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“Dark redux, Mr H learns the true meaning of brushwhacking”

Dark Peak  (8504', p264')

Swamp Creek from Agnes Creek Trail and Stehekin

Sept 1-3, 2012

Franklin Bradshaw, Carla Schauble, Susan Ashlock, and Charlie Hagedorn

Weather: Hot sun in day, frozen night at upper camp, cold wind on summit, clear skies, warmer night at Agnes Creek/Swamp Creek camp

 

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The Short story

For me a repeat.  Did this one as a favor.  Thought it’d be fun to have a larger group. Only takers were Susan and Charlie.  After several years it was great to do a trip with them.  I was a little bummed for all those that couldn’t join.  A couple days final prep/notice.  Good weather and needed to get in before the fall boat/bus schedule change.  A worry of degraded glacier was warranted –nice having such an experienced group to take on the task without issue.  Perhaps some may have a few brush nightmares.  I’d say the brush was a low BW3 at the absolute worse and the glacier a grade III. 

 

We all crammed into my car with failing transmission.  Noticeable uphill or trying to get to speed limit.  Luckily nobody had to get out to push (this time).  Plenty of time to catch the Lady of the Lake Express from Fields Point to Stehekin (Lake Chelan).  Oh, get reservations at least the day before.  We had a sweaty moment at the dock.  Nice Red bus ride to High Bridge out of Stehekin.  Noonish and hot temps as we stashed a satchel of beer and car keys. Easy southbound PTC walk to Swamp Creek.  Good thing I’d been here before to find the trail and where it went.  Great trail with a few windfall detours.  We cleared small stuff (and some large broken logs) on route.  Easy creek log cross.  Some blood shed as we went north of the creek through the zebra stripe of forest and slide alder swathes.  Super tall grass and flowers in the beautiful waterfall basin. Navigated the cliffs in the dark to camp on the NW ledge in the Upper basin. 

 

Summit day was clear, starting cool, very firm snow and glacier travel with the glacier being very broken and steep.  Summit was dry and a cold wind.  As always, awesome views.  Decent had more bloodshed to prove how great a trip we were having.  Charlie did some peaks on Needle Peak ridge.  We all  got a good workout vegie belaying back to the lower basin and an alternative route out proved scenic and less slide aldery.  Camped at Swamp creek with two people Sectioning (doing the PTC from SnoQ to Manning –day 15).  Last day we caught up with David (aka Opus) on his way north from Mexico (normally from Seattle).  Also ran into Paul waiting for the shuttle bus at High bridge. Shared beer, food and stories.  Hot, hot, hot on the very crowded boat.  Gave Paul a ride to Cashmere while being entertained by stories from all. Oh a stop at Entiat Shell for burgers and the largest plate(s) of Tots I’ve seen.  Over Blewett Pass and into Seattle with no traffic.  Found we had perfect timing being late.  As Susan said, “…we’re having an adventure”.   Now to get to writing the long version.  For those not reading on, I hope you enjoy the pictures.  -fwb

 

 

Okay, for the rest of you, here is my seemingly normal rambling. Grab your munchies and a libation.  Thanks for reading.  -fwb

 

In The Dark

Should I be getting physiological help for repeating this trip? Was I drugged, dragged and connived into the trip?  No, Even though this peak is real work and entails more perseverance than many of the other T100 peaks, its rewards of semi easy to get to location that few attempt or bother with.  This trip has a little of everything, Boats, planes, buses, private hitchhike, PCT trail, abandoned old trail, open forest, creek crossings, slide alder, route finding, flower meadows, tall large waterfalls, cliffs to find the “one hidden route”, high alpine basins, glaciers and stunning North Cascade views.  The lower trail/route leads to the heavily flowered and deep (like3-4’tall) green lower basin with a several hundred foot waterfall.  I can see that as a destination in itself.  Now that “not- maintained trail” is difficult to find from the PCT (Agnes Creek Trail) and once on it gets harder and harder to follow. 

