Forum Index > Trip Reports > boulder hopping in the alw vol 2: the italian crest traverse 9.1 - 9.4.22
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rubywrangler
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rubywrangler
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PostThu Sep 08, 2022 11:22 pm 
One of the classic nwhikers TRs that has been on my list for a long time is "the Italian traverse". And a few years ago Kyle McCrohan described a route on his blog that he called the "Alpine lakes crest traverse", from Snoqualmie pass to Cathedral pass trailhead. I had devised a loop that would combine parts of these two routes I hadn't been to yet, along with some other lakes still on my to-visit list. Then Julia decided to join so we revised the plan back to a traverse, including some places that were repeats eek.gif for me, but she hadn't been to yet. There was A LOT of talus hopping on this route and pretty much every day except for the first one was long. We could have used at least one more day, maybe two if we wanted to add a couple more summits (burntboot, dip top, lynch would be good options). But wow, what an incredible route and place!! I have already started trying to forget the Type 2 parts so I can convince myself to do some of this route again in the future. Day 1 Mineral creek to Chikamin lake After dropping my car at cathedral TH, we started hiking from mineral creek around 11:30. Both parking lots were already full at 11am on Friday. The mineral creek trail has been majorly brushed out since I was there last and was unrecognizable (in a good way). But it was hot. As we got near/above treeline, we experienced significant huckleberry and blueberry delays. It was smoky/hazy but glacier lake and beyond were still stunning even with a weird orange tint. We had passed a few groups en route but had chikamin lake to ourselves until another group rolled in at dusk.
approaching glacier lake in a smoky haze
approaching glacier lake in a smoky haze
spectacle + 3 queens
spectacle + 3 queens
climbing to chikamin lake
climbing to chikamin lake
approaching chikamin tarns
approaching chikamin tarns
chikamin tarn
chikamin tarn
Day 2 Chikamin lake to Taocrevo tarns + Lemah 1 When my alarm went off at 6:30 we were in the ping pong ball so I re-set it for 7...still socked in...but by 7:30 it seemed to be clearing so we packed up and picked our way around the north side of the lake, then up to the saddle. A bootpath led us above the encroaching marine layer and up Lemah's SW ridge, and then it was just a short scramble (supposedly cl 4 but easy) to the summit of Lemah 1. The views were pretty great despite the weather and it was fun to see clouds rolling over summits and passes around us. We could see one of the groups we had passed on top of Chikamin pk. But we weren't sure what conditions lay ahead so we didn't stay too long.
around the lake
around the lake
up the ridge to lemah 1
up the ridge to lemah 1
marine layer moving in
marine layer moving in
approaching the summit block
approaching the summit block
chikamin tarn
chikamin tarn
lemah 2, 3 and beyond from lemah 1
lemah 2, 3 and beyond from lemah 1
lemah 1 pano
lemah 1 pano
chikamin summiteers
chikamin summiteers
4 bros in the mist
4 bros in the mist
We headed back to the saddle and then north into a boulder-filled basin. At first visibility was good and we could see the notch we were heading for, but that quickly changed. At some point we had to decide whether to go above or below a rocky outcrop, and we chose to stay high. It may have been quicker to go low because the slope seemed steeper than the map indicated, and the talus was kind of loose and yucky, which made for slow travel. Another group appeared behind us for awhile, but we lost them in the fog. It cleared as we approached the notch, and we got a brief glimpse of our first Italian destination - Grebeci. Then it moved back in as we descended. After a long 1000' of snow and rock, we arrived at the socked in lake. But it cleared as we ate lunch.
