Spider Gap - Buck Creek Pass Loop
The Spider Gap - Buck Creek Pass Loop penetrates some of the most glorious country of the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Take five days (or seven!) and enjoy some of the best backcountry in the state. Along the way, you'll see massive wildflower meadows, glaciers, alpine lakes, high mountain passes and supreme views of Glacier Peak.
Start along the popular Spider Meadow-Phelps Creek trail (also written up here as a dayhike). Follow Phelps Creek for a long, but relatively easy, 5 miles to the mile-long expanse of Spider Meadow. This is a favorite destination of weekend backpackers, so you may wish to camp further along - either in Phelps Basin at the far end of the meadow or in one of the camps near the tarns at the base of Spider Glacier.
At the end of Spider Meadow, choose the steep trail to the left to ascend to Upper Lyman Lakes. It's steep, but it's just a warm-up for the most harrowing part of the loop. Trekking poles or an ice axe is highly recommended for climbing up Spider Glacier (if the snow has melted out, you can also pick your way to the right of the glacier over rocks) to Spider Gap (your high point at 7100 ft).
There is a boot-beaten path from the Gap to Upper Lyman Lakes, which is quite treacherous when snow or ice-covered. Make sure to time your trip late enough in the summer to make it down safely - or turn around at Spider Gap.
There are plenty of campsites around Lyman Lake (elev. 5500 ft), and it provides a good basecamp for exploring the area - a short sidetrip to Lyman Falls or a hike to Hart Lake. Or push on. Cloudy Pass is another 1.5 miles and Suiattle Pass another mile beyond that. Note that water may be limited in this area late in summer.
By the time you reach Suiattle Pass, the views have really opened up, especially of Glacier Peak. Here, you will join with the PCT for a few miles of sensory overload. One sidetrip that you should seriously consider is Image Lake. It's about a 7 mile roundtrip, but completely worth it for the stunning views.
Continuing on the loop, follow the PCT, crossing Miners Creek until you reach a junction with Trail 789 which leads to Buck Creek Pass. You'll be tempted again with sidetrips up Middle Ridge and Flower Dome - which is a good reason to plan on an extra day or two to do everything.
Then after Buck Creek Pass, a long 9.6 miles back to the trailhead near the Phelps Creek Campground and another three up to your car.
From Everett head east on US 2 for 85 miles to Coles Corner. (From Leavenworth travel west on US 2 for 15 miles.) Turn left onto State Route 207 (Lake Wenatchee) and proceed 4.2 miles to a Y intersection after crossing the Wenatchee River. Bear right onto the Chiwawa Loop Road, and after 1.3 miles turn left onto the Chiwawa River Road (Forest Road 62). Proceed for 22 miles (the pavement ends at 10.8 miles) to a junction. Bear right onto FR 6211 and proceed for 2.3 very rough miles to the trailhead at the road's end (elev. 3500 ft). The hike ends just north of the Phelps Creek Campground, requiring a 3-mile road walk back to your car at the end.
Recent Trip Reports
Hiked here recently? Submit a trip report!
There are 43 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Phelps Creek, Spider Gap - Buck Creek Pass Loop, Lyman Lakes, Image Lake — Aug 14, 2012 — cascadedy
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Blowdowns | Overgrown | Snow on trail | Bugs
Expand report text Hide report textRead full report with photos
This is our first overnight hike and I learned a lot from others - many thanks to posts on this site...
This is our first overnight hike and I learned a lot from others - many thanks to posts on this site and the book "Backpacking Washington" by Craig Romano.
My perspective is from somebody who has no knowledge about the trails covered previously. I have no GPS, nor very detailed trail map.
We (two people) started from Phelps Creek Trail Head and did the typical counter-clock wise loop, ended at Trinity Trail Head. Four nights and five days. The weather was fantastic, so were the overall hiking experience - everything people have given their praises liberally is proven to be true. Overall the trip is a very satisfying.
