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John Guilford's Hikes

Mt. Pilchuck / Bathtub Lakes Region on 2001-08-14

Date: 2001-08-14

Location: Mt. Pilchuck / Bathtub Lakes Region

People: (including myself): Gene Obie, Joe Tarantino, Jay Wardle, Mike Aken, Dean Payne, Almir Mutapcic

				My Alt.	Real Alt.	Miles
Leave Agilent:		12:50
Start:			1:45	3160	3160		0
Top of Slope:		2:45	4260
"Help":			3:00	4520
Lookout (Summit):	3:45	5200	5324		3
Leave Lookout:		4:10	5220
Saddle:			4:25	4900
Ridge over Heather Lk:	4:45	5100
Start of Bathtub Lakes:	5:35	4680
Meet westward hikers:	5:40	4640
Leave:			6:10	4640
Top of Iodine Gulch:	6:35	4680
Pinnacle Lake:		7:20	3820	3790		~5
Leave:			7:35	3820
Top of Switchbacks:	8:00	3420
Bear Lake:		8:30	2880	2776
Out:			8:35	2760	2660		~7
This "after work hike" actually started about noon.  At least it was supposed to.  We didn't actually leave Agilent until almost one.  In a sense, there was actually three separate hikes.  Our party broke into three groups.  One group, consisting of Natalie Schuchard, Aaron Wells and Dave Shoup were going to hike to Pinnacle Lake and back out the same way.  A second group, consisting of Mike Aken, Dean Payne, and Almir Mutapcic were going to hike from the Pinnacle Lake trailhead to the Mt. Pilchuck trailhead.  The third group, consisting of Joe Tarantino, Gene Obie, Jay Wardle, and myself were going to hike the reverse direction, from the Mt. Pilchuck trailhead to the Pinnacle Lake trailhead.  Breaking the through hikers into two groups eased the transportation problem as we would not need to swap cars around before or after the hike.  This saved about an hour compared to previous traversals. 

The morning low clouds and fog had dissipated by the time we started giving us nice, sunny, warm weather.  To be truthful, it was somewhat hot and humid.  Even in the late afternoon it was in the upper seventies.  Perhaps due to the weather the bugs were about as bad as I've seen them in the Cascades.  We had flies follow us up Pilchuck and flies, mosquitoes, and gnats follow us across the ridge and down to Pinnacle Lake.  I didn't get bit very much though they were annoying, particularly when you were stopped or moving slowly. 

[ PIX7 ] It had been five years since I last climbed the trail to Mt. Pilchuck (not counting snow ascents that didn't follow the trail).  The trail had changed quite a bit since then.  It looks like the updated the trail to better handle the crowds of people who use it.  It was well maintained and even included rock steps in a couple places.  The trail climbs through trees until it emerges into the open above the long clear slope of the old ski area.  There the trail turns right and heads back into trees. 

Part way up, I glanced at my altimeter/watch and found that it displayed neither the altitude nor the time.  Instead the LCD display showed "HELP" something I've never seen before. 

[ PIX1 ] I found the pace easy and before I knew it we were at the ravine leading down to the ridge with the Lookout just in front of us.  After stopping at the lookout for a break, a snack, and some pictures, we returned to the head of the ravine.  The ravine looks scarier than it is, particularly when [ PIX3 ] viewed from the ridge line.  A boot track switchbacks down the ravine to cross a small saddle before ascending the ridge line.  The "trail" along the ridge mostly follows the ridge top though it sometimes skirts to the [ PIX4 ] side a bit.  It is well marked with painted yellow blazes and is easy to follow though the terrain is a bit rough.  Along the way the hiker is rewarded with several good views down into the Heather Lake basin. 

[ PIX5 ] Eventually the track descends down a steep hill side into the Bathtub Lakes area.  This is a rocky basin with a myriad (some say 20) little lakes and ponds scattered about.  Here we met the westward hikers.  After a break for another snack and a chance to refill some water bottles (Dean brought a filter) we continued eastward while the other group continued west. 

[ PIX6 ] Skirting to the right of the hillside we soon arrived at the top of Iodine Gulch, a long and at times steep ravine that leads down to Pinnacle Lake.  Descending to the lake was tedious and was made more so by the cloud of flies, gnats, and mosquitoes that hung around our heads.  One had to move slowly and deliberately to keep ones footing.  Despite it being the evening, it was still warm and humid and we were rather sweaty by the bottom of the gulch.  From there you still have to scramble around the side of the lake till you pick up the maintained trail at the outflow of the lake.  The water flow was much less than the last time I had been here (in May) and it was trivial to cross the outflow. 

We took another break to regroup, rehydrate, and have some food.  We then headed out grateful to be on a "real" trail again.  After crossing through a small meadow or two, the trail follows the ridge top above Bear Lake.  The sun had dropped and it was cooling off a bit.  Either the change of location or our increased speed left most of the bugs behind.  The trail gently descends the ridge under a canopy of trees on a soft forest duff.  This was the most pleasant part of the hike.  After passing above Bear Lake, the trail takes a sharp left and switchbacks down toward the lake.  The trail here is muddier and steeper, with roots and rocks making travel less easy. 

Our concern towards the end of the hike was whether we'd get out before dark or have to use flashlights.  By the time we started descending the switchbacks it became clear that we would indeed get out by dark.  We passed Bear Lake without stopping and quickly passed out of the forest with about twenty minutes of light left. 

The westward hikers were not so fortunate.  The didn't get down to the Pilchuck trailhead until 9:30, after dark.  However, the lower part of the Pilchuck trail is smooth and easy to follow and their flashlights provided sufficient light to see them out. 


[ PIX7 ] Upper slopes of Mt. Pilchuck

[ PIX1 ] Ridge leading eastward from Pilchuck's summit.  The "trail" follows the ridge top. 

[ PIX2 ] John, Gene, Joe, and Jay at the summit Lookout. 

[ PIX3 ] Gully leading down across the saddle to the ridge eastward. 

[ PIX4 ] Heather Lake from the ridge line. 

[ PIX5 ] Joe and Gene in the Bathtub Lakes basin. 

[ PIX6 ] John and Joe descending Iodine Gulch. 

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