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shoulderseason
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PostTue Jul 14, 2020 5:25 pm 
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We've been wanting to get to Eagle Cap for a while, but have not made it due to family and work commitments, fires/smoke, and other beautiful places to see.

This year looked like the right opportunity, though the melt seems a bit slow (snow at Mirror, Moccasin, Douglas, Crescent; trail conditions (last updated a week ago)). There was a late season storm that dumped two feet at Aneroid in June, though that's back down to zero according to Snowtel.

We're fine with traction and camping on snow, though we have avoided things that require ice axes / the ability to self arrest. But, since we haven't been there before, it's hard to imagine what it's like with that kind of snow. So, if anyone has perspective on whether it's likely to be a different perspective on it than we planned, or if it's going to be muddy/we'd regret not going somewhere else with the time, I'd appreciate any advice.

We're also wondering about Glacier Pass and the trail up Eagle Cap in the snow. From contour lines / photos, they don't look that exposed (and so like they'd be slow going, but not unsafe) in snow. But, looks can be deceiving, so advice from anyone who has been would be helpful. Thank you!

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drm
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PostWed Jul 15, 2020 8:06 am 
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For the most part, the steep terrain would be on the higher passes. The first part of the hike up the east fork of the Lostine (one of the popular routes to the Lakes Basin) switchbacks up some steep terrain. If snow is that low, probably better to go in from Wallowa Lake. Nothing steep there, though then you have to ford the river when you turn off to the Lakes Basin, and the water could be high.

But there are no major passes to cross to get to the Lakes Basin by the common routes, so if you are otherwise okay with snow travel, you should be okay. And I expect there will be some granite benches exposed to sunshine that will be melted out for camping even if there is substantial snowcover still.

As to Eagle Cap itself, the trail switchbacks up a big slope and the question will be whether the snow is soft or hard. If you save it for an afternoon on a sunny day, it should be an easy and crunchy hike. But it could be dangerous if that snow was hard in the morning. And the hike up to Glacier Pass is north facing, so will be very snowy.
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shoulderseason
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PostWed Jul 15, 2020 8:43 am 
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Thank you!

We’d been debating about East Fork Lostine versus West Fork Wallowa, and learning toward Lostine because of the ford at Six Mile Meadow.  I see how the snow could make Lostine less great. We’ll reconsider that decision.
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wanderwild
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PostWed Jul 15, 2020 10:39 am 
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shoulderseason - when are you planning to go? I'm planning a trip there 7/30 - 8/2 that involves some high off trail traverses and hadn't been expecting snow to be such an issue. If you go before then, mind if I ask you for beta?

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shoulderseason
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PostWed Jul 15, 2020 1:00 pm 
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We’re on our way now. I’m terrible at nice trip reports (I am something like two years behind on photos), but I’ll plan to update this thread with notes.

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wanderwild
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PostWed Jul 15, 2020 4:34 pm 
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Ha, I'm just as bad! Much appreciated, enjoy your trip!

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drm
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PostThu Jul 16, 2020 9:07 am 
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wanderwild wrote:
I'm planning a trip there 7/30 - 8/2 that involves some high off trail traverses and hadn't been expecting snow to be such an issue.

High altitude north facing slopes can definitely still have snow at the end of July, and this is not a low snow year. Especially if you like early morning starts when the snow can be hard and slippery, you should take that into consideration. It won't be a lot of terrain, but it only takes one steep and exposed slope to ruin your day if you are not prepared for it.

shoulderseason wrote:
We’d been debating about East Fork Lostine versus West Fork Wallowa, and learning toward Lostine because of the ford at Six Mile Meadow.  I see how the snow could make Lostine less great. We’ll reconsider that decision.

I think the Lostine route is more scenic. A preference for W Wallowa has more to do with pre-trail as the lake is nice and the long dirt road to Two Pan trailhead on the Lostine can sometimes be an endless jarring washboard, whereas it is paved all the way to the trailhead beyond Wallowa Lake.
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RichP
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PostThu Jul 16, 2020 11:19 am 
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Not really in the same area but at similar elevations and latitude; a buddy went up to 7 Devils last weekend and said the lakes are still 40% frozen over and quite a bit of snow lingers in shaded and north facing slopes.
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iRemeberToby
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PostThu Jul 16, 2020 4:23 pm 
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I got back from a two night backpacking trip to Mirror Lake a few days ago. I took the East Fork Lostine River trail. The snow patches start soon after the switchbacks, so maybe at 6,600 feet or so? There are snow patches on/off until the valley meadow, at which point there are some big patches but mostly snow free. After the broken bridge the snow starts to pick up a bit. I am cautious so I used microspikes and poles for a lot of the trail, but honestly in the afternoon when the snow is soft you probably don't need them, especially since we've had warm weather for the last few days.

Mirror Lake was probably 70% covered in ice over the weekend, and each morning the unfrozen parts of the lake would be covered in a new layer of 1/8 to 1/4" of ice that would melt out by late morning or so. The bugs weren't as bad as I thought they would be, but I imagine over the next 2-3 weeks as the snow and ice melts out they will get a lot worse before getting better.

I was originally planning on taking the pass over to Glacier Lake, but decided against it because of the snow. I talked to some people who hiked Eagle Cap (which I am not skilled/crazy enough to do now) and Glacier Lake is completely frozen over right now.

