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Dustin R
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PostFri Sep 11, 2020 7:44 pm 
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Our group of 6 spent Thursday - Monday Labor Day weekend on this route. Although we've all spent time in the North Cascades, none of us have really gotten out around Baker Lake. We were stoked our schedules lined up and the forecast was perfect.

Day 1

We met at the Baker River TH around 8, stashed a cooler and some clean clothes in the shuttle and piled everyone into the Jeep. The drive up to the Anderson Lakes trailhead is long! We had a beautiful owl swoop down next to the car on one of the switchbacks and float along next to the car for a while before posting up on a branch. I said it must be a good sign, Paul said it was a bad omen, everyone else yelled at him not to jinx us. We're not superstitious or anything...

Rolled into the parking lot around 10, almost full. Only forgot a few trekking poles at Baker River. Off we went. Cruiser all the way up to the climbers trail mentioned in other reports. Ran into DWB27 on his way out, chatted and got some beta before they headed to the bar for beers. Climbed up a wet rocky gully to access the northern slopes of Watson.

We traversed higher than most here but it wasn't bad. Rolling slabs led to soft snow with a small crossing on blue ice on a ~25 degree slope. Crossed carefully in crampons with no issue. Stayed fairly high here which put us at the bottom of a gully. Looking back we should have continued traversing down and around to the NE, but we went up the gully. It was a combo of loose rock, mud, kitty litter and some class 3 rock. Paul scampered up and setup a hand line for piece of mind. Once up this section it was more loose rock and mud, then some shallow moat travel to the notch.

Loose gully next to snow finger
Loose gully next to snow finger
Paul accessing the gully via the sporty route. Most of us walked on nice snow lower down and climbed to his left. We went up some low class 3 rock to where the sun meets the shade and hooked a right to the upper portion of the gully. Photo by Adrienne.
Paul accessing the gully via the sporty route. Most of us walked on nice snow lower down and climbed to his left. We went up some low class 3 rock to where the sun meets the shade and hooked a right to the upper portion of the gully. Photo by Adrienne.
Cyrus mid gully. Would've been fun without all the fall line management. Photo by Adrienne
Cyrus mid gully. Would've been fun without all the fall line management. Photo by Adrienne
Liza and Paul at the top of the gully
Liza and Paul at the top of the gully

From here, Paul quickly descended steep kitty litter while everyone else took their time on small loose rock which lead to larger loose rock and a cool ledge system that would've been fun if it weren't covered in loose rock. We were in a tight valley on the S side of most eastern of the 4 Watson peaks. I had plenty of room to clear rocks off the ledges that I descended and the sound thundered off the valley walls. It was pretty cool but with taxed nerves it definitely added to the intensity level. We reconvened on snow and descended to a lake that shows as a snowfield on the USGS topo.

More or less Paul's descent. We rounded the lake out of the photo to the left and climbed the moraine up through gorgeous slabs. The notch to access the Diobsuds is at the top of snow patches in center. Photo by Adrienne.
More or less Paul's descent. We rounded the lake out of the photo to the left and climbed the moraine up through gorgeous slabs. The notch to access the Diobsuds is at the top of snow patches in center. Photo by Adrienne.
Easy snow descent once off the kitty litter or out of the bowling alley
Easy snow descent once off the kitty litter or out of the bowling alley

From the lake we mosey'd up to the notch just west of pt 5580. Easy travel through here


We crossed over the saddle and picked up a nice trail. Based on Platypus report from last year we jumped into the obvious E gully. We descended boulders and down climbed some low class 3 slabs sprinkled with wet moss and landed at the lower of the Diobsud's. A quick schwack and we were at the upper lake looking up at our line for the morning.

More fall line management. These slabs were pretty fun.
More fall line management. These slabs were pretty fun.

Day 2

Our extra credit up that gully was a PITA, but it also slapped us into shape right off the bat so that was cool. The climb out of the Diobsud's is straight forward. Starts out steep and thick and opens up a little halfway up (still steep though). Once at the saddle we hit a boulder filled gully and descended for a bit before traversing E. Once out of the trees travel sped up, and we started hopping boulders up to the head of the basin.

