I have a backpacking trip doing the copper ridge loop with tapto lakes extension starting next week. The latest update on the trail Iíve seen said that you would need an ice axe and spikes to cross the Hells Gorge portion of the trail. This update was on the 17th. I was wondering if anyone had any more recent updates on the snow/ice especially with the heat wave hitting this week. I hate to have to buy the equipment if I donít need it. I live in North Carolina so it wouldnít be something I would use around here.
We did a lot of snow travel Sunday-Monday, not in that area but in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Itís true that the snow is melting fast, but what is remaining is soft, slushy and very slippery. If you think there may be some lingering snow on a steep traverse on your route, keep this in mind.
You can bypass Hells Gorge by going high. There is some tedious steep sidehilling directly above the ravine but it is out in the open (and south facing), offers broad views, and presumably melts out earlier than the ravine (gorge). If it is dry it is viable. From the east just head uphill before the trail enters the trees. From the west access the broad saddle east/northeast of Hannegan Peak by heading up from the trail after the switchbacks but before it begins to traverse under steeper slopes. Catch it right and this is a stroll through semi open forest to the open saddle. The broad saddle has a number of good tarns and is also part of the Hannegan High Route (approaching Hannegan Peak from the east)
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