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EeeZee
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PostMon Oct 17, 2022 10:08 pm 
Little late in writing this report, but I was able to convince a couple friends to join me for a North Fork adventure. Last year I turned around on a Morpheus attempt due to snow coverage in the talus fields that turned them into a game of Russian roulette…are we on a boulder or getting ready to punch through snow? I knew I definitely wanted to come back, and as I read over some previous trip reports for the area and scoured Caltopo and Google Earth I began to wonder if it would be possible to link Morpheus with Dream Mountain, Mile High, and Nightmare Point (prov). Mile High was really only in the mix because I figured it was between Dream and Nightmare, so might as well. The initial route plan is captured in the picture below, but the general idea was to go from Anderson Pass over to Morpheus, from there over to Dream Mountain, and then on down to Dream Lake to camp, then up to Nightmare via Pothole Lake, then take the ridge over to Mile High. I was unsure if the ridge between Nightmare and Mile High would go, but I wanted to give it a try. I also wasn’t sure if it would be possible to get up the southwest ridge of Dream Mountain (it is not, at least not from where we got to). The alternate plan was to skip Dream Lake and stay high by going over to Smith Lake to camp. In the end, only one part of the plan worked out…we summited Morpheus.
Our first mistake of the day was coming across the ridge under 5312 too high. It entailed a very steep and slippery ascent through duff and then a tricky move over a boulder and a steep descent. From there, we continued the trend of staying too high, mistake number 2. It definitely goes, but taking the high route (staying around 5100ft) to cross to Morpheus was tedious. There are some excellent benches down around 4800ft that are a true pleasure to march through. We took these on the way back for much smoother travel. Getting up Morpheus we opted to take a brushy ramp coming up from the SW side. It also goes, but get's pretty steep and vegetated at the top...probably wouldn't have been too bad had we not been carrying overnight packs. I think it's likely we're the only folks who've topped out on Morpheus with overnight packs. Amazing views up there!
We knew we were definitely behind schedule though, so we made a group decision to get down and just head over to Smith Lake and camp there for the night, we figured getting down to Dream Lake would be an absolute chore. We took a notch just east of the summit of Morpheus and dropped into the talus fields on the north side, a literal sea of talus. It was slow going through here and we were all getting low on water. I was getting a bit worried about making it over to Smith Lake as I knew we'd be losing daylight soon. As luck would have it, we found two small snow patches on the way over to where we planned to cross the ridge back to the south side. Those snow patches would be our salvation...or they would have been if we'd been smarter. Not wanting to waste daylight, we each filtered a liter figuring that would be enough to get us over to Smith. Don't leave water to find water! Mistake number 3.
On we went, crossing more talus until we got to what looked like a feasible crossing west of Dream Mountain. The ascent went fine, but getting down from where we crossed was steep and brushy. When we got to better terrain we could finally see what we had left to cross to get over to Smith Lake and it started to sink in that we weren't going to make it over there before dark. There was a particularly run out looking stretch of terrain skirting the slopes under Pt 5196, at least from our vantage point. We weighed our options, even considering going down to Dream Lake again, but ultimately decided we'd descend a bit to a flatter spot and bivy. We found an adequate spot and were barely able to set up two one-man tents on a small ledge. Our third member set his tarp up a little upslope of the tents. Then we spent an enjoyable, although dry, evening eating some snacks and telling stories. The moon was very bright, looked almost full. It was very quiet out there. Eventually around 9pm we all went to bed dreaming of water. At this point, we’d basically agreed to scrap the rest of the plan and head back to the snow patches in the morning to get water and make a hot breakfast. It got very smoky overnight, so much so that around 1am I got out of my tent to make sure that an actual fire hadn't sprung up nearby.
We got up around 7am and were on the move shortly after that. Back upslope and through a different notch on the ridge to cross back over to the north side. On the ridge I tried to scout a bit east in the direction of Dream Mountain, but realized the futility of it and went back to the notch to descend. We got back to the snow patches in good time and spent a leisurely hour making food and filtering plenty of water. The rest of the trip out went pretty smoothly, and we definitely benefited from taking the benches back. We briefly considered trying for Dog Mountain, but quickly realized we were lacking the energy and also felt the allure of getting home much earlier than anticipated. All in all, this was a great trip in a beautiful area. Glad to have bagged Morpheus, but definitely bummed to not be able to link over to Dream Mountain, Mile High, and Nightmare. Will be back to try again once my appetite for talus comes back.