We camped at good camps at Junction beyond the Spider Meadow - this is the first time we had hard time at interpreting Romano's description. He writes:"Shortly after crossing Phelps Creek, come to good camps at a junction..." - well, about 100 feet after crossing, there are splitting two trails - there are no signs. We thought this is the junction the book is describing, so we went ahead and set up a tent at the nearby camp and stay the night there. The next day we got up and went to the "junction" and went to the left so we can go to the gap. It took us about an hour to figure out that this trail is not the one leading to the gap. As it turns out, the splitting point is not a "junction". Take the main trail (on the right) and climb steeply for about a quarter mile in the woods, you will come to the real junction where the trail to the right is well marked to the basin and left is marked to the gap. I hope that we were the only persons who are stupid enough to make the mistake - but this note is just in case.
As it turns out, several kinds of splitting trails without any signs laid ahead of us - we finally concluded that the best way to understand what's "junction" is that a junction mentioned in the book has to be a splitting trails point where there are signs clearly marked each way. In the case where there is no signs existing - we have to guess the general direction, or ask other people if we happen to meet them on the trail at the time.
The Spider Gap route finding became easy for us because we are lucky enough to meet fellow hikers who were much more confident then we were. As soon as we got to the scenic camp, go straight up to the right on the snow will finally reveal the gap - a really awesome view. Walking on the snow was very easy - only trekking poles are needed. Going down, Romano's book alerts well that we didn't take the trail curves to the right. The correct way going down is go straight down on the snow field towards the Upper Lyman Lakes.
Bugs are as bad as others have pointed out - but route finding became easy for us. We stayed at the west of the Lower Lyman Lake overnight - very beautiful area and good camps. Cloudy Pass offers great views. The shortcut to Suiattle Pass is completely snow free and is doable. We stayed at next night at Miner's Ridge starting point, and day-hiked to the Image Lake and the lookout - saving us the round trip of carrying the weight of backpacking for about 9 miles. The view along the Miner's Ridge are the best I have ever seen in the Cascades.
We stayed the last night at the Buck Creek Pass camp site - a very good camp and we really love it. We came down the last day all the way to the Trinity for about 5 hours, and made to the trail head a little past two O'clock.
For those of you who have not been to the Phelps Creek trail head, please be aware that there is no toilet there. The road between Trinity and Phelps Creek trail head is indeed very bad. We barely survived in our minivan - saw four wheel drivers went by at full 20 mile an hour speed without problems - this amazed me.
Spider Gap - Buck Creek Pass Loop — Aug 04, 2012 — Randy G
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Blowdowns | Clogged drainage
Expand report text Hide report textRead full report with photos
Just returned yesterday (August 11) from this astoundingly beautiful hike. Flowers are in full bloom...
Just returned yesterday (August 11) from this astoundingly beautiful hike. Flowers are in full bloom in most places.
Spider Meadows and the switchbacks to the base of the Spider Glacier are snow free, less a few patches. Snow to Spider Pass was a little slushy and sun-cupped but not a problem. Same for the snow down to Upper Lyman Lakes from the pass. I would try to time this descent form the pass to the lakes so that you're traveling in the afternoon. We had two nights on this hike where it froze above 6000' elevation at night. That would make the descent pretty icy and steep in the AM.
Just a small snowfield remaining at Cloudy Pass. The Cloudy Pass to Suiattle Pass Hiker Shortcut trail is mostly snow free. There were two small patches left to melt out that are probably gone by now.
We had the absolute luxury of spending three nights and four days at Image Lake. So much to do there! Make sure to hike the upper basin/horse bypass trial. Also a must is the Canyon Lake trail to the pass above the lake basin, then following the boot path up the ridge toward Plummer Mountain, ending at an amazing perch atop a large grassy knoll. Mind-Boggling views in all directions.
It was sad to see the Miners Ridge Lookout's shutters down and looking in sad condition. I hope it's not the end of the road for that historic lookout. This is the first time I have visited the lake without a ranger presence, and it showed. The restoration areas, designed to keep the backpacker camp site from expanding are in need of sign maintenance. Hikers have also been sawing on the downed trees near the camp, building benches and making rounds to sit on. Very un-wilderness. Trail drainage needs maintenance, as the drain dips are filled with sediment and erosion is evident.
Many large downed trees across the trail in the Miners Creek Valley along the trail back up to Middle Ridge and Buck Creek Pass. The campsites at Sheep Camp are snow free.