notch to grebeci, brief moment of visibility
notch to grebeci, brief moment of visibility
grebeci
grebeci
thomson
thomson
clearing
clearing
Kyle's crest traverse route climbs above the Grebici inlet and continues through a high basin and up to overcoat col. But we crossed the outlet and climbed up and over the knob to the west, to a talus-filled bench. We followed this bench for awhile, missed a turn, and ended up at the saddle between Burntboot and pt 5781. Rather than backtrack we went around and over pt 5781 which was somewhat brushy at first. But the broad summit plateau had great views and it was easy to drop down to a bench on the other side. After a break at a tarn, more traversing on moderately steep heather and talus led to Italian destination #2 - Taocrevo. Where we enjoyed a mostly-socked in sunset. frown.gif It cleared (again) as we climbed up to the tarny bench above the lake, but it was dusk by the time we arrived so views were minimal. We camped in a dry tarn. 11 hr day.
more talus
more talus
looking back, lemah + chimney rock
looking back, lemah + chimney rock
missed a turn here
missed a turn here
on top of 5781'
on top of 5781'
bench tarn
bench tarn
through a break in the ridge
through a break in the ridge
more steep talus ahead
more steep talus ahead
taocrevo
taocrevo
Day 3 Taocrevo tarns to Hinman SW shoulder Saturday dawned clear and we discovered that, aside being lovely in its own right, our bench had great views in many directions...taocrevo, burntboot and our route; out the middle fork to chair and kahleetan; big snow; and the summits of overcoat and chimney rock looming above. However we were a little behind where we wanted to be, and knew we had two long days ahead of us, and that some parts of this day could be tricky, so we didn't linger very long.
taocrevo from tarn bench
taocrevo from tarn bench
big snow
big snow
chimney rock + overcoat
chimney rock + overcoat
leaving the bench
leaving the bench
We climbed up yet another boulder field to the saddle and then crossed the north slope of overcoat on snow, then boulders, then fun slabby rock. My original plan had been to descend to the overcoat glacier and skirt around it at the edges, crossing at the terminal lake. But the flat part of glacier looked good and there was a lot of rockfall on the east edge, so we decided to instead descend a stream gully and cross the glacier directly in front of us. It was bare ice with runnels, no crevasses. We scrambled up some rocks to a couple of pretty tarns with spectacular views just as a group of 3 were packing up camp and leaving. It seemed very strange to see two other groups along this route!
yet another talus slope
yet another talus slope
crossing over the saddle
crossing over the saddle
approaching overcoat glacier
approaching overcoat glacier
overcoat glacier
overcoat glacier
overcoat glacier terminal lake
overcoat glacier terminal lake
overcoat tarn
overcoat tarn
From the tarns we got back on the crest traverse route, passing through a notch east of overcoat and then traversing generally north/ northeast along the slope to an obvious ledge that leads to summit chief pass. Kyle's original blog post suggested that it might be best to stay high near the ridge but we found easier travel along a ~6500' bench, following the route of the trio ahead of us. The traverse was class 2 with maybe a tiny bit of class 3 getting up to the ledge. From the pass, it was another long snow descent and rock hop to the valley of the chief below.
"crux traverse" to obvious ledge left and above summit chief pass
"crux traverse" to obvious ledge left and above summit chief pass
traversing (better route is below us here)
traversing (better route is below us here)
looking over the ridge to overcoat glacier terminal lake
looking over the ridge to overcoat glacier terminal lake
mossy interlude
mossy interlude
still traversing
still traversing
for real.
