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neek
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neek
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PostMon Sep 08, 2014 2:33 pm 
This report describes a 3-day loop I did Sept. 5-7: Spider Meadow - Spider Gap - Lyman Lakes - Cloudy Peak - Cloudy Pass - Suiattle Pass - Miners Ridge - Image Lake - Suiattle River - Middle Ridge - Buck Pass - Fortress Mountain - Buck Creek Trail

Glacier Peak from Middle Ridge, Sunday morning.  One of the last gasps from my camera battery.
Glacier Peak from Middle Ridge, Sunday morning.  One of the last gasps from my camera battery.

Day 1: Spider Gap, Cloudy Peak

Nearing the end of a 4-week work hiatus, I felt the need to spend a few days alone in the mountains.  The Phelps Creek trail sounded as good a place as any to start.  The road is deeply rutted in places and I can't believe people were making it to the end in low clearance vehicles.  Despite the usual line of cars parked down the road, I managed to snag the spot closest to the trailhead.  The feeling of smugness by saving a few hundred feet of walking would come back to haunt me on the return!

I took off down the trail around 10:30, not knowing exactly what route I'd take.  Reached Spider Meadow around noon and had a quick snack, then headed up the gap and down to Lyman Lakes.  The 15 minutes on Spider "Glacier" were a bit harsh on my eyes, but that was the only time I regretted forgetting sunglasses.

Shelf fungus growing on a fallen log in Spider Meadow.  Around this time I found a fairly large spider crawling on me.  Maybe that is how the meadow got its name!
Shelf fungus growing on a fallen log in Spider Meadow.  Around this time I found a fairly large spider crawling on me.  Maybe that is how the meadow got its name!
Here's what Spider Meadow looks like, if for some reason you've never been there
Here's what Spider Meadow looks like, if for some reason you've never been there
Couple guys heading West from the gap.  They sent down some huge rocks a few minutes later - hope they weren't seriously trying to get up the east arm of Chiwawa
Couple guys heading West from the gap.  They sent down some huge rocks a few minutes later - hope they weren't seriously trying to get up the east arm of Chiwawa
Upper Lyman Lakes and the incredible scenery that awaits on the other side of the gap
Upper Lyman Lakes and the incredible scenery that awaits on the other side of the gap

The Upper Lyman Lakes area is beautiful; it's hard not to take a little break there.


I proceeded down the trail to Lower Lyman Lake and turned left at the junction to Cloudy Pass.  Right would have taken me to Holden, which I'll have to check out some day.


Then up to Cloudy Pass, or almost.  I headed north cross-country to check out Cloudy Peak.  Grassy slopes followed by a quick scramble led to the top.

Cloudy Peak
Cloudy Peak
What the heck is this thing?
What the heck is this thing?
Easy summit scramble
Easy summit scramble
Summit view down to Lower Lyman Lake, backed by Red, Chiwawa, and Fortress
Summit view down to Lower Lyman Lake, backed by Red, Chiwawa, and Fortress
Not feasible to run the ridge to North Star, you'd have to drop down a bit.  Bonanza in the back.
Not feasible to run the ridge to North Star, you'd have to drop down a bit.  Bonanza in the back.
3 bucks (they blend in really well against the rocks), the most interesting wildlife spotting on the trip
3 bucks (they blend in really well against the rocks), the most interesting wildlife spotting on the trip

It was around 6pm when I started heading down, so it made sense to set up camp up high and watch the sunset.  I found a relatively flat spot south of the summit and got ready for the show.  The only real problem with this spot was the persistent wind -- 20 feet down there was almost none, but I didn't want to sacrifice the view (or the flatness).  So I didn't have the best sleep, but it was well worth it, as I was able to get some great shots from the comfort of my sleeping bag.

Perfect bivy site
Perfect bivy site
Bonanza
Bonanza
Fresh snow on Fortress
Fresh snow on Fortress
Room with a view
Room with a view
2-second exposure with camera sitting on rock
2-second exposure with camera sitting on rock
Night shot (almost a full moon).  Best I could do with my point-and-shoot camera.
Night shot (almost a full moon).  Best I could do with my point-and-shoot camera.