Please do not omit the side trip hike on the High Pass Trail around the side of Liberty Cap from Buck Creek Pass. We saw the most amazing flower display of the entire loop trip here. There are two very steep and dangerous snow gullies to cross before High Pass, requiring a turn-around there for at least another week.
The trail to Trinity from Buck Creek Pass was long, very dusty with lots of horse use but no other problems.
All-in-all, the bugs on this hike were not very bad. We had to use Deet at times, but it was generally the most bug tolerable hike I've done in quite a while.
This hike will really make you wonder why the Glacier Peak region was not included in North Cascades National Park.
Upper Lyman Lake, Spider Meadow and Phelps Basin, Spider Gap - Buck Creek Pass Loop, Buck Creek Pass, Suiattle Pass, Image Lake — Jul 23, 2012 — SandraShaw163
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Blowdowns | Overgrown | Water on trail | Snow on trail | Bugs
Expand report text Hide report textRead full report with photos
We did a 4 night hike starting at the trailhead to Spider Meadow, going over Spider Gap, past Lyman ...
We did a 4 night hike starting at the trailhead to Spider Meadow, going over Spider Gap, past Lyman Lakes, over Cloudy Pass, over Suiattle Pass, a side trip to Image Lake, over Miner's Ridge and Buckcreek Pass and then back down to Liberty. Beautiful hiking with some beautiful wildlife! Still some snow patches/fields on the ground with some sketchy snow field crossings in areas. The snow was pretty slushy and melting fairly quickly, so I would think it will be gone in the next week or two. VERY muddy in areas due to the snow melting. The rivers were running high and fast making for some interesting crossings as well (had to ford most creeks). We met a man who had fallen down a snowfield into a rock at the Suiattle Hikers Shortcut and had hurt himself pretty significantly (he thought). He recommended not going that way. We went the "long" way through this section and it wasn't bad at all. There were a few bugs but nothing too overwhelming. Upper Lyman and Image Lake were still pretty frozen, but Lower Lyman was clear.
Spider Meadow and Phelps Basin, Phelps Creek, Upper Lyman Lake, Lyman Lakes, Cloudy Pass to Holden, Image Lake, Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Section K - Stevens Pass - East to Rainy Pass, High Pass, Spider Gap - Buck Creek Pass Loop — Sep 06, 2011 — el tigre
Features: Wildflowers blooming | Ripe berries
Issues: Blowdowns | Snow on trail | Bugs
Expand report text Hide report textRead full report
Day 1: Phelps Cr TH - Lyman Lake via Spider Gap ~ 12 miles 3:30 wake up in Longview, 5 or so hour...
Day 1: Phelps Cr TH - Lyman Lake via Spider Gap ~ 12 miles
3:30 wake up in Longview, 5 or so hour drive to the Phelps Cr TH, on the trail by 9:30 am. Road to Trinity is fairly good til the last 2 miles, road from Trinity to Phelps Cr is less good but still passable with a regular car. You can do the road walk either at the beginning or end of your hike. If at all possible, do it first. I did it last, and it is not fun!
Phelps Cr Trail is gorgeous, lightly traveled, excellent tread, tons of water available, no bugs, no snow. Beautiful big trees, peekaboo views through the forest of nearby peaks.
When you hit Spider Meadow you start getting views of surrounding peaks. About midway through the meadow there is a big pile of avalanche snow. I got turned around here, thinking I had already passed Phelps Creek and started looking for the trail to Spider Gap. Don't make my mistake, I wasted maybe an hour of time on the snow, in avalanche fall, bushwacking, etc, which took a physical and mental toll later. For whatever reason I thought there was no official trail from Spider Meadow up to Spider Gap, but that is not true. Just stay on the main trail, eventually you'll hit a signed trail junction at the bottom of the headwall, and you'll turn up slope toward the Gap.
The ascent from the meadow to the Spider Snowfield is steep and hot. Bring lots of water. The snowfield is soft and safe on a warm day like the one I did. Don't need any special equipment but poles might make it easier. It's apparently only a mile but it feels longer.
