July 30, 2012

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Left Steven’s Pass July 21 to Hike section K opting to exit at High Bridge and return to Seattle starting with the ferry in Stehekin.

My hiking partner and I convinced several of our friends to give us a ride to Steven’s Pass from Seattle and hike in the first 10 mile to Lake Janus for a fun evening of camping. A sign of things to come, we ran into snow just prior to dropping into the Lake Vahalla basin. After a quick bite we all cruised in to a marshy and cool Lake Janus with plenty of snow still hanging around.

Parting with our friends we began our trek in earnest Sunday July 22 from Lake Janus. It was foggy and cool and after a quick ascent out of the lake basin we began to deal with a good deal of snow and route finding problems around Glasses Lake. Luckily we had brought microspikes and ice axes which became necessary as we crossed over increasingly difficult snow covered scree fields. Made camp at Saddle Pass just off the snow.

Made a quick descent into Pass Creek with some snow crossings. The easy travel was welcome after a long rainy night. Snow free travel out of the Pass Creek drainage and then spent the rest of the day in snow. Made camp at Indian Pass-halway melted out and shrouded in fog.
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Quickly found the trail and finally enjoyed the first of many sunny days as we began working towards Red Pass. Easy going on the west aspect but as we crossed over towards Reflection pond we were traversing snow fields until we crossed back over at White Pass. There was still nasty snow patches in various states of melt out to deal with the rest of the way to Red Pass in the many ravines crossing the trail but by and large the snow was gone. After some lunch and spreading out our gear to dry on the rocks we made our way the last 1/8 mile to Red Pass the northeastern side was covered in snow and we glissaded a good 600′ down into the White Chuck River Valley. Snow continued to create route finding problems until we got to the switchbacks. Then travel was easy except for some brushiness nearing Kennedy Creek. Bridge is still broken but useable. Headed up Kennedy Ridge and made camp at Glacier Creek as the snow began to reappear.

Another sunny day and mixed travel on snow and exposed trail past Pumice Creek and then on to Fire Creek Pass. Eventually gave up on route finding and accended to the pass directly via the remaining snowfields. After lunch made it down to a frozen Mica Lake in four glissades interrupted by some short traverses. Dropped into Milk Creek basin. Trail in rough condition with lots of erosion, landslides, stress fractures forming and intense overgrowth nearing the bottom. Re routed onto the Milk Creek Trail after crossing the new bridge also very overgrown. After a series of switchbacks recconnected to the PCT where life improved. Still lots of bushwhacking everytime you cross the avy chute as you work your way up. Made camp in a small grove of Doug Fir in a snow covered meadow 1 mile short of the Grassy Point Trail

Our campsite definitely benefitted from the dry air of eastern Washington now that we had made our way around to the north side of Glacier Peak. Once past Grassy Point TH we made quick time to the new PCT section and Suiattle River Bridge Crossing. After some lunch made our way to the unmaintained but very useable Miner’s Creek Campground. Barely got the tent up before a thunderstorm rolled through.

Quickly made Suiattle Pass the next morning just as the sun burnt through the fog. Descended into Agnes Creek valley and talked to the first people we had seen since Sunday. Rerouted onto the Agnes Creek Trail which had some overgrown and marshy sections but was easy travel compared to our previous days. Lunch at Hemlock Camp was a real treat and we took our time. Hustled down to 5 mile camp in the afternoon. Two of the first thru hikers if not the first two soon appeared and after a brief conversation went scrambling over the log bridge.

Hiked the remaining 5.5 miles to the Shuttle in the morning. Without GPS, spikes and ice axes we would have probably turned back by day 3 if not day 2. Route finding would have taken a considerable amount of time, which we didn’t have, and some of the snowfields, especially in steeper ravines posed nasty hazards. Seems like things should improve greatly in the next two weeks though.