Forum Index > Trip Reports > Waptus and Spade Lakes 8/16-8/18/2017
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HermitThrush
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PostFri Aug 18, 2017 2:52 pm 
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NOTE as of 18 Aug 17: If you are planning on traveling this trail in the immediate future and parking at Salmon La Sac per the instructions, please note the Jolly Mountain fire that is burning not too far away from Salmon La Sac. See https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5496/ for the most recent updates. I suspect this fire could affect access to the Waptus River trail at some point in the future. When in doubt, call the Cle Elum ranger station or e-mail the people in charge of the fire, address shown at the link above. I did both and their responses basically gave me the go ahead. It was good just for peace of mind.

This was a fantastic 3 day, 2 night expedition into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. The Waptus River trail is in good shape all the way. Obviously the mule train crowd has kept this trail in excellent condition. It is long, about 9 miles, somewhat "horsey" in spots, but the grade is good. We did it in about 4 hours one way to Waptus. Waptus is a gorgeous lake. We scored an excellent campsite on the southeast corner of the lake with a fantastic view of Bear's Breast and Summit Chief. There are some more isolated sites located after you walk through the larger group campsite on that southeast corner. There are also sites on the other side of the ford and another group site on the shore as you head to Spade Lake. Base camping here for two night was definitely the best option for us.


Spade Lake trail was a bruiser, but honestly not as difficult as I expected. The junction with the trail right down by Waptus Lake is well signed, as is the junction with the PCT. The trail is visible and easy to follow at all points. The grade is very steep, but after you cross the currently dry riverbed marked on the Green Trails map as 5300', the grade eases before dropping into the Spade Lake basin. Yes, there are blowdowns, but most of them are easily walked around or scrambled over.  Spade Lake is every bit worth the difficult hike up and back. The recommendation to leave Waptus for Spade no later than 7 AM is a good one as you will hike most of the way up in the shade that way. We were about 3 hours up and a little less than that on the way back. Bring plenty of water as there are no good sources between Waptus and Spade currently. For GAIA users: The Spade Lake trail is not marked on the map shown on Gaia. I'd bring a paper backup (always do anyway) or drop a tail or make waypoints on the way up so you have a reference point.



We were hoping to make Venus Lake, and could see the waterfall flowing down from it, but due to energy and ability concerns decided to call it a day at Spade. The trail around Spade petered out, and while I knew to follow the shore around to the waterfall and then ascend, I wasn't honestly feeling up to the climb. I think the elevation may have gotten to me a bit, which is surprising. I also am a tad confused by some ambiguity on the map: The Green Trails map shows the trail to Venus ascending on the left side of the waterfall (looking up from Spade) but it seems much more obvious to ascend on the right side of the waterfall (looking up from Spade) or in the gully on that side. I didn't feel like the route finding challenge so I just called it a day at Spade. It was a bummer. In retrospect, reading a recent report on the climb, it did look a bit beyond my ability.

(right or left side?)

Doing this route in 3 days (day 1 to Waptus, day 2 to Spade Lake as a day trip, day 3 out) definitely gave us plenty of leisure and time to relax by the lakes, enjoy good meals, and rest. I did a lot of reading by the lake and had time to make pancake breakfasts both of the mornings we were at Waptus. It was a wonderful end-of-vacation hike. Back to the books on Monday. I am hoping to get out a few more times before the snow flies.

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HermitThrush
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PostFri Aug 18, 2017 2:59 pm 
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Also, please respect the current burn ban in the area. The stand of timber around Waptus was one of the best I've ever seen. Please preserve it for future generations.
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olderthanIusedtobe
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PostFri Aug 18, 2017 3:16 pm 
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up.gif

When I dropped from Venus to Spade, I saw no trail at all.  Descending I stayed to the left of the outlet creek.  I went right down that huge slab, it was amazing cruising down that.
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HermitThrush
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PostFri Aug 18, 2017 3:58 pm 
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olderthanIusedtobe wrote:
up.gif

When I dropped from Venus to Spade, I saw no trail at all.  Descending I stayed to the left of the outlet creek.  I went right down that huge slab, it was amazing cruising down that.

Was it steep or slick? That's pretty amazing.
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olderthanIusedtobe
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PostFri Aug 18, 2017 6:30 pm 
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HermitThrush wrote:
Was it steep or slick? That's pretty amazing.

It looks steep from a distance.  Not quite as much when you're in the middle of it.  Plus plenty of texture to the rock, it's not perfectly smooth.  Little ledges and gullies and stuff.  Nice granite that's grippy on the soles of boots.  I didn't slip on it at all.  It was dry, but really good granite is still grippy even when it's wet.
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olderthanIusedtobe
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PostFri Aug 18, 2017 6:32 pm 
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Just to clarify, I pretty much walked down the slab, it wasn't a scramble.


The first time you walk up or down a steep slab like that and your boots stick to it like flypaper, it's a mindblowing experience.  It does depend on the type of rock though.
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HermitThrush
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PostFri Aug 18, 2017 8:35 pm 
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Now I just have to take another trip out there! Thanks for the advice.
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contour5
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PostFri Aug 18, 2017 10:32 pm 
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Great TR and really nice pictures!

That's one stout looking pack you're hauling...
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HermitThrush
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PostSat Aug 19, 2017 8:39 am 
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contour5 wrote:
Great TR and really nice pictures!

That's one stout looking pack you're hauling...

Thanks. That's my Duluth Pack which is usually used for my canoe trips. It's not obviously the best thing for hiking but I am making do with what I have. It does have a tumpline that goes across my forehead which helps my shoulders out a lot. No hip belt. I am by no means an ultralight packer. My brother was using my dad's old Army duffel which, despite the bulk, was actually lighter than my pack (tent and tarps in there).
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CarriesNineFires
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PostTue Aug 22, 2017 6:45 pm 
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It's been a few years since I went from Spade to Venus and I don't remember the route.

What I do remember is that from below it looks pretty steep and appears to be a route-finding problem but when I started up the way became obvious and it was kind of miraculous in the way it defied expectations of difficulty. I guess it's a product of the foreshortening of the view from Spade.
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mbravenboer
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PostTue Aug 22, 2017 9:06 pm 
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up.gif That view from Waptus is really nice.
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geyer
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PostTue Aug 22, 2017 10:07 pm 
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whew, beautiful area. hopefully that fire gets contained, but the projected outlook is not good...

Also, I see you brought everything but the kitchen sink  tongue.gif

HermitThrush wrote:
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HermitThrush
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PostThu Aug 24, 2017 11:30 am 
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geyer wrote:
Also, I see you brought everything but the kitchen sink  tongue.gif

Yep, that's how I roll.

Now I'm really glad I got out here. The area between Salmon La Sac and where it gets close to the Waptus River is just asking to get burned. So many dead downed trees it's ridiculous
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DIYSteve
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PostThu Aug 24, 2017 12:27 pm 
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I hope you get back when you can make the spectacular slab hike from Spade to Venus
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HermitThrush
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PostFri Aug 25, 2017 3:36 pm 
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DIYSteve wrote:
I hope you get back when you can make the spectacular slab hike from Spade to Venus

Likely a Spade base camp will be best to make that happened, and to do that, I need UL gear. And the area not to be fried by the Jolly Mountain fire. The Spade trail was easier than I expected but still nothing to sniff at. What I really want to do is that high circle route. But to do that I need more alpine ability.
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