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[TR] Foss Lakes High Route, Iron Cap Mt., Otter Point - West Fork Foss R Trail to Necklace Valley 7/3/2011

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Trip: Foss Lakes High Route, Iron Cap Mt., Otter Point - West Fork Foss R Trail to Necklace Valley


Date: 7/2/2011


Trip Report:

Get out there, now! A great opportunity to do this route on snow -- faster, easier, much more fun than dry talus -- more dog-friendly, too.

Snow starts about 3900'. It's like March, incredible. Looks like perfect ski conditions. 2" mush-on-crust, no postholing, did not take crampons but they might be a good idea (it froze Sunday night at 6000', but softened quickly). It's lovely with all this snow. Didn't see a single person, footprint or ski track. Where is everybody?! Climbing *real* mountains, I guess...

Hinman is in perfect condition for skiing.

All lakes frozen except Trout and Otter. Jade Lake 5% open.

Quiet, too; not much air traffic.

You'll need 7.5' map and navigation skills if viz. is poor; I don't think I'd have tried this solo in these conditions if I hadn't already done it twice, but it turns out, these conditions were ideal. The dog loved it, a 3-day romp on snow.

The soft snow was apparently easy on the pads


Sat. 7/2/11: Trail good-enough. They're working on it. New bridge is not in, and log crossing might be awash if river rises. Less than 1/2 m. from Trout Lake, stop at the first water that crosses the trail, if dry look for a big chockstone in sort of a V; backtrack 20', scramble down 15' and you'll find the Trout Lake Mine tunnel right under that water drip (photo). "Discovering Washington's Historic Mines", v. 1, Oso Publishing 1997, great book. Snow starts before Copper Lake. Bivvy on snow, nice 5500' spur due S. of Azurite Lake, good view north.


Sun. 7/3/11: Awoke to drizzle, slept til noon. Progress surprisingly fast in improving weather. Climbed N ridge of Iron Cap Mtn. Was not corniced. Robbed of Chimney Rock view, but Summit Chief was visible. To cross Iron Cap's N ridge, I climb to 5800, then drop to 5400; there's a little knob or spur that threads the cliff bands (this is the crux of the route). Traversed to the saddle E of Iron Cap, thence to Tank Lakes, thence to Tahl Lake. Ascended W to the ridge and bivvied on Otter Point summit at 7 PM, the only dry ground of the trip. I put my pad right on the benchmark. Sunset 9 PM through fast roiling mists. It cleared completely and froze. Skipped the tent. Al the electric blanket corgi fits inside my sleeping bag. 5-star sunset and sunrise at 6350 with everything blanketed with snow on July 4. Chimney Rock and Overcoat finally came out, stunning. As nice a day as I could ask for: crappy start, partly cloudy, good-enough views, sun protection, perfect night, clear dawn.


Mon. 7/4/11: Left Otter Point summit 10 AM. The view makes it hard to leave. Warm, sunny. Left Tank Lakes pass about noon. The moraine to Necklace Valley is so much more fun on snow! Upper Necklace Valley was filled with 12" suncups, slower going. Finally saw 1 set of footprints a N end of Jade Lake. Intermittent snow between 3900-4300'. The trail out of this hanging valley is really rough, rocky, rooty, with blowdown. First 5 mi. of Necklace Valley trail in fine shape, thanks to a recent logout crew. Big bear sign between 3-5 mi.


Gear Notes:

Ice axe. Didn't take or need crampons, but they might be a good idea. An altimeter might be handy for crossing Iron Cap in bad viz. Welsh corgi handy for companionship and photo prop, and counts as 2 dogs on a 2-dog night 'cause it fits in your sleeping bag (caveat: freeze-dried food makes it fart).

"Doggles" and "Mesheye" sunglasses (they don't work; the dog rubs them off in the snow). "Vital Essentials" 100% raw freeze-dried dog food. "Paws" dog booties for emergencies; they're heavy-duty balloons that fit over the paws, and can last for several miles. Vet-wrap for paw injuries. Outward Hound collapsible dog bowl. Belay harness for the dog.


Approach Notes:

Park at Necklace Valley TH and hike the road to the West Fork Foss R. The new West Fork bridge is not in yet, and the crossing log was awash an inch on Sat AM; this might be trouble in hot weather if the river rises. Log looks slippery, but wasn't. I belayed the dog there:


Trout Lake Mine adit:


Native Columbine:


Big Heart Lake, 7/3/11. The whole place is a skier's wet dream, but I didn'tsee a single track or footprint anywhere:


Lake Angeline & Chimney Rock from the hogback separating Big Heart Lake and Lake Angeline:


Looking N at Big Heart from the hogback (the ridge at right):


Camp 1 was on that flat 5500' spur above-right; it's due S of Azurite Lake, nice spot. I should have belayed the dog on this steep traverse. Ideal soft snow conditions, but this was a bit steep even for a corgi. The runout was good, except for those rocks. I won't do that again:


Iron Cap summit. Summit Chief in background. Pembroke Welsh Marmot in foreground:


East side of Iron Cap. The crux is rounding the N ridge at far right; you drop from 5800' to a 5520' bench, then down to about 5350'; altimeter handy in poor viz:


Summit Chief:


Otter Point summit; room for 2 to bivvy right on the benchmark, if one is a dog:


"Because I get fed triple."




Sunset, 9:05 7/3/11. Roiling mists made an enthralling light show. Even Al was impressed:




The darkest hour is always just before the breakfast:


It's really awkward, but you can get an adaptor to mount a polarizing filter on a Canon A590 point-and-shoot, and it's worth it for the skies:


Find the corgi in this picture. The Middle Fork Snoqualmie is right in front of Chimney Rock, behind the saddle we crossed in the center. Iron Cap is the white slug below Rainier at upper right. From there, the route goes R -> L across the photo:


Jade Lake, the lowest gem on the necklace:


Edited by wolffie

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Hey, jolly good show, and solo no less (well, almost)! We did this route in reverse last October. I can well imagine it would be beautiful under snow (and yes, probably easier in places, as long as it's not too soft). And yes, it's one way to beat the crowds (we had lots of people on the trail sections). Maybe not so good for fishing (though we didn't catch anything in Oct either).

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nice work. I almost did the same exact trip this weekend but thought it was too long for the crew I was rolling with. Ended up going to myrtle lake and climbing Big Snow Mtn from there. TR to come...

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I was watching you on Big Snow. That East face cliff is scary from miles away. Looking forward to your TR. It's on our list, but my car is a Saturn and I was worried about the clearance to Dingford.

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