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Matt Lemke
High on the Outdoors



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PostSat Jul 15, 2017 1:16 pm 
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For this 10 day trip, Josh joined me for an epic journey through most corners of the Glacier Peak Wilderness, with a planned route that josh envisioned to connect 11 Bulgar Peaks (12 for Josh since he hadn't done 7 Fingered Jack and I had), as well as a quick warm up day in the Chelan Sawtooths. This trip report will feature three parts, with this first installment depicting the first 4 days. Before beginning, I will give an overview of what we did for anyone looking for a condensed version of the whole trip. In order, we climbed:

Warm up:
Switchback Peak
Martin Peak
Cheops

Main Event:
Emerald Peak
Cardinal Peak (and its South Peak)
Saska Peak
Unnamed Peak 8040+
Pinnacle Mountain
South Spectacle Butte
Seven Fingered Jack (Josh only)
Mount Fernow
Copper Peak
Flora Mountain
Martin Peak
Bonanza Peak
Dark Peak

Shown below is a map of our route. Red is day 1 with the darker purple being day 9. Follow the rainbow color sequence, and click on the icons for additional info!

July 5th Day 1 - After Josh and I celebrated the 4th, we took a leisurely morning and went food shopping, got gas, and drove to the Chelan Sawtooths, arriving at the Eagle Lakes Trailhead at 2pm. We hiked up Switchback Peak, then traversed over Martin and Cheops to Horsehead Pass and hiked back, returning to the car at dark.

July 6th Day 2 - Took the Chelan ferry to Lucerne, Josh waited while I took the shuttle bus to Holden to stash half our food, rope, a few cams and slings at Holden to be picked up halfway through our trip. Returned on the bus back to Lucerne and began at 2:30pm, and hiked up the Domke Lake Trail. Trail was mostly fire destroyed from the lake onward the majority of the way to Emerald Park, making for a very hot, dusty hike. Camped shortly beyond Emerald Park. 8 miles & 4,900 feet gain

July 7th Day 3 - Finished hike to Milham Pass, dropped packs and climbed Emerald Peak, Cardinal Peak, and since I couldn't tell which peak on Cardinal was higher, I traversed over to the South Summit as well. This included a short 5.7 overhang I solod. The register on South Summit had been there since the fifties. Josh had to hold my feet for me to downclimb the short crux then we crossed the valley and climbed the SE ridge of Saska, and utilized a key ledge to quickly return to the Emerald/Saska saddle and back to Milham Pass. Grabbed our packs, and camped in the unnamed basin just NW of Milham Pass. 8.5 miles & 7,000 feet gain

July 8th Day 4 - Hiked to a small saddle directly east of Pinnacle, and traversed over Point 8,040+ and around to Pinnacle Mountain, with much side-hilling on loose rock. Descended to the Entiat River (Borelis Pass Trail 100% destroyed) and forded the river utilizing a logjam for most of the crossing. Followed the Ice Lakes Trail, which was destroyed until it crossed to the creeks' south side at 4800 feet, at which point it was mostly usable. Left trail when the creek opened up into a boulderfield, and hiked into the basin west of South Spectacle Butte. ropped packs at 6600 feet and went to the pass between North and South Spectacle and attempted the NW ridge. This was a mistake as a hidden gendarme with large drop blocked passage. Josh recalled the standard route was the SW ridge, so we dropped a steep loose gully to the snow and traversed over to the standard route and scrambled to the summit, topping out at 8pm. Returned to our packs and camped at Lower Ice Lake. 12 miles & 6,600 feet gain

July 9th Day 5 - Hiked past Upper Ice Lake (both of which were still frozen) and traversed into Leroy Basin and around Maude and 7FJ. Josh convinced me to let him run up 7FJ real quick while I waited an hour and a half at the 7,600 foot pass enroute to Fernow. He ran up the west slopes and met the standard south ridge while I enjoyed the views. We joined back up and descended past the small tarn and ascended Fernow, meeting up with Tom S, Josh H and Luke S who had just returned from Copper, and were packing up their bivy at about 8300 feet. Their tracks helped a lot, and the whiskey Tom offered us reduced our pain (although gave Josh a buzz)! We packed over Fernow, then descended the glacier on its NE flank, crossed the key 7200 foot saddle and into the basin East of Copper. We dropped packs at 7500 feet and ascended Copper on steep snow slopes which took us to the upper NE ridge, which was an incredible scramble, especially with the improving late afternoon lighting. We topped out at 7:30pm, returned quickly yo our packs (thanks for the steps Tom!) and camped on a somewhat flay knoll at 5800 feet in Copper Basin. 9.5 miles & 6,900 feet gain