 

Last year, I used a very small weather window to do a fast trip to tag Dark Peak.  Then it had fresh snow, cold and only saw one hiker the entire time.  Maybe due to it being in October and late for PCT Through Hikers (those hiking from Mexico to CDN border via the PCT).  The brush was wet and frozen and so was long before I reached the open upper basin (c4850’).  This time was earlier in the season.  I planned for it to take a little longer and nice to share with others.  Carla was the incentive for her #96 T100 peak.  Emails were sent to others also seeking in the future to do this remote peak.  Many interested, but only two takers. 

 

Shadows

One morning a few years ago, I was hiking in solo to do a Dumbell to Genius traverse.  Shortly up the trail two hikers were coming out.  Later I’d find they’d just done Dumbell and Greenwood (and more).  Later on several peaks I’d see their names logged in the week or two ahead of my ascent or Carla notices they’d do the peak a week or two afterwards.  Walking out from Martin and Bonanza they were walking in.  Garibaldi Traverse just a week apart.  This summer after doing Martin (repeat) with Carla we went uplake for a burger.  As the Stehekin red bus unloaded they walked off the bus.  Dang this is a small world.  We shared stories heading downlake getting sunburned on the boat.  Perhaps we’d get together for a trip.  Well, Dark was that trip. 

 

A full boat, or we shoulda’ got reservations

Three day weekend, so we’d cram it into three days.  Four would be better for relaxing, but we only had three.  Leave home at 4:30am, pick up Susan and Charlie at the P&R (5a) swing by and grab Carla leaving Seattle by 5:15, Over highway 2 in the new morning light.  North up the familiar Columbia to Fields Point on Lake Chelan (8:35a).  This was Labor Day weekend and we thought we’d planned well, but due to my poor communication Carla didn’t have a boarding ticket.  Normally not a bad thing, but this was their big day for uplake.  To make our aggressive schedule we needed to be on the fast boat.  As the boat loaded (taking forever) they started making a head count with only a few openings left.  What would we do if Carla couldn’t get on?  It was my fault, so maybe I would stay behind, or come up on the slow boat and catch up or…  But they’d have a time trying to find the route… thoughts raced, only minutes before the boat would leave, what to do???  Some hassles with the line, getting nervous.  “Only a couple spots left”.  Getting more nervous…  They take her money and she has her ticket, WHEW!!!  Three of us were blue from holding our breath (or at least felt that way) and now the tension released we could move on.  Would this be the crux of the trip?

 

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On board there were no open seats, upstairs even packed tighter.  We found folding chairs and settled to sit in the back with the luggage as the boat left the dock (9:20a).   Even though the fast boat it was a two hour ridge uplake.  Mr. H joined us to share seats and check out the route.  In Stehekin he dipped back into my pocket to save us sock monkey toll on the bus (11:30a).  Hmmm, I wonder the bus toll for a sock monkey (still $6 each way for full size bipeds)?  The first bus leaves for the Waterfall tour and the second for those going to the end of the line (High Bridge).  We were on bus two and left Stehekin by 11:35a   The day was getting hot with a few stops along the road to drop people off at the Ranch and Bakery.  Aboard were also two climbers heading into to do the South gulley route of Goode.  Their packs looked heavy and I felt for them the long hike from Park Creek to the upper basin.  Deboarding the bus several people were waiting to board, some obvious through hikers.

 

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Over the scenic High Bridge cameras firing (click, click, 12:10p) and up the road to the Agnes Creek trail (south bound PCT) -12:20p.  This was it, we were really doing it. 

 

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Down over the Agnes Creek bridge and several switchbacks to be up the east side of the gorge.  Some nice views down into the gorge and pleasant slightly up and down hiking.  A couple small groups of section hikers passed northbound.  A sign in the middle of nowhere that we were entering Glacier Peak Wilderness (1pm), past a creek and several dry creeks.  One rail on a creek log cross started out comfortable, by the time you were at the other end it leaned inward enough to almost knock you off.  Maybe just to make sure we were paying attention?  Soon another log crossing and 15 minute water break at 5 mile creek (2:10p, 1h50m on trail).  South of the creek was the campground along the trail.  Aesthetically not too pretty, just thinly spaced small diameter tall trees and dirt.  Nice was the view of Agnes to the south.

