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[TR] Lemah Mountain - Main Peak 8/3-4/2013

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Trip: Lemah Mountain - Main Peak


Date: 8/3/2013


Trip Report:

Thanks to ericsbasecamp.net and JasonG's reports on the area.





When I began climbing a score of years ago here in the Cascades, the alpine dreams began. Seeing the Cascade crest stretching to the 5 summits of Lemah from Snoqualmie Pass, I envisioned dropping a car at the pass and being dropped off at Cooper Lake. A fast and light two-day adventure starting at Lemah and summiting all the peaks on the way southwest sounded like a grand and feasible adventure from the comfortable ensconce of naiveté and inexperience.


Maybe further reading disabused me of this plan, or perhaps it was a deep and low tremor of warning emanating from the black, ominous rock itself which caused the idea to draw back under its shell. Either way, when Ben suggested Lemah as a target for his annual birthday trip into the alpine, I was eager to go and then we would see firsthand…


Our usual excitement of getting into the alpine was somewhat tempered and cautioned by our somewhat fragile physical states. Ben's back was tweaked and I was recovering from an ankle sprain. Like a casting call for Secondhand Lions we ventured forth, packing in some extra ibu, ACE bandages and whiskey to aid in our quest.


We left the car (Pete Lake Trailhead) at a leisurely 1pm. Reaching the trail fork at Lemah Creek (after passing Pete Lake), Smoot's (index-less—WTF?!) book said go left, but the bridge was out. We elected, fortuitously, to go right (TR. 1323.2) on the Lemah Meadows Trail and then left again back to Lemah Creek on the PCT where the bridge was also out. We found a climbers trail heeding up the Lemah Creek Valley on the north side of the creek and to our amazement, we found and followed pink flagging all the was up to the big meadow where we lost if for a bit and thrashed through alder. Skirting a cool beaver pond to the head of the valley (near a 300' waterfall, 6pm), a brief talus walk up the creek brought us to the snow finger heading up toward Lemah 5.



DSCN7547 by bennysnyder. The snow finger.


The evening was getting on, but with aspirations to sleep up high on the 5200-5300' bench, we pushed on, prompted by the all-you-can-eat banquet the mosquitoes made of us. We headed up the snow spotting two deer on the snow high above us. Huge, dark walls flanked us on the right, cliffy benches punctuated by waterfalls on our left. The sky was blue with light clouds. We both thought and said aloud that we live in a spectacular place.


Beckey suggested heading left (south) at 5500' but 100' below that we found an egress in the form of a left facing ramp up to the left. It didn't look particularly easy (wet, mossy, a bit loose and exposed), but the fading light forced the need to get to camp soon. We climbed up but were not please with what we saw. Neither of us wanted to climb back down. Down meant darkness for certain. So we just kept traversing across and downward with occasional exposure and lo! it went.



DSCN7456 by bennysnyder, on Flickr


We made the bench with joy in the twilight (5200-5300', 9pm). Our campsite on a rock slab overlooked our route up and southeast to the Three Queens. We set up the tent, chowed and drank whiskey as the stars came up. Two shooting stars streaked across the sky, one impossibly fast. You see a jet in the sky and then you see a shooting star--a millesecond streak of light--and you wonder…how fast is that going?


Ben rises early and with our big day ahead, I was glad he woke at 5 and got things going. A burning pink and orange dawn spread across the sky. A delicate crescent moon rose above the black ridge to the northeast. We had a glorious, leisurely morning session, stretching and dancing to Barrington Levi's "Here I Come" cranked up on the phone. Crack of 7:20am, we were off.


We followed the Beckey descrip and gained a shoulder of rock slabs trending toward the main peak. Below us was a small, aquamarine lake footing the glacier (real glad we didn't camp there!). We headed between Lemah 2 and 3 (main peak) toward the break in the upper glacier between the two. Gaining the rock band was straightforward and up we went to the upper snowfield, gaining the col quickly (really north of the low point between 2 and 3). The class 3 climb up the ridge and summit block (Beckey descrip) was a blast and the rock sound (10am).


There we were greeted with amazing views in every direction. Southwest toward Snoqualmie Pass, what we thought initially was Snoqualmie, was Chair with Kaleentan beyond. Looking west over the middle fork, we saw hanging Hester Lake. Big Snow to the northeast. To the north, Chimney Rock, Summit Chief, Bears Breast, Hinman, and Daniel. Chimney Rock looked positively gnarly, black, steep and intimidating--and I wonder at the drive, spirit, prowess, and giant cojones of the pioneers: Forrest Farr, Art Winder, and Laurence Byington in 1930; and the first winter ascensionists: Greg Collum, Dan Cauthorn, and Pat McNerthney in 1985. This is not child's play.



DSCN7508 by bennysnyder, on Flickr


We down climbed and then glissaded and boot skied and walked slabs back down and hooked skiers left down to the big bench and camp. On the way, we found a huge, tattered red balloon in the heather and flowers which we packed to show the kids.


Thank the God of Kegworking we found an easier way down off the bench! Traversing north and down with one short down climb next to a waterfall, we reached the snow finger at about 5100'.



DSCN7538 by bennysnyder. Key descent next to waterfall in the lower left.


More boot skiing brought us down toward the end of the snow. I said, Ben look at these crazy caves--eroded out of silvery grey rock. He looked and kept staring somewhat incredulous. He said, "antlers". I turned and saw them silhouetted against the black of the closest cave. I drew back to look and the young 6 point buck started and hoofed it awkwardly up the steep hill, gaining a quick 70' of elevation before disappearing around a shoulder.



DSCN7543 by bennysnyder, on Flickr


We were thankful for the flagging down Lemah Creek and the views before dropping into the forest and the long, stuporous trail back to Cooper Lake. A swim and beers on the beach had us refreshed. Burgers in Roslyn and a week passed has the Lemah to Snoqualmie high traverse looking pretty good as a 3-4 day adventure..



DSCN7551 by bennysnyder, on Flickr


Gear Notes:

Bug repellent.


Approach Notes:

Sturdy boots, light axe, light crampons. Pink-flagged trail up the north side of Lemah Creek.

Edited by SmilingWhiteKnuckles

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SWEET! spectacle lake and surrounding area is one of my favorite spots in the alpine lakes. We are very lucky to have such a wonderful place to visit, so close to 'home'.

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Cool! Nice to see pics from the Lemah snow finger way, sounds like a good trip. You know Chimney Rock is calling you next!

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Nice John! Great looking area, I've always wondered about Lemah and a traverse! Hopefully we can get together for a climb again someday!

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I know I'm sanctimoniously quoting Scripture, but Becky does say, "do not blaze, tag, or flag cross-country routes; remove any such existing markers. Develop your own routefinding skills and do not spoil the unmarked wilderness." -- green book, 1st ed., p.16

Elsewhere, more pointedly, I believe he writes "...people who find it necessary to festoon the wilderness with plastic flags should be condemned to an eternity of removing such... If you find it necessary to mark your route, use brightly colored crepe paper, which soon fades and dissolves..."

There you have it, chapter and verse, straight from the Good Book.


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And while you're at it, stop building those stupid little cairns where they're not needed.


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Just as a heads up guys John died in an avalanche this spring. So your smartass comments may not reach him, nor be appropriate.

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I'm sorry to hear that. My comments were not directed at him, or anyone else in particular. I do find that there is often a plethora of unnecessary cairns in off trail areas, usually where it should be perfectly obvious or easy enough to figure out the way on one's own. No disrespect to John, super cool TR.

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