We accessed Noisy Creek via the saddle to left, descended a ways then traversed over to talus and boulders.
We accessed Noisy Creek via the saddle to left, descended a ways then traversed over to talus and boulders.

We then climbed talus to heather and slogged up towards Bacon. Straight forward and easy route finding with a few different options through here.

Roughly where we descended the previous day?
Roughly where we descended the previous day?

There's a nice tarn with running water before you climb out of the upper basin. Gorgeous up here.

We climbed a grassy ramp / boulders to the left of this photo and did a rising rightward traverse towards the saddle N of Bacon's summit.
We climbed a grassy ramp / boulders to the left of this photo and did a rising rightward traverse towards the saddle N of Bacon's summit.

We hit the ridge line and hooked East onto snow, then climbed a pretty fun system of ledges up to the saddle.

Can't believe how much ice is up there.
Can't believe how much ice is up there.
Some fun rock up to the saddle.
Some fun rock up to the saddle.

Once you pop over here it's like shifting into gear for the next leg of the route. The stretch between the saddle and Bacon Laken is unreal.

Pickets
Pickets
Eventually transition to rock and and make your way through huge slabs and tarns. There's running water everywhere.
Eventually transition to rock and and make your way through huge slabs and tarns. There's running water everywhere.
Cool slot heading down to camp at der Laken
Cool slot heading down to camp at der Laken

It took a little longer to get to the lake than we expected but that was ok because the geology back there keeps you occupied. The lake was some of the coldest water I've ever been in.

Some of the only clouds above us the entire trip at Bacon Laken.
Some of the only clouds above us the entire trip at Bacon Laken.
Green Lake from the Bacon outlet. Not real
Green Lake from the Bacon outlet. Not real

Day 3

Leaving Bacon Laken is pretty straight forward. We descended an obvious gully and headed for the traverse above Green Lake.

Lots of this
Lots of this
Low cloud deck and Green Lake
Low cloud deck and Green Lake

Liza and Paul traversed lower through steep meadows while the rest of us got greedy and angled high. We got stuck on some loose dirt and rocks and had to down climb a bit. We found an animal trail that took us to the low point between pt 5430 and the butte to the NW. Agreed with Platypus' "Scottish highlands" vibe. Paul saw the only bear of the trip up there while the rest of us caught up to him and missed it. Tons of scat throughout the route though.

Steep grassy descent to Nert with some thicker trees close to the lake. We angled left around it and started the steep schwack towards the upper lake. No pics here but it's your run of the mill steep vegetated ascent. Lots of solid veggie belays. Lots of pine needles down the shirt. Upper Nert was pretty cool but we didn't stay long.

Looking back at it (Green Lake with Bacon outlet above) from across the valley between the Nerts.
Looking back at it (Green Lake with Bacon outlet above) from across the valley between the Nerts.

The climb out from there is a lot of the same, and the going is slow. Up and down and up and down over ribs and drainages. More highland vibes. As we got closer to Berdeen we missed the gully that puts you parallel to the lake and had to back track 10 min or so. Quick climb on boulders then mellow travel till Berdeen comes into view on the right.

Berdeen is huge, the largest part is around to the right out of view.
Berdeen is huge, the largest part is around to the right out of view.

From here we crossed snowmelt that runs down to the lake and descended grass, mud and rock. This spot feels very remote.

Day 4

Very lush wetlands between Berdeen and the remnants of the Hagan glacier. Another little wonderland, we all tried to tread as lightly as possible through here. The climb up to snow line went quicker than we expected, finally some luck. We didn't have to deal with any ice low down, so that was cruiser too. We crampon'd up the lower snowfield to a rock band, scampered up that and put the spikes back on for the remainder of the climb to the col. There was a perfect snow finger that allowed us to stay off any ice. After reading Platypus' account of conditions on their trip we were stoked how it worked out for us.