RichP, BensonM, LukeHelgeson, Now I Fly, mosey, Bramble_Scramble, rubywrangler, ALW Hiker, flatsqwerl, Comma, JimK
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Comma
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PostMon Oct 17, 2022 10:32 pm 
Thanks for the report! I've actually been looking at a similar trip for a while, although coming up from the middle fork via Dream lake. Between your TR and the other one on Dream lake, I feel like it's a sign...

RichP, BensonM, EeeZee
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EeeZee
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PostTue Oct 18, 2022 8:23 pm 
Absolutely, it's a great area! I'd considered that approach too, but I really like the North Fork approach...well, apart from the long bumpy drive. Wish we'd gotten down to Dream Lake.

BensonM
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puzzlr
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puzzlr
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PostTue Oct 25, 2022 11:31 pm 
I like your big ambitions! I think several of the segments of your trip might have consumed a good part of a day. The north ridge of Mile High isn't hard, but is tedious to wiggle through the krumholz and around the boulders. I haven't been to Dream Lake (yet) but I've read that the bushwhacking beyond the lake is pretty bad, so that stretch from Nightmare Point to Dream Lake might also be a sufferfest. We climbed Cascade Mountain by essentially the route you did, tagging Morpheus along the way, but we camped at Anderson Lake on our way in. I can confirm that TEDIOUS is the right word for the endless talus. We also had trouble staying hydrated in spite of trying hard, and I fought cramps all the way out. I learned a good lesson on that outing -- don't stretch the water too much. Before that on another trip I made the same mistake you did traversing 5312. My goal was only Morpheus on that trip so I ended up tagging that high point too. Then I discovered the awesome benches on the way out, as you did.

Mid Fork Rocksflickr

EeeZee, BensonM
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BensonM
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PostWed Oct 26, 2022 7:22 am 
Ethan - thank you for pulling this trip (and trip report) together. It was a joy to be out with you, fighting talus and flirting with dehydration. I want to emphasize two important points about this trip: 1. Oceans of talus always look shorter on the map. 2. As you correctly stated, we shouldn't leave water to find water. I know that you and I have both poured over puzzlr's TRs for Morpheus and the surrounding area. I don't want to miss a chance to remind all future travelers of a few simple rules when traveling in this area: Any and all steep, brushy, duff-slidey ramps that leads to a promising notch shall be named "puzzlr's ramp", while any beautiful benches shall likewise be named, "puzzlr's bench". Under no circumstances shall any terrain feature be named, "puzzlr's misfortune," as any misfortunes you encounter in the North Fork are your own making. Here's a picture of the talus ocean:
Comma - it's nice to see your name in this thread. I bumped into you during a snow storm on Vesper a couple years ago. You were moving fast, as I recall; certainly fast enough to make the talus miles around Morpheus and Dream go a little easier. I can't wait for your TR.

EeeZee
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EeeZee
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EeeZee
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PostWed Oct 26, 2022 6:57 pm 
Puzzlr, thanks for all your beta! I got a lot of good info from your TRs on here, and knew that the path out towards Cascade Mountain would work. Those benches were indeed wonderful. Glad to hear we weren't the only ones to go a little too high on 5312. I've definitely seen a few other folks say the bushwhacking up to Pothole Lake looks bad, an adventure for another time I suppose. I was also a bit concerned about getting down from the ridge to Dream Lake, I heard that was brushy and steep in places. Good to know about the north ridge of Mile High too. All in all, this area deserves another visit. I'm considering a winter attempt up to Dream Mountain, possibly via Gouging Lake, tagging Cascade as well.

BensonM
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EeeZee
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PostWed Oct 26, 2022 6:59 pm 
Benson, always a pleasure to get out with you. I'm sure team talus will get out there again, we've got to get Dog Mountain at least. Also, I believe I stole your phrase without giving you credit...never leave water to find water.

BensonM
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