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cascadetraverser
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PostMon Aug 04, 2014 1:07 pm 
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This is an area of the NCNP I had not previously been to and was looking forward to revisiting some terrain my group and I had seen 10 years prior, when we did the Redoubt traverse from the border to Whatcom Pass and North up the Chilliwack river trail.


Day One:  Tom and I left Seattle early and reached the portion of the Depot Creek road which was reasonably passable in our Honda CRV by about 11:00 am.  It`s always interesting to set off by foot onto an unknown road with an unmarked trailhead at the start.  The road turned into a trail after 30 minutes and we happily found ourselves at the border swath and the proper Depot trailhead sign on the American side.  The climber`s path meanders alongside the stream with an occasional blow down but presents no problems.  After 3-4 miles of fairly flat travel the trail gets steep and eventually drops you at the base of Depot creek falls, a truly awesome sight.  Several ropes allow reasonable travel over the slick rocks until you reach a sheltered spot from the spray (we were both doused at this point) and then a way path leads into the alder and tracks several thousand feet up steeply until dropping one out into the amazing basin above.  An intermittent path alternating with cairns led us up through wooded flats and then alongside the stream on boulders.  The stream cuts into the traveling side and required us to occasionally dodge some minor alder patches.  After some tiresome rock dancing, we landed at the fabulous Ouzel Lake marveling at the line of sheer cliffs and waterfalls above.  We were pretty pooped with our 50+ pound packs but the sun was out and day one was done.  Several goat sightings were had in the heights above.
It's leg power from here lads!
It's leg power from here lads!
Depote Creek road/trail
Depote Creek road/trail
The border swath, your tax dollars at work!
The border swath, your tax dollars at work!
slippy slidey even with ropes
slippy slidey even with ropes
Great day for a shower
Great day for a shower
Memories of Lake Constance
Memories of Lake Constance
Boulder dancing
Boulder dancing
A few more boulders to negotiate
A few more boulders to negotiate

Day two:  Woke up to clouds and after breakfast we headed north up to the obvious pass to Silver Lake on a generally stable boulder field.  An easy snow runoff to the lake awaited on the northeast side of the pass.  We were also greeted by a hint of haze and smell of the Eastern Cascade fires. Silver lake is impressively big, stark and beautiful in a unique North Cascadian way with Devils Tongue, Custer, Rahm and multiple waterfalls all around.  Our good weather window was deteriorating fast and we set up camp and a tarp (off a big erratic) before the rains began.  Initially light rain was followed into the eve by persistent and driving rain into the late evening hours.

Mighty Mt Webb
Mighty Mt Webb
Ouzel Lake and Mt Redoubt
Ouzel Lake and Mt Redoubt
Mighty Mt Reboubt
Mighty Mt Reboubt
Big rock pile, little man
Big rock pile, little man
Winter is coming
Winter is coming
I can smell the Methow from here
I can smell the Methow from here
selfie with Devils Tongue
selfie with Devils Tongue
Ah summer camping
Ah summer camping
Tundra camp
Tundra camp

Day three:  Our hopes to roam the area and perhaps bag a peak were dashed by the steady downpour, wind followed by snow.  The wind whipped steadily through the valley and the only dry warm place was our sleeping bags.  The wind and rain continued all night and thick wet snow (2 inches) blanketed areas of the valley.  We stayed put.  An occasional 15 minute sucker hole exposed a wonderful wet valley teaming with full waterfalls.  Alas, we never got the gorgeous turquoise views of Silver Lake as seen on multiple posts on this site.  I was still a powerful place. It was no surprise to learn that Seattle set a record for rainfall while we cowarded in our tent.

Sucker Hole!
Sucker Hole!
That tarp took a beattin
That tarp took a beattin
Keeping an eye out for White Walkers
Keeping an eye out for White Walkers

Day Four:  The storm continued but eventually the driving rain was replaced by fog and cold wind.  Sensing the change in weather and tired of reading our books, we quickly packed up, put on rain gear and retraced our way back through a cold wind and fresh snow over the pass and dropped down into a considerably warmer but still wet Ouzel Lake.  The wind was more  tame there, and we managed a dry tarped area and a much warmer dinner and happy hour.  The now 3 day storm seemed to be abating.  If we wanted to do the traverse, we needed to leave tomorrow or the distances would likely be too great for a reasonable trip.  We were woken by a big nosy mouse who crawled right over my face… (only one thing in my experience interrupts a tent sleep like that!  Chased it out and was glad to find no holes in my tent!)