13 miles, 6000 ft gain for the day

Day 2: Cloudy Peak, Miners Ridge, Image Lake, Middle Ridge

And now, sunrise:


Glacier Peak progression:


First light on the mountaintops:


After a quick breakfast (homemade granola with Nido) it was time to get moving.  Headed down to Cloudy Pass and then took the hiker route around Suiattle Pass.

If it's official, how can it be a shortcut?
If it's official, how can it be a shortcut?

Headed South (actually West) on the PCT briefly and then took the Miners Ridge trail, which is well marked.  Not well marked, however, is the turn about 1.5 miles later up the hill to Image Lake - I completely missed it and ended up going the long away on Trail 795, passing well below Image Lake and heading up the 12 switchbacks to the Miners Ridge Lookout.  I knew something was wrong when the trail suddenly took on an unmaintained feeling.  Oh well, got to see a pretty forest and get even more exercise.


Had my first (and only) encounter of the day with a human (and his dog) at the lookout.


Then, off to Image Lake.

I've seen this classic shot so many times it was kind of surreal to finally be there in person
I've seen this classic shot so many times it was kind of surreal to finally be there in person
See the guy and his dog?
See the guy and his dog?

There's a footpath to a point on the ridge East of the lake.

Plummer Mountain.  Beckey says it's "in an area of little mountaineering interest" but I bet the view is great.
Plummer Mountain.  Beckey says it's "in an area of little mountaineering interest" but I bet the view is great.

It was now time to drop 3500 ft to the Suiattle River.  It was here that I decided to cook my dinner, since I'd get the best efficiency out of the last breath of gas from my near-empty canister at this elevation.  Didn't quite have enough to bring 1 cup to a full boil, but it was close enough.

Suiattle River, very close to the washed-out PCT bridge
Suiattle River, very close to the washed-out PCT bridge

I wasn't looking forward to re-gaining that 3500 ft, but it had to be done and it was already 5pm.  I crested Middle Ridge just as the sun was setting and found a welcoming camp site with no wind.


I was out of gas (literally and figuratively), but knew that tomorrow was going to be another big day.

23 miles, 7000 ft gain for the day

Day 3: Buck Pass, Fortress Mountain

Woke up just as it was starting to get light and ran up to a high point on Middle Ridge to a catch the sunrise.  After a few shots, my camera delivered the dreaded "Battery Exhausted" message and proceeded to shut down.  Doh!  The rest of the day, including the climb of Fortress Mountain, would have to live only in my memory.

Foreground: Helmet Butte, Rally Cap, Liberty Cap, Flower Dome.  Background: mountains
Foreground: Helmet Butte, Rally Cap, Liberty Cap, Flower Dome.  Background: mountains

As I approached Buck Creek Pass I had a choice to make: climb Flower Dome?  Liberty Cap?  Helmet Butte?  Aw, let's just go for Fortress.  I took a well-traveled path to Pass No Pass and proceeded up the grassy slope, hoping I was going in the right general direction (didn't have a description handy, and the summit was obscured at this point).  Sure enough I ended up right at the base of the peak, in a basin one could conceivably camp at.  It looked kind of scary or at least unpleasant from there but it really was just a walk-up.  Lots of friends and familiar NWHikers members graced the scraps of paper that constitute the summit register:  wolffie, cartman, Wildernessed, Flow, Gimpilator, User-Name...  I added my name and climbed down, then began the long return down the Buck Creek trail.  I swear this trail gets longer every time I hike it.  I was beat by the time I reached Trinity, but still had more than 3 miles of road walking to do.  That last section of road back to the Phelps Creek trail seems to go on forever - you still have another mile to go after reaching the horse parking area.  By the time I started seeing parked cars I still had another 5 minutes to go before reaching my prime parking spot.  This is how I love ending a long hike though - physically depleted, but mentally refreshed enough to re-join civilization.