Spider Gap is spectacular, views for miles, and a good place for lunch. You'll have to swat a few deerflies, though, precursor of things to come.
Heading down now onto the Lyman Glacier is definitely steeper. With warm, soft snow a set of poles is all you'll need, but an axe or maybe crampons would make me feel safer. There's a thread at NWHikers.net with excellent info about how to find your way down the snow and onto a trail. Don't go right too soon are you end up cliffed at an overlook. But don't go right too late (like I did) or you miss the main trail and end up having to scramble down scree for hundreds of feet, which is tiring.
Once you find the trail, it's an easy up and down to Lyman Lake, which is beautiful. Camping sites are pretty mosquito-ey, but right at the lake there were hardly any flies or skeeters and it's got lots of warm, shallow areas perfect for a hot day. Gorgeous views!
There were some camping spots up higher on the ridge between upper and lower Lyman Lakes, which were scenic, breezy, and lonely, but you would have had to have gotten your water from upper Lyman lake or earlier, as there is no water right at those sites. Worth it though, for those who plan ahead.
Day 2: Lyman Lake - Cloudy Pass - Image Lake - Miner's Creek ~ 13 mi
On trail about 8 am. Easy jaunt up to Cloudy Pass with great views but again, lots of bugs. Definitely bring a headnet and spray. I was going to go with just a tarp since we had such great weather, but in the end I brought my 16 oz homemade bug tent too, which I was very grateful for - more for flies than mosquitoes.
The hiker shortcut to Suiattle Pass is snow-free, no trouble, but kind of steep and rocky.
Trail to Image Lake has a few blowdowns, nothing big. There are signs of active bears en route to Image Lake with several stripped trees and tons of scat near the miner's cabin ruins.
Image Lake itself was infested with horseflies. The campsites appear to be located over a ridge from the lake itself with great views of Glacier Peak but none of the Lake. I didn't camp here, instead moving on to Miner's Creek.
Hint: Miner's Creek bridge goes right over a 4 or 5 foot deep pool of water in the creek, exactly right for jumping in to neck depth for a great rinse off and cool off on a hot and dusty day. Water is cold but tolerable.
There aren't a lot of good campsites at Miner's Creek - I only saw one good one. I made do with a so-so spot and I didn't see any others sites.
Day 3: Miner's Creek - Middle Ridge/Sheep Driveway - Buck Creek Pass - High Pass Lookout ~ 12 mi
On the trail at 8 am. From Miner's Creek you're up to Middle Ridge through forest then parkland, again lots of flies and mosquitoes. There is an unmaintained but well-known trail there that you can go up about a mile and get big views of Glacier Peak et al. Worth it. Then down to Small Creek, a beautiful stream, then back up to Buck Creek Pass. This is around 6 mi, pretty easy, I was there before 11 am.
Note the official Buck Creek Pass campsites are down a hundred or two hundred feet in elevation next to a little stream. They have better access to toilets and water, but much inferior views, also cooler at night and less breezy, bad for bugs. Try to get the unofficial site visible from the main trail if you can, the one you pass as you first head down toward the official camping area.
After setting up camp at the unofficial campsite just off the main trail - the one still high enough to see sunset and sunrise on Glacier Peak - I set off for a dayhike to the unnamed pass just short of High Pass, described in Doug Lorain's "Backpacking Washington." It's an easy first couple miles, rounding Liberty Cap with ever-better views of Glacier Peak, etc. After a long 2 miles you hit an unnamed saddle and round the north-facing side of a ridge. Then you start to hit snowfields - about half a dozen in all. The first is too steep to safely pass. You have to scramble briefly down and around, which isn't too bad. The next few are safe to pass, with proper precautions. To be safest you should have an ax. I didn't. I had in-step crampons, but it was warm and the snow was soft. In retrospect I was probably taking a risk. The final snowfield which is literally immediately before the final destination is not passable. However you can scramble sort of back and up and reach the ridgeline, which you can then traverse briefly to the pass for the best views. Whoa!!! Icy Triad Lake, mostly frozen over, tons of snow and ice, glaciers, peaks, Glacier peak visible to the right, etc. This is an awesome and worthwhile short day hike if you can do it safely! Thunderheads were starting to build at 1:30 so I headed quickly back, just in time to cover my bug tent with my tarp as the first (and last) raindrops fell. Note there is no water once you start up Liberty Cap, bring what you need from Buck Creek Pass.
