Forum Index > Trip Reports > Bannock Mountain and Bath Lakes High Route, July 29-31
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neek
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PostThu Aug 01, 2019 6:20 pm 
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This route is pure Glacier Peak Wilderness goodness.  Aside from the trail to Image Lake, it spans a lonely area, and I think its ruggedness will keep it that way.  Also, the only significant peak is Bannock Mountain, and the lakes are few and far between (Bath Lakes are hardly worth it as a destination), so there's not a lot of popular appeal.  You have to understand what you are getting into.  I did the trip in three days but most will probably want to take a little longer and enjoy the scenery a bit more.

Day 1: Suiattle River Trail to Miner's Ridge and Image Lake

The high route is described from west to east in Routes and Rocks, but I wanted to do it counter-clockwise, saving Bath Lakes for the last day.  So I began along the unspectacular Suiattle River trail, passing about 20 people on their way out.  After nine miles I turned up the Miner's Ridge Trail.  I didn't really want to camp at Image Lake, but due to the 1pm start couldn't get much further.  Most sites were already occupied, and the lookout crew, who I met near the lake, said the weekend was much busier.  Mosquitoes were out in full force.  After setting up camp I hung out at the lake with a bug net on.  Sunset wasn't very colorful, but it's impossible to not get a good photo from Image Lake.

Big tree over Suiattle River Trail at 2 mi, with 7' clearance
Big tree over Suiattle River Trail at 2 mi, with 7' clearance
Sign at trailhead says impassable by stock due to landslide, but if this is what it refers to, a trivial path around has been cleared
Sign at trailhead says impassable by stock due to landslide, but if this is what it refers to, a trivial path around has been cleared
Bridge over Canyon Creek at mile 6; large campsite nearby
Bridge over Canyon Creek at mile 6; large campsite nearby
PCT junction at mile 6.5; in retrospect I should have gone S a short distance to check out the new bridge
PCT junction at mile 6.5; in retrospect I should have gone S a short distance to check out the new bridge
I found a blackberry, but I eated it
I found a blackberry, but I eated it
Pipsissewa
Pipsissewa
Monkeyflower
Monkeyflower
Looking up the Suiattle River valley.  Note the Flower Dome burn on the left
Looking up the Suiattle River valley.  Note the Flower Dome burn on the left
Fortress, Helmet Butte, Buck
Fortress, Helmet Butte, Buck
Image Lake
Image Lake

17 mi, 6400 ft

Day 2: Canyon Lake, Bannock Mountain

At the top of Miner's Ridge, the view of the high route opens up.  It doesn't look too bad from this distance, and I remember thinking "oh yeah, I can do this."  The Canyon Lake trail is in decent shape for almost two miles, but I lost it in talus at its low point of 5400 ft.  It was another two miles before I found it again.  This involved some side-hilling through OK forest and lots of talus-hopping.  I finally met up with it again at 5800 ft.  I was tempted to follow it down to see where I went wrong, but had already lost at least an hour and figured the trail had probably just been obliterated by what looked like some avalanche damage.  And yet I crossed where it should have been several times, assuming the map is accurate, so who knows.  I reached the lake at 11:30 but didn't linger because the mosquitoes were pretty bad.  Bannock was a straightforward walk-up but, no surprise, lacked a summit register.  I descended the ridge to Totem Pass and climbed to Totem Point.  From here I stayed on the ridge, slightly north of it even, to the next high point (7260).  I had planned to head down the south ridge from this point and follow the lower route described in Routes and Rocks, but I spied a ledge slicing across the next high point that looked feasible.  Indeed it was, and this saved me a lot of down, which I had to eventually do anyway, but whatever.  Goats had blazed a trail on the ledge and I was hoping I wouldn't meet one demanding right-of-way.  Once across the ledge I angled down on fairly gentle rock and heather to 6300 ft and contoured along Totem Ridge.  The next obstacle was the "Great Wall" of Point 7083 (7021 in R&R).  It was dinnertime so I decided to camp and tackle it in the morning.

