August 3, 2011

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July 29th to August 2nd hiked White Pass to Chinook Pass. Hit snow at Sand Lk. and lost trail found it off and on until Cramer Pass. No markers, no tags but lots of cut logs. Blow downs cut only a few miles in but no huge blow downs to speak of that caused big problems. Camped at Pipe Lake and ate with the bugs.

Next day made hard 10+ miles over snow choked wilderness. We had only map, compass and altimeter. Got to Panther Creek/Red Rx pass tired. No need for crampons, but ax is comforting. Snow mostly soft except in morning, of course and under trees (lots of trees!) Recommend getting Cougar Lake topo. White out conditions morning of July 30th clearing somewhat in late morning. I recommend using the Nat’l Park/Nat’l Forest boundary markers to track as the trail runs alongside or crosses at points.
We spent a lot of time trying to find the trail when going overland heading for known points worked best. No problem with water. One creek crossing was tricky, but Bumping River had a great log just upstream from the trail.

Lucky enough to find dry camps each night, but no other humans except on the first day. Maybe one bear scat, lots of elk and deer. Very few little critters. We did a lot of traversing some steep slopes, but we’ve seen worse. The last mile or so from Chinook was the most dangerous as the run out was very bad on the northeast slope leading to the road and the now destroyed bridge over 410. We did have tracks from Dewey Lk. which was very wet.

The whole NW is like some huge ice cube melting very slowly, snow very compact and nights are colder than usual. Experienced off trail backcountry navigation skills a must. Not sure how much more time gained by a GPS as moving on snow is slow going and the trail can lead you to some pretty hairy exposed spots. Ice ax, poles, gaiters and visual. Remember too that there is some discrepancies on elevations given on the various maps and quides available. Compass work a must. Actually if you weren’t worried about being on the trail and the tiredness factor it is a great exercise in backcountry work and did I mention it was beautiful, serene quiet splendor the whole way!!