Snow finger
Snow finger
Nearing Hagen col.
Nearing Hagen col.

We climbed steep loose rock and dirt to the col then dropped onto snow on the N side of Hagan.

Adrienne climbing up a loose gully to Hagan col.
Adrienne climbing up a loose gully to Hagan col.

We descended gentle snow slopes next to blue ice before dropping down for our traverse to the north.

Heading down from Hagan, ice was almost completely avoidable.
Heading down from Hagan, ice was almost completely avoidable.
Ice on Hagan
Ice on Hagan
Last bit of snow on Hagan
Last bit of snow on Hagan

We dropped a bit lower and descended some awesome slabs to a gully. We decided to down climb some rock instead of the loose rock and kitty litter, and some of the moves were exposed and pushed my comfort level.

Wrapping around off Hagan
Wrapping around off Hagan

From here its easy traversing on slabs and boulders. Eventually we made for what Platypus dubbed "the green notch" and we called "the stocking" because it looked like a big green boot. The climb went fast and easy, there are animal trails all over forming steps in the grass and heather. Some of us down climbed almost directly N to the upper Blum lake while the others took easy boulders and slabs down towards the outlet and wrapped around. This lake is an alpine wonderland. Some seriously massive slabs, small rock shelves as you enter the water that act as little benches in a swimming pool. The outlet winds through rock a ways before dropping off.

Looking down on upper Blum. Photo by Adrienne.
Looking down on upper Blum. Photo by Adrienne.
photo by Adrienne
photo by Adrienne

We decided to camp at the closer of the two lower lakes to make the schwack out a little easier. The descent to this lake is a pretty trashy gully full of loose rock, sand and mud. We moved in 2 groups to minimize any rockfall exposure and it went slow but well.

The gully cuts diagonally between the cliff face in sunlight and the trees in shade, middle of photo.
The gully cuts diagonally between the cliff face in sunlight and the trees in shade, middle of photo.

Day 5

Monday morning the wind kicked up around 4 am. As we broke camp it died down a bit and we said goodbye to Blum. We started a rising traverse through the trees above the lake, aiming for the ridge where we'd pickup the notorious climbers trail. We were in and out of forest and crossed some talus fields. Overall straightforward. As we gained the ridge line the trail was easy to pickup and we started the descent.

Liza and Paul into the bush.
Liza and Paul into the bush.

In my opinion it's easier to follow higher up. We slid, fell, and down climbed trees. Whoever put this route up in the early years did a great job placing the tread. It weaves precisely through cliff bands and trees. The final 1500 feet were tough and we got off route (no ground wasps though!), but I'm pretty sure no one has ever nailed the tread all the way to the valley floor. As the day went on the wind continued to pick up and we heard some heavy stuff falling in the forest. It was pretty surreal to bust out onto the Baker River with 30 mph gusts! We high tailed it towards the car and enjoyed room temp High Life's and Rainiers from the cooler.

We were awestruck by this zone. Having done a handful of high routes in the Cascades, this was the most demanding / rewarding to me. We saw nwhiker DWB27 and his partner Thursday morning, and didn't run into anyone else until Sunday night at the Blums.

We were hiking no later than 815 every morning and on average setup camp between 5-6 with the exception of the first night at 830. The exit to Baker River was a little soul crushing but I'll definitely do it again.
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DWB27
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PostSat Sep 12, 2020 8:56 am 
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Nice work! Surprised you saw only one bear! Your route on Watson is new to me! Good to keep things interesting! Iím sure the room temp R dogs were delish after that descent!

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Mike Collins
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PostSat Sep 12, 2020 9:12 am 
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Dustin R wrote:
We had a beautiful owl swoop down next to the car on one of the switchbacks and float along next to the car for a while before posting up on a branch.