There's the high route, with Bannock in the clouds on the right
There's the high route, with Bannock in the clouds on the right
Rodent skull
Rodent skull
Found near Canyon Lake. Left it there as a relic.
Found near Canyon Lake. Left it there as a relic.
Bannock Mountain from Canyon Lake
Bannock Mountain from Canyon Lake
Elephant's Head
Elephant's Head
Heading up Bannock
Heading up Bannock
Looking down on Canyon Lake from the summit of Bannock
Looking down on Canyon Lake from the summit of Bannock
Bannock Lakes!!
Bannock Lakes!!
The back side of Totem
The back side of Totem
The north side of Totem Ridge
The north side of Totem Ridge
Looking east from Totem Point
Looking east from Totem Point
Glacial pond
Glacial pond
The ledge across the first significant wall.  Cross the saddle to the end of the meadow and turn left
The ledge across the first significant wall.  Cross the saddle to the end of the meadow and turn left
Flowers along the ledge
Flowers along the ledge
Nice goat trail along the ledge
Nice goat trail along the ledge
Looking back
Looking back
Ground squirrel enjoying the view
Ground squirrel enjoying the view
Fortress
Fortress
The terrain ahead, and the Great Wall coming into view
The terrain ahead, and the Great Wall coming into view
Went to bed with a nice view of Glacier
Went to bed with a nice view of Glacier

13 mi, 5700 ft

Day 3: Remainder of Bath Lakes High Route and down the Sulphur Mountain trail

From camp at 6300 ft I curved down into the talus-filled valley, had breakfast, and started up the Great Wall on the route I had laid out precisely.  It was steep but not difficult; see details in notes below.  After that, a descent of several hundred feet, but I soon decided to get high again, crossing over 6956 rather than below it.  This worked well, and after a short descent down a steep gully, I was able to traverse to the next point, the one overlooking upper Bath Lake.  Definitely take the short detour up this peak if you head this way.  It was a quick meadow run down to the lake, where there was of course a fire ring and trail.  But the trip to the lower lake was a bit steeper than expected; maybe I didn't go the best way.  I tried to rinse off a little but my legs just ended up getting covered with dead mayflies.  From here I thought things would be simple.  Not so!  The path from here to the Sulphur Mountain basin was long and tedious.  First there was the matter of climbing up to the pass near Point 6102, quite steep.  Then traversing on the south side of this point through meadow and forest without much visibility.  Then going around the north side of 6970, the only time I used crampons, for a short snow crossing.  (With boots I probably wouldn't have bothered, but kicking steps in running shoes is rough on my degenerated toe joints.)  What was next?  More steepness!  Well, first a cool little plateau that you could throw a rock concert on (or just camp).  Then a steep and rocky descent to what I'm going to call the Mosquito Hatchery, because aside from being an attractive little basin, that's about what it was.  If I was going the other direction and wasn't using GPS I'm not sure I'd know what gap to aim for--pull out the compass and head due east I suppose, or take the longer route to the unnamed lake to the south.  Heading west up a nice meadow got me out of the Mosquito Hatchery, and north for a few minutes took me to yet another steep rocky gully (they were all starting to run together by this point) that led to the basin NW of Sulphur Mountain.  From there pieced together bits of old trail heading uphill to the main Sulphur trail.  Phew!  Having a nicely graded downhill trail accelerated my pace considerably, and I was back to the car in a couple of hours, only stopping once to pick up some beer cans and have a snack.

