Saturday, September 14, 2013

High Pass 08-11-2013

This trip originally began almost a year ago when I spied a trail on the flanks of Mt. Larrabee while hiking to Yellow Aster Butte.  At the time of the YAB hike I really didn't have any idea what the trail's destination was but I correctly concluded that it originated from Twin Lakes.

Twin Lakes are located a couple miles beyond and a 1,500 feet above the YAB trail head.  Depending on your vehicle, it's either a white knuckle slow drive or a sweaty & dusty hike to the lakes.

The payoff, however, is well worth more than a thousand words.  Lucky for you, I'll use the pics instead words (mostly).

Here are a few of my favorite lake pics from this hike.  Really, these are taken basically from the road/parking lot or within the first quarter mile of hiking.  There is a topo map image at the end of this report if you are interested in getting oriented.

Here is a full zoom of the southwestern lake with Mt. Baker in the distance.  The extreme zoom really makes this a dramatic image as Mt. Baker appears much smaller in real life when viewed from this vantage point.  There is a campsite or five near where I took this picture and there are at least a couple others in the flattish area seen on the left side of the below photo.

Turning around 180 degrees, the below picture is of the northeastern lake, looking off in the direction of the gated road which is also the route to the Lone Jack Mine.  In addition, there is a mine just above the water line, left of center in the below image.  More on that later. You can see that even in August of a dry & warm western Washington summer there is still snow lingering here and in fact, vehicle access to this location just became snow free in the previous two weeks.
The trail head is located at the northwestern point between the two lakes, near where the two above photos were taken. At this point in the summer, the flower show may just about knock you out within the first 20 feet of trail.
 The northwestern Twin Lake shown below, from the trail with some sort of hairy flower thing.  Yes, that must be the technical term for whatever it is.
 Before you know it you'll come to a trail junction.  Winchester Lookout to the left, High Pass to the right.  FWIW, the sketchy snow crossing that we encountered on the way to Winchester Lookout in 2010 was totally melted out as of today's hike.
 From the trail, looking through the trees to the southwestern lake.
 Here is a zoomed in view taken on the way back, after some of the clouds burned off.
My good buddy Steve came along for today's hike.  He was kind enough to also provide the transportation to the trail head... not sure if he quite knew what he was in for.  Thanks Steve!
The below photo shows Steve transversing the hillside trail just before it begins the descent down the north side of the Winchester Creek Valley.
We weren't quite familiar enough with the topography of the trail route so we were a bit surprised to find that we needed to lose a notable amount of elevation so early on in this trek, only to gain it again to reach Low Pass.
The rolling low clouds and flowers really helped to make it worth the effort.
This (below) is one of my favorite images so far this year.  That's Mt. Larrabee behind the tree on the left.  High Pass is just out of eyesight on the left, on the left flank of Mt. Larrabee.  Still a ways off, but the scenery is INCREDIBLE!
 The trail takes you downhill for quite a ways before leveling out.  We crossed a number of small snow fields.  All could have been avoided by going down and around the bottom of them with some extra effort, but we took out chances, using poles for stability and kicking steps into flat spots for added safety.

Eventually the trail crosses Winchester Creek, and then the switchbacks begin.  The map appeared to show about five switchbacks, but there were more like 15.  Here is a photo looking down Winchester Creek drainage to Steve and the switchbacks below. 
 We were surprised to see a family of four having lunch at Low Pass.  Until this point we had the trail to ourselves and expected to have it that way all day.  I pondered the likelihood of whether or not they were the same family I photographed on my way to Winchester Lookout in 2010 (image of them in that post of course, and I think they posted a comment).

Due to the clouds/fog, there wasn't a whole lot to take photos of at Low Pass.  We opted to continue on toward High Pass.

Kudos to Steve for encouraging us onward - I was ready to call it a day due to the clouds - but they did disappear... much like they often do.  I always say 'embrace the weather'... maybe I should do a better job of 'practice what you preach'.  :)

High Pass was glorious (and not that much higher than Low Pass)!  Here is the trail as we approach High Pass with Mt. Larrabee staring us in the face.

We took off our packs and ate lunch at High Pass.
Here is a zoomed in image of the snowmelt draining off Mt. Larrabee.  Neat how all the melt is under the rocks and it just suddenly materializes out of the mountain.
 From High Pass there is a trail that continues upward toward Mt. larrabbee and there is a trail that begins a descent down toward what may have once been a mine (possibly the Gargett mine).

Here is a full-zoom photo of some mining artifacts located quite a distance away, accessible via the lower trail (but you'll lose a lot of elevation that you'll need to come back up).

Remember that photo from the YAB trail which provided the incentive to do this hike?  Well, I suspect the portion of trail we saw from YAB is the section that continues upward from High Pass. Unfortunately, we opted to save that section for another day.  We did converse with a hiker who descended from that portion of the trail (with her three dogs) who informed us that part of the trail seems to have slid down the mountain and reported that it's passable, but beyond her comfort level being solo with 3 canines.

Half of the family we passed at Low Pass showed up a short while later to enjoy the High Pass views too.

 Our return hike was mostly uneventful, except the clouds had lifted for some better photos, the temperatures warmed up and the bugs came out.  The biting black flies most notably.  I ended up having to put on the lower leg portions of my hiking pants for the last mile and a half to the trail head.  It's amazing how much impact insects can have on sucking the fun out of hiking.

Here is another photo of the northeastern lake, with some better background scenery.

Here are some brave campers taking a QUICK dip in the northeastern lake.  Tral head is just to the right of the picture and you can see the parking area and a couple camp sites.
I tried to capture some of the lake color... difficult to do with a camera LCD screen in bright sunlight, but this looks pretty close to reality.
Once back at the trail head, we decided to scout out some locations to test out my new Grand Trunk Hammock.

We decided to test it at the eastern end of the northeastern lake which is where we also located the open mine.
 The hammock set up was a piece of cake.  The hardest part was finding trees the right distance apart for the rope we had with us.  You can read the detailed product review of the Grand Trunk Hammock if you are so inclined.  They can add an awesome new perspective to your hiking adventures!

Round trip from the parking lot to High Pass is about 5 miles and 1,600 feet of net elevation gain.

A Northwest Forest Pass is required for parking at the trail head and there didn't seem to be any place to purchase on at either the YAB or Twin Lakes trail heads.  Be sure you have yours... it's a LONG drive back to the Ranger Station in Glacier to buy one.

All things considered, this was one of the hiking highlights of the year!  I highly recommend this hike, if you can get there!

Happy Hiking!


No comments:

Post a Comment