If you're just planning on doing the Lakes Basin, I would recommend bringing spikes and poles, but I would say that it's totally doable. The lakes below Mirror Lake aren't frozen. I think we're still a couple of weeks out or more from the whole loop being safe to do for most of us - I wouldn't want to do the pass coming out of Aneroid Lake or the pass between Mirror and Glacier lakes right now.
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shoulderseason
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PostSat Jul 18, 2020 8:11 pm 
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We ended up going and coming from the E Fork Lostine, and had a great time with views to inspire many future trips.

Details below, but overall, for the Lakes Basin and Eagle Cap, we were happy to have poles and brought, but didn’t use, spikes. We decided not to do Glacier Pass.

Day 1
First snow at 6997’, 2.2 mi, just a patch. A bit along the waterfall too, one place where I was happy to have poles mostly since it was just a big drift to climb. Lots of evidence that a trail crew had recently been by (thank you!) in the first few miles.

Patches in Lostine Valley. Camped at an established site in the valley, which gave us views of the comet to the north and the Milky Way over Eagle Cap. Just really wonderful.

Day 2
A little snow leaving the valley and approaching Mirror. Enough to make going slower - picking our way around and checking navigation a bit more. Melting fast.

Some snow at Mirror. No trouble finding campsites. It was maybe 1/8 covered in snow / ice when we arrived; this would be entirely clear when we left two days later.

The hike up Eagle Cap was snowy leaving Upper Lake. (Upper Lake was still about 1/2 frozen.) After the first switchback, we left the trail for a rock route, which I think was wise.

Again a little tricky near Horton pass. We decided the route to the pass and then along the ridge had less exposure, rather than the shortcut that skips the pass. (note: some maps don’t show the ridge trail between the pass and the summit - but it’s there and in great shape.)

Happily the trail along the ridge was snow free until we hit the broader slopes. We again deviated a couple of times for rock routes on the way to the summit.

On the way down, the west facing slope was melting fast enough to have erased our boot prints in places. We glissaded the first slope down from the pass.

Day 3
Lakes Basin circuit. A little snow on trail, lots of mud. Campsites clear of snow until Moccasin / Sunshine.

We also went up to Razz. Very little snow to speak of on the booth path. We didn’t like the look of what we thought was the route to Upper Razz (snowy, snowbridgy), and the route around Razz was just generally slushy, so we decided to forgo Upper.

We noticed when we got back to Mirror that snow patches near our site were melting at 6-12” / day.

Day 4
Out E Fork Lostine. Much, much less snow (& much more mud) than on our way in.

Other observations:
- from Eagle Cap, Glacier Lake and its campsites still looked pretty snowy. What we could see of the trail up to Glacier Lake (from Frazier) looked clear.
- Glacier Pass: views from Eagle Cap were encouraging (Upper reaches of the north side looked clear, south side looked snowy too but manageable). From Moccasin, it looked like a different story - the first part, on the west side of the stream, looked very snowy, and we couldn’t tell whether the trail crossed the stream on snow or in an open spot. We decided not to do it this trip. (Also, the water in Moccasin completely covered the trail in two places; the first of which looked knee-deep, we didn’t get a good look at the second but people had clearly made it across to camp.)
- South side of Horton Pass looked pretty good.
- Ivan Carper - snowy on the Lakes Basin side, but looked doable (we nearly decided to return via this route).
- During our second night at Mirror, we heard two loud rock/snowfalls. One right before we went to sleep, one loud enough to wake me up.
- Southern faces of northern peaks (what we could see from Eagle Cap) all looked pretty clear.
- Other routes in: lots of folks came up the West Fork Wallowa; I chatted with a few who rated the crossing above six mile as anywhere from “we almost turned around“ to “straightforward.” So, YMMV. Hurricane Creek looked clear.
- Any hopes that being early would let us escape mosquitoes were misplaced.
- We were ahead of wildflowers though there were some - my guess is another week or two for the valleys?

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wanderwild
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PostMon Jul 20, 2020 11:51 am 
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Thanks for the info! Sounds like it is melting fast, and weather should be generally pretty warm in coming weeks.

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Stefan
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PostMon Jul 20, 2020 1:41 pm 
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Can someone give me their opinion of mosquitos in that area?  Worse than the Alpine Lakes?  Same as or better?  Just wondering....

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shoulderseason
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PostTue Jul 21, 2020 7:44 pm 
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Quote:
Can someone give me their opinion of mosquitos in that area?

I looked over at one point and it looked like my partner was wearing a shirt made of mosquitos.

If I had to rank my worst west coast mosquito encounters, I'd say:

1. Sunset Lakes, Yosemite; July (so terrible that we hiked a half mile away to eat)
2. Tank Lakes, Alpine Lakes; August (I have no lake photos from that trip that I didn't have to retouch bugs out of)
3. Upper Cathedral Lake, Pasayten; July
4. Moccasin Lake, Eagle Cap, July
5. Mirror Lake, Eagle Cap, July

Though we're going to the Winds in a few weeks, and we'll see how that goes.

That said, with a head net and gloves on, they didn't bother me that much on this trip even when calm, despite them being thick, and they really didn't bother us so long as we didn't stop or if there was a breeze.

And don't let this dissuade you (just pack appropriately). This is a stunningly beautiful area and I spent much more time thinking about the scenery and the geology than I did the mosquitoes.

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