for real.
almost to summit chief pass
almost to summit chief pass
view across the middle fork valley at summit chief pass
view across the middle fork valley at summit chief pass
valley of the chief
valley of the chief
After a lunch break, we continued down the valley and popped out in pretty meadows full of bear poop below dutch miller gap after a quick and relatively painless bushwhack. We followed the stream to the trail and then headed up to Williams, then Chain lakes. At this point the InReach forecast said a 10% chance of rain overnight, not too windy, and clearing by 7 am. So we continued climbing past La Bohn lakes and set up camp in the ledge-y basin on Hinman's southwest slope. There are a few snowmelt tarns up there still. It started raining hard just minutes after we hit the tents and the sound totally knocked me out immediately. 12 hr day.
almost to the trail
almost to the trail
williams
williams
chain lakes
chain lakes
la bohn
la bohn
long snow finger is the route down from summit chief pass
long snow finger is the route down from summit chief pass
Day 4 Hinman to Cathedral pass We planned to get an early start but it was socked in and windy when the alarm went off, so I hit the snooze button a few times. By the time we got moving at 7:45 it seemed like the weather was clearing. It was not. The ping pong ball returned and we climbed Mt Hinman in ferocious wind with zero visibility. This was a bummer because I found it to be so beautiful and fun the first time. Julia definitely did not have that experience. At one point we followed a boot track and ended up in an uncomfortably steep section of the Hinman glacier, so we backtracked and stayed on the ridge for awhile. The clouds finally began to break about 30 mins after we passed the summit, as we approached the Daniel-Hinman saddle. An awesome place. Fun rock, pretty lakes, great views. Also we were exceedingly relieved to be in the sun and out of the wind.
typical visibility on hinman
typical visibility on hinman
psl
psl
descending to daniel-hinman saddle
descending to daniel-hinman saddle
dip top
dip top
rounding a new psl en route to the saddle
rounding a new psl en route to the saddle
At this point we deviated from Kyle's route again and instead of climbing up to pea soup lake, we headed south into the valley above Shovel lake. I had failed to do much/any research on the climb up to PSL, and we were both exhausted and didn't feel like trying to figure it out. In retrospect it probably would have been the better (ie shorter and more straightforward) way to go. Instead we did more boulder hopping, then bushwhacking, then followed game trails to the saddle west of Venus, which we climbed straight up on class 3 rock. From that point it was pretty much smooth sailing. We took the bootpath down to Venus and then the rest of the route was terrain I had covered before: up the awesome tarn-filled slope (drier than last time) to Citadel pass, down to Circle (which seems a lot more trashed than last time I was there), and out on the (longest 5 miles ever) trail to Cathedral pass TH. We reached my car at 9:45pm and gorged on jalapeno kettle chips and car beers. 14 hr day. Home at 1:30am zzz.gif
more talus ahead, shocking
more talus ahead, shocking
shovel
shovel
bears breast
bears breast
hinman and our route
hinman and our route
taking the hard way up to saddle w of venus
taking the hard way up to saddle w of venus
i love venus
i love venus
spectacle and where we came from
spectacle and where we came from
the best tarn
the best tarn
citadel from the pass
citadel from the pass
starting the descent to circle
starting the descent to circle
circle
circle
Summary: 35ish miles, 15k gain or so. Spectacular scenery, lots of labor-intensive trail-less terrain, SO MUCH rock hopping. I can't remember the last time I was so dirty. 5+ days best if you're not a speed demon, are inclined to take a lot of photo breaks, or want to climb things along the way. Muchos photos

