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rubywrangler
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rubywrangler
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PostThu Sep 09, 2021 7:59 pm 
This loop occurred to me while Julia and I were hiking out from Mt Chaval, but I didn't attempt to flesh out the details until the night before I left. There were a few errors and omissions in my planning which complicated the trip somewhat.  I definitely under-prepared for the parts I was repeating. I guess I figured I would remember those parts, but I did not. clown.gif Anyway, the goal was to connect a bunch of places I had seen from afar on previous trips and wanted to visit up close. It was amazing! (except for that god-awful descent from Big Snow)

9/4 - dingford TH to williams

Left the nearly-full trailhead at 10:45am, and was almost immediately passed by 2 couples on bikes.  After ~2 hrs, I caught up to the first couple at the start of the hardscrabble route to Big Snow and they told me I was "really fast".  That was a first!  Not really, but I think they jinxed me for the rest of the trip.  After a leisurely lunch break at the riverside campsite across from the old Dutch Miller trailhead, I headed up the trail toward DMG.  Although it's a long way to get anywhere, the Middle Fork valley is a really nice walk and the DMG trail is in great shape.  After an hour or so I passed couple #2 who also told me I was "speedy". Doh! Shortly after that I hit the huckberry corridor at ~3800' which caused major delays.  Eventually I arrived at Williams and was surprised to find at least 3 other parties camped there.  This lake barely made my list for a second look but while researching something else recently I happened upon a trip report that mentioned how great it is, and I have to agree. From afar, meh. From up close, wow!

feed me seymour
feed me seymour
dmg trail views
dmg trail views
williams
williams
wow
wow
sunset @ williams
sunset @ williams

9/5 - williams to drofwarc via magic staircase (sort of) & iron cap lake

I don't recall the first time I read about the magic staircase but it has been on my list for years.  So I was incredibly unhappy to discover that due to a syncing error, I had brought not the trip report with instructions on how to find it, but instead an unhelpful comment on the trip report with instructions on how to find it.  Thanks, firefox "pocket".  I considered phoning a friend (via inreach) to get route info, but decided to follow the route shown in Beckey up one of the inlet streams to a 5200' bench.  This was not the magic staircase, but it was pretty magical above the initial talus field, and if you head west on the bench you run right into the magic staircase shortly. This is my favorite kind of terrain in the alpine lakes.  Heather benches, granite slabs and blocks, little tarns, and big views.

little big chief, summit chief
little big chief, summit chief
leaving willliams
leaving willliams
is this the magic staircase? (no)
is this the magic staircase? (no)
is this the magic staircase? close enough
is this the magic staircase? close enough
5200' bench
5200' bench
dmg
dmg
magic staircase views
magic staircase views
magic staircase views
magic staircase views
magic staircase
magic staircase
chimney rock, overcoat
chimney rock, overcoat
looking ahead on the staircase
looking ahead on the staircase
iron cap
iron cap

A bootpath leads to Iron Cap pass, and from there it's an hour or two of talus hopping to iron cap lake. I counted 40+ people going from chetwoot to the tanks, or vice versa. Iron Cap lake had been largely frozen when Ruby and I climbed the mountain in July a few years back, but is fully melted now.  I arrived there at the same time as a group of 20-something dudes and their dads; one of the dudes was complaining about the route from the tanks: "I thought there was supposed to be benches along the way!" lol.gif  Saw zero people from this point on. I hiked to the pass separating iron cap and azure lakes, then turned west and climbed up to the broad ridge between iron cap and chetwoot lakes on more talus. Really excellent views of chetwoot, angeline and azure from here. Just before the ridge begins to climb to pt. 6077, I traversed SW across more talus to a pass separating Chetwoot and my destination.  Then more talus hopping down to the lakeshore.  After poking around there for awhile, I circled around to where a tarn is indicated nw of the lake on the usgs map (there is no tarn there actually) and enjoyed the sunset show.

love this view
love this view
traversing around iron cap (looking back)
traversing around iron cap (looking back)
otter lake
otter lake
iron cap lake
iron cap lake
climbing up to the ridge between iron cap lake and chetwoot lake
climbing up to the ridge between iron cap lake and chetwoot lake
iron cap & lake
iron cap & lake
home for the night (but first, talus)
home for the night (but first, talus)
bears breast catching clouds
bears breast catching clouds

