Eli and I gambled on a marginal Labor Day weekend weather forecast and headed deep into the Pasayten Wildnerness in search of the elusive Mount Lago. Guarded by a long 16-mile approach starting from Slate Pass, down the Middle Fork Pasayten River then up to Freds Pass and across upper Eureka Creek, Lago is by all accounts a remote peak. While it is the highest peak in the Pasayten Wilderness outside of Jack Mountain, Lago is flanked on all sides by other Cascades big boys such as Osceola Peak and Mount Carru, itself only 0.8 miles to the west. Other noteworthy peaks in the immediate area include Ptarmigan Peak to the north, Lost Peak, Lake Mountain, Monument Peak and Blackcap Mountain to the south. All of these, including the nearby Mount Robinson are of interest to those pursuing the Washington Top 100 list. For Eli and me, the point was simply to visit a corner of The Cascades we hadn’t yet been to and bag what may be considered the most significant peak in the area. We also had a secondary objective of making the traverse out to Ptarmigan Peak up and over Dot Peak via the connecting ridge to Lago, but iffy weather and being short on time convinced us otherwise. Having climbed Lago via an interminable talus slope on its South Face, we instead returned via the South Ridge to Shellrock Pass, making for an aesthetic loop we jokingly dubbed Tour de Lago.
Having cut our teeth kayaking in the San Juan’s last summer, we returned on multiple occasions this year to explore other area paddles as well as revisit a couple favorites. This summer we added a twist and upped the ante…
On the suggestion of Agata’s former co-worker and her husband, both long-time sailors and San Juan gunkholers extraordinaire, we took the Island Express water taxi from the Skyline Marina in Anacortes across Rosario Strait to James Island State Park. Once there, we spent the rest of the day circumnavigating Decatur Island and all of the following day paddling along the southeast and rugged south shore of Lopez Island to reach Aleck Bay. Highlights include our first ever orca sighting and breach from the safety of the beach at Aleck Bay. With unexpectedly calm and glassy conditions on the return paddle, we took a direct line from Cape St. Mary to James for a ~4 mile crossing, our longest yet. Our friends then joined us at James later that afternoon and generously invited us for dinner and drinks aboard their beautiful yacht. We also joined them the next day for a tour around Blakely Island, across Rosario Strait to Cypress Island and down Bellingham Channel ending finally at the Cap Sante Marina in Anacortes. It is thanks to this tour and Dave and Pat’s patience with my incessant questions that the idea for the next trip-The San Juan Traverse-was hatched!
The Traverse – a logical next step for us, connecting the dots and filling in the blanks by linking ‘familiar’ passages, crossings and island camps on a 5-day odyssey starting from the put-in adjacent to the Guemes Island ferry terminal in Anacortes and ending at Stuart Island just shy of the border with Canada. We paddled about 60 nautical miles in total and made 8 major crossings (Guemes, Bellingham, Rosario, Lopez, Upright, Wasp, San Juan and Spieden) each of which had to be timed according to the tides, currents and wind. En route, we overnighted on Strawberry, Jones, Posey and Stuart Islands, and finished it all off by circumnavigating Stuart before our scheduled pick-up and return to Anacortes. Words and photos cannot do this trip justice and while it is easily a classic, the options for other multi-day link-ups in the San Juan’s are limited only by one’s imagination.
Paul and I set out to complete the remaining three of the six 10,000+ footers in Glacier National Park. Long story short is we completed just two (Kintla Peak and Mount Stimson) and will have to return a third time for Mount Merritt. A lack of permits for any of the camps from where we could reasonably launch a summit attempt of Merritt forced us to go after Stimson for our second (and final) peak of the trip. Also, a last minute decision to climb Stimson via the proven but longer eastern approach meant that we really only had time for two peaks. Finally, the weather deteriorated towards the latter part of our trip, so we were lucky to have climbed the two as it was.
We burned a couple weather days between the climbs sightseeing around Logan Pass, East Glacier, Lower Two Medicine Lake, Marias Pass etc. Waiting out a particularly active night of thunder and lightning from the comfort of the East Glacier Hostel had us wondering what the next day would bring and if we’d ever get started on our Stimson climb. The t-storms and rain forecast for the rest of the week wasn’t encouraging, but we weren’t about to let a little inclement weather dampen our spirits. Hounded by thunderstorms, wind and rain, and doomed to slog through inexplicably thick and soul-soaking brush in the deep, dark Nyack Valley over the next 5 days, our penance clearly wasn’t yet served, not even after the forced bivy on Kintla! Oh no, the evil spirits of The Nyack still weren't quite done with us…
Spent a leisurely summer afternoon paddling the famously turquoise waters of Diablo Lake. With a stop at the tiny rock island near the mouth of Thunder Arm, we continued towards Ross Dam which lies at the head of an aesthetic canyon that extends northeast of the main lake basin. While it is forbidden to approach the base of the dam and only the upper-part is visible from the turnaround near the NPS boat dock, the perspective from deep within the winding canyon is what makes this a unique experience. And having motored to and from countless climbing objectives over the years without ever stopping to appreciate beautiful Diablo Lake, it was nice to finally explore this man-made wonder nestled among the high peaks of the North Cascades.
Friday, September 12, 2014
Sky Pilot Mountain - West Ridge, July 2014
With the opening of the Sea to Sky Gondola this past spring, it only seemed appropriate to take advantage of the greatly shortened approach and finally climb the elusive Sky Pilot Mountain. Easily spotted while driving southbound on the Sea to Sky Highway near Squamish (BC), Sky Pilot is the highest of a tightly knit group of jagged peaks rising from behind the towering granite formation known as Stawamus Chief. And though the peak is smallish even by Coast Range standards-it stands only 6663 feet above sea level-what it lacks in elevation it certainly makes up for in ruggedness. Oh, and best of all, no more would we have to endure Sky Pilot taunting us on the drive back from Whistler!