Forum Index > Trip Reports > Colchuck Lake, Colchuck Peak - Colchuck Glacier route 6/3/17
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awilsondc
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Joined: 03 Apr 2016
Posts: 490 | TRs

awilsondc
Scramblin' Fool
PostSun Jun 04, 2017 5:34 pm 
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During our endless winter, Jake proposed a trip up Colchuck Peak when spring finally rolled around and a weather window presented its self.  The first weekend in June, we got our window and drove to the Lake Stuart / Colchuck Lake trailhead Friday night where we slept in our vehicles before hitting the trail at 5:25am Saturday morning.

Sunset on the drive to the trailhead
Sunset on the drive to the trailhead

The first few miles of the trail went quickly.  There were some blowdowns, but foot paths around them had already begun to be formed and were easy to get around.  We were both surprised at the lack of snow.  Not much snow at all up to the turn off for Colchuck Lake, and from the turn off to the lake snow was mostly patchy but became mostly continuous right at the lake.  We took a brief break at the lake for some food and some photos.

Creek crossing
Creek crossing
Footbridge and Dragontail
Footbridge and Dragontail
Aaron taking photos at Colchuck Lake (Jake photo)
Aaron taking photos at Colchuck Lake (Jake photo)
Colchuck Lake pano
Colchuck Lake pano
Dragontail and Colchuck
Dragontail and Colchuck

Here we got our first views of our destination for the day, Colchuck Peak!

Colchuck Peak, our destination
Colchuck Peak, our destination

As we reached the end of the lake we were greeted by a mountain goat moseying along the trail.  The goat was totally nonchalant and just meandered off the trail when he got within 5-10 feet of us.  I always love seeing mountain goats.  They're cool.

Mountain goat with a "don't mind me" attitude
Mountain goat with a "don't mind me" attitude

When we got to the start of the Colchuck Glacier route we were surprised to see 3-4 other parties already on the route.  When we hit snow, it was pretty soft.  I stopped to put on crampons but they weren't really necessary.  Jake didn't bother with his and went in his boots.  We charged up the glacier towards the col and quickly passed many of the climbers ahead of us.  The snow was super soft and great for kicking steps.  There was a well kicked path in front of us, but I found the stride length to be a little big.  I must prefer a shorter stride, despite my long legs, because it felt more comfortable and easier to just kick my own steps rather than follow the established footprints.  We made great time and soon were at the col.

Jake ascending the Colchuck Glacier
Jake ascending the Colchuck Glacier
Aaron on the glacier (Jake photo)
Aaron on the glacier (Jake photo)
Aaron ascending towards the col with Colchuck Lake behind (Jake photo)
Aaron ascending towards the col with Colchuck Lake behind (Jake photo)

My crampons came off for good and we started up the final 700 feet or so up to the summit.  The terrain was patchy snow, boulders and sand.  We passed a couple gnarly looking couloirs along the way.

Couloir
Couloir
Long way down to Colchuck Lake (Jake photo)
Long way down to Colchuck Lake (Jake photo)

Soon we were greeted with an impressive view of Argonaut Peak.  I had never seen it from this angle and was quite impressed by its profile.

Jake admiring Argonaut and Rainier
Jake admiring Argonaut and Rainier
Argonaut Peak
Argonaut Peak

We continued on towards the summit and soon got some views of Stuart.

Sherpa and Stuart
Sherpa and Stuart
Jake climbing towards the summit block
Jake climbing towards the summit block
Aaron nearing the summit (Jake photo)
Aaron nearing the summit (Jake photo)
Summit block
Summit block

One of the pitfalls (no pun intended) of spring mountain travel on thin snow is the unexpected post hole.  We had plenty of these along the way.  I've learned then when your partner post holes, the appropriate thing to do is... well, laugh and take a picture!

Post hole!!!
Post hole!!!

Soon enough we were at the summit, and were greeted by a soloist and some spectacular panoramic views!

Colchuck Peak summit panorama
Colchuck Peak summit panorama
Glacier Peak and Cashmere Mountain
Glacier Peak and Cashmere Mountain

My summit photosphere turned out crummy, but here it is anyway (not published to Google Maps).

Crummy Colchuck Peak panorama

Mount Stuart and Dragontail were of course impressive, as were the rock garden peaks of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Mount Daniel, and Rainier, Glacier, and Adams.  We didn't have the best lighting (it cleared up about 90 minutes after we left the summit) but the clouds were high and the views were good.

Argonaut, Sherpa, and Stuart with Rainier behind
Argonaut, Sherpa, and Stuart with Rainier behind
Mount Daniel
Mount Daniel
Dragontail Peak
Dragontail Peak
Mount Stuart
Mount Stuart

We ate lunch and hung out, admiring the views and watching climbers work their way up Dragontail.

Jake admiring the views
Jake admiring the views
Dragontail climbers
Dragontail climbers
Dragontail climbers
Dragontail climbers

From the summit, we heard voices off the the northwest and soon after saw a party of two making their way up on of the north routes.

