Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Ahh yes. A middle of the week sunny day-hike to Mildred Lakes in Olympic National Forrest's Skokomish wilderness. My memories are as fond of this hike as they are of a very similar outing - you know - the Lake Constance walk-up. Fortunately I am again rewarded with every mountaineers' saving grace - a short memory.
Our crew of four started at a scenic trailhead with views of the Hamma Hamma river and its powerfully cascading water falls.
Two miles into the hike and we were progressing easily, making very good time. The flowers were beautiful, conversation interesting and jovial, and we all remarked how well the trail was maintained and flagged with red marking tape.
Suddenly, there was no conversation, the trail alternated between faint and non-existant, there were no red trail flags (at least not where they were needed), and we found ourselves scratching and clawing our way up steep, rocky, muddy drainages. Oh...did I mention we were being assaulted by blood sucking mosquitos as well? These conditions remained with us for most of our hike.
Eventually we were rewarded by simple pleasures. As we gained elevation, the mosquitos disappeared, snow began covering the tangles of roots and rocks, and route finding became less confounding.
Then we realized the real payoff. Topping out above the lakes near a cluster of boulders, while basking in the sunshine, we were rewarded with a frontal view of the entire Sawtooth mountain range. Views such as these must be earned. As you will see in pictures below, spectacular peaks in full view included Cruiser, the Fin, the Horn, and many others.
Oh, and what about the lake? Noticing the lake was mostly unfrozen, within 5 minutes we spotted six schools of trout swimming just off-shore. The lake was nice.
Please see the pictures below. If you have a relatively fast internet connection, I highly recommend clicking on each picture for a full screen view.
Hamma Hamma River
Frozen High Country Near Mildred Lake
Mildred Lake (#1)
Climbing Crew (minus Jerry G.)
Sawtooth Mountain Range
Fin and Horn Peaks Close-up
Mt Cruiser and Alpha Close-up
Thursday, May 10, 2007
As you will plainly see in the pictures below, the views are spectacular and the north ridge is very rugged. The ridge alternated from a barren expanse to a hard, icy snow crust. Half-way along the ridge, John and I soldiered ahead of the group, choosing to traverse below the ridge, around the first of two mammoth camel humps, then back up to the ridge at a saddle.
Better than describing this "interesting" traverse, see one of the pictures below - John is the tiny figure, almost imperceptible, near the small snow patch halfway down the rock. Needless to say, after climbing back up to the saddle, we shouted our recommendation to the approaching party that they avoid this traverse since it was at best iffy. Our recommendation to traverse a less steep snow ramp, avoiding the camel hump, was heeded.
This left John and I with one decision; continue over the second rocky camel hump, or join the team at the snow ramp below. John proceeded over the rocky pinnacle; I chose to climb down the steep, icy slope to join the party below - this was a decision I would soon regret.
As others had already proceeded ahead along the safer route, I became entrenched in the effort to lower myself down the hard, thin ice to their route. The run out was, well...I don't want to re-visit my memory of it. Using my ice axe to carefully cut steps on this steep slope, I proceeded slowly and cautiously, belaying with the pick-end of my ice axe. After about thirty minutes I finally gained the safer snow ramp below. To say this was exhausting (and exhilarating) is to understate the effort.
Safe and sound, we all joined up at the North summit and relaxed in the sunshine.
Please see the pictures. If you have a relatively fast internet connection, I highly recommend clicking on each picture for a full screen view.