We're outta here
We're outta here
Ouzel Lake Resort
Ouzel Lake Resort
Cascadetraversers decendents
Cascadetraversers decendents
Ouzel Lake mouse refuge
Ouzel Lake mouse refuge
No sign of White Walkers on this side of the wall
No sign of White Walkers on this side of the wall

Day Five:  Woke up early to thick fog.  Oh, boy… Fortunately, I had  binoced an obvious route through the buttress NE of the lake that turned out to be fun and nicely cairned by climbers en route to the Redoubt Glacier.  From there we crossed the flat glacier to the col on the way to the steep bouldered slope that takes you to the pass/divide between Bear and Reboubt creeks. A nice ramp right above cliffs took us to the pass.  The weather was obviously improving and the clouds were swirling all about the mountains about giving windows and glimpses of the glorious scenery all around.  Down below was Bear Lake which had been on the itinerary of the trip (I really had enjoyed the time spent there on a prior trip) but being 2 days behind we elected to move on.  Ten years ago we passed on the east side of the divide to the pass just before the ridge walk to Middle Lakes.  This time (thanks Eric!) we crossed over to the Cave Lake side easily as snow travel covered the unstable scree and easily dropped us down into frozen Cave Lake.  Beautiful meadows lay just past the outlet stream, the sun was out and was glorious after all the previously blustery weather.  Views to Challenger and Eiley Wiley were splendid.

Sweet ramp system
Sweet ramp system
copious cairns
copious cairns
approaching Rebout Glacier
approaching Rebout Glacier
well we brought this damn rope may as well use it
well we brought this damn rope may as well use it
Bivy area on edge of Reboubt Glacier
Bivy area on edge of Reboubt Glacier
traversing to the notch
traversing to the notch
Let's do that boulder dance one more time
Let's do that boulder dance one more time
scouting the route
scouting the route
Yup, it goes
Yup, it goes
snow wall catwalk
snow wall catwalk
a bear of a mountain
a bear of a mountain
Bear lake, not this time fellas
Bear lake, not this time fellas
Eastern flank of Bear
Eastern flank of Bear
Ridge crests make for sweet walkin
Ridge crests make for sweet walkin
a wee accent on the way a minor pass
a wee accent on the way a minor pass
Hey Bennett you forgot your monocular
Hey Bennett you forgot your monocular
Easy travel to Cave Lake, thanks for the snow man!
Easy travel to Cave Lake, thanks for the snow man!
walking around Cave lake
walking around Cave lake
Cave Lake, no swimming tonight.
Cave Lake, no swimming tonight.
Cave Lake gear display
Cave Lake gear display
Did I mention the Alpine splendor?
Did I mention the Alpine splendor?
Been there, done that
Been there, done that

Day Six:  Woke up to cloudless skies (Yaaay!) and headed off.  From Cave we dropped down along the outlet stream through nice heather meadows and eventually headed up through light brush along the base of a line of cliffs and wrangled with some ankle twisting via game paths to the pass above. I would definitely recommend this side of the divide for views and easier travel (Cave Lake and peaks are a nice bonus).Ten years before we had traversed “Sublime ridge” (appropriately named, Cartman!) in rain and wind but this time we were blessed with glorious weather.  Views abounded in all directions with the Chilliwacks (East and West), Challenger, the Pickets and Eastern Cascades more distant all in view.  The route is obvious and sublime.  Particularly cool is the Great Heather Ramp which takes you up an airy steep incline to the top point of the ridge.  For those of you who aren`t fans of paths through heather slopes, the way trail seemed almost gone as compared to 10 years past when it was obvious. Before long we connected to the ridge bridging over to the Peak fronting the Middle Lakes and dropped down steep talus and meadows to the lower Middle Lake.  This is alpine heaven complete with fabulous views to Challenger and Prophet Ridge and is set in a lovely rock/heather garden.  It feels more isolated than Tapto and is clearly less travelled.  We swam, enjoyed a big dinner and swigged down the last bourbon…. The stars were awesome….