July 10th Day 6 - Finished descending Copper Basin to Holden, with a bit of bushwhacking to traverse rightwards to meet with the Copper Basin Trail. Reached Holden and ate a shitton of food which included milk, cereal, sandwiches, fresh fruit, muffins, salad, soup, ice cream etc. Rested 4 hours in Holden, organized out gear cache and continued up the Tenmile Creek Trail and camped in the burned forest at the base of the slope leading to Tenmile Pass. 5.5 miles & 2,200 feet gain (Rest Day!)

July 11th Day 7 - With day packs, ascended over Tenmile Pass (trail destroyed) and met the good Devore Creek Trail on the other side. Descended nice switchbacks to 5250 feet and crossed Devore Creek on a log, and bushwhacked into the basin north of East Riddler Peak. Reached the 7100 foot saddle and scrambled the mostly open ridge to Flora, except for traversing the snow slopes north of Point 7670 to bypass it's time consuming ridges. Returned to same camp in the Tenmile Creek Valley. 12.5 miles & 7,700 feet gain

July 12th Day 8 - Packed up the remainder of Tenmile Creek and found the trail in the meadows below Hilgard Pass. Switchbacked up to the pass, then hiked west over the small hill to the unnamed glacier on the east flank of Martin Peak. Went to the 8000 foot saddle just north of Martin Peak and "scrambled" up the NE face which went at very, very loose Class 4. We had to use extreme caution to avoid dislodging microwave size boulders on one another. We then descended the west ridge to Holden Pass to camp, which we reached at a leisurely 5pm, enabling an earlier bedtime. 5.5 miles & 4,000 feet gain

July 13th Day 9 - Woke up earlier than any other day at 5am, and climbed the Mary Green Glacier Route up Bonanza, which went smoothly. Topped out just before 9am with some marine layer clouds providing a nice change to the hot cloudless days we had every day since.Enjoyed the summit for 45 minutes and began the traverse west to the sub-summit, which involved a short 15 meter rappel, and some serious traversing on unstable ledges, one of which exploded under Josh, and he took a small pendulum fall following me, injuring his fingers when rocks came down. Luckily he was ok, and was able to bandage his fingers up and continue. We did a total of 2 roped traverse pitches until the rock quality increased and scrambling difficulty relented a little. We then were able to both solo scramble the entire traverse to Dark peak, staying right on the wildly exposed ridge crest the majority of the way, deviating on ledges only twice. Once shortly before Dark Peak to bypass a large notch and a second to pass below a couple small gendarmes. At about 3pm we reached Dark Peak, the final peak of our trip and celebrated on the summit with a nice break, since we were both mentally exhausted from dealing with so much exposure for that many hours. We ran down the Dark Glacier to the small swampy meadow at 5000 feet, at which point my worst nightmare came true. There was no trail of any kind descending Swamp Creek. See part 3 of this installment for more details, but we found a place to camp at about 3800 feet right as it got dark, which capped a 16 hour day. 7 miles & 4,200 feet gain

July 14th Day 10 - Finished the now more manageable bushwhack down Swamp Creek and met the Agnes Creek Trail (PCT) and hiked 6 miles out to High Bridge, where we caught the shuttle bus to Stehekin, and the ferry back to Chelan. Jumped in the lake to clean off, and ate 2 beers, 2 pizzas and 2 ice creams myself in Chelan. 10 miles & 800 feet gain

Trip totals: 78.5 miles & 44,300 feet gain, plus the distance and gain for our warm up day which isn't included here

My apologies if the condensed version is a little long. Now for the full version with the photos!