 

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There is also the junction of the trail that goes along the NW of Agnes.  Leaving Five mile camp a group of five sectioning from Stevens Pass to Manning Prov. Park passed, the last people we’d see today.  The trail continues southbound following alongside the edge of the steep walled gorge (2:50p).  Very pretty and for those that suffer from vertigo, a long ways down to the river.

 

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Less than 3 miles through huge old growth and we were at the log crossing for Swamp creek (c2723’, 3:32p, 3hr12min) .  We all took the obligatory picture of the mostly buried sign.  Last year, I hiked the previous 6 miles in the dark and could not find Swamp Creek Camp.  Now, turning around, I saw below the trail the obvious camp.  The things you don’t see when traveling by headlamp.

 

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Into the depths of Swamp Creek

Okay, here is where you can start to really take time (we left at 3:50p).   Paul Klenke has great beta on SummitPost.org.  A note that the trail starts traversing left before 3200’.  Above the “Swamp Creek Trail –Not Maintained” sign there is gravel washout.  You can work up through this, but I like better to follow the Agnes Creek trail south 50+ feet around the corner, it goes leftish and a flattish spot and a cairn this year (not mine).  Here head up hill.  It is fairly flat and not real trail.  When the hill starts to pitch up go left (north) until you are within 5-15’ of the water and the trail will be obvious going uphill.  The tread is good here and looking up you will see blazes on the trees 6-10’ up.  Keep an eye on these.  They work good by daylight and lamplight, but you need to keep an eye on them. 

 

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Black sap of the “blazes” –follow them…                                                                              occasionally the trail is harder to discern

 

We followed the tread and blazes, clearing a little debris.  It was like an Easter Egg hunt and Carla had the keener eyes.  The trail zigs south then north near the creek and then back  (and forth).  At c 3150-3200’ the trail makes its last turn to start traversing NE  along the creek.  Did you watch the blazes and catch this? Or did you do like I did in the dark last year and head up to the 3700’ non-existent traverse (thanks Paul ; -).  No sidehill schwacking this time, just followed the nice tread, a few very large windfalls, lost the trail at one and re-found.  Dang, this was so easy than before.  Foolish me thinking the rest would be so.  A large stump had some bright orange sconce or fungus growth on it that was amazing. 

 

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The trail hugged the south side of the creek.  A couple places were nice to take a side detour to just admire the scene.  About an hour from Agnes Creek Trail we came to the weir, then the series of logs for crossing.  I dropped down for the first log that is smaller at 14-16”.  If you follow the trail a bit drop down below the large (42”+ dia) bark covered log to the next one that is large, lower and easier to get on for your Swamp creek crossing.  I enjoy balancing and log travel, though not everyone does.  Charlie found the creek shallow enough in a spot to hippity-hop through it while I made several trips across the log (the last for shutter delay).

 

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Carla following the blazes                                                                                                      The smaller log for crossing –larger one 50’ upstream

 

On the north side of the creek I proceeded to grab tight a thorn brush.  A reminder of what not to do the rest of the brush schwack.  The trail is within 20-40’ of the creek, solid then faint a short bit.  Looking across the creek the logs cross at the far west end of the talus. Good to have landmarks for the way back since with the steep wall on the other side of the creek, if I needed the GPS it would not be reliable most the time (up this valley).  From here it started like most trails with some underbrush.  Mostly a game we played of follow the trail and where would I be if I was a trail.  Some places the forest opened and you could log hop and progress as you pleased always on the lookout for obvious tread and sawn off logs.  Then a brightness ahead would signal a slide alder grove and time to find where the old trail had gone though.  Now are mantra was “find the weakness”.  Mine seemed to be my sprained ankle from last week.  The brush whacking took my mind off it most the time.  The first couple slide alder patches were the worse.  The open forest was a short respite and we’d find the trail somewhat near the creek, a couple times.  We dropped to the creek a few times, but got out of there each time due to pending brush.  A few tributary creeks to cross and more slide alder.  Most the time we got lucky and found where the old trail had gone leaving elderberry and fern –some chest high.  Much easier than the slide alder crawl.