Challenger Bergshrund report
Challenger Bergshrund report
Sublime Ridge awaits! But first some slick veggies.
Sublime Ridge awaits! But first some slick veggies.
The first hump on Sublime
The first hump on Sublime
Did you put on some sunscreen?
Did you put on some sunscreen?
Ridge walking doesn't get any better
Ridge walking doesn't get any better
People we've got a view here!
People we've got a view here!
East Lakes
East Lakes
Mighty Mt Whatcom looking pretty mighty
Mighty Mt Whatcom looking pretty mighty
Looking for camp? this will do nicely
Looking for camp? this will do nicely
Pretty sure Thor camps here when he's in town
Pretty sure Thor camps here when he's in town
Time for a wash! Albeit a quick one
Time for a wash! Albeit a quick one

Day seven:  Traversed over towards Tapto Lakes and caught the way trail down to Whatcom Pass and then headed down on the  Brush Creek Trail.  We dropped the packs at Graybeal for a break (nice camp) and eventually turned Right onto the Chilliwack trail heading north.  Nice trail…  The maintained  portion ends at the junction with Copper Ridge; we were curious as to what the rest of the day had in store.  The trail quickly became a mossy path, often overgrow with plenty of blow downs and deadfall but easy to follow.  It felt like an old mysterious trail that didn`t see a lot of use.  All sorts of animal sign littered the way and we saw a boot print of a human (big foot too, any tall people up there of late??).  Made it to Bear Camp, the sign and one nice riverside camp remains.  The fire pit was growing green sprouts, it seems we probably we the first (fire makers at least) there for a while.  After a rest, I scouted out the best log to cross a raging Bear Creek (upstream 100 yards are two) and then combed the opposite side and near the Chilliwack found the old trail.  We were set for tomorrow`s beginning at least.  It was nice to have a warm fire; it felt like one of the most remote Creekside camps I had visited in quite some time.

Well looky there, a trail.
Well looky there, a trail.
Take a left here to get to middle lakes
Take a left here to get to middle lakes
Easy Ridge from Brush Creek
Easy Ridge from Brush Creek
9.1 miles? How hard could that be?
9.1 miles? How hard could that be?
Only dumb city folk go north from here
Only dumb city folk go north from here
Not much trail maintenance in this area
Not much trail maintenance in this area
The edge of the known world
The edge of the known world
Some tiny plants gave their lives for our fire
Some tiny plants gave their lives for our fire

Day Eight:  Alpine start, we donned brushwacking clothes (garden gloves recommended) and with some trepidation headed north.  After crossing Bear Creek, we found our way back to the remnants of the trail and the final leg of our adventure began.  I had been warned that travel was awful north of this point and my memory from ten years past was not pleasant.  Initially we followed a faint path through brush which was obliterated after every blow down.  This became the pattern of the day.  When the brush and vegetation was light, particularly at the interface between the bottomlands and the slopes, a faint path with blow down could be followed.  Inevitably, when the trail turned back to the bottomlands the path dead ended into blow down, patches of alder, salmonberry and best of all, devil`s club engulfed us. One`s emotional state varied between glee to onerous resignation at the sight of yet another 300 yards of dense vegetation with no real good alternative routes in sight.  Of note, from our last trip, a big swamp guards the northern border and at that time we painfully waded this expanse to hip depth en route to our escape.  With this soggy memory firmly entrenched in my consciousness, I made a concerted attempt to head to the river following the old trail taking care to travel on the west side and avoid this swamp. After 4+ hours of green hell, we arrived at the west side of the swamp having managed to avoid the wade, or so it seemed.  As if in a fitting goodbye to the madness, when I was gingerly avoiding the bogs, I placed one foot in carefully disguised weeds only to sink down to hip depth in the mire (#%$&*).  Oh, well, at least it wasn`t an extended swim.  Tom pulled me out, we laughed once all necessary swear words were uttered and we head out again.  Before long the boarder swath came into view and the trail improved once on the Canadian side.  Ten years back, the Canadian portion was a pristine trail through a wonder of old trees (rivaling Big Beaver if not better) sadly it has degenerated into a rough path littered with flags.  Two miles later Chilliwack Lake came into view. We found a beach and jumped in relieved and delighted to bathe away the memories of the long brush wack. Despite that, the last day`s memory lingers, and we will be contacting the mental health authorities regarding the designation of Post Chilliwack Stress Disorder (PCSD) and hope with time and much Tequilla that the nightmares eventually subside.

An hour later we were back at the car, and  on the road up Depot Creek we happened upon Mesatchie Mike and Cartman who were just driving away from their Choss fest to the north. Eric J seemed an appropriate person to run into as he came up with the Sublime ridge name, which Tom and I had so often referred.
Trail yes!
Trail yes!
Almost like I-90
Almost like I-90
we have over water options
we have over water options
Every wonder what life in the border swath is like?
Every wonder what life in the border swath is like?
When dancing at the Devils Club please wear gloves
When dancing at the Devils Club please wear gloves
Ah the troubles of the day just melt away!
Ah the troubles of the day just melt away!