July 5th Day 1
I ended up meeting up with Josh at his place for some fireworks for the 4th of July, since I took the day off from climbing. I had just returned from an awesome climb of the SW buttress of Cathedral Peak and the nearby scrambles, and a day of climbing in Squamish and needed a day off, so I helped my dad finish the new deck he is building at home and rested. In the evening, I drove from Renton up to Lynnwood to meet Josh and have some beers and watched fireworks, as his brothers had a full array of stuff to display. I crashed the night at his place and we drove out to the Chelan Sawtooth Range the next morning, after some grocery shopping. We realized we didn't want to wake up at 4am to try and catch the Chelan Ferry at 8, so we pushed the full Glacier Peak Wilderness trip back a day and decided to warm up by hiking Switchback, Martin and Cheops, the last 3 major peaks I had to still climb in the Chelan Sawtooths. So we drove all the way to the Eagle Lakes Trailhead at 4700 feet and started hiked the 7 miles to Cooney Lake at 2pm. It was a nice walk on a gentle trail all the way to the lake, that featured just one small creek crossing. Since the snow was pretty much gone throughout the Sawtooths, we wore light tennis shoes, and just carried water and a few snacks in one day pack between us.



We made quick work hiking around the north side of Cooney Lake and hit the Switchback/Martin saddle and dropped the day pack to run up the final 400 feet of east Class 1-2 to Switchback Peak. From there we were able to see the Saska Group and many of the peaks we were about the embark on. It was still well over 70 degrees on the summit at 4:30pm without any clouds or wind. We then continued on the easy ridge up the the small sub-summit, at which point some Class 2+ scrambling began. We passed through a small notch and topped out on Martin Peak as the sun began to dip a little lower in the western sky. We didn't stay long because we decided we had time to traverse over Cheops as well and hike out the other trail via Horsehead Pass.



Scrambling over Cheops involved a lot of Class 3, and with the route variations we took we found some nice Class 4. The ridge was quite nice with many solid spots. By 8ish we topped out on Cheops and descended the long, sinuous ridge to Horsehead Pass. As we began hiking down the Eagle Lakes Trail, the sun was beginning to set, and Cheops was lit in a bright orange glow. Shortly below the turnoff for the Upper Eagle Lake, we passed the large group of backpackers we ran into at the trailhead. Comparing their pack sizes to our 3 pound combined day pack was pretty hilarious. 30 minutes after it was pitch dark we reached the car, and managed to find an open gas station for dinner. We crashed off a FS road near Chelan and set a 6am alarm so we could get to the ferry dock in time to buy tickets.



July 6th Day 2
We woke up right at 6am and began organizing our food and putting it in bags, and packing up our gear cache to be left in Holden. We got our ferry tickets, and got a return ticket for July 15th, one day later than our planned time of departure to have a day buffer in case something came up. At 8:00 we took off on the slow boat for Lucerne, which we arrived at around 10:30. I got on the shuttle bus up to Holden with our gear cache, while Josh waited at Lucerne and took a nap. I had Emailed the registrar at Holden to ask if it was ok to leave a gear cache there, which they gladly allowed, and even held it safe for us! So upon arriving I was able to simply drop it off in a safe storage spot that I could access after hours in case we were too early or late. I grabbed a quick bite to eat and some ice cream before taking the bus back to Lucerne with the visitors that were leaving that day. At 2pm, Josh and I began hiking, from a measly low 1,200 feet elevation on the shores of Lake Chelan, in temperatures around 90 degrees, with our full 30 pound packs! Eek

Initially, the hiking was going well; we found the bridge over Railroad Creek, and located the start of the Domke Lake Trail and hiked the nice switchbacks up. Despite the entire region being devastated by the Wolvering fire in 2015, the trail was in good condition. We were sweating buckets however and exhausted our water bottles before reaching the junction for the Milham Pass Trail. When we reached this junction, we got our first realization that the nice trails Josh had promised may not be that nice after all. We turned right at the junction, and began following the very faint trail around and above the west side of Domke Lake.



