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John Guilford's Hikes

Lake 22 on 1995-04-02

Date: 1995-04-02

Location: Lake 22

People: (including myself): Pam

			My Alt.	Real Alt.
Start:		2:35	1040
Vine maples:	3:35	2140
Snack:		4:00	2400
Lake:		4:15	2440	2413
Hi point:		2520
Leave:		5:15	2420
Out:		6:35	1140
After a week of gloriously summer like weather, the rain came back.  The day of the hike was supposed to be mixed clouds and sun but instead was a solid deck of clouds.  There was a scattered shower on the drive up, but we never got rained on during the hike. 

We had initially planned to hike Mt. Pilchuck to the summit, or perhaps traverse the bench on the north side of the summit to a view of Heather Lake.  These plans were all swept away when we started up the access road on Mt. Pilchuck only to discover that it was closed just past the initial clear cut (still way before the Heather Lake trailhead).  The road was definitely closed (by means of a back hoe) by two sets of ditches and berms.  There were quite a few cars at the closure.  The washout wasn't visible and I was curious to see how bad the damage was to form an opinion about how soon the might re-open the road.  We started walking up the road but even though we walked for some distance, we still hadn't gotten to the road damage.  I'd have to assume they closed the road where they did because they felt there was better parking.  I can't think of any other reason why, since there appeared to be a non-trivial walk from the end of the road to the washout (where ever that is).  We hadn't locked up the car and didn't want to be away from it too long, so we turned back after a few minutes when it looked like the washout was considerably further than either of us expected. 

{note: 95-04-18 - I just talked to Mike Aken.  He said that the washout was about half a mile from the road closure and about half a mile before the Heather Lake trailhead.  He also said it took him about 5 minutes to cross the washout due to climbing down and back up and the mud, etc.}

Instead, we opted to go to Lake 22.  The day was relatively warm, even with a pretty solid cloud cover, and I started off with just a t-shirt over my silk weight polypro undershirt.  This proved to be plenty warm for most of the hike with my back getting pretty sweaty.  We were also outfitted with gaiters (in case of snow, or the ever present mud) and ice axes (just in case).  I hoped there'd be enough snow to climb to the saddle between Lake 22 and Heather Lake but didn't have a lot of expectation that there would be.  This hike is a relatively popular one, and we passed many people coming down, as we went up.  Pam had worn her hiking boots at car washes for two weekends before the hike and the soaking they got then really softened them up, much to Pam's delight. 

The hike up was enjoyable - the trees and bushes were beginning to bud out.  This is a time of year that I've rarely hiked and I'm not too used to this stage of mountain plants.  The bottom of the trail passes over several wooden bridges, with perhaps the most spectacular one crossing the Twenty-two creek (the creek emptying the lake) which was flowing high and fast.  Shortly after that creek, the trail starts switchbacking up the side of Mt. Pilchuck, passing through a grove of low trees.  We initially had trouble identifying the type of tree until Pam recognized the bark about the same time I noticed all the dead leaves from the previous Fall.  These were vine maples covering the hillside. 

We continued up the switchbacks.  Near the top of the switchbacks it turned cooler and we hit patches of snow.  About this time, Pam decided that one of her boots was rubbing her heel and we stopped for moleskin.  We pushed a little off trail, pulled out the sit pad and fixed her foot.  We also had a bit of a snack while we were stopped.  With the lack of movement and the exposure of my damp back, I got cool and put on my Gore-Tex.  Refueled and refooted, we continued down the trail (which straightens out after the switchbacks and heads roughly straight for the lake) hitting more copious snow until it was essentially all snow by the lake.

The lake was 90% ice covered still, with the northern-most edge (the near side when one first encounters the lake) free water.  While we were at the lake we'd hear occasional avalanches of snow coming down the cliffs on the opposite (south) side of the lake.  It was initially hard to find them as they sounded larger than they looked.  This is coupled with the time delay between when the noise was made, and when it was heard by us.  This latter effect made me tend to look higher up than where the avalanching was currently occurring.  When I did observe the falling snow, it hardly looked like it could have made all the noise we heard as it appears a little trickle of snow going off of an edge and falling 100 ft.  Of course, being at the face of a bowl shaped cliff might have amplified the sound that we heard. 

Checking out the right side of the lake made it look dubious that it would be possible to go up to the ridge, at least not without major effort.  Instead of the hoped for smooth blanket of snow, I saw trees and brush with patches of snow.  Since we had time, we decided to head over that way and see what it was really like.  Since we were in real snow here (at least in places) and off-trail, I put on my glove liners and got out my axe.  We weren't the first ones to head off that way and I mostly followed the foot path.  After leaving the trail at the lake in snow the steps lead across snow for a while before the snow ended and we traverse on muddy ground by the lake.  We followed around the lake a distance and then started a slow climbing traverse alternating snow with mud or rock.  The transition between the snow and rock was tricky with a very real possibility of punching through the snow (which I did on at least one occasion - no injury).  One had to be careful since the snow wasn't very thick at all.  The rock soon ended and path crossed a couple of bands of brush (thankfully not prickly).  We went through a couple of these to see where it lead, finally ending on a larger patch of snow.  From here we could see that there really wasn't any clear way up to the ridge.  It was probably do-able, but would require a non-trivial amount of bushwhacking.  We didn't want to spend the time that would take and decided to call it a day and head back.  To avoid some of the bushwhacking, we tried dropping down closer to the lake.  We found a set of foot prints heading back and followed them, thinking that they might know where they were going, but it turned out that we'd have done just as well or better to make it up ourselves.  On the way back to the lake, I noticed Pam stopping to fiddle with her gaiter.  I guess snow was getting in.  I noticed that the toe hook on the gaiter had come loose and pointed it out to her.  Apparently she didn't hear me correctly or didn't understand what I was saying as a short time later I again noticed her digging out snow.  We stopped and I again pointed out the toe hook and realized that she didn't have a toe hook to hook on to her laces.  In fact, she had the gaiters on backwards (so the toe hook was at her heels).  This explained why the bottom of the gaiter was loose and letting snow in.  Pam switched around the gaiters (hooking the toe hook onto her laces) to find that the bottom of the gaiter was much more snug and actually kept the snow out.  We eventually rejoined the path we had gone out on and then returned to the main trail by the lake. 

We took a short excursion around the other side of the lake, to see if we could get a better view of the west slope of the bowl.  Crossing the Twenty-two creek was exciting.  Either I haven't crossed that way before, or the water was considerably lower at the time.  It wasn't hard to cross, there were plenty of logs and rocks, but I was glad of having the axe for use as a third leg.  After crossing the creek, I was disappointed to find out there there wasn't any real easy way to continue due to the patchy snow and the trees.  We didn't want to check it out *that* much.  So we returned to the main trail and headed down. 

The hike down was quieter as we weren't passing people coming the other way as we had on the way up.  We were down in plenty of light, but we were the second to last car to leave the trailhead (which had been full of cars when we arrived).  I made use of the latrine at the bottom which to my surprise was fairly smelly for that time of year, and also was pretty dark inside.  There were some translucent panels to let light in, but there weren't that many of them, and they didn't let in all that much light.  While waiting for Pam back at the car, I discovered that mosquitos were already out.  These were pretty large though relatively slow moving ones, and there weren't really that many there - just enough to notice (though it doesn't take many for me to notice).  After changing shoes and losing the gaiters (I discovered that I had kept my pant leg clean, though it was damp - I don't know if that was from snow getting in, or from sweat not getting out). 

The drive back was made exciting by occasionally having to drive straight into the setting sun, which made its appearance under the cloud deck before setting (later on) behind the Olympics. 

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Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015