9/6 - drofwarc to big snow tarns

It is possible to go all the way from iron cap summit to wild goat summit on the ridge above chetwoot. Did I do that? Nope. I climbed over pt 5880 (brushy) and then pt 5821 and came to a spot where the ridge becomes a fin. At that point, I realized I had no idea about the condition of the ridge beyond, but it looked narrow. I knew I could climb up the fin, but wasn't sure my short legs could get me back down if it was impassable beyond. And I didn't want to have to be plucked off the ridge by Snohawk1. So again I had to adjust due to lack of route info. I backtracked to the east of pt 5880, dropped off the ridge and traversed the talus slope above chetwoot, and climbed back up to the ridge west of the narrow spot, as Ruby and I had done on our previous visit here.  To add to my frustration, I had cell service once I got back to the ridge and of course I immediately pulled up Matt's TR for this area and learned that yes, the ridge goes. Argh! At least I got some nice morning views above the clouds!
bricks.gif

cloudier
cloudier
clearing
clearing
looking back down the ridge
looking back down the ridge
above the cloud deck in the middle fork valley
above the cloud deck in the middle fork valley
chetwoot
chetwoot

I continued west on the ridge toward wild goat, traversing below pt 6200 on an animal path at first, then on steep dirt. Once back on rock it's an easy talus hop up to the summit. Great view of big snow and gold lake from here! Not many visitors according to the register, but a few familiar names recently.  Then back to the saddle east of the summit and another long talus descent. I had a little trouble finding my way through the cliffs on the northwest side of wild goat. The passage is at ~5600' and marked by a cairn that I could not see from above, but was easy to spot when I approached from below.  Once past this spot, there is another minor rib to cross before reaching the nw ridge. I had boo's 2016 report for this portion of the trip and I would suggest following his route between the ridge and gold lake. I didn't, and ended up picking my way through a minor cliff band. Not too painful but time consuming.  I worked my way around the south side of the lake (some large bear scat here) and then through tarns, talus and slabs heading up to big snow. This area was all snow covered when I was here before. When I made it to the tarns at ~5500 I was losing steam and daylight, so instead of zig-zagging to hit the tarn at 5759 as planned, I climbed straight up (first on talus, then a gully) to the huge slab at 5800 where I camped. A little bit of harder scrambling was required to get out of the gully and onto the slab. Awesome campsite.

big snow and gold
big snow and gold
east ridge to hinman & daniel
east ridge to hinman & daniel
looking back to passage through wild goat cliffs
looking back to passage through wild goat cliffs
descent route from wild goat nw ridge (starting at upper center to lower right: heather, talus, cliffs, more talus)
descent route from wild goat nw ridge (starting at upper center to lower right: heather, talus, cliffs, more talus)
gold from inlet
gold from inlet
wild goat tarn reflection
wild goat tarn reflection
big snow tarn
big snow tarn
nearing camp
nearing camp
looking down ascent gully
looking down ascent gully
slab camp
slab camp
slab camp
slab camp

9/7 - big snow tarns to dingford

The views from the upper slopes of Big Snow are spectacular, although it was a pretty smoky morning. I picked up a bootpath just above camp, then strolled up the huge slabs taking many photos.  As I was strolling, it occurred to me that Julia and I had had some routefinding issues on our previous descent from Big Snow and that it had been pretty unpleasant. Like this trip, we had made a loop and tried to descend through the cliffs above snowflake lake without having come up that way. I donít even remember how we finally made it down, must have blocked it out. This time, after descending the first 1000' feet on talus and occasional heather, I made a couple attempts to find the route through cliffs but ultimately gave up and descended the obvious gully from ~5450 to the se corner of snowflake lake. Pretty straightforward, and I wish I hadn't wasted time looking for the other route.  On the descent from Big Snow lake to the trail, I was able to avoid most of the brush we thrashed through last time but still ended up in swampy meadow south of Myrtle lake. I ate my weight in huckleberries on the hike out.

big snow sunrise
big snow sunrise
big snow
big snow
big snow tarns
big snow tarns
upper hardscrabble lake
upper hardscrabble lake
descent gully to snowflake and big snow lakes
descent gully to snowflake and big snow lakes
big snow lake
big snow lake

~30ish miles
~11,500ish' of gain

RAW-dad, outsider_bulu, raising3hikers, Mark Hadland, BensonM, jaysway, Gimpilator, puzzlr, Gabep, Slim, ancient_squirrel, fffej50, Waterman, jstern, reststep, Sore Feet, mosey, Dustin R, chiwakum, RichP, Kenji  JimK, Tom
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Dustin R
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Dustin R
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PostThu Sep 09, 2021 8:53 pm 
Awesome loop! Had the same in mind this week but work ran away with those plans, so ended with a Hardscrabble out to Big Snow and back. Prolly just missed ya headed out towards the Hardscrabbles on 9.7! Eyed the Wild Goat passage from our camp at the tarns above Gold and appreciate your detail on that connection - looked exciting from afar. Been up to the Tanks from Willams a handful of times (much more pleasant than the alternative approach, but that drive and ride up from Dingford is an efficient filter!), really enjoyed the western end of the zone. After years of exploring the further reaches of the Cascades, I feel a little foolish in realizing how rugged the middle fork environs can be smile.gif

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zephyr
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zephyr
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PostThu Sep 09, 2021 11:27 pm 
Wow.  You hit it out of the park on this one rw.   All those beautiful places.  Amazing photos.