It didn't take us long however to lose it entirely, and despite Josh having the trail marked on the GPS, it was impossible to find, and we determined it was completely destroyed by the fires after we could find it for two hours of criss crossing it up and down. We gave up on the trail and continued plowing our way through the ash, down trees, and the occasional sinkhole from tree roots being burned out. It was a hot, tedious hike southward towards the creek descending from Milham Pass. In hindsight, we should have just hiked along the lake shore if we knew the trail was gone, because the side-hilling was annoying. We finally reached the creek however, and dropped 100 feet to fill up our water bottles and chug a couple liters. From that point we continued up the steep slopes, off trail until we eventually found the trail again around 3,500 feet elevation! As we got higher, it was just barely discernible much of the way, albeit way overgrown.



This saved us a lot of time though, and we were able to follow it to where we reached unburned forest at 4900 feet. Here the trail was easy to follow, but still overgrown. We reached the beautiful Emerald Park around 8:30pm, but it was way too buggy to stay long, so we snapped a few photos of the large meadow and continued another 20 minutes or so to a nice spot at 5550 feet right where the trail made a sharp right turn to ascend to Milham Pass. We camped here and put up the tent as the sun was setting.



July 7th Day 3
By 7am the next morning we were on our way up the now great trail to Milham Pass. It was nice to have the switchbacks, and an hour or so later we reached the 6700 foot pass where we hung our packs on a tree and threw some things in our day pack. The goal for the day was to climb Emerald, Cardinal and Saska Peak. We agreed to alternate carrying the day pack throughout the trip, when we didn't have to carry our full packs. We traversed more or less horizontally south towards the basin below unnamed Lake 7230. Some steep class 2 took us to this lake which was still snow covered, and easy snow slopes led to a Class 4 rock step to reach the 7590 foot saddle between Emerald and Saska Peaks. We decided to do Emerald and Cardinal first, then cross back over to finish on Saska, so we began scrambling the ridge east towards Emerald. We deviated from the crest to its south To save time and avoid Class 4 terrain, eventually reaching a gully that looked like it would lead to the summit. I climbed a solid rock rib just left of the gully to avoid loose rock. Luckily we guessed the right gully and we reached the summit area, and scrambled the final few feet to the top.



Our first summit was in the books! The wind was still whipping a bit, and it was certainly cooler than the first day which was nice. After a quick snack, and gazing over at the Chelan Sawtooths, we descended a gully further south and descended some class 4 steps to reach the slopes below the rugged cliffs guarding Emeralds' south ridge. We reached a low spot of 7300 feet before entering the open snow covered basin on the northwest side of Cardinal Peak. We were able to hike up moderate snow directly to the summit ridge and scramble the exposed ridge section to the top. To my dismay, I looked to the south and saw a second summit that looked potentially higher, or at least the same elevation. I told Josh i was going to go check it out so I traversed over to it, which involved a bit of Class 3 and a traverse in a moat. When I reached the base of the summit rocks, I completely circumvented it looking for a 4th or low 5th class route but the easiest place to climb looked like a 5.7 overhang. Since it was only 20 more feet I went for it, and climbed up the two moves (which required me to stem my feet on some small ledges and pull myself up). After topping out, I immediately regretted it since I knew I wouldn't be able to downclimb that unassisted, so I called Josh to traverse over and assist me a little.


As he worked his way over I looked in the summit register, which was placed in 1965 and featured only a handful of parties! Apparently the south peak is indeed lower, if only by a few feet, but it was well worth the trip over. I signed it, and Josh made it over. He scrambled up to the big ledge at the base of the 5.7 overhang, and guided/held my feet, while I made the two critical hand movements (luckily they were mostly jugs) to lower myself down. From that point we returned to the main summit, and ran down/glissaded the snow slopes and descended into the 7000 foot level in the valley. I almost lost my phone on the glissade, which I was luckily able to find by hiking back up just a few minutes.

We crossed the valley, filled our water bottles in the creek, and began ascending the SE ridge of Saska. By this point the 1400 more feet back up after coming down off Cardinal took a little time to get my legs going again. We were able to stay mostly on Class 2 terrain on the ridge and reached the summit mid afternoon time with more sun and less wind. As we ascended Saska, we saw a fighter jet whiz by and down the valley, which is apparently a common thing in the GPW.


