Location : W of Leavenworth / Coles Corners
Access : Merrit Lake TH
Map : GTM – Lake Wenatchee, TOPO
Stats : 13 mi, 6400’ loop
This is one of those trips like Jim Hill, that for various reasons, mostly weather and blue skies that I haven’t gotten to over the years. I’m not inclined to put forth too much effort if I can’t have it all, so some trips take 2-3 years from conceptualization to manifestation. Even this trip was a hard sell by Steve stuck between bad forecasted weather days, but he had to get his exercise so I relented.
Anyhow we were doing a modification of the standard route coming in via Merrit Lake and taking Nason Ridge to Crescent lake up to Howard across to Mastiff, then dropping down to Lost Lake, climbing out to Merrit Lake and out, so we set out to do that on the trail around 0700 hr, it was nice and cool, with a light breeze, mosquitos quick to offend if you stopped, so we deeted up and kept moving until Crescent Lake, which was the first area after 5 miles and 3000’ where we had open views. The Lake was gorgeous, the fish were jumping all over which had Steve wishing he had brought his pole as we took a break and refilled our nalgenes.
Of course, coming in I pointed out there is the ridge I planned on taking up (after we visited Crescent Lake), but later had a brain fart and we headed straight up a rocky drainage more to the NNE than we wanted, but as it leveled out I looked at the map and the terrain and said, “We need to be over there”, so we traversed directly over to a corridor in the trees and what may have been an animal trail and/or climbers path from the ridge below and ascended it to the open heather slopes below Mt. Howard. The route would be great coming from the West, and for us visiting Crescent Lake it was all easy scrambling and walking.
As we approached Howard via the ridge to the left (West) it was disappointing to see the the thick clouds backed up all around us with some sinking below 6000’, this would have been the perfect perch for some great mountain views, especially for Hannah, but it was not to be and we focused more on the local terrain which was quite beautiful, the lakes, basins, glacial moraines etc…
We had a break on Howard, then dropped down into the saddle between Howard, Mastiff, and along Canaan Lake Basin before heading up to the summit of Mastiff.
There we had some minimal clearing, took another break, and plotted a route down and over to Lost Lake. Now I know why Mastiff looks so huge from the East, the East side has some seriously steep heather, slab, and vertical rock cliffs if you get to far from the ridge that wraps around and down into the Lost Lake Basin, and the East face looks very impressive from the basin. At a certain point the heather and slabs are gone near the ridge and it’s a bushwhack through dense forest ( and sap covered foliage) as your just going for the lake and hoping for a fishermens trail, and finally we hit it.
Lost Lake is really nice, and once around the other side we took a break, this would be the place to come late summer – early fall when it’s slightly cooler and the bugs are gone, but today in the sun and heat hiking out was a worker, but the thought of topping out after this, hitting Merrit Lake, then cruising to the car filled my mind, what was a few hundred more feet at this point, at least it was on a trail. At the top we drank the rest of our water, walked by Merrit Lake, and eventually , seemingly very eventually were at the TH. Long day and very beautiful backcountry. Great day to be out with Steve and Hannah. This is Hannah’s third trip with me since she has been back and we have been skunked on views each time.
-------------- I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent_Gandhi
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