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Matt
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PostThu Aug 08, 2019 11:55 pm 
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Dates:  August 3-4, 2019
Destination:  Mt. Blum via North Blum Lake and Northwest Ridge
Party:  Matt, Carla (Dicey), Tom (GeoTom)

Our plan was to follow the usual route to Blum Lakes and then up Blum south ridge.  However, we stayed high too long above the lakes and followed a beautiful open ridge crest to a high camp just above the northernmost and highest lake.  From there, various explorations produced a workable route up Blum's northwest ridge to the summit.

The Blum Lakes way trail was miserably steep and obstructed.  The high ridge was beautiful.  Camp had panoramic views.  Route up Blum was straightforward with just one steep snow section.  Summit views were spectacular.

GPS Track
GPS Track
Evening alpenglow from our camp at North Blum Lake.  Our summit route goes up the lefthand ridge and then up the snowfields in the center, to a ramp right of the upper center snowfield.
Evening alpenglow from our camp at North Blum Lake.  Our summit route goes up the lefthand ridge and then up the snowfields in the center, to a ramp right of the upper center snowfield.
Looking down at all the Blum Lakes, plus Baker Lake.  Our camp was at the farthest righthand lake near the ridge crest.
Looking down at all the Blum Lakes, plus Baker Lake.  Our camp was at the farthest righthand lake near the ridge crest.

Saturday

Baker River Trailhead to North Blum Lake

We started the Blum Lakes way trail the usual way.  From Baker River trailhead, hike to the suspension bridge, then hike back south to only about 50 feet before the Blum Creek bridge, where a faint path leads east into the woods.  During the first quarter mile, the trail is vague, but generally stays close to the creek, and it becomes more clear. 

We were able to follow the trail from 1000 feet up to 4600 feet.  There was a lot of visible tread, plus periodic flags in various colors.  However, even on the way trail, it was hard work – steep all the way, and obstructed by brush, downed logs, and rock bands.  There were a couple especially steep rock bands around 2800-3000 feet and an especially annoying blowdown section around 3200-3400 feet.  The route also had black flies at mid elevations, mosquitos at higher elevations, and a surprising plentitude of dangling inchworms at lower elevations.

Lack of discipline led us astray higher up.  We should have traversed eastward somewhere circa 4800-5000 feet, but instead kept following the ridge crest upward.  Above 5200 feet, the crest became more open with low-lying brush, and then higher became wide open meadow with a clear track running along the crest.   Rather than drop way back down to the usual Lower & Middle Blum Lakes, we continued up to North Blum Lake, 5900 feet, and set up camp with gorgeous panoramic views on the crest at 6000 feet.

Somewhere along the way trail (I took almost no photos because I was busy just struggling uphill)
Somewhere along the way trail (I took almost no photos because I was busy just struggling uphill)
Hiking along the ridge west of Blum Lakes
Hiking along the ridge west of Blum Lakes

Stats: 5.7 miles, 5220 gain, 80 loss

Evening at North Blum Lake Camp

We camped atop a closed contour on the ridge above the lake, with fine views every direction – Blum & Hagan nearby on one side, and Baker & Shuksan rising over 8000 feet from the Baker river on the other side.  Since we had skipped the drop and climb to the usual lakes, we had hours of warm clear evening to enjoy it. 
At one point Carla yelled out loud, and I feared that the mosquitos were getting to her, but it was actually just a yell of happiness about camping in such a beautiful high place.

Arriving at North Blum Lake camp
Arriving at North Blum Lake camp
Campsite on the ridge above the lake.
Campsite on the ridge above the lake.
Enjoying the views
Enjoying the views
High view down to North Blum Lake from later in the trip
High view down to North Blum Lake from later in the trip

The lake had cool clear water that made for a refreshing swim.  Hiking around the lake provided some especially fine reflections of Hagan from the outlet.

It also had some kind of pole with cross-pieces, that I guess might be some kind of snow measuring device, except it doesn't seem to have any mechanism for reporting.  Oddly, I've never seen one of these before this year, and now saw two, this one and the one in the meadow below Cloudy Peak.  Anyone know what it is?

Swimming in North Blum Lake
Swimming in North Blum Lake
Looking up from the outlet to Hagan
Looking up from the outlet to Hagan
What is this thing?
What is this thing?

Later evening brought alpenglow to Blum and displayed the sun setting right between Baker & Shuksan.  Smoke from the Siberian fires muted the alpenglow and cast the western peaks into silhouettes but the terrain was beautiful in any condition.

