John Guilford's Hikes
Blanca Lake on 1993-08-28
People: (including myself): Pam Becker
My Alt. Real Alt.
Start: 3:05 1920 1900
Pass: 5:15 4620 (3 miles)
Virgin Lake: 5:25 4540
Blanca Lake: 6:05 4000 3972 (4 miles)
Virgin Lake: 6:45 4520
Out: 8:20 1920
This was planned as a relatively short hike due to the late starting time.
To get to the trail head, drive out Rt. 2 to Index. Take the left towards
Index proper and continue on that road for quite a ways. Shortly before
the pavement runs out, there is a 4 way intersection. Take the left branch
for about a mile and the Blanca Lake trailhead parking area appears on the
The weather didn't look too bad leaving Everett, and it looked like it was
clearing up as we headed east. However, just before we got to the
trailhead, it started raining, as in really raining, not just sprinkling.
"Oh, fooey!" It turns out that there were thunderstorms in the mountains
that afternoon. It wasn't too bad (it wasn't pouring), so we put on our
Gore-Tex and headed out. We figured that if we got too wet, we could
always head back to the car and go home. That turned out not to be
necessary and the sun came out a bit later. Throughout the hike the clouds
would come and go. Initially it was cloudy and rainy. Later the rain
stopped and the clouds started opening up. In the middle, the sky was
perfectly clear. However, towards the lake it started clouding up again,
and it started sprinkling on us at the lake. That stopped after leaving
the lake and it was relatively clear for the hike out.
The trail up to Virgin Lake is really nice. It is smooth and even dirt.
After a short flat section, it starts up the hillside. It relentlessly,
ruthlessly, doggedly switchbacks up the side of the hill gaining altitude.
It is a even, easy slope though, and that made it relatively easy. After
my initial burst of enthusiasm, I had to slow the pace down a bit to keep
from having to stop and rest periodically. There is a bit of uphill, and I
didn't want to get tired early on. Pam had some difficulty with low blood
sugar near the top and should have started snacking earlier, but she felt
much better after eating at the top.
Eventually, you reach the pass at 4600 feet after gaining 2700 feet in 3
miles. A short distance beyond you reach the small Virgin Lake. The trail
skirts this and begins to descend 600 feet to Blanca Lake. At this point,
the trail turns crummy. More specifically, it turned muddy. Major
mud-city. It was foggier/cloudier from here on and we couldn't see many
views. The trail continues another mile (with one switchback in the middle)
before arriving at Lake Blanca. Unfortunately, the trail gets worse the
nearer to the lake you get, with a big sea of mud just before the lake.
Due to the lateness of the hour (we had actually planned to turn around at
5:30 to make it out by dark, but we pushed on anyway), we couldn't spend
any time at the lake. The view was marginal, with clouds coming and going
around the area. The clouds lifted enough for us to see the Columbia
Glacier (which looks much smaller from Lake Blanca than it did from the
pass next to Monte Cristo Peak, when I saw it from above). I expect the
views would be great on a nice day. Another reason for not hanging around
too long is that the mosquitoes started coming out at the lake.
The slog up from Blanca to Virgin Lake wasn't much fun, but the trip down
from the pass to the trailhead was good. The nice solid trail with mostly
smooth terrain (few things to step over) meant that we could take a good
pace coming down and try and beat the dark. Going up took us 2:20, while
coming down only took 1:35. Even so, we would have made better time coming
down, except Pam's feet begin to cramp up. To my surprise, my knees didn't
bother me, though I rather expected it with the rapid pace going down.
It was just getting dark as we got out at the bottom. Since the sun is
behind the hill, and there is a pretty good tree cover, the trail is darker
than open air would be. It was getting a bit dark on most parts of the
trail when we got out, but that didn't present much difficulty since the
trail is in such good shape.
It's a nice hike, and not real long. It would be nice to get back there on
a nicer day and have more time to explore the area and, perhaps, get up to
First view of Blanca Lake.
Blanca Lake, Columbia Glacier, and pass to Glacier Basin.
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Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015