abkoch3, Kenji, neek, Now I Fly, Tom, Prosit, raising3hikers, fffej50, Gimpilator, Bowregard, Kascadia, Carbonj, GeoTom, jaysway, contour5, Bramble_Scramble, Slim, philfort, Gabep, meck, RichP, Waterman, hikerbiker, reststep, puzzlr, Lightning_bug, mosey  Alden Ryno, GaliWalker, zimmertr, fourteen410  geyer, awilsondc
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awilsondc
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PostFri Sep 09, 2022 8:14 am 
This is incredible!! What a trip! up.gif up.gif

rubywrangler
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HitTheTrail
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HitTheTrail
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PostFri Sep 09, 2022 9:28 am 
Epic up.gif Why would anyone fight the crowds in the Enchantments?

Roly Poly  rubywrangler
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zephyr
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zephyr
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PostFri Sep 09, 2022 11:06 am 
rubywrangler wrote:
lemah 1 pano
lemah 1 pano
So many stunning photos. I love seeing this wall of peaks holding back the marine layer. How exciting it must have been to experience this and more. ~z

zimmertr  rubywrangler
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rubywrangler
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rubywrangler
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PostFri Sep 09, 2022 11:58 am 
HitTheTrail wrote:
Why would anyone fight the crowds in the Enchantments?
Agreed!
Zephyr wrote:
How exciting it must have been to experience this
It was! I'm a fair-weather hiker so in all my trips in the cascades and olympics, I've only been above a marine layer a handful of times. It is so cool! Forgot to say a big thanks to Tom, dayhike mike and Kyle for putting these routes out there for the rest of us to riff on smile.gif

awilsondc
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GaliWalker
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GaliWalker
Have camera will use
PostFri Sep 09, 2022 2:12 pm 
Your photos are great and have nice exposure control. e.g. I was particularly impressed with your second photo: mine (from the same spot) has a totally blown out sky (although I think you 'lucked out' with the smoky sky).

'Gali'Walker => 'Mountain-pass' walker bobbi: "...don't you ever forget your camera!" Photography: flickr.com/photos/shahiddurrani

rubywrangler
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RichP
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PostFri Sep 09, 2022 4:07 pm 
Gorgeous traverse. wub.gif

rubywrangler
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rubywrangler
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PostFri Sep 09, 2022 11:43 pm 
GaliWalker wrote:
I think you 'lucked out' with the smoky sky
Thanks, Gali. Yes mostly luck on the second photo. I also took the same shot 6 years ago (sans smoke). Should have waited for the cloud shadows to move off the lake!

awilsondc
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puzzlr
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PostSat Sep 10, 2022 1:43 am 
Absolutely gorgeous photos of some remote areas rarely see up.gif up.gif up.gif. I'm also surprised you saw others on this route. Thanks for the detailed report. BTW, there's a WTA blog post about the 20 days of work to brush out and repair the Mineral Creek trail. In late July we started out on the same route on a 3 day trip camping at Chikamin Lake both nights. But our goal was Burntboot Peak via Iceberg Lake. I intended to write a report and maybe I will when I'm home again, but it was fun to see your photos and compare the same places with different amounts of snow cover. I don't want to detract from your thread but my photos are here

Mid Fork Rocks flickr

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Now I Fly
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PostSat Sep 10, 2022 8:32 am 
What a fantastic trip! Well done! I have two questions, Are "Grebeci" and "Iceburg" the same lake? Looks that way to me. Also, is there any chance you spotted any wildlife you thought may have been a wolverine. I'm confident I saw one above Chikamin Lake, and maybe near Iceburg too. Thanks again for a great report!

rubywrangler
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GaliWalker
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GaliWalker
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PostSat Sep 10, 2022 9:58 am 
Now I Fly wrote:
Are "Grebeci" and "Iceburg" the same lake? Looks that way to me.
It's like they are mirror images of each other.

'Gali'Walker => 'Mountain-pass' walker bobbi: "...don't you ever forget your camera!" Photography: flickr.com/photos/shahiddurrani

Now I Fly, RichP  rubywrangler
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Now I Fly
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PostSat Sep 10, 2022 10:18 am 
I'm such a dork! agree.gif

Slim
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rubywrangler
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PostSat Sep 10, 2022 1:02 pm 
Monty, thanks for sharing your photos - beautiful! I'm sorry to have missed that view from Burntboot and will definitely go earlier in the season next time. All that talus must certainly be a lot quicker and less tedious when it's filled in. Now I Fly, no interesting wildlife sightings unfortunately.

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BeardoMcGrath
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PostSat Sep 10, 2022 1:06 pm 
Great trip! I intended to stay at Chikamin Lake 2 nights over the long weekend and dayhike over to Grebeci. But when I got to the outcropping I went down and got pulled into a gully that was too steep and loose for my liking, so I bailed and went up the W summit of Chikamin instead. So maybe staying high is best. You were at Chikamin Lake at the right time; there were 4 other parties there Sat night of the long weekend!

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Justus S.
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PostSat Sep 10, 2022 4:14 pm 
Beautiful tour through the ALW. Thanks up.gif up.gif

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