Posted by: Matt | July 7, 2009

Snow Lake and Beyond (#1003), Alpine Lakes Wilderness

We’ve been out of town visiting with Family and recreating on the San Juan Islands for the last couple of days. But Thursday on the way back over to Ellensburg I was lucky enough to be able to spend an evening climbing over a couple of high mountain passes and past a frozen lake.

My original intent was to run a shorter section of the Pacific Crest Trail, but there were a lot of cars parked at the trail head and I didn’t really feel like competing with the holiday crowds so I drove a bit further and found that there were far fewer people at the Snow Lake trail. Better it was late enough in the day I could look up at sections of the trail where it comes out of the trees and see most of those people on their way back to the parking lot. I parked the car and got ready.

My Salomon shoes are showing their age so yesterday I picked up two pair of La Sportiva Crosslite trail running shoes after trying on about 10 pairs at REI. I liked these shoes in the store because they provide a layer of padding and not much in the way of motion control. Plus the toe-box is large enough to allow for some swelling and they really seemed like they would breathe. I opted to use these figuring if I needed to break them in it was already too late.

Over the previous couple of days I made some more cuts from my Mountain Smith Tour bag removing all the zipper tabs and some excess strap ribbon. Not sure how much weight this saved because I didn’t bring a scale, but when I was done there was a pile of unnecessary stuff sitting on the table. Plain Jane please, no extras for me.

I started up the trail at about 4:30, its steep here and that afternoon pretty warm. The trek up made me work for the views, but it was a welcome exchange of energy slipping in and out of huge stands of conifers and crossing scree fields. Other than the “stairs” at the very beginning of the trial this section is well made and maintained. The stairs are irregular and don’t really seem necessary, but you can get by them pretty quickly.

At the pass snow fields started to be the only thing to run on so there I ran. It was a good thing to have the poles with on this trek because the snow was steep in places and slippery. I worked my way around the lake toward the descent on the north side. I ran up the cranny on the north side of the lake where the trail passes over a small hill and down a cliff face.

Trail 1013.3 down Rock Creek into the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River hasn’t been touched for a while. The top five or so switch backs are covered in part by snow and ice, but passable if you take a moment to look where you’re going and kick foot holds. Don’t get sloppy here, it’s a long way to the bottom.

The rest of the way down the canyon wall is very overgrown. I turned around and took this photo because this section of trail had been particularly easy to pass over. There are fallen trees and trees that grow over the narrow ledge of the trail. There are a couple of places where the trail is obscured by ferns and other growth that you have to be very careful crossing because there’s the potential to place a foot out into open air and not know it until it’s too late.

As you get lower down the cliff the steepness of the passage decreases and the trail runs through some stands of trees. Pace and increase here because the potential for disaster really decreases. I chugged down the way and made it to a point just above the intersection of trail #1003 before I decided I needed to find water and return up the hill to beat the setting sun.

I filled up my filter bottle and headed back up the trail. By now my arms and legs were utterly covered in scrapes and scratches from the plants that obscure the trail and pushing up through the undergrowth was a lot harder than down. About half way through The Beast came to visit me. We played a while together and I paused for a moment to munch a lime and refill my water bottle at a stream, which game me the upper hand in our struggles. By the time I was crossing the snow fields at the top of the climb I had more or less banished The Beast and seemed to be getting my second wind.

Hell, the sun was starting to set and there was alpine glow and a nearly full moon hovering in the sky to the south. The Beast didn’t stand a chance.

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