Forum Index > Trip Reports > Live by Slide Alder,Die by Slide Alder:Stetattle Ridge,Elephant Butte,Azure Lake,Stetattle Creek
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siaumell
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PostSat Jul 21, 2018 7:54 am 
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Day 1: With scones and coffees in hand, we left Bellingham for the Sourdough Trailhead in the early afternoon. Stopped by the ranger station to get permits and were on the ascent by 4pm. A couple hours later, we surprised a fellow hiker at the Sourdough Camp bathroom (sorry) as we gained the Stetattle Ridge. Spectacular views surrounded us; our two objectives were finally in sight. We made camp a little before Point 6495.

View from camp right below Point 6308
View from camp right below Point 6308
Bagels with a nice view of a picket fence.
Bagels with a nice view of a picket fence.

Day 2: Undulating ridges took us to Stetattle and North Stetattle. There was no register on North Stetattle, oh well… Views of the Pickets were matched only by the whistling of the abundant marmots. After North Stetattle, the fun really started as we descended into the head of Torrent Creek. Well, I guess we wouldn’t really call it a descent. It was more of a graceful fall using tree branches and saplings for belaying. We wanted to make it to Lake 5135 for our lunch of meat log spinach wraps, but had difficulty finding a way up the hill. After sidling south towards the lake, we decided to hike out of a creek that must have been draining from the lake. A wet 3rd/4th class scramble up a granite slot allowed us to satiate our appetites at the shores of a still half-frozen lake. We headed south up a snowfield to try and gain the ledge Beckey describes, but end up going on some random class 3 gully to get to the southeast side of Elephant Butte. Slabs of rock were crossed and snowfields were glissaded until we made camp on the western ridge of EB for the night. We headed up to the summit for some great evening views. Wow, not a lot of people in the registry. Props to anyone who has made it out here. What a place. You really have to work for it. We fell asleep in our tent as the sun set behind Fury.

Stetattle summit registry.
Stetattle summit registry.
Just north of North Stetattle.
Just north of North Stetattle.
Lake 5135.
Lake 5135.
EB summit registry.
EB summit registry.
EB summit registry.
EB summit registry.

Day 3: There are days in your life that you use as landmarks: your wedding, the birth of a child, the release of a new Kendrick Lamar album. THIS SUPPLANTED ALL OF THOSE DAYS. The day we made it to Azure Lake and began the descent down Stetattle Creek will forever be THE landmark day. Now our life is only measured in two parts. Before Stetattle Creek and after Stetattle Creek. I imagine one day my grandchild will be sitting on my lap and ask what life was like before July 16th, 2018, and all I will remember is a wall of slide alder taking control of my entire body.

Anyway, the descent from camp down to Azure lake featured some slippery class 4 downclimbing and some thick bushwhacking. A rope would have been nice as well as a chainsaw. Making it to such a formidable, protected place was surreal. Jubilation. Triumph. A cold swim. Lunch was had. These were our last good memories from the day.

We left the lake at 130pm. The whole spectrum of emotion was felt. We opted to descend on skiers-left down the creek. Seemed like the best of two horrible options. We spend the next 7.5 hours fighting slide alder, belaying using slide alder, being in the Shelob’s Lair of slide alder, cursing slide alder, eating slide alder. We may not make it. We were moving at a quarter mile an hour. We both screamed, cried, divorced multiple times, all before renewing our vows under a thicket of devil’s club near a stream just south of our old friend Torrent Creek, who looked a lot different 3000 feet lower. Our arms and legs were scratched up like a Jackson Pollock painting in the Guggenheim in Venice.

Morning camp views.
Morning camp views.
Traverse from camp on EB to Azure Lake.
Traverse from camp on EB to Azure Lake.
The forbidden. The formidable. The sinister.
The forbidden. The formidable. The sinister.
Ya beauty!
Ya beauty!
Swim spot with McMillan.
Swim spot with McMillan.

Day 4: We woke up bushwhacking through the forest. Not as bad as the day before, but still not easy. It was like we reached a meditative state swirling in the ferns and devil’s club. We were aiming to meet up with the Stetattle Creek Trail, but where was it? There was a huge blowdown that took us a good hour to get through. Once through, we scared a black bear who ran up towards the Stetattle Ridge. Hope seemed lost until, miraculously, we stumbled across the trail. Luck was on our side. We may live. We did live. Final thoughts: do not try and make it up or down Stetattle Creek unless you are a masochist. Maybe you could get there from Terror Basin? The views from EB were amazing, along with the isolation factor. Azure Lake is unbelievable and the waterfalls that cascade down 1000 feet from Mcmillan Spires are breathtaking. Definitely an amazing trip, but we will never go back.