20 miles, 5700 ft gain for the day

Randito, Sculpin, Bowregard
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cartman
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PostMon Sep 08, 2014 4:58 pm 
That's one fine trip and a lot of moving over three days.  Glad you got out and saw the area--one of my all-time favorites.

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reimember
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PostWed Sep 10, 2014 12:41 pm 
Well done, nice way to unwind for sure! Photos are amazing as always  up.gif  up.gif  up.gif

I'll have to pick your brain about camping gear if I ever decide to outgrow my dayhikes.

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User-Name
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PostTue Sep 16, 2014 6:59 pm 
Quote:
I'll have to pick your brain about camping gear if I ever decide to outgrow my dayhikes.

+1  yes, the only thing this stellar TR needs is one of those 'exploded pack' pictures of your gear spread out on the floor so we overnight n00bs can get an idea of what to pack when we finally muster the courage to start doing trips like yours...REALLY nice hike!   up.gif  up.gif  up.gif

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Magellan
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Magellan
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PostTue Sep 16, 2014 7:42 pm 
Those are three pretty big days in a row. Gorgeous photos.  up.gif

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marydave
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PostTue Sep 16, 2014 7:52 pm 
Nice work  up.gif .  Impressive mileage and vertical in three days, and with time to take beautiful pictures.  I've wanted to camp at Middle Ridge; guess I'll have to revisit the area.

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Brushbuffalo
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Brushbuffalo
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PostMon Oct 07, 2019 8:48 pm 
neek wrote:
What the heck is this thing?
What the heck is this thing?

I'm obviously a few thousand days late to this party, but I don't see a response in this thread.
As you no doubt know  by now, Neek, this weird-looking contraption is a snow stake. A surveyor can take a look, usually from the air in remote locales, and determine snow depth based on how many of the crossbars are showing above the snow surface.

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Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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pula58
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PostTue Sep 07, 2021 9:38 am 
I think the avalanches got the best of the snow-depth pole!


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Bowregard
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Bowregard
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PostTue Sep 07, 2021 11:55 am 
Great photos neek,

I didn't catch the explanation for "The feeling of smugness by saving a few hundred feet of walking would come back to haunt me on the return!", perhaps a reference to having to pass parked cars to get to yours? (I was afraid something happened to your car). It's funny how long those last steps can seem sometimes. That was a lot for 3 days.

I would have missed out on 2 bucks if you hadn't pointed out how well camouflaged they were (only saw the middle one on first glance).

Sounds like a great trip!

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timberghost
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timberghost
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PostWed Sep 08, 2021 7:43 am 
Yea high hunters will be in some of that area next week.

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Kim Brown
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Kim Brown
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PostWed Sep 08, 2021 9:44 am 
The Miner's Ridge LO got a lot of work done on it this summer; new roof, paint, and other stuff (pics on MBS's Facebook page). Were any volunteers up there working on it when you were there?

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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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Tom
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Tom
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PostWed Sep 08, 2021 9:49 am 
This TR is from 2014, FYI.

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Kim Brown
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Kim Brown
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PostWed Sep 08, 2021 9:50 am 
neek wrote:
This is how I love ending a long hike though - physically depleted, but mentally refreshed enough to re-join civilization.

Opposite for me; I don't even want to listen music in the car on the way home. No news, no radio. Sometimes for days afterwards. No participation in office meetings; I just sit there and wipe my mouth with my sleeve and burp out loud. I might show off a scab or a bruise.

I will go to a restaurant after a trip to grub out, though; hell I ain't totally crazy.

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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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Kim Brown
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Kim Brown
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PostWed Sep 08, 2021 9:54 am 
Tom wrote:
This TR is from 2014, FYI.

Ah! I Didn't notice that. Thanks. Still, it's enjoyable as hell.

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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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Bowregard
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PostWed Sep 08, 2021 11:56 am 
That was my fault. I didn't catch that the recent post was about how the pole was bent or the OP date.
One of these days I will get used to the idea of checking the OP date and notice the poster's names.

Thanks Tom

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