I really like this one.   ~z

rubywrangler wrote:
dmg
dmg

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GaliWalker
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GaliWalker
Have camera will use
PostFri Sep 10, 2021 5:51 am 
eek.gif  stun.gif
Amazing photos! What a trip.

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'Gali'Walker => 'Mountain-pass' walker
bobbi: "...don't you ever forget your camera!"
Photography: flickr.com/photos/shahiddurrani
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awilsondc
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awilsondc
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PostFri Sep 10, 2021 7:31 am 
What a cool trip!  Thanks for the write up.  Great photos too!

rubywrangler wrote:

sunset @ williams
sunset @ williams

up.gif  up.gif

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contour5
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contour5
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PostFri Sep 10, 2021 12:31 pm 
WoW!

You really captured a lot of stunning images, it's almost too much to process...

The Magic Staircase starts off on the upper left side of this picture

Exit Stage Left
Exit Stage Left

The short diagonal finger of talus sticking out of the left side of the talus apron leads directly to the massive lower bench. I called it the Magic Staircase in my first NWH TR in 2003

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rubywrangler
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rubywrangler
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PostFri Sep 10, 2021 1:57 pm 
Yes, that's the report that didn't sync to my phone properly! Instead I ended up with DHM's comment on your report, asking for input on his trip plan waah.gif

The route looks pretty obvious in that photo, but by the time I realized that technology had conspired against me, I was on the other side of the lake and it was not so obvious. Oh well, guess I'll have to go back. Not sad about that!

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Tom
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PostFri Sep 10, 2021 2:48 pm 
rubywrangler wrote:
Oh well, guess I'll have to go back. Not sad about that!

Exactly, that's how I feel about a lot of places haha!  Superb pics in this report. Thanks as always for taking the time to share them.

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pushkarwallah
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PostFri Sep 10, 2021 3:29 pm 
It may be that my partner and I ran into you between Williams and Tank. We encountered a solo hiker in the boulder field who was going to Iron Cap and beyond?

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neek
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neek
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PostFri Sep 10, 2021 3:42 pm 
oh yeah, i learned to double check pocket the hard way too.  fabulous photos, way to use smoke & clouds for dramatic effect.

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rubywrangler
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rubywrangler
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PostFri Sep 10, 2021 5:56 pm 
pushkarwallah, yes probably me!  You were thinking of heading to chain lakes right?  Did you end up going?

Dustin R, if I was doing this again I would definitely come out Hardscrabble. I remember actually enjoying that approach to Big Snow unlike Myrtle/Dingford. And that way you could bike the road. Big Snow lake is pretty lovely though.

neek, have you found anything better than pocket? I used to use evernote and never had syncing problems, but it was terrible at translating formatting to the point where many pages were unreadable.

Re: photos, thanks everybody! The old RX100M3 was not very cooperative on this trip and I'm glad you can't tell embarassedlaugh.gif  It kept switching back and forth from RAW to jpg randomly and I had a hard time matching the white balance between the two file types in lightroom.  Also, the screen fell off a few months ago and the viewfinder randomly stops working sometimes now, oof. I'm just hoping it holds on long enough for the M8 release so I can get a good deal on the M7...

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contour5
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contour5
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PostFri Sep 10, 2021 6:47 pm 
Er, What kind of phone do you have?

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Prosit
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Prosit
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PostFri Sep 10, 2021 7:10 pm 
rubywrangler wrote:
Re: photos, thanks everybody! The old RX100M3 was not very cooperative on this trip and I'm glad you can't tell embarassedlaugh.gif  It kept switching back and forth from RAW to jpg randomly and I had a hard time matching the white balance between the two file types in lightroom.  Also, the screen fell off a few months ago and the viewfinder randomly stops working sometimes now, oof. I'm just hoping it holds on long enough for the M8 release so I can get a good deal on the M7...

Goodness...  I'm beginning to think it wouldn't matter if you used a cardboard box pinhole camera.  Some very nice shots there.

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rubywrangler
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rubywrangler
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PostFri Sep 10, 2021 8:35 pm 
I have an iphone X but don't use the camera much. Some people have figured out how to take nice photos with it, but I feel like mine always look very low-res and over saturated.

My current strategy is quantity. If I shoot enough, odds are some will be decent! Just requires a lot of post-trip sorting time.

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Bootpathguy
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PostFri Sep 10, 2021 9:39 pm 
Wow!!! Thanks for sharing

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Experience is what'cha get, when you get what'cha don't want
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