Day 4 - Buck Creek Pass - Trinity - Phelps Cr ~ 12 mi (plus 1 mi in a vehicle)
7:30 am start. Long, long, steady downhill with spectacular views of Buck Creek Valley and many snowy, icy peaks and slopes. The undulating portion of the valley can be wet with dew, swarming with flies, and hot and humid as there are a few avalanche slopes that are exposed. There are some ripe huckleberries here, but the flies keep you from hanging around too much. Saw some inbound hunters on the way down.
Once you get to the road, it's a long 3 miles, maybe 3.25 miles from Trinity parking lot to Phelps Creek TH. As mentioned, try to do the road walk on entry rather than exit. I found this a very painful and not fun part of the hike, would have been better at the beginning. However, you probably need 5 days to do it that way (staying the first night in Spider Meadow after a 10 mile hike in including the road walk), otherwise you end up starting off with a 15 mile plus day, and the last 3-4 miles are descending the Lyman Glacier in late afternoon while you're probably pretty bushed, which doesn't sound that safe to me.
Great hike, would be nicer in 5 days than 4 but rarely is the hiking steep and the trails are all well-graded and easy to travel (obviously excepting the Spider snowfield and Lyman Glacier).
Really spectacular scenery. Maybe flies and skeeters will be doing out shortly with cooler weather coming this week. Huckleberries just coming on. One of the most scenic backpacks I've done! I didn't mention all the flowers, just tons of lupine and many other common Cascade flowers on the parks of Buck Creek Pass, Lady Pass, Cloudy Pass, etc.
Thanks to posters at NWHikers.net for their tips on traversing the snowfields at Spider Gap!
Little Giant Pass, Napeequa River, High Pass, Buck Creek, Miners Ridge (Suiattle), Suiattle Pass, Spider Gap - Buck Creek Pass Loop — Sep 02, 2011 — Cascade Liberation Organization
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Snow on trail | Bugs
Expand report text Hide report textRead full report with photos
5 days’ freedom and perfect weather amid world-class scenery and peaking wildflowers. No need to ...
5 days’ freedom and perfect weather amid world-class scenery and peaking wildflowers. No need to carry water; abundant everywhere. High Pass is still all snow; ice ax required, crampons too if it freezes hard; Spider Gap likewise. Much more snow than usual, rendering the landscape more beautiful and varied, and the travel easier if you are skilled at alpine snow travel. Bugs more abundant than normal. I did not treat any water. I’ll post a followup if I get sick.
Future readers: 2011 is a record-snowpack year; water, snow, flower, and insect conditions described here are more like late July-early August, and bear no resemblance to ordinary Septembers (dry, no bugs, no flowers, carry water).
My guess: weekend of Sept 10, 2011 should still be amazing for flowers.
DANGER, PLEASE NOTE: I brought crampons, not strictly necessary WHEN THE SNOW WAS SOFT, but taking them was a good call: if it freezes hard –- it soon will -- they will be necessary, and ice ax too of course. On the trail south of Buck Pass east of Pt. 7276, and on High Pass itself, I saw several people equipped with nothing more than poles and light hiking shoes crossing steep snow that I considered lethally dangerous. Yes, it was soft and easy; yes, there were steps; yes, many other people had crossed safely, but these people were oblivious to the fact that they were on deadly terrain. I watched a young couple with light shoes, single poles, and a dog, crossing several steep snow tongues on the east (Buck Creek) side of the High Pass trail that I wouldn't dream of crossing without an ice ax, alert. The runouts were 100+' onto steep scree and boulders. I broke my ankle in more forgiving ground. PLEASE! Whenever you venture out onto snow, LOOK DOWN. Where are you gonna land if you slip? How fast are you gonna be going? You think you're gonna arrest yourself with a hiking pole? Forget it! My ice ax and training didn't do me any good. I only went 20'. 20' more, and I'd be dead. It happens JUSTLIKETHAT. Whenever you venture onto snow, especially hard snow, think: Mouse. Cheese. Trap! Don't make us read about you in the paper.