Like finding a piece of hay in a needle stack.
Like finding a piece of hay in a needle stack.
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slabbyd
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PostSat Jul 21, 2018 8:18 am 
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Definitely a “Pics or it didn’t happen” TR.  Let’s see um!
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Eric Hansen
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PostSat Jul 21, 2018 9:03 am 
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Pictures would be greatly appreciated! And a marked map on the Lake 5135 segment if you could. Thanks!
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OwenT
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afk, brb 6/2018
PostSat Jul 21, 2018 9:37 am 
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reminded me of this from an article about bushwhacking on summitpost
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cascadetraverser
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PostSat Jul 21, 2018 1:57 pm 
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Wow; down Stetattle creek.  That is brave and crazy.  North cascade creek/river valleys are evil monsters ready to eat climbers/traversers/hikers or at the very least take your sanity.  Every tale I have read is similiar to yours (I avoid them at ALL cost). Why didn`t you go the way you came?  I have been down to Azure once in/out and above it as well in doing the full Picket traverse.  Not many people have made it down to that lake so good job (as well as surviving the evil schwack!!).  There is a pretty straightforward way up through torrent basin to the ridge overlooking Azure but I could see where you can get mixed up....
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siaumell
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PostSat Jul 21, 2018 2:18 pm 
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We thought about going back up to EB and Stetattle Ridge, but thought it would be faster to go down the creek. The lake was definitely worth it though. We saw the way up the rib into Terror Basin on the rib, but thought the snow was too slushy and exposed. Maybe next time!
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DIYSteve
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PostSat Jul 21, 2018 3:18 pm 
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jungle fever baby  hockeygrin.gif

Stetattle Ridge is outstanding -- as out-and-back

Yeah, pics. Let's see 'em
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reststep
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PostSat Jul 21, 2018 3:38 pm 
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Thanks for the report.
Anxiously awaiting the pictures.

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"The mountains are calling and I must go." - John Muir
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Stefan
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PostSat Jul 21, 2018 8:02 pm 
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I have only heard of one other party NON recommending coming down Stettatle creek through the slide alder.  Their horror stories are now reconfirmed.  Thanks for the second known descent information!  I am sane.

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Art is an adventure.
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Bootpathguy
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PostSat Jul 21, 2018 9:54 pm 
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siaumell wrote:
There are days in your life that you use as landmarks: your wedding, the birth of a child, the release of a new Kendrick Lamar album. THIS SUPPLANTED ALL OF THOSE DAYS. The day we made it to Azure Lake and began the descent down Stetattle Creek will forever be THE landmark day. Now our life is only measured in two parts. Before Stetattle Creek and after Stetattle Creek. I imagine one day my grandchild will be sitting on my lap and ask what life was like before July 16th, 2018, and all I will remember is a wall of slide alder taking control of my entire body.

That is the best paragraph I've ever read in any trip report.

Great read. Looking forward to your images

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Experience is what'cha get, when you get what'cha don't want
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siaumell
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PostSat Jul 21, 2018 11:37 pm 
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Okay, thanks y'all for waiting. We only have limited photos and luckily none from the descent; would have caused flashbacks.
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RichP
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PostSun Jul 22, 2018 6:09 am 
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Azure Lake is a stunner. I imagine that few people have seen it from ground level at least from that approach/deproach.

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Without obsession, life is nothing. John Waters
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Bernardo
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PostSun Jul 22, 2018 7:04 pm 
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I love reading these tales of bushwhacking.  This one is one of the best!
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joker
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PostSun Jul 22, 2018 8:39 pm 
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Yes. Better to read than do!
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Kim Brown
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PostSun Jul 22, 2018 9:23 pm 
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....divorced multiple times and renewed vows....

that cracks me the hell up.

I enjoyed reading; you write a great report.  up.gif

(and glad, yet not surprised, to see Kevin Koski's name with the Brisbines and Fay Pullen on a summit register)

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" I'm really happy about this! … I have very strong good and horrible memories up there."  – oldgranola, NWH’s outdoors advocate.
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Live by Slide Alder,Die by Slide Alder:Stetattle Ridge,Elephant Butte,Azure Lake,Stetattle Creek
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