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John Guilford's Hikes

Heather Lake / Lake 22 on 1999-04-02

Date: 1999-04-02

Location: Heather Lake / Lake 22

People: (including myself): Gene Obie, Joe Tarantino, Harry Plate

			My Alt.	Real Alt.	Miles
Lv HP:		9:30
H-Lk Trailhead:	10:15	1380	1380
Snowshoes:	11:30	2060			1 
Heather Lake:	12:15	2460	2395		2 
Ridge:		1:40	3460	3280		2.5
Lake 22:	3:00	2560	2413		3
L-22 Trailhead:	4:30	1260	1100		5
I'd wanted to do the Heather Lake -> Lake 22 traverse for several years.  The first time I tried it, I was turned back by the brush.  Deciding that the correct way to do it would be to do it when the brush was under snow, I tried again the following year, but I had waited too long and the snow had melted too much, again leaving a brush problem.  This time I wanted to try it when there was still plenty of snow.  In that regard, I succeeded.

We had the day off from HP (Spring Holiday) and the weather looked to be pretty good (it started off sunny, but clouded up and started sprinkling on the drive home).  There were several inches on new snow earlier in the week so we expected the snow to be somewhat soft and brought snow shoes.

We had a little snafu leading to a late start.  Gene had some problems with his contact lens on his way to meet us (at HP) and had to return home.  His plan was then to save time and meet us at the trailhead.  After waiting 20 minutes for Gene, Harry went into HP, got Gene's number, called, and found out what was up.  Thus we left HP a half hour late.  The message was that we'd meet Gene at Lake 22.  Since he had left his house before we left HP, we expected to find him there.  At Lake 22 we didn't find him.  To make sure we hadn't gotten the message wrong, we drove up to the Heather Lake trailhead in case Gene had gone there.  The road was clear up that far, but was pretty pot-holey making for some slow driving.  Gene wasn't there either so we headed back to Lake 22.  We met Gene at the bottom of the Pilchuck road (surprising him as he didn't know Harry was going and didn't recognize Harry's vehicle).  We went back to Lake 22, left Gene's car, and then drove back to Heather Lake trailhead.  There was snow at the Lake 22 parking lot, but none to speak of at Heather Lake parking. 

We got started at 10:15.  The lower part of the trail was bare, wet, and muddy.  [ PIX3 ]We quickly started hitting snow which soon became thicker.  Within a half mile it was mostly snow with occasional ground.  The snow on the trail was pretty packed down, though as it got thicker we started occasionally punching through.  Almost a mile in, Harry decided to put on his snow shoes.  A bit further on (about a mile in) we decided to join him.

The trail had been pretty well stomped down by hikers, though at times I found the width of the trail to be somewhat of a hindrance with the snow shoes, which require a wider stance than normal.  I quickly took the tail end of the party.  Perhaps it was my inexperience with snow shoes (this is the first time I'd used snow shoes while the other three had all used them before and Gene and Joe had their own) that slowed me down a bit. 

Before the hike I had debated whether to bring ski poles or not.  The rest of the group brought them, but I've never been fond of hiking with poles and figured that I could use my ice axe as a short pole.  That turned out to be the wrong answer.  I've been used to rather consolidated snow that had some purchase for the axe shaft.  In this softer snow, the axe was almost useless as without any kind of basket, it would just sink into the snow.  I grew to regret leaving my poles back at the car during the trip. 

The snow grew deeper, though with the snow shoes it didn't really matter.  [ PIX1 ]My focus was on the ground in front of my feet (to keep from tripping myself with the snow shoes) and I didn't get that much time to take in the scenery on the hike up to the lake.  However, before I knew it, I crested the last little rise and found myself at Heather Lake.  Except for an area near the outflow, the lake was frozen over with about 6 feet of snow on top.  The clouds had come in and the sky was complete overcast by this time.  Despite this, the lake and hollow it sat it were beautiful.  It is quite a bit different than the lake is in summer.  The cliff faces were shrouded in snow and occasionally one would hear small avalanches coming down.  Actually observing a snow slide was more difficult.  It helped to note that it took sound a non-trivial time to get from the slide to you, and hence you had to look lower than where the sound seemed to come from. 