Epilogue:  If you read the post of last year`s trip (http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=8006996&highlight=west+chilliwack) you’ll recall that we witnessed a paraglider crash and assisted the victim before he was flown out. He had sustained a nasty compound femur fracture and was pretty shocky when we last saw him. We got in touch with him before heading home and he was good enough to take us out for a post trip steak and beer. He’s an amazing 75 year old, an absolute prince and is recovering well.  By coincidence we got to meet his friend Jack Bryceland (local guidebook author and an unrepentant rascal) and Sam Waddington who owns Mt Waddington sports in Chilliwack.  Both regaled us with all sorts of great stories of adventure in the Canadian North Cascades.
I want to be Steve Duncan when I grow up!
I want to be Steve Duncan when I grow up!

All in all a fabulous trip except for that final bit…Thanks Tom for your great companionship and cheerful presence through thick and thin!
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raising3hikers
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PostMon Aug 04, 2014 7:32 pm 
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that sounds like an awesome and grueling adventure!  glad you liked the cave lake side of the traverse!

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Eric Eames
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contour5
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PostMon Aug 04, 2014 9:36 pm 
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That is some impressive terrain! Glad the weather eventually cooperated...
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FiresideChats
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PostMon Aug 04, 2014 10:17 pm 
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Wow! An awesome adventure. Love the wild, lonely photos.
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Ancient Ambler
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PostTue Aug 05, 2014 5:12 am 
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Excellent adventure, cascadetraverser, with lots of quality high-traverse miles and vertical, plus a little bit of everything for weather.  Looks like an emotional rollercoaster, as well, from the less-than-joyful moments captured so vividly in your photos entitled "Ah summer camping" and "That tarp took a beating" to the many more stunning, sunny alpine vistas and that iconic dip in the lake "Ah the troubles of the day just melt away", coming so appropriately after you were plunged hip-deep into the mire you'd tried so diligently to avoid.  Is that a metaphor, or what? Really enjoyed following along vicariously on the map with your fine photos and many witty captions to illustrate the route.
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tommytownsend
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PostTue Aug 05, 2014 7:22 am 
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Thanks for the kind words AA. The yearly Traverse post is a collaboration between Marc and me. He does the write up (in addition to basically planning the whole trip) and I get to take photos and struggle to remember how the process of putting together a post works, I do it once a year.  NWhiker sure is an interesting community and does provide frequent opportunities for vicarious journeys.
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glenoid
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PostTue Aug 05, 2014 12:14 pm 
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up.gif  up.gif  up.gif  up.gif Nice TR you two!!! I am kinda of glad my back hurt so you didn't ask me to go. (you know, if you are my size you can go under a lot of that stuff)
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iron
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PostTue Aug 05, 2014 8:36 pm 
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awesome looking trip. bummer on the weather, but at least you got the sublime views when it mattered. bear lake looks really nice. will keep a note of that smile.gif

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man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?

--- moe sizlack
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cascadetraverser
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PostWed Aug 06, 2014 1:10 pm 
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Appreciate the kind comments.

AA:  I am tempted to recommend this one to you given all your exploits in the Olympics, but I am not sure I would wish the last stretch on anyone!  Thanks for the kind words...

Glenoid:  Very funny but I am not sure even you could have ducked under that stuff!!

Iron:  Bear lake is very nice indeed.  Particularly if you pack certain equipment which may be a luxury on your megathon next year!  Either way camping at the inlet is exquisite...

Contour 5:  Sublime ridge should be on your radar after your last adventure...

R3H:  Thanks for the Cave lake tip; really enjoyed that after the previous nasty brushwack on the other side; just curious, did you drop down into the kneehigh brush below the cliffs or run the ridge and bridge the cliffs?

TT:  You forgot to mention the great captions you added!!  GOT fan I am...
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Magellan
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PostWed Aug 06, 2014 1:46 pm 
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Fantastic trip report!  up.gif  up.gif  Thanks for taking the time to put it together.
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Jetlag
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PostThu Aug 07, 2014 1:09 pm 
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Well written, well photographed, well attributed . . . well . . . suffered!
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raising3hikers
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PostThu Aug 07, 2014 5:39 pm 
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cascadetraverser wrote:
R3H:  Thanks for the Cave lake tip; really enjoyed that after the previous nasty brushwack on the other side; just curious, did you drop down into the kneehigh brush below the cliffs or run the ridge and bridge the cliffs?

i went in and enjoyed the beautiful meadows.  never anything that i would call a bushwhack.  i think i only went through about 5' of brush to get back to the ridge just above the saddle.  very glad you liked that part of the route.

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Eric Eames
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > East Chilliwack Loop  (Sublime Ridge and PCSD) July 21-28
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