Glowing heather and Mineral Mountain
Glowing heather and Mineral Mountain
Blum alpenglow
Blum alpenglow
Sun setting beside Shuksan
Sun setting beside Shuksan
Seapho & Icy peaks framing Nooksack Ridge and American Border Peak in the distance
Seapho & Icy peaks framing Nooksack Ridge and American Border Peak in the distance
Sunset silhouette
Sunset silhouette

Sunday

Mt. Blum via Northwest Ridge

We had two ideas for possible summit routes from our camp.  The first idea was to traverse across Blum's southwest face and join up with the normal route.  It looked like there was a good line of terrain between 5800 and 6000 feet.  Some dense trees and steep talus blocked the direct line from camp, so first we descended to Lake 5650.  Then the traverse seemed to run fine, until we met an obstacle above Middle Blum Lake.  Hidden behind trees, a couple steep cliff-walled gullies cut us off, with a rock wall above.  It might have been possible to cross at the top of the gullies, but the ground was loose rocks packed in dirt, with bad consequences for a fall down the gully, so we gave up on that route.

Morning at camp
Morning at camp
Traversing past Lake 5650, but there were hidden gullies behind the trees at far right.
Traversing past Lake 5650, but there were hidden gullies behind the trees at far right.
Looking down a gully to Middle & Lower Blum Lakes
Looking down a gully to Middle & Lower Blum Lakes

Then we tried Blum's northwest ridge, which runs down to North Blum Lake in beautiful meadowed slopes.  We cut across talus fields to meet the ridge higher up, and continued onward to 6700 feet, where the ridge became steep gendarmes.  At that point, however, a series of snowfields ascended Blum's western bowl, up to what looked like a decent ramp across Blum's south shoulder.  Carla and Tom decided to stop, while I tried the route. 

The lower snowfields were moderate angled with good runout.  The uppermost snowfield was steeper, so I had to kick steps carefully, but only for about 120 vertical feet.   There was a brief dirty exit onto rock, and then the ledge turned out to be quite good.  Angling upward from 7400 to 7500 feet, it generally stayed at least several feet wide, with only a few careful steps around loose material or chunks of rock.  The ledge exited onto Blum's wide south shoulder, with easy scrambling across large boulders to the top.

Northwest ridge route
Northwest ridge route
Where Carla & Tom stopped, easy hiking from the lake up to here
Where Carla & Tom stopped, easy hiking from the lake up to here
Hiking up snow past gendarmes
Hiking up snow past gendarmes
view downward from the ramp
view downward from the ramp

The summit register was a battered aluminum canister.  Inside, the papers were quadruple-bagged, probably good since two of the bags were torn.  Apparently three people ascended the standard route earlier today.

battered summit register canister
battered summit register canister
Summit register page 1
Summit register page 1
Summit register page 2
Summit register page 2
Summit register page 3
Summit register page 3
Me on Blum summit
Me on Blum summit

The air eastward was smoky, but the views were still magnificent.  Stacked snow and ridges of Hagan & Bacon stretching southward.  Baker & Shuksan west and north across the river.  And wild Pickets terrain eastward.

Hagan & Bacon
Hagan & Bacon
Upper Blum Lake
Upper Blum Lake
View of our whole route – down the Blum's northwest ridge to North Blum Lake at right center, then the ridge down to Blum creek in center, and Baker Lake where we started.
View of our whole route – down the Blum's northwest ridge to North Blum Lake at right center, then the ridge down to Blum creek in center, and Baker Lake where we started.
South face of Shuksan.  No wonder Sulphide Creek floods heavily in spring; that entire face drains into it.
South face of Shuksan.  No wonder Sulphide Creek floods heavily in spring; that entire face drains into it.
Looking up Lonesome creek into the Pickets
Looking up Lonesome creek into the Pickets
Wider view east into the Pickets, some of the wildest terrain in the Cascades; not a single trail runs through any pass, ridge, valley, or peak in the center of this photo
Wider view east into the Pickets, some of the wildest terrain in the Cascades; not a single trail runs through any pass, ridge, valley, or peak in the center of this photo

I only wished I could have stayed longer on the wide summit with soak up the beauty of the area, but friends were waiting below, so I skipped lunch and headed down.  The descent went smoothly, with only about 50 feet of having to back down on the upper part of the steeper snowfield.   A brief swim at the lake refreshed me before reluctantly packing up to leave.

Stats:
Round trip with detour: 4.6 miles, 2600 gain
NW Ridge route to summit: 1.9 miles 2030 gain, 330 loss


Exit

Our exit hike was nice along the high ridge and down to 4600 feet, where we rejoined the way trail.  Then it was miserable.  The "trail" is so steep that it was actually more work to descend, because it took so much effort just to keep footing on the terrain.  We were all exhausted by the time we got back to Baker River.  From the river by the parking lot, you can actually look uphill 5200 feet and see the exact spot we camped on.

A brief refreshing swim before leaving the high country
A brief refreshing swim before leaving the high country
Looking  a mile uphill from the parking lot to our campsite
Looking  a mile uphill from the parking lot to our campsite

Exit stats: 5.6 miles, 240 gain, 5380 loss (had to backtrack a couple times)
Total Trip: 15.9 miles, 8060 gain


--------------
“As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
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rubywrangler
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PostFri Aug 09, 2019 12:29 am 
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Matt, I don't think your photo links are working.  Unless the problem is on my end...?
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olderthanIusedtobe
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PostFri Aug 09, 2019 12:30 am 
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I can't view the pics either
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Tom
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PostFri Aug 09, 2019 12:31 am 
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Links are good but for some reason it's not thumbnailing on our end.  Looking into it.