 

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Susan and Carla “on trail”

 

Our timing from the PCT to the log crossing was spot on.  My short plan was a camp before the alder hell to the lower waterfall basin.  If ambitious the waterfall basin and if gullible and needing to be committed maybe the upper 4850’ basin while still light.  I seriously doubted the upper basin, because by my calculations that would be after 8:30 and dark. But… you never know.  Basically we wanted to get up as high as possible.  A few weeks ago on the NEB of Goode we found the glacier very broken up and needing much more time to navigate.  Would the Dark glacier even be possible?  I brought extra weight of screws, ice tool…  This would be a Bulger turn-around rule trip.

 

Trail brought us to the creek again and this time heading up in shorter evergreens.  Some too tight to even bully through.  This was a little hump that atop it near the creek would be the last alder hell passage on what is probably an old trail or seems like it.    This time I went up and left to the forest and we skirted just above its edge.  Under a small cliff on rotted red log debris and using fallen logs like bridges, still working up only a little til there was no choice but some slide alder.  I was feeling SO lucky, across a little stream and a very short patch of alder into fern/huckleberry and we were staring into the gut of the waterfall headwall basin full of green and purple flowers (7:20p, 3h30min from Agnes Creek, 7hrs from the road).  Cool, felt so good to get here. 

 

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The waterfall basin and 3-4’ tall flower/weeds                                                    first full Dark view

 

I almost relaxed, but we had the cliff to surmount and I was still concerned about the condition of the glacier.  The basin was an interesting walk with grasses and flowers chest high and uneven ground under.  Midway at a large flat rock we took a break.  We deserved it (and more).  Looking around all the ground was lumpy.  Maybe sleep on the large flat rock or find a place closer to the waterfall?

 

It was late and the days getting short. Darkness would not be too far off (sunset at 7:49p).  Somehow we all decided to make the push for the upper basin.  We would be tired, it would be dark, but the plus is we’d get to rest after the up, have a great camp and not have to do that push in the morning with dew wet brush.  7:30pm… we pushed on.  I mean literally pushed. The plants seemed to push back toward the headwall and left (northish) up. No sign of any weakness.  Lower down it looked like someone had been in, so I was hopeful they had gone up and made a route.  No such luck.  Pushing aside plants, slipping, vegy pull-ups, getting dark.  Headlamp time and now it was getting steeper.  The easy  way (ha!) led to what appeared to be a route up.  Hard to see much by headlamp (needs battery change) but this was not high enough and just didn’t look right.  The GPS was useless due to no reception.  I knew the entrance to the hidden cliff route was at c4750 and we were 2-300’ too low.  I explored east to confirm then  we all went west then up.  Hard to believe but it got steeper and now with loose rock.  Ahead the gulley headwall looked right (narrowing wall vs. wide and flat).  Beat-up dirt around and I found the one good spot to head into the cliff.  Below swinging and bobbing headlamps and voices.  Were they stating things to not be repeated to me for dragging them up this?  Soon the lights all gathered close and we crossed right and started up the steep section. Yeah, it really did get steeper.  A sharp stick to the throat left a good scar, but I was just happy to have roots to grab on my way up.  Up to about c4800 and a long traverse right gaining to under c4900’.  It was pitch dark, had been since long ago.  It looked different, but what would I expect at night.  The big trees gave way to the small with some broken from an avy.  A little more and we could see the glacier ahead of us by moonlight.  We dropped down 20-40’ and landed exactly spot on the grass ledge that would be camp (c4880’, 9:55p, 3h5min from Swamp Creek Camp, 9h35min from road). 