The Chiwawa region is a favorite of hunters ancient and modern. Bear season starts Aug. 1 (remember the Sauk Mt. tragedy). High Buck Hunt in this area is Sept 15-25 this year, if I have it right. Be aware of this. Get yourself some safety-orange gear. Good time for a hike in a national park.
Little Giant Pass:
Ford is unusually deep for Sept: almost knee-deep. Bring old shoes to throw back across (weight with rocks). A wooden stick is nice. Between Chiwawa R and Little Giant Pass, a thorough trail crew has done everything but bridge the river. Nice job, thanks. Even in much drier conditions, there is water at the bottom of the high meadows.
Little Giant Pass to Napeequa:
brushy, steep, but serviceable, easy to follow; it's been the PCT detour.
Lovely, but I'd never want to camp here in bug season. I’ve always seen bears and/or bear hunters in this general area. Unmaintained, but not enough trees for blowdown problems.
The usual route to High Pass crosses N. Fork Napeequa and ascends to the lovely hanging valley in a steep but short, moderate bushwhack. Nice camp at the outfall.
Louis Creek High Route to High Pass:
We took the Louis Creek High Route to High Pass. The ascent to the hanging valley of upper Louis Creek is very steep meadow, ice ax all the way (yes, on steep dry meadow). Amazingly, the 25 lb. dog could do it (minor help). I would not ask a dog to go down this way; descending is much harder on their backs. Start a few hundred meters left of Louis Creek. It's almost all alder-free. Night 1 at the Berge-Buck col amid larches on a pumice dome. The whole unusual landscape is blanketed in Glacier Peak pumice.
Al claims first ascent of Buck Mt. by a tricolored Pembroke Welsh corgi on a September Saturday without supplemental oxygen. It's an easy scramble. Try to do it in conditions like this, with lots of snow – if you can still ford the Chiwawa. Or try it on 6" legs.
High route from Buck Mt. across Berge col to High Pass is fairly straightforward (in good viz; see photo) and the snow cover makes it easier (ice ax required, as always). From the col south of Berge (the summit SW of marked Pt. 7948), drop SW, then W to 6800’, then traverse N as high as possible just under the rock buttress guarding the High Pass outfall. This year only, there’s so much snow that with ice ax/crampons, it looked like one could climb this steep 6840’-to-7040’ section above the High Pass outfall on snow, a straight NW–SE line from Berge col to High Pass outfall. I did not do this.
Night 2, solo bivvy site on sand and rock right at the top, grand view in calm weather, Napeequa and Glacier Pk right in your lap. Also a very exposed windy tent site in the notch to the south, sand, fairly low-impact. Don’t mess this place up. No trace.
I weenied on Napeequa Peak – looked too much for the dog – that’s not all I blame on my scapedog.
High Pass is all snow this year. Triad Lake is not even fully melted out yet. I used crampons here, maybe not strictly necessary if you’re good on snow – it was getting soft – but had it been hard, crampons would have been necessary.
I saw people crossing with hiking poles, almost certainly unaware of the danger. There’s a steep spot there. I crossed it last year with mountaineering boots and a bamboo pole, and it was scary, steep runout onto rocks. Although it can sometimes be almost snow-free by September, this place is an accident waiting to happen.
Mt. Cleator 7625’:
A 10-15’ walkup from the south end of High Pass. Not to be missed.
Also a fine view. Take it easy with your feet, don’t trash it.
High Pass to Buck Pass:
Allow lots of time for this even when meadow flowers are not peaking; world-class views east and west slow you down more than blackberry thickets. This area was one of A.H. Sylvester’s favorite places, for a reason. If you go to Buck Pass, DO NOT SKIP THIS. Go south as far as you can, but don’t cross the steep snow E of Pt. 7276 unless you know you know what you’re doing.
Middle Ridge Sheep Camp:
This place gets dry in September, so I loaded 5 L of water at Small Creek, and humped it up past stream after stream after stream until I dumped it in disgust at the sheep meadow amid rushing brooks and waterfalls. There’s a 5-star campsite at the 6400’ saddle, but the higher you go, the better it gets. Follow the fence of trees to 6480’, 6700’, 6800’. The views get better, the campsites smaller.