Woke up to a nice view of Glacier
Woke up to a nice view of Glacier
Route up the wall
Route up the wall
4 Deer crossing near the base of the wall
4 Deer crossing near the base of the wall
Sloan
Sloan
Dome
Dome
Way down there
Way down there
Looking back
Looking back
Can't quite run the ridge, but down a gully to the SE gets you pretty close
Can't quite run the ridge, but down a gully to the SE gets you pretty close
The point overlooking Upper Bath Lake
The point overlooking Upper Bath Lake
Upper Bath Lake
Upper Bath Lake
Frog, taking a Bath
Frog, taking a Bath
Lower Bath Lake, I think
Lower Bath Lake, I think
Wavy
Wavy
Made it across the snow
Made it across the snow
Heading up to the gap
Heading up to the gap
Dome and Sinister
Dome and Sinister
The great bench
The great bench
Nice flat terrain like this made me happy
Nice flat terrain like this made me happy
Mosquito Hatchery
Mosquito Hatchery
Descending into the Mosquito Hatchery
Descending into the Mosquito Hatchery
Lawn
Lawn
Sulphur.  I climbed it a few years ago: up the talus and around the back side
Sulphur.  I climbed it a few years ago: up the talus and around the back side
The brief and only view of Sulphur Mountain Lake
The brief and only view of Sulphur Mountain Lake
The second Old Timer found.  What are the chances!
The second Old Timer found.  What are the chances!
Shroom
Shroom

14 mi, 4800 ft

Some practicalities, if you're interested:

Food:  You guys have me sold on the cold soak method.  I didn't bring a stove and didn't miss it at all.  I'd mix up a batch of chia seeds, Nido, cocoa powder, and sugar; wait a few hours, drink it, mix up the next batch.  Kind of like slimy chocolate milk, quite tasty.  I also brought normal stuff like nuts, raisins, jerky, and peanut butter on tortillas.  Carrots for after-meal tooth cleaning.  Started with 5 lb and ended with 1.5, so my rule of a little over a pound a day held, but I'd double that for a longer trip since I was certainly running a calorie deficit (1 lb pure fat = 3500 Cal, and I was maybe burning 4000/day.  1 lb chia seeds is 2200 Cal, but 27% of that is insoluble fiber).

Gear:  I used an ice axe and crampons but could have made a small modification to make the crampons unnecessary.  I wore trail running shoes, which were adequate, but got fairly thrashed.  A 20 degree sleeping bag was more than adequate.  For shelter I used my Black Diamond Lightsabre (no longer sold), a sort of bivy-tent.  It weights under two pounds and has held up well over the past 15 years.

Photos: Some taken with my Pixel 2 phone when HDR was unfortunately useful, but most with my Canon G7X handheld and hastily post-processed in GIMP.

The drive:  The Suiattle River Road is full of large potholes, many unavoidable.  Plan on going slowly.

Bugs:  I'm happy to report a healthy mosquito population in the area.

Water:  Plentiful, for the most part, although there was a long stretch below Totem Ridge with nothing but dry stream beds.  The Sulfur Mountain trail is dry except for a trickle near the bottom.

Purple=planned, red=actual
Purple=planned, red=actual

Route notes (see map above, and remember, this is from the perspective of someone going counter-clockwise):

1. I completely lost the Canyon Lake trail for this 2-mile stretch in the middle.  Either the map is way off, or it's completely gone.

2. From Canyon Lake, the best route up green meadows is obvious.  I took the west ridge down, climbing over the one obstacle encountered near Totem Pass.

3. After Totem Point (7078) I stayed mostly on the ridge to Point 7260 and a little beyond.  Here there is a wall, but a ledge cuts across it around 7000'.  I was happy to not follow the R&R advice of dropping to 6200' and relying on luck.  There is some downsloping dirt on the ledge that some might find disagreeable, especially those with a heavy pack.

4. The dreaded Great Wall ended up being no big deal, likely for several reasons: 1) I was going up rather than down, 2) I studied the route in great detail beforehand, and 3) my pack was light.  I didn't even notice the "chimney" mentioned in R&R.

5. Again, as you can see, I stayed higher than the documented route, hitting Point 6956, and a steep gully slightly SE of the summit let me continue west to the point overlooking upper Bath Lake without dropping too much.

