Archive for August, 2010

Kaleetan Peak

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

The view of Kaleetan Peak from the Granite Mountain Trail stirred my imagination.  It looked so steep and inaccessible, a pinnacle standing alone.  (It is just a little left of center in this panorama).  When I discovered that it was only a second class scramble, I had to go.  The only difficulty was waiting for a clear day, because I wanted to be able to enjoy the views.

Since I had not seriously ventured off trail since I moved to Washington, I did some Google research on the best route.  Some people headed directly up the ridge from Melakwa Lake, while others went up past the lakes and climbed up the ridge farther along.

Melakwa Lake

When I got to the lake, I started up the ridge, but the trails all seemed to peter out into thickets of brush.  So I headed back down, skirted around the lake, and made my way up the valley.  I was looking for a route up to the ridge when I spotted someone coming down, trying to get my attention.  So I figured this was the right place to ascend, and started heading up.

We met part way up, and stopped for a little chat.  He had come up the ridge, and was now headed back down.  He warned me that the slope would get steeper and steeper, but that I could probably make it.  I thanked him and pressed on upwards.  There was loose talus in various sizes, steep rock gullies, slippery grassy slopes, and impenetrable brush.  I don’t know which one was hardest, but after 1000 feet I was grateful to finally reach the ridge and find an actual footpath.

The ridgetop was delightful walking: suddenly I had views in all directions.  Before long I reached a low spot, where the path dropped a few hundred feet around some cliffs.  All this time I was getting closer and closer to Kaleetan Peak, and it did not appear to be getting any more climbable.  I spotted a party ahead, and I could see they were on a trail of sorts, so I pressed on.  I just figured I would keep going until I could go no further.

Kaleetan Peak

The path kept getting steeper and steeper, until I finally found myself at the bottom of the summit block.  It is steep, but there is a gully with lots of hand and footholds.  I just kept climbing up and up, unable to tell how close to the top I was.  As I was hoisting myself up another ledge, I heard some saying hello just a foot away.  I was on the top!.  There was barely room to sit down, and steep cliffs on all sides, making me feel pretty uneasy.  I crawled over the the edge and peered down, then crawled back to a safer spot to nibble on some lunch.  I was a little clumsy getting the lens cap off, and dropped it.  Off it sailed, a thousand feet down.

Ascent Gully to Kaleetan Peak

The other party on top was occupying the only flat spot, and seemed in no hurry to move on, so I took a few quick pictures and headed back down.  Unfortunately the clouds were moving in so there was no view or Rainier or any other of the distant peaks.  I could see the lookout on Granite Mountain, and over Snoqualmie Pass to the lakes beyond.

On Kaleetan Peak

On the way back I met several other parties coming up, which surprised me because this seemed to me a pretty strenuous hike.  I stayed on the ridge path the whole way back, a far less strenuous way to go.

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PS: Here’s a view from Google Earth.

Kaleetan Peak with GPS Track

Lila Lake

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

Charmed by Rampart Lakes, and fascinated by the heights above, I wanted to go back and climb the ridge to see the view.   Although the weather report said “partly cloudy, 30% chance of rain” I figured that gave me 70% chance of dry weather, so up I went.

My plan was to ascend to the ridge above Rachel Lake, then turn right and ascend the ridge to Alta Peak.  Then I would descend to Lila Lake, camp there, and perhaps climb Rampart Ridge the next day.

As I passed Rachel Lake it started to rain lightly, and as I neared Lila Lake it was coming down pretty hard.  So I decided to set up camp and wait for a break in the weather.  Learning from the previous trip, I brought my tent rather than my hammock, so I could at least set it up and jump inside quickly.  Unfortunately it is not much roomier than the hammock: there was just enough room for my sleeping pad, and I could not really sit up.

Waiting for rain to stop

So I sat in my tent all afternoon, then went out in the rain for a while to make dinner, then went back inside.  It rained all night, and was still raining lightly in the morning.  I had about a pint of water in the tent (I guess it was coming through the walls).  The mountain above was still shrouded in thick clouds, so I decided to just head on home.

Lila Lake

As I descended, the trail got dry in spots, then completely dry.  I wonder if it even rained down at the trailhead.  But I did have a pack full of wet tent, clothing, sleeping bag — everything.

I will have to come back when there is a forecast for clear weather.

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Rampart Lakes

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

The trailhead parking lot was hot and dusty, almost full of cars, with many parties perparing to hit the trail.  But once I got onto the right trail, it did not seem particularly crowded.  Or maybe I am just getting used to seeing other people on the trail.

Falls at Box Creek

The first part of the trail is really pleasant: cool and green, along the creek, almost flat.  But you can see the end of the flat part approaching.  After a couple of miles the steep climb to Rachel Lake begins, switchbacking up and up.  Finally, and unexpectedly, Rachel Lake appears.  There were already a number of parties camped at the lake, as well as parties stopped there for lunch.  As soon as I sat down to rest, a cool wind sprang up, prompting me to push on.

Rachel Lake

The wall beyond, to Rampart Lakes, looks intimidating, but the climb went surprisingly quickly.  It certainly helps to pass frequent viewpoints, where you can see the shrinking lake below.  Suddenly you are on the ridge above.  The trail divides, one going to Lila Lake and the other to Rampart Lakes.  I got confused and took a third path along the ridge, leading to thick swarms of mosquitos.  It only took me a few minutes to realize this was wrong, and when I got back to the main trail I noticed the sign point to the two lake trails.  Thankfully, the mosquitos were gone.

Rampart Lakes

The hike along the ridge is delightful, passing frequent viewpoints, small meadows, and finally reaching the numerous beautiful lakes and islands of Rampart Lakes.  There were several parties here too, and I faced the additional challenge of finding a place for my hammock because the trees were getting pretty thin and many of them were stunted.  After searching for an hour I set up my hammock, but it was so windy I gave up and kept looking.  Finally I found a place that was a little more sheltered that would do.

Campsite

I had a pleasant dinner, then went to bed.  A few hours later I felt light rain on my face.  I had been hoping to avoid setting up the fly, since it was still pretty windy, but I got up and set up the fly as best I could in the dark.  A while later the rain came in earnest, and I remained dry in my cocoon.  It must have lasted only an hour or two, because by morning the wind had dried my fly.

In the morning, I ate breakfast and packed up, but before heading back I wanted to see how much farther the trail went.  I followed what I took to be the main trail (it is a little hard to tell) past the last lake, and then up the side of the mountain further.  Before long, the trail either disappears, or else heads directly up the steep mountainside, under increasing snow cover.  From this vantage point all I could see was steep slopes, heading up and up, so I turned around and descended.  Later on I looked at the terrain more closely using Google Earth, and I was traces of a trail higher up, near the top of the ridge.  And what a ridge it is: sheer cliffs drop steeply off, with fantastic views.

Rampart Ridge

Next time I must go up to the ridge for the view.  I tell myself, even if I had gone on up to the top there would have been nothing to see, because everything was shrouded in clouds.  But I am determined to return when there is clear weather to see the view from the top.

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