PostThu Oct 11, 2007 9:51 am 
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I think a lot of that snow fell during the week.  It seemed very fresh.  On the way out, it was also melting and packing down pretty fast.  With the rain and higher freezing levels on Sunday, I expect much of it is gone already.

Years ago, some of my friends also exited by following the gully down the course of Chipmunk Creek.  They said it was steep in places, but had some beautiful big larches.  We considered it, but didn't want to try it with brush and holes covered in snow.

--------------
“As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
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seawallrunner
dilettante



Joined: 27 Apr 2005
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Location: Lotusland
seawallrunner
dilettante
PostThu Oct 11, 2007 9:54 am 
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wow, dramatic photos - the larches in the dying light are fabulous. Good for you for taking a swim! That takes courage smile.gif
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Backpacker Joe
NWH Joe-Bob



Joined: 16 Dec 2001
Posts: 22728 | TRs
Location: Cle Elum
Backpacker Joe
NWH Joe-Bob
PostThu Oct 11, 2007 12:59 pm 
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Wonderful report.  It's a shame you couldnt get down to the lower lake.  It's really beautiful.
Lower Ice Lake looking west.
Lower Ice Lake looking west.

--------------
"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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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot



Joined: 30 Jan 2007
Posts: 4046 | TRs
Location: Shoreline
Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot
PostThu Oct 11, 2007 1:35 pm 
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BPJ,
I agree, the lower lake is beautiful.  A decade ago we camped at the lakes in October, and again a storm moved in to prevent us going up any higher.  While my friends bailed out, I took a couple extra hours to go hike along the shores of the lower lake.

The overcast completely hid the surrounding peaks, but the lakeshore had rows of colored larches spaced out almost like plantings along an avenue.  It was one of the most peaceful hours I remember in the mountains, strolling through lanes of bright trees that faded in and out of the quiet mist.  Passing among the trees, their yellow-gold color gave a warmer glow to the gray fog.

This time I was out of energy from the previous day's exertions, and overly worried that there would be further difficulties on the way out.

--------------
“As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
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pimaCanyon
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Joined: 13 Jul 2007
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pimaCanyon
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PostThu Oct 11, 2007 1:57 pm 
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Wow!  I can't believe how much snow there is up there already.  Amazing you guys made it all the way in with all that snow.  I love that area, been there many times.  A buddy and I actually skied Maude in late June many years ago.  Perfect corn snow that stayed perfect all day long, so after doing the summit, we yo-yo skied the basin till we were too tired to do it any more.

I'm beginning to understand how Dicey got her name...

BP Joe, thanks for the reminder about the lower lake being so beautiful.  I've been to the upper lake many times, but the lower lake only once I believe.

I gotta get back up there...

--------------
It's never too late to have a happy childhood
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dicey
custom title



Joined: 11 May 2004
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Location: giving cornices a wider berth
dicey
custom title
PostThu Oct 11, 2007 2:31 pm 
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Matt,
Thanks for writing the trip report and for being a great hiking companion smile.gif

Wow,
I had forgotten how much work it is to plow through deep snow.  It was exhausting for sure!  We would have had a much easier time of it with snowshoes, or a couple more folks to take turns breaking trail.  We intended to make it to the lakes on friday, but with our late (ahem wink.gif ) start and snow conditions, we didn't quite make it.

The weather on Saturday was looking pretty iffy, but I needed to at least make it to the lake, so I'm glad we did.  Regarding Matt's obsession with lake swimming - the guy is a nut!  I put on my puffy jacket and snapped pics, while he braved the icy waters.  I'm sure I would have had a heart attack getting in that water - no thanks!

I wonder how that poor little mouse that Matt evicted from his trunk is faring..... biggrin.gif

Most of my pics are similiar to Matt's, but here are a few sorta different ones.

Leroy creek cairn
Leroy creek cairn
snow on larch
snow on larch
Matt chasing the sun
Matt chasing the sun
goodnight glacier peak
goodnight glacier peak
north and south spectacle buttes on saturday
north and south spectacle buttes on saturday

--------------
I'm not always sure I like being older but being less stupid has advantages.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/32121172@N00/sets/
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Ice Lakes (aka Shoulda Brought Snowshoes), 10/5 - 10/6/07
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