 

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Dinner time at camp                                                                                              Late night view of Dark Glacier –bummer clouds…

 

A nice grass ledge near the trees.  To the east it lowered about 40+ feet to the wet grassed basin.  The other end of the basin was a rock field that lead up a moraine to a snowfield, a notch and the Dark glacier.  Susan and I wandered off to get water while Charlie and Carl set camp.  The grass dewy already and the skies clear.  Dinner was devoured quickly as well as all the extra food I’d been too busy to eat during the day.  Our morning plans would be to prep and be out of camp before 7am.  Earlier would be better.  It is darker later in the morning and we needed to see the basin to work our way through the marsh, streams and hidden water traps.  Also need to be early enough for the estimate 4+ hour ascent and the trudge to get back to the PCT.  It’d be nice to not miss the bus on Monday.  There were options, our plan was to play it conservative.

 

I woke in the night to catch pictures of the moonlight on the glacier.  It was cold and the moon (blue moon last night) was hidden behind clouds.  Uh, oh.  A little later I woke again and a few peak-a-boos of the moon then it was gone.  It was getting cold out, and I let myself drift off knowing that night clouds could be gone by morning.  They were last time .

 

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Morning light on Needle Peak (far right)

 

Day 2, glaciers, deep holes and cold winds

Brrrr, cold morning, water frozen and dew.  We didn’t bring a rain fly, just bug cover, but it all worked.  Breakfast, packed and we were off by 6:30a (c4880’). 

 

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Morning on Dark Glacier                                                                                                        Needle Peak in the morning light

 

The basin was much dryer than last year and made for easy crossing.  Then rock hopping, some old snow and up the moraine. At the next upper basin the snowfield started.  It would be steepening snow through a notch. This time a different route moving right up a rock gulley if not too steep.  Then a snowfield above it working slightly right to the top of the rock rib on the left. 

 

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The rock gulley below Dark Glacier                                                                        Looking up the gulley and the bottom of Dark Glacier

 

All went as planned with good water in the gulley and cl3 scrambling (c6230’, 8:00a). The rock looked good to continue up, but higher a few slabs didn’t look as easy so we went back to the snow.  The top of this second snow patch we went right around a blind corner to the top of the rock rib. 

 

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Charlie was not psyched about the hard snow and decided he’d rather a different set of objectives so we parted here with meet up plans for later.  I’d call this spot “Point Charlie” (c6780’).  The sun was out, but still out of our reach.  We discussed glacier travel, roped or not, what if  then started up and left under the giant rock.  We’d all brought steel crampons and were very happy to have carried the extra weight. 

 

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Susan and Carla at the first crevasse                                                                                     Looking west to Needle Peak

 

Carla led east around a crevasse to be blocked then over a short bride and heading more direct up left then switch right dodging crevasses to above the giant dark rock.  The piste was still very firm with sun pocks.  I was in the tail now.  Not the same incentive to summit.  Interesting in the first time having a special energy that helps propel to the summit.  It was definitely not here today. 

 

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Well above Point Charlie –steep and firm                                                                             This year the crevasses are huge

 

At the next crevasse a left under the next huge rock then under the ridge saddle a long crevasse that blocked the entire upward movement. 

 

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Perspective of Carla above the upper crevasse

 

Walking it west a good enough ramp to get above it head left and finally huffing gained the flat top of the glacier.  A fortress wall in front of us and looking down I could see at least 80-100 foot deep down the most (c8097’, 9:40a). 

 

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Break on the top of the glacier                                                                                              Susan smartly walks around a crevasse

 

Good thing we didn’t need to cross to rock here.  We went east for a steep pitch that I pulled out the tool for.  A small flat of a covered crack gave an upward traverse ledge to make it easier.  Now at level of the saddle I hopped a crevasse.  Susan looked down it and decided a walk around was more the thing for smart people.  Above us just a small rock field.  Not even enough traffic on this peak to make a faint path. 

 

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First good bear paw print.  We’d been following the bear route yesterday.   Last scree to the Dark ridge

 

We ditched the crampons and when I looked up the girls were gone half way up the final 300+’ to the summit ridge.  I ventured the ridge to get a photo op of them and a good look down the east side.  A definite no go coming up that thing.  I’d wondered and now I knew.  The black rock was dry and made for easy cl2-3 scramble NE along the ridge to the summit (summit 8504’, 9:50p).