It likely was following the car being ready to pounce on any rodents alongside the road that the car would flushed out.
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Dustin R
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PostSat Sep 12, 2020 9:54 am 
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DWB27 wrote:
Nice work! Surprised you saw only one bear! Your route on Watson is new to me! Good to keep things interesting! Iím sure the room temp R dogs were delish after that descent!

Ya, keep things interesting! 😂 We figured our large group was loud enough to keep the bears away. There sure was plenty of scat! We heard a large animal making dome noise as we descended to Baker River, but never saw em. The beers were perfect!

Mike, good point about the potential owl snack. Smart AND handsome!
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Jeff
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PostSat Sep 12, 2020 11:00 am 
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How badly would it suck to stash a bike at one end and ride back to the car at the end of the trip?
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Dustin R
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PostSat Sep 12, 2020 11:38 am 
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Jeff wrote:
How badly would it suck to stash a bike at one end and ride back to the car at the end of the trip?

I think the route itself is best done counter clockwise, starting up high at Anderson / Watson and ending low at Baker River. That being said, if you reversed it and rode down to Baker River at the end the ride wouldnít suck that much. The road is steep and sh##ty up towards the top so a mountain bike with suspension would be choice!
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Tom
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PostSat Sep 12, 2020 12:30 pm 
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It's bad enough driving back up to get a vehicle stashed at the Watson trailhead. I would not want to be riding a bike back down that long road to get a car stashed at the Baker trailhead, especially in the dark.  It would be a long ride.
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Dustin R
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PostSat Sep 12, 2020 12:38 pm 
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Agreed, that haul up to the car was rough. The worst part was catching traffic at the dam crossing. Lots of folks driving out a ways and reversing when oncoming cars didnít back down.
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neek
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PostSat Sep 12, 2020 12:41 pm 
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3400' decent in 9.25 mi?  sounds like more fun than driving, and just as fast.  suspension and fresh brake pads would help!
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Dustin R
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PostSat Sep 12, 2020 12:55 pm 
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I think Neek is onto something here. Now that you mention it there were plenty of opportunities for air on the side of the road. Maybe stash the kneepads, goggles and full face helmet with the bike and plan to send it after the initial send. Good way to get around traffic at the dam too...
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Tom
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PostSat Sep 12, 2020 3:16 pm 
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Haha, not to mention the fun of gaining that 3400 feet by foot the other direction. Seriously though, after bruising ribs from silly things like getting hiking pant legs caught in chain I like to take it slow and easy coming down logging roads even with full protective gear.

I think the ideal solution might be to find someone at the Watson trailhead willing to drive your vehicle down so that you just have to bike the Baker Lake road. Or park your vehicle lower and hitch a ride up.
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Dustin R
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PostSat Sep 12, 2020 3:43 pm 
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Oh, thatís a slick solution if you canít swing two cars. Stash the bike at Baker River in the AM, drive to a pullout near the Anderson / Watson turnoff and put the thumb up (maybe have a 6 pack visible). Hit the route CCW and enjoy a mellow descent to the car, no protective gear required!
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neek
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PostSat Sep 12, 2020 4:05 pm 
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Tom wrote:
I think the ideal solution might be to find someone at the Watson trailhead willing to drive your vehicle down so that you just have to bike the Baker Lake road. Or park your vehicle lower and hitch a ride up.

Surprised you didn't mention going up the road on an ebike smile.gif
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PostWed Sep 16, 2020 2:18 pm 
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Great to see some variations on this high route. Thanks for the photos. It's amazing to see how much more ice is exposed on the Hagan glaciers than when we were up there two weeks prior.
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Dustin R
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PostThu Sep 17, 2020 2:13 pm 
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Route Loser wrote:
Great to see some variations on this high route. Thanks for the photos. It's amazing to see how much more ice is exposed on the Hagan glaciers than when we were up there two weeks prior.

We were viewing it as a navigation error, so I like the alternative of a "new variation of the route"  cool.gif Throughout the traverse I was repeatedly surprised at how much ice is still on those peaks given they're all ~7500 ft or lower. Need to spend some time up there in the spring with skis!
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