6. I'm thinking one could stay N of Points 6102 and 6265 rather than skirting them to the S, but you'd have to drop a few hundred feet.  The pass E of 6102 is quite steep.  But compare my route to Matt's from 14 years ago--many differences.

7. A meadow heads to a pass W of the Mosquito Hatchery and then N to the steep gully you must descend. A minor note, but it worked well for me and avoided trees.

My route was carefully planned by studying the description in Routes and Rocks, a few online reports, and caltopo with frequent switching between topo and aerial layers.  Still I deviated a bit due to observations made in the field.  I don't want to post the full GPS tracks online but let me know if you've done your research and want a private copy.
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RichP
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PostThu Aug 01, 2019 6:25 pm 
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Awesome! Thanks for the diagram on The Great Wall. I've been holding out on this one but it might happen soon thanks to your great beta.  up.gif

Old knives? Yep, I've found a few.

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raising3hikers
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PostThu Aug 01, 2019 6:29 pm 
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Excellent TR!

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Eric Eames
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fourteen410
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PostThu Aug 01, 2019 7:32 pm 
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up.gif  up.gif
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backpacker92out
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PostThu Aug 01, 2019 7:57 pm 
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Bannock area is the prettiest place in the country. Nice TR

Bannock lakes look a lot more welcoming than when I was there this june lol

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awilsondc
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PostThu Aug 01, 2019 8:44 pm 
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Dang Nick!  This report deserves an A++!!  I haven't read it all yet, but I will.  I frickin' love this photo.

neek wrote:

Thanks for taking the time and putting this all together!  Looks like an awesome trip.  Well done!   up.gif  up.gif  up.gif
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cascadetraverser
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PostThu Aug 01, 2019 9:26 pm 
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Well done!  Excellent TR. You covered all lot of ground in 3 days....Good on you to cross the Great Wall with ease. That is some beautiful and remote country.
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Tom
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PostThu Aug 01, 2019 9:37 pm 
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Nice trip but seems like a lot of mileage for the number of lakes to be bagged. clown.gif

As far as route note #1, in 2006 I don't recall problems staying on trail from Canyon to Image and I was hoofing it pretty fast trying to get to Image before dark.
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Nancyann
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PostThu Aug 01, 2019 10:10 pm 
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Impressive effort and lots of great pictures, especially the dark red paintbrush with Glacier Peak in the background. Hiking Partner says Bath Lakes are worth it if you like to fish. agree.gif
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Brushbuffalo
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PostThu Aug 01, 2019 10:51 pm 
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Very fine reporting! Any evidence of the former lookout on Bannock? That one made Image Lake seem close-in.

RichP wrote:
Old knives? Yep, I've found a few.

Me too, and lost a few also. But on the plus side overall. Going to start a new thread in Trail Talk.

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Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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contour5
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PostThu Aug 01, 2019 11:12 pm 
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Some mighty nice pictures for a fast guy. Thanks for the detailed report. This is another area I haven't even failed attempting to get to yet...
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iron
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PostThu Aug 01, 2019 11:49 pm 
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great stuff!

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GaliWalker
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Have camera will use
PostFri Aug 02, 2019 5:25 am 
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Tom wrote:
Nice trip but seems like a lot of mileage for the number of lakes to be bagged. clown.gif

I dunno, I'm partial to ridge routes. biggrin.gif

Case in point:
neek wrote:
Looking back
Looking back

I love this one! up.gif

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Sculpin
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PostFri Aug 02, 2019 8:36 am 
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up.gif  up.gif

This one has been on my short list for way too long!

neek wrote:
Monkeyflower
Monkeyflower

The flower color is very different from a typical Lewis monkeyflower, suggesting this might be a hybrid.

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MangyMarmot
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PostFri Aug 02, 2019 8:46 am 
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Awesome trip Nick!
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Bannock Mountain and Bath Lakes High Route, July 29-31
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