 

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High Fiving on Dark summit                                                                                                   Mr. H and Cupcake High Fiving

 

I arrived just in time to see Susan and Carla High five, followed by Mr. H.  Where’d he come from?  Me, I was the last and trying to find a warm spot to sit, probably looked like a dog building a nest.  The summit register is intact. This year two other parties signed in.  Andy and Doug in July and early August David Nicholson.  Three parties in a year.  That’s a good showing for this peak. 

 

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Register entries since last year

 

Susan shared chocolate and I smoked sockeye salmon.  I didn’t realize how hungry I was.  We wanted to hang around longer, but after a half hour were just too cold.  I couldn’t feel my fingers… nice views, but not fun.  We departed for warmer lounging at the saddle with our crampons.  Some adventuring on the ridge and checking out potential routes (ski).  Oh the views… of course Bonanza in the face. Peaks lined up North Star, Cloudy, Fortress, Glacier, Kololo, even Clark.  Dome and the Ptarmigan range so easily recognizable, Inspiration area and Goode being easy to recognize.  Tupshin, Devore all had different meanings to me now.  It was hard to see, but White Goat seemed so small in comparison.  

 

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Looking west down the Dark Glacier

 

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Ptarmigan traverse (Dome on left)

 

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Dome and Sinister

 

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Tupshin to Devore

 

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Bonanza

 

Dang cold and windy on top.  So we left the summit and at the saddle above the glacier we took another break to warm up.  Looking down I spotted a camera.  Did Carla drop hers?  I picked up the black weathered case and inside a film style Nikon point and shoot.  Hmmm, older than I thought but not too old.  Old enough to have a dead battery.  I wonder who dropped it? Only 64 people have signed into the register since 1995 and I recognize most the names.

 

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Our ridge wandering done, we donned crampons and started our reluctant decent (c8090’, 11:05am).  Views were stunning, but our eyes were fixed on avoiding large gaps as we took a zigzag path to the first of the steep.  Not a place to slip, steep and next stop would be the bottom of a very deep (over 80’) crevasse.  A thin snow ridge down the first hairy spot, then good walking around the end of the upper crevasse. 

 

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Most glaciers I’ve been on have been mellow in pitch compared to the steepness and large open crevasses this year on the Dark Glacier.  Last year it was nice with a 6-8” soft snow cover.  This year going down was a different matter.  Steel crampons making barely a mark.  We took it slow…  Above the middle rock outcrop we had a chance to rest our ankles a moment before going down the west side (went up the east side) (c7140, 11:46am).  The west side was very firm, if we slipped we’d slide and slide and slide  but no crevasse to dip in. 

 

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Back at Point Charlie (c6780, 12pm) there was no Charlie.  So what is the point?  Okay, maybe he’s smart and waiting for us at camp.  Would be a great day and spot for a nap.  Little did we know  A little more snow and I removed my crampons for a sketchy slab descent.  Susan kept her crampons on while Carla took a nasty slip leaving a mark –ouch. 

 

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Mr. H trying to push a snowball                             Back to the upper basin –camp is right of middle –right of horz brown spot

 

Rock, snow, remove crampons (again) (c5296’, 12:50, 6h20m from start), get our stuff from the upper basin, and walk back down the moraine and across the lower basin.  Still wondering about bears and all when I finally had a wildlife sighting.  Nothing to run from unless you have a thing about pollywogs and a frog.  

 

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Wildlife sightings frog, pollywogs and Mr. H

 

Up the grassy incline to our camp, all as we left it, and no Charlie.  Hmmm…  Before we’d finished eating and loading camp Charlie was back.  From Point Charlie he’d traversed west and up the ridge to tag a few summits on the Needle Peak ridge.  Guess a few more points to come back for.