A party finishing one of the north couloir routes
A party finishing one of the north couloir routes

The soloist departed, but we hung around until the north route climbers reached the summit.  We took turns taking summit shots for each other.

Colchuck summit photo
Colchuck summit photo

We didn't linger much longer.  A 50 minute summit stay was plenty long so we started back to the col.

Jake descending
Jake descending

Once we reached the col, the fun began!  The snow was soooooo soft.  Absolutely perfect for plunge stepping and glissading.  We plunge stepped a bit at first before beginning a series of long, fast, comfortable, and care free glissades.  The snow angle was perfect and the run out was nearly care free.  You could go about as fast as you want, yet stop yourself in just a few feet with your ice axe.  It was truly an epic glissade down to the lake.  Probably the best I've ever done.  It.... was.... awesome!

Solo skier nearing the col
Solo skier nearing the col
Jake, about to start an epic glissade
Jake, about to start an epic glissade
Jake walking off the Colchuck Glacier, Cashmere in the back
Jake walking off the Colchuck Glacier, Cashmere in the back
Jake nearing Colchuck Lake
Jake nearing Colchuck Lake

View larger size in new window

Once back at the lake, we began to encounter the typical Colchuck crowds.  Not nearly peak season bad, but plenty of people were up there to enjoy the splendor.  The lake is nearly melted out.  Only about 50% of the surface area of the lake still had snow, so it's mostly melted out.  I'd suspect within a couple weeks the trail and lake will be totally melted out.

Dragontail and Colchuck Lake
Dragontail and Colchuck Lake
Melting Lake
Melting Lake

The trail out was rough and rocky and it was a relief to get back to the car and take my mountaineering boots off!  I thought we made great time and had an awesome day in the mountains.  I suspect that when I look back on 2017, this will be one of my favorite trips of the year.  A truly awesome day in the mountains!

TH to summit - 4:45
summit stay - 50 mintues
summit to TH - 3:07
car to car - 8:42

I didn't track miles end elevation but I'd guess 12-13 miles and 5300-5600 elevation gain.
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raising3hikers
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Joined: 21 Sep 2007
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raising3hikers
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PostSun Jun 04, 2017 6:05 pm 
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Trail, snow, lake, goat, glacier, summit, views. Sounds like a good day.

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Eric Eames
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Backpacker Joe
NWH Joe-Bob



Joined: 16 Dec 2001
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Backpacker Joe
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PostSun Jun 04, 2017 6:33 pm 
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Great trail BETA! 5575 feet and so little snow.  That's awesome.  Thanks.

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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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Distel32
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Distel32
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PostSun Jun 04, 2017 8:56 pm 
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zephyr
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Joined: 21 Jun 2009
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zephyr
aka friendly hiker
PostSun Jun 04, 2017 9:48 pm 
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Really great report.  Excellent photos and narrative.  Among many, this one was awesome.

awilsondc wrote:
Jake admiring Argonaut and Rainier
Jake admiring Argonaut and Rainier

Puts you right there.  Loved the views up on top--especially across to Mt. Stuart and Mt. Daniel.  Seems like perfect conditions.  ~z
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007
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PostMon Jun 05, 2017 12:56 pm 
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Great report and pics, thanks for posting! I was the solo guy who was up there with you, what a great day to be up there. Good to meet you and happy adventuring!
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NorDub
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PostMon Jun 05, 2017 2:37 pm 
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A friend posted this article on facebook today; such a tragic accident. It sounds like it might have been the same day as this TR.

Quote:
A 19-year-old man from Mercer Island is missing and feared dead in an accident while hiking near Colchuck Peak Saturday afternoon, the Grant County Sheriff's Office said.
The teen was with another person as they attempted to glissade down the snow field from the summit of Aasgard Pass at 7,800 feet elevation to the glacier area below around 5 p.m., according to Sheriff Brian Burnett.

http://komonews.com/news/local/mercer-island-teen-presumed-dead-in-hiking-accident-near-asgaard-pass
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awilsondc
Scramblin' Fool



Joined: 03 Apr 2016
Posts: 490 | TRs

awilsondc
Scramblin' Fool
PostMon Jun 05, 2017 7:22 pm 
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007 wrote:
Great report and pics, thanks for posting! I was the solo guy who was up there with you, what a great day to be up there. Good to meet you and happy adventuring!

That's awesome!  Yeah man, great day to be on a mountain top!  Nice to meet you!

NorDub wrote:
A friend posted this article on facebook today; such a tragic accident. It sounds like it might have been the same day as this TR.

Yep.  It happened about 1/2 a mile away and about 4 hours after we were there.  So sad.  Jake was even commenting about the dangers of Aasgard pass in the spring, and warning fellow hikers on the way down.  Sucks to see a young life lost like this.   frown.gif
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