Monday, June 27, 2016

Chelan-Sawtooth Traverse

Almost more than planning my own trips, I love receiving an invitation for an interesting adventure. The keywords from Patrick's email (all the way back in April) were easy bait: point-to-point, 70 miles, Sawtooth crest. Done. 

After Angel's Staircase in 2013 I've been loosely promising myself every summer that I was going to go back and do the Chelan Summit trail. The logistics with the boat, horrible car shuttle and essentially needing three days when factoring travel in kept me from ever seriously planning to do it. Patrick's invite and determination provided the motivation and his plan to just run the 30 miles of forest service roads along the crest south of the Chelan Summit trail eliminated the car shuttle and pieced together a more complete traverse of the range.

We took the Lady Express boat to Stehekin, followed the Chelan Summit Trail for its entirety and then stayed on top of the ridge on roads 8200 and 8020 until descending to Echo Valley, just northwest of Chelan where the paved road begins, hitching a ride for the highway miles in the back of a pickup that had $300 worth of Costco picnic supplies shifting under us. 

Big thanks to Patrick for planning the trip and inviting me along. It was much harder than expected, compounded by me being sick for about four hours (from elevation, I think). We were on a great pace through 27 miles until that happened and it slowed us down over the last ten miles of the Summit Trail until we made up time along the roads.
  • Chelan Summit Trail: 300+ blowdowns with nearly half of them in the final miles on the South Navarre portion, which also is very brushy. Plentiful water throughout (except on the climb from Stehekin to Purple Pass). Snow fields, but mostly patches, remain on almost every north-facing pass or basin, though none were an issue and route finding was straightforward. 
  • Road 8200-8020 Cooper Mountain Road: regular water from creeks and springs until Black Canyon Spring, then no real source down to Echo Valley.
Over the 70 miles we did not see a single person...

~70 miles and 16,800' gain
On the Lady Express
On the Lady Express, looking back at the Chelan Mountains (west side of lake)
Docking in Stehekin
Stehekin Landing; Patrick's photo
Instant vertical relief, climbing up to Purple Pass 
Pano from Purple Pass
One of few (or the only?) continuous on-trail climbs in Washington State that gains over a vertical mile (~5800'+)
At Purple Pass
Follow the arrow for 31 miles
Lake Juanita
Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness Boundary; Patrick's photo
Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness Boundary
Big-picture directions
South and North Spectacle Butte, Maude, Seven Fingered Jack, Fernow
Looking west over the Fish Creek drainage; Railroad Creek is the prominent drainage center-left across Lake Chelan
Chelan Summit trail across East Fork Fish Creek, with Oval, Gray, Courtney and Star
Chelan Summit trail entering Horseshoe Basin
Snow on the climb to the pass separating Fish and Prince Creek drainages, with Courtney Peak
Prime larch country
Trying to keep dry feet; Patrick's photo
Middle Fork Prince Creek drainage with Martin Peak (l), Old Maid Mountain (r); Angels Staircase's west side center-left at back (below the black triangle shadow)
Patrick's photo

Evening light on Emerald and Cardinal in the northern Chelan Range
Final pass; Patrick's photo
Climbing up to the last major pass, separating East Fork Prince Creek and Safety Harbor creek; also the junction for South Navarre and Summer Blossom trails
Near the pass, looking back across the East and Middle Fork Prince Creek drainages
Chelan Summit Trail trailhead at South Navarre
31 miles < 40 miles
Patrick sports the space blanket skirt: warm legs while napping and when starting out after said nap
As far as running FS roads goes, this one is pretty nice as it stays on the ridge, has good views and tons of flowers
Final miles down to Echo Valley, over the foreground ridge; Patrick's photo
Done... Patrick's photo

Monday, June 20, 2016

Poets Ridge - Little Wenatchee River loop, Henry M. Jackson Wilderness

It's hard to beat Glacier Peak-area ridges (like this, this, and this), and Poets Ridge is no exception. Thanks to a few recent TRs from the area I thought it would be a good time to finally get to it. Yes, and no. A few steep snow traverses remain between Poe and Longfellow and while a fall likely wouldn't be fatal, it did not look fun. Conditions and the terrain probably were a bit riskier than I normally do alone. Steep-ish snow traverses remain past Longfellow and Bryant as well, but largely were not an issue. I definitely felt relief once making it past Bryant... I think the route would be more enjoyable once it melts out, though I didn't see another person all day, which was nice.
  • Poe Mountain trail: lots of wet brush and blowdowns; patchy snow drifts around 4800' with solid snow around ~5700' on the trail heading to the north of Poe. 
  • Poets Ridge route: steep snow traverses remain; 3-6" of fresh snow that was melting fast. North end of ridge where the route contours over to the N/NE side is solid snow. Most south-facing slopes have melted out.
  • Little Wenatchee River trail: snow patches and melting bridges through Meander Meadows. Some light brush up high and eroded-rocky trail, more brush down low and the more difficult blowdowns are in the first few miles from the TH. 

17 miles, ~5100' gain (skipping Poets Ridge summits)
Climbing up the Poe Mountain trail, with fresh snow
Some awkward drifts/slides to pass on the Poe Mountain trail
Around 5800' on Poe's NW side
Melting 10' cornice-drift on Poets Ridge north of Poe Mountain
Looking north up Poets Ridge from Point 6174'; Meander Meadows at left
Quick view of Glacier Peak from southern Poets Ridge
Looking back on one of the first steep traverses
Little slide, likely from melting snow off trees above
Looking back on another steep traverse
Nearing the end of the steeper traverses
Descending traverse past Longfellow, Bryant Peak in the middle
Looking back on my tracks along the descending traverse past Longfellow
Glacier Lily on Poets Ridge
Snotel for anyone wanting to climb Whittier Peak (left)
South ridge of Bryant Peak
Marmots were out along Poets Ridge
Little Wenatchee River drainage and the Cascade Crest
Looking back south along Poets Ridge from Point 5840'
Traversing over to the PCT and Meander Meadows
White Pass, White Mountain, Portal Peak, from the pass about Meander Meadows
Fields of Glacier Lily above Meander Meadows and Poets Ridge in the background
Meander Meadows namesake

An extremely pleasant meadow in the Little Wenatchee drainage