 

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Camp in the upper basin

 

We gave a last glance at the basin, Dark and its glacier and started our return route (c4880’, 2:10p).  The traverse through the woods was not easy to recognize since we’d come up in the dark.  It was further than I remember then we found the route down.  Nothing fun, this was sketchy and steep.  Finding the key cross-over point was a relief.  More steep and slippery.  Luckily it was a good weather day, or this could be demoralizing.  One disadvantage with the late season route is the thick, tall overgrowth hiding any semblance of a route.  Lowering by branch and bush, fighting to push through tall brush and dropping off hidden rocks, repeat, repeat. 

 

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Coming down to the Waterfall basin                                                                                     It was steeper than it looks

 

At the bottom, it was no easier knocking a path in the tall weed.  Once in the open I found a boulder to crawl atop for a brief medical stop (3:35, 20min break).  Carla had taken a hit to the shin and the brush scraping on it was not the most joyous thing.  We fashioned a shin guard from a TP roll.  Who’d think soccer guards would be so welcome here?

 

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Lower Waterfall Basin

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The last of the open walking in the Waterfall Basin

 

We knew we had a ways to go, so kept a move on.  Leaving the tall weed lower basin we went west and a little up to a short pass through slide alder.  A dry creek and we were in semi open forest.  Last year I’d followed the creek for the full slide alder treatment.  Later, I’d get my full share of alder tooth brushing.  For now we enjoyed the sidehill traverse staying north of the creek and higher than normal.  Surprisingly pretty with some wood views, mosses, boulders and more “normal” no trail scrambling. 

 

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The route back was pretty much find the easiest route.  Over tall weed areas we found some logs to use as bridges.  Open forest and on occasion the old trail.  Several slide alder swathes.  A few with a weakness from the old trail.  And several that were a lower the head, protect the eyes and tunnel, crawl, pull… whatever it took to get through to easier open forest –just hoping that was the last of the slide alder.  We found sign of others having passed.  Now thinking of it, it may have been a bear.  Except the one spot a shoe was dangling from a small tree.  Or was that the bear leaving a sign?

 

Happy to find the trail again in places we kept west paralleling the creek.  Trick was to get close enough lower down to find the log crossing.  GPS wouldn’t work due to the high ridge to the south.  We kept our eyes peeled and soon saw the talus field east of our crossing. Trail became confusing. A little searching and found again. 

 

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Charlie on the big log                                                                                                      The smaller log we used going in with the bigger log in the background

 

It was 5:55 (c3520’, 11h25min) when we found the log crossing.  Sunset was at 7:47p and it would be dark by c8pm.  I think we all had a sigh of relief knowing we’d make it to Swamp Creek camp before dark.  Time for a break, I was thirsty and hungry. 

 

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The route from here was easy with a path to follow.  One place of a log fall took us some work to re-find the trail.  We cleared branches and even put our backs into moving some bigger logs.  Going up or down this trail, keep your eyes peeled for black blazes about 10’ high on the trees.  Along the creel was pretty with more underbrush and some odd fungi.  Further west the forest opened to almost no underbrush and dry.  Here we lost the trail heading down, regaining it again.  Where the pitch flattens the trail is next to the south side of Swamp creek (same spot I camped last year).  A few more minutes and we intersected the PCT (Agnes Creek Trail) and headed north to the creek again.  The Swamp Creek camp had two tents and occupants in it already.  There were ample flat places to pitch a tent, a nice alpine privy and clean running water.  Bummer I missed this in the dark last year.

 

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Exciting campground socializing                                                                                            Mr H exhausted and ready for bed

 

Who’d guess the day would be so tiring.  It was nice to be in camp, warm, dry and able to relax.  Our socializing lasted into the dark.   That buzz going from having successfully summited and more difficult to get to peak.  The last two days we’d had a taste of about everything.  From boats, busses to feet. Blazing hot a drippy sweat to freezing ass cold.  Flat trail to I wish there was a trail, blind navigation (like how I drive?) to Wizard of Oz type plants grabbing and pulling.  Night navigation through cliff bands that some have had a hard time doing by daylight.  Vegie belaying and trying to not drop rocks, root crawling, stream hopping, log walking, doubling back, über tall weeds and stunning views.  Finding water in the darkness, slab scrambling, steep glacier travel, scree, talus, windy cold summit and warm sunny relaxing at a saddle.  Did I mention the views?  With only a bug net above us I watched as the moon lit up the forest around, thinking upon the day.  Each trip different and this once different from last year.  Some that have done this trip will think me a little daft for repeating.  If it wasn’t for the great company perhaps I’d have found a different adventure.  For this weekend, this was a great trip.  I smiled as my eyes closed, more darkness, yet still a light of the moon felt as I drifted off to sleep.