Edit (4 AM):  I've been looking at this for 4 hours and have no idea.  Seems Matt's web host is blocking things?

Edit (11 AM):  Strange, it works this morning.  No idea why.  I could duplicate the specific issue last night and it seemed to be a internet routing issue.  Seems the internet fixed itself after I gave up around 5 AM.
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Brushbuffalo
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PostFri Aug 09, 2019 10:15 am 
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I hope the bug gets fixed, as Matt's photos are always superb.
Matt wrote:
black flies

Speaking of bugs, I remember sitting on a rock at Middle Blum Lake, swatting black flies and feeding them to the ravenous trout.
No, not feeding  by hand, just tossed the dead or stunned buggers  onto the surface...Half- life about 3 seconds before being gobbled up!
Would be good fishing for those so inclined.

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Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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neek
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PostFri Aug 09, 2019 11:25 am 
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That's a real nice summit (blummit?) view.
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GeoTom
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PostFri Aug 09, 2019 11:40 am 
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That was a doozy of a trip for my first overnight trip of the year. At least the company was good and the camp was scenic.

I feel a small bit of regret at not continuing to the summit, but after a little mishap last summer I'm not nearly as comfortable descending steep snow as I used to be. At least my decision didn't prevent Matt from getting to the top.

Maybe I'll throw some of my photos up later.

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Tom
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PostFri Aug 09, 2019 12:28 pm 
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Nice work!  I could only dream of doing that as my first overnight of the season (if ever again as my aging body tells me although Matt provides inspiration).  It looks so easy from that last pic. clown.gif
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iron
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PostFri Aug 09, 2019 12:30 pm 
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good stuff. looks a lot different on that route than the one we did with tom_s and dicey in 2011 on that ridge.
http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=7990940
our descent from the gully (ski tracks to the left, 2 glissades right of those); ascent on right with traverse
our descent from the gully (ski tracks to the left, 2 glissades right of those); ascent on right with traverse

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man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?

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Midnight Slogger
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PostFri Aug 09, 2019 1:56 pm 
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Great to see a trip report from this area--thanks for the great photos and descriptions!
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Brushbuffalo
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PostFri Aug 09, 2019 2:16 pm 
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Matt wrote:
What is this thing?
What is this thing?

Snow survey marker.
Each crossbar is one foot apart vertically, and the longer ones are at 5' and 10'. By air an observer can catch a glimpse and state the snow depth. by knowing how many bars are exposed. They are in many out of the way unexpected places.

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Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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Prosit
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PostFri Aug 09, 2019 9:33 pm 
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Matt wrote:
It also had some kind of pole with cross-pieces, that I guess might be some kind of snow measuring device, except it doesn't seem to have any mechanism for reporting.

As Brushbuffalo indicates, it is a snow gauge.  The lake is now mostly known as Vista Lake, (a name I don't care for as it seems much too generic for such a sublime locale) but for the first decade after my first visit, I referred to it as Snow Gauge lake.  This lake has no fish and has a very healthy population of amphibians in its basin.  There has been a concerted effort by the Park to kill the non-native fish in the lower Blum lakes using gill nets and poison in the hope that the native amphibian populations above will migrate down and restore the lower Blum lakes to their pre-fish-planted state.  I met a crew performing this work during my last visit there in 2014.

Matt wrote:
Then the traverse seemed to run fine, until we met an obstacle above Middle Blum Lake.  Hidden behind trees, a couple steep cliff-walled gullies cut us off, with a rock wall above.  It might have been possible to cross at the top of the gullies, but the ground was loose rocks packed in dirt, with bad consequences for a fall down the gully, so we gave up on that route.

This traverse does go as you suspected.  The crux is in the south-side gully.  I've done this twice.

Matt wrote:
The ledge exited onto Blum's wide south shoulder, with easy scrambling across large boulders to the top.

I also discovered this very nice ramp back in 1992.  It's the most direct route on the mountain I believe.  That view to the east is tantalizing.  Nice trip!
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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot



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PostFri Aug 09, 2019 10:04 pm 
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Thank you for the info, Brushbuffalo and Prosit.

I had heard that the fish had been removed, but didn't know the reason why.

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“As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
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iron
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PostFri Aug 09, 2019 10:14 pm 
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poison, eh? sure hope they put signs up so some unsuspecting hikers doesn't fill up the ole water canister...

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man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?

--- moe sizlack
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Brushbuffalo
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PostSat Aug 10, 2019 7:27 am 
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Matt wrote:
had heard that the fish had been removed,

What, so now  I couldn't sit on that rock (visible on Google Earth, near SW shore by the outlet)) in Middle Blum Lake and feed the black flies to the fish?  winksmile.gif

Also, the snow stake shows depth of snow only and not snow water equivalent or other important data as do SNOTEL and snow course stations.

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