We descended the SE ridge to 7700 feet where I earlier noticed a nice ledge that would dump us much closer to the Emerald/Saska saddle allowing us to cut right below the east face and avoid extra elevation loss. We were able to traverse easy snow and reach a low point of only 7400 feet and regain only about 200 feet to reach the saddle again, at which point we made quick work down the snow past the small tarn and back to Milham Pass. Since we had some daylight left, and there was no water at the pass, we agreed to continue into the small basin off to the northwest, and set up camp at 7200 feet on a grassy knoll among beautiful slabs with an awesome view of Saska for the sunset.


July 8th Day 4
We had a fairly long day doing 3 Bulgars in one day, but that would pale in comparison to this day. We woke up and quickly got going, ascending easy slopes to a small 7600 foot saddle directly east and across from Pinnacle Mountain. I realized we would have to traverse al the way around to get to Pinnacle, which involved us climbing up and over Unnamed Point 8040+ which definitely was class 4 the way we went. I had no idea if the other side would go, and even from the summit of this small peak it wasn't discernible. I spotted a hideous loose gully though and started down it, and amazingly it went! We were able to drop onto the loose south facing slopes opposite the ridge heading the Mirror Lake Valley. Lots of hideous side-hill traversing on ball bearing scree underlain by hard pan dirt ensued which surely ate up lots of our energy, but we eventually got to the 7850 foot saddle just south of the summit of Pinnacle Mountain. From that point we ditched packs and ran up the slopes to the summit. We were able to see the Unnamed peak we stood upon earlier that morning and its imposing west facing cliffs, as well as South Spectacle Butte Across the Enntiat River Valley; our next objective for the day.


We descended back to the packs, took a snack break and began descending easy snow towards the Borelis Pass Trail, which we would soon determine also no longer exists! When we reached where the GPS said it would be located, nothing even resembling a trail was visible. Luckily the area was very open and cross country walking was easy so we just made a bee line descent on the path of least resistance in the general direction of where we needed to go. It was slightly over a 4000 foot descent to the Entiat River, and the ash covered ground and downed trees got worse the lower we went. When we finally reached the Entiat River Trail, it was barely visible under the 100s of fallen trees. It took us a solid 15 minutes to just reach the river. We located a nice logjam that allowed us to cross most of the rapidly flowing river but for the final few steps we had to remove our shoes and wade in knee deep water. There we tried to locate the Ice Lakes Trail, but amidst the total devastation of the forest throughout the entire Entiat Valley, we couldn't find it either.


I was beginning to get rather annoyed with constantly climbing over downed trees and being exposed to the hot sun in all the burned forests, and was thinking how sad it was that the entire regions' forests were destroyed. It would take years to clear and rebuild all the trails! We were able to more or less follow the path of least resistance around, and into the Icy Creek Valley, where we passed an exceptionally bad section of burn, where literally everything was reduced to ash, and no logs or roots were found on the ground. This part was exceptionally hot and dusty. Beyond that, we crawled over more logs, and often would string them together and walk on top of them at times connecting 5-10 different logs! This proved easier than walking on the soft ground as well. Somewhere around 4700 feet we entered healthy forest once again and was able to follow the trail, cross Icy Creek twice (first time had to wade, second time the old log bridge was still intact), and reach the big opening in the creek at 5600 feet. Rather than ascend the boulders along the creek as one would do to go directly to Ice lakes, we turned right and ascended the steep tree covered slope heading eastward towards the basin below the west face of South Spectacle Butte.