 

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Unlike yesterday morning, this morning was warm –no frozen water bottle or gloves needed.  Surprising what a little elevation difference can change.  As we packed a through hiker passed.  The gal in one of the tents was getting info and names.  There is a whole culture about the PCT through hiker group.  Later we’d hear more of the fellowship of sorts it builds for those long on the trail.  We had a more relaxed morning getting started, still somewhere around 8 miles to get to the bus.  Less than a half hour from camp we camp across a heavily bearded hiker taking a break.  Hey! We recognized him, it was David (aka Opus) on his last legs of his whole PCT hike.  What a nice change.  He kept us entertained on our walk out.  Seems most the through hikers had stopped for camp a mile or so shy of Swamp Creek at a more crowed camp. 

 

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At the scenic gorge we met some more hikers, one of them was taking notes and had beta on who had been by and stories.  The morning walk went faster than normal. The returns always seem to drag on, so accompanying David for this stretch was a great distraction.  5 mile creek camp was deserted and not a “pretty” camp except for the view of Agnes Mt. Easy creek cross on a big log.  Not much from there, just up and down a little, past the Wilderness boundary sign and the descent to the footbridge. 

 

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I collected our stash pack at the trailhead, then the final dusty road and bridge to the Forest Service cabin and bus stop.  It was proving to be a very small world as we met another of Carla’s friends (Paul) also waiting for the bus.  Lucky for him we had beer and could also give him a ride from the boat to his place in Cashmere. 

 

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Beer o’clock

 

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Today continued to be a relaxing day. Celebrations, stocking up on quickly disappearing munchies at the bakery, Blueberries and vegies from the garden and finally back to the bustling metropolis of Stehekin.  We were rush hour –if you can call it that. 

 

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David ready to empty the display case in Through Hiker Hunger fashion…

 

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About an hour to spare before loading the boat.  We said our goodbyes to David, wishing him well for the final legs of his trek.  Who’d know the boat ride was going to be so hot.  Was I really freezing my butt off yesterday?  The wind was with us, so no cooling effect.  We were lucky to just be on the boat.  This was the busiest weekend of the year for them.  If you go, get a reservation…

 

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Carla relaxing with David –he never puts the pack down…                                   The line was longer behind us…

 

A little re-arranging and we squished 5 into the little car.  Along the lake, over the coulee passing the remains for the great summer wildfire.  Our minds fixed on the next stop –Entiat.  May not seem much, but we had a grand appetite for burgers, shakes and tator tots.  Not sure how he did it, but Charlie managed to put away a whole large order of tots (looked like a whole large bag full).  Hmmm, what else?  Oh, a drop off in Cashmere and an uneventful cruise home.  Even being “just” a cruise home, it is always full of great views and the knowing when you drop down the west side of the pass, it will be cool westside weather again. 

 

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Bye ya’ll-was another fun trip…

 

Beautiful weather, a true adventure even the second time, stunning views, great companions and a nice addition to run into others we know.  Thanks Carla and big thanks to Susan and Charlie for joining together on this trip : )

 

Thanks for reading and Happy Trails!

fwb

 

 

Stats:

Day 1: 11.5m, 9h35min, +3580/-110

Day 2:  7.6m, 12h30m, 3730/-6060

Day 3:  8.0m, 3h17min, +110/-1250

Total: 27.1m, 25h22min, +/-7420

 

Gear:        30m rope (not used), 2 ice screws (not used), Ice ax, Ice tool, steel  (nasty ass sharp) crampon, and a new camera

 

Map:  (courtesy of Susan Ashlock)

 

Copyright 2012, FWB, all rights reserved