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Lillian Lake, Cameron Pass High Alpine Traverse


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Hi All

Below is the first draft of the Low Pass (Gladys Lake) , Lillian Lake , Cameron Pass traverse for the high alpine traverse section of the Climbers Guide To The Olympics Mountains. Those that are familiar with the current description realize it very minimal. The GPS waypoints are not filled in for this writing. Please review and comment on this description.


Lillian Lake to Cameron Pass

When planning this traverse one should take into account that Lillian Lakes is a quota area. A limited number of permits are issued for this area at any given time.

This route is described from north to south, but could be done just as well in reverse. The traverse begins on “Low Pass” which is just SW of Gladys Lake. This pass may be reached either by following the Obstruction Point - Grand Pass traverse, or by descending to Grand Valley and hiking up to Gladys Lake. From Gladys Lake, hike briefly toward Grand Pass until a large meadow is reached just after crossing a small stream, but before the rocky ridges in the valley floor (wp?). Here you can see the large swithchback that ascends to the top of Low Pass. From the top of Low Pass (wp?) travel S while descending the W side of the pass. Traces of the Lillian Lake trail that was abandoned in 1949 can still be found, but are quite sketchy. There are a number of route finding errors that are commonly made when hiking to Lillian lake. The first of these is to descend too quickly and too far when leaving Low Pass. A moderate descent or following the traces of the old trail will bring you to a point about a third of the way up a large talus field. Here you have three options.

The first is to cross the talus field and gain the crest of the rocky ridge on the other side. A point can be found to get off the ridge to the south and descend the broad grassy west facing slope.

The second option, is to cross the talus field aiming toward a talus covered bench that is both near the rocky ridge, and the lower margin of the talus field. Descending SW from the bench you can find a narrow sloping passage between the toe of the rocky ridge and a nasty gully that parallels it. This passage will allow you to contour around the toe of the ridge and out onto the grassy slope mentioned above, but considerably lower.

The third option is to descend into the meadow just below the talus field. The old trail likely traversed the top of this meadow. It is possible to climb out the upper right (SE) side of the of the meadow and join the second option just below the toe of the rocky ridge. This is quite arduous at best. The south margin of the meadow is, for the most part, impenetrable Alaska Cedar and brush. However, a good route can be found near the lower end of the meadow. Here the woods suddenly recede south. A heavily used game trail can be found in the upper left (SE) corner of the area. The game trail leads out to the grassy slope. There is a second meadow below this one that should not be descended into as there is no easy passage out of it.

Once out on the grassy slope, an easy descent can be made into the huge, exquisite meadows of the valley floor. Many excellent camping options are available here. Contour across the valley floor crossing several creeks. Here the second major route finding errors are made. It is common for hikers to leave the west side of the valley floor too soon and too steeply. This does work, but entails much steep side hilling and brush. At the last stream, it may be better to go downstream a short distance and contour around as much of the two intervening ridges as you can, in meadow and open forest, before climbing up toward the broad basin holding Lillian Lakes.

Once in the large glacier carved basin, hike to the lakes which are tucked high in the head of the basin using a minimum impact route. Good campsites abound around the Lakes. For many this will be their destination and they will return the way they came.

To continue to Cameron Pass, hike to the scree/talus or snow slope south of the lake. Late in the year a good trail climbs this slope. This trail is easily seen from the lake in the midday sun. It is not so visible when shadows are on the slope. The trail/snow easily gains about 400 ft to a small pass. From the pass the views of both the lake and the Lost River drainage are spectacular. A good trail leads S across the west face of McCartney Peak and around the ridge down into the head of an unnamed creek drainage. This is a very pretty area of rock, streams and meadows. The trail gets a little sketchy here but still can be followed out of the drainage and up on to the ridge to the south. At this point, the trail vanishes. The urge to head for the ridge tops should be suppressed. Instead, continue a gently rising contour into the head of the next drainage. In this drainage you will encounter a few streaks of scree coming down the valley floor. Angle up to the SE across scree, meadow and wood. Getting to the ridge crest too quickly will require a significant descent to pass a deep notch in the ridge. From the notch, upper Cameron basin is visible. From the notch, a slump ridge provides easy travel S until a scree slope is encountered. Get as high as possible before launching out into the scree. A faint trail that leads above the stunted trees may prove helpful. In dry weather, this is the most tedious bit of hiking on the traverse. Fortunately, it is fairly short. Once clear of the scree, you can fully indulge the urge to head for the ridge top as you hike S to Cameron Pass.

From Cameron Pass, a party can continue by trail to make a loop back to Obstruction Point via Cameron Creek and Grand Pass, or continue S through Lost Pass and into the Dosewallips.

Strong fast parties can easily make Lilian Lakes in one day from Obstruction Point. Less strong parties or ones that want to enjoy meadows in the floor of the Lillian River valley should allow 1.5 days or more.

The section from Lillian Lakes to Cameron Pass should be allowed a full day, assuming you didn’t want to stop in one of these wonderfully isolated upper drainage areas.

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