At 6600 feet we ditched the packs and headed for the saddle between North and South Spectacle Buttes. I had envisioned us climbing the NW ridge based on simply what I saw from upper Ice lake 10 days prior. From there it looked like the NW ridge was an easy scramble. Josh only had word from Adam that the SW ridge was the standard route, but I for some reason thought that was a bad idea since I saw numerous deep notches in that ridge. We  ascended to the 7300 foot saddle between the two peaks and began up class 2 talus until we reached an impassible notch and gendarme I couldn't see until I was right on top of it! Baffled as to why I couldn't see this from Upper Ice Lake, I begrudgingly admitted Josh was right and we descended a loose gully back into the small basin and traversed snow over towards the SW ridge, and climbed a steep snow gully to meet it at 7400 feet, making the detour only having done an extra 700 feet. Once on the SW ridge the notches I saw from the basin were actually easily passed on the south side of the ridge crest, and the so called Class 4 ledge traverse crux was only Class 3 in my opinion, and quite simple. We topped out shortly before 8pm and enjoyed the view of Maude and 7FJ the most. Ice Lakes below us were still frozen but this wasn't a surprise to us. We didn't stay long though as I really did not want to be on that ridge after dark, and I ideally wanted to get to Lower Ice Lake before needing headlamps. So we quickly scrambled down the ridge and ran down the snow to our packs and made quick work of the traverse to Lower Ice Lake where we stumbled upon a perfect camp spot right as it got dark, complete with flatness, devoid of rocks, roots and sticks, and very close to running water! We were moving for 15 hours, and managed to get both Pinnacle and South Spectacle Butte in the same day with two unplanned detours. I was amazed, and remember commenting to Josh i hope all the days are not this long haha!


Stay tuned for Part 2 and 3 coming up soon!

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Stefan-K
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PostSat Jul 15, 2017 1:25 pm 
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"Mountain Massacre" ?

Some people go for joy, others for conquest. I'm glad it's just words. But still.

I sure do hope we move through this zeitgeist of violent bluster soon...



Anyhow, nice one. Glad the mountains are still intact.
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Matt Lemke
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PostSat Jul 15, 2017 1:27 pm 
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Stefan-K wrote:
"Mountain Massacre" ?

Some people go for joy, others for conquest. I'm glad it's just words. But still.

I sure do hope we move through this zeitgeist of violent bluster soon...



Anyhow, nice one. Glad the mountains are still intact.

Haha yeah the name is just a joke, more of a massacre on myself than the mountains. I didn't escape without some battle scars lol. I thoroughly enjoyed all of it though...maybe sans the Swamp Creek bushwhack though.

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zephyr
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PostSat Jul 15, 2017 2:07 pm 
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Congratulations! you two.   Such a lot of work and resourcefulness to deal with all those challenges and gain all those summits.  Great reporting.  You must take notes or have an amazing memory Matt.  Such detail and good story-telling.  Parts were a little hair-raising.  haha  Other than being hot, the photos show you had excellent weather and visibility.    ~z
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PostSat Jul 15, 2017 2:15 pm 
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stun.gif Pretty epic you guys. Looking forward to the next couple parts!   up.gif  up.gif
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PostSat Jul 15, 2017 3:12 pm 
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You guys are animals!  When I grow up I want to be able to hike like you two.

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PostSat Jul 15, 2017 3:29 pm 
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Goodonya boys!  up.gif  up.gif

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Malachai Constant
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PostSat Jul 15, 2017 3:31 pm 
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Good work I hit most of those but not all at once up.gif  up.gif

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"You do not laugh when you look at the mountains, or when you look at the sea." Lafcadio Hearn
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Matt Lemke
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PostSat Jul 15, 2017 3:51 pm 
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Gimpilator wrote:
You guys are animals!  When I grow up I want to be able to hike like you two.

haha! Growing up isn't required...I never want to grow up lol

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reststep
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PostSat Jul 15, 2017 6:04 pm 
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Thanks for taking the time to write up such a great report Matt.

Looking forward to parts 2 and 3 of the Matt and Josh adventure.

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"The mountains are calling and I must go." - John Muir
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PostSat Jul 15, 2017 8:18 pm 
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Great report! And the look of total devastation of the forests matches the title all to well. Looking forward to the sequels.
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PostSun Jul 16, 2017 5:46 am 
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seawallrunner
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PostSun Jul 16, 2017 10:53 pm 
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Wow - amazing trip report Matt !! Well done Matt and Josh ! Can't wait to read the next two installments of your story.

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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Glacier Peak Wilderness Mountain Massacre July 5-14: Part 1 of 3
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