[ PIX2 ]Our destination lay on the far side of the 6' "chasm" where the flowing water kept the snow from building up.  The sides of this "chasm" were essentially vertical walls of soft snow.  Gene climbed down and worked on getting up the far side.  It didn't look real easy and Joe and I thought that we could find an easier crossing down stream.  In fact, a short distance down from the lake the snow completely crossed over the top of the stream allowing one to walk around.  While reconnoitering that route, I stepped out of my left snow shoes for the first time.  One is walking along, when all of a sudden you sink into the soft snow as your foot leaves the snow shoe behind and you step into the soft snow with only a hiking boot on.  This snow shoe was to cause me trouble for the rest of the trip.  I stepped out of it countless times, finally concluding that there must be a problem with the strap such that it slowly loosened.  I didn't have the same problem with the other snow shoe. 

Joe and I crossed the creek and got back to the lake just as Gene was helping Harry climb up from the creek bed back onto the snow.  The snow on the lake made traversing to the base of the ridge (to Lake 22) trivial.  It was very convenient to cross straight over the lake instead of having to go along the shore line.  We stopped for a snack and surveyed the ridge.  There were a couple of open slopes, one of which had avalanched some time earlier.  We decided to play it safe and ascend keeping in the trees as much as possible.  We climbed about half way up the ridge through trees.  We then crossed an old avalanche (believing that the snow that had already slid was more stable than unavalanced snow) one at a time.  We then continued up along the trees to the ridge top.  While the climb up to the ridge was somewhat tiring, especially for Gene and Joe who broke trail, it was pretty straight forward.  I was somewhat surprised as I expected going up a steep slope in snow shoes would be trickier than it was.  However the shoes grabbed well and it wasn't a problem ascending. 

The descent down to Lake 22 was considerably more difficult than the ascent from Heather Lake.  Part of the problem is that descending steep terrain in snow shoes is more difficult that ascending (at least to me) and the Lake 22 side was steeper than the Heather Lake side.  Additionally, we didn't have the luxury of scoping out the ridge from the lake.  Finding a route from the top was more challenging as it was hard to tell what lay below you.  Gene wasn't very happy with the more open slopes and had some concern about possible danger of the slope breaking away and sliding.  Thus we again tried to stick in the trees as much as we could.  The descent was marked (for me, anyways) by much sliding and falling and by the time I got to the bottom, my pants were pretty well soaked.  I found the descent to be very tiring on the snow shoes.  If the snow was more consolidated and one could check to make sure there were no cliffs, some of the open slopes would have made a great glissade path down. 

We again used the lake surface to traverse from the bottom of the ridge to the trail.  On the way back down the trail, we took a somewhat more direct path than following the real trail.  With the snow on top of the brush we could safely and easily head straight down.  We picked up the real trail again and continued following it out.  Soon the snow was getting thin and we took off the snow shoes.  Near the bottom of the trail one of the bridges that cross the little creeks had gotten washed out.  It had been moved 20-30' down stream and was just sitting there.  In its place was a giant boulder.  I don't think the boulder pushed the bridge out of place as I'm sure it would have damaged the bridge if it had.  So the rock must have come down after flood waters (?) had moved the bridge.  The creek was shallow and easily crossed in hiking boots.

This was my first real snow hike with my new gaiters and I was pleased that they worked great.  My previous pair of gaiters were too large for my boots and allowed snow to jam up between the boot and the gaiter eventually filling the inside of the gaiter with snow.  These gaiters seemed to seal just fine. 

The trip took considerably longer than I had anticipated, but we returned in time to let me get changed (at HP), return my snow shoes (the rental place closed at 6), and get to church in time to play piano for the Good Friday service. 


[ PIX3 ] Harry, Joe, and Gene shortly after we put on snowshoes. 

[ PIX1 ] Heather Lake from trail (Joe, Harry, and Gene). 

[ PIX2 ] Gene crossing outflow from lake. 

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