From the sheep camp meadow, we went gingerly straight NE up lush steep meadows to the lip of the moraine at 7400’, 2-star campsite with 5-star view and nice rock furniture (just S of an obvious huge sloping flat rock). We spurned this for a 0-star climber’s bivvy on top of the 7530’ knob (oval contour on the 7.5’ topo) with a 6-star view (5-star scale) of Berge to Shuksan, Glacier Peak right in our face. No water; melted snow <kindly restrain your laughter>. Warm, dead calm, no tent, utterly clear, early moonset, dark enough to see Andromeda Galaxy with naked eye, one of the best nights ever, higher than Helmet Butte. Hunters at the 6350’ sheep meadow had a fire on a night when I scarcely zipped up the sleeping bag at 7500’. Go figure. They were shooting in the morning.
Check this out if you like high country. Just a steep walk. Lip of the moraine in a magnificent cirquelet between two nearly 8300’ towers. This is Pt. 8297, the unnamed(?) NW spur of Fortress – the stupendous thing you see from Miners’ Ridge Trail or the PCT. West of the divide, it would be a major peak. You’ll not forget this place. It faces SW, looking right up the upper Suiattle valley to Tenpeak and the Kololos. See photo.
I didn’t look closely, but there might be a way around the knife-edge cleaver to the SE at maybe 7200, possibly ascend NE to the 8200’ ridge from there. That’s for climbers.
"East of the Divide", Chester Marler; he talks about the sheep herding and lots of other neat stuff. "Tales of a Western Mountaineer", C.E. Rusk.
Miners’ Ridge Trail:
Just above the cabin ruin, find the miners’ trail that climbs rightward. This will take you to the main adit, still open, very dangerous loose mine-dump terrain. Bright blue-green-turqouise copper minerals lying about. There are also 3 filled shafts or adits due N of the cabin ruin. See the 7.5’ USGS Suiattle Pass topo. All portable artifacts already stolen, but please take no souvenirs.
Night 4 at the pass, 6440'. Bugs (!) at dusk, dawn, but vanished with cool breeze at night (I had no bug net; this was our lowest camp). There is water just below the pass on either side. No significant snow, trail well-maintained, some beautiful rock work. One year, I humped water up here from Lyman Lake, only to find water flowing in the dry-looking meadow SW of Cloudy Peak (campsite there).
A better choice: climb high on the SW shoulder of Cloudy Pk, as high as you can go. There is a small bivvy site up there with jawdropping views of Glacier Peak, Dome, North Cascades, Bonanza, Chiwawas. Cloudy Pk is a walkup scramble except for a Class 3-4 dog-unfriendly chimney at the top. Remember, dogs are stupid about rockfall.
I took a photo of the trail sign at the junction, didn’t read it, and took the wrong turn. Trail to upper Lyman looks like a social trail, compared to what you’re used to at this point.
Then I did it again.
NW side, snow from about 6500’ to top. Soft snow, might be difficult if hard, but runout seemed OK and not too steep. I used crampons for traction on the ascent, not really necessary. S side, all snow to the knob camp at the Spider Glacier terminus. NOTE: the place to hang out is not Spider Gap, but the level 6960’ ridge SE of it, less than 200’ lower than the gap, like a North Cascades version of Canyonlands overlooking the huge Phelps Ck cirque.
Somebody took a sh!t on the rocks right at the best viewpoint at Spider Gap, so I got to clean it up. C'mon, you're not gonna start a forest fire if you burn your buttwipe at 7200'. If you can't burn it (SAFELY) or pack it out, stay home, I'm tired of you. At that barren elevation, it can be best to do a "desert smear" on a south-facing rock and let the sun bake it -- but don't do this at one of the most popular spots in the sate, OK?
At the first stream below Leroy Ck, note the concrete mining ruin, maybe the foundation for a Pelton wheel powerplant? I believe there are two adits on the other side of the river. I think the Glacier Peak Mines (on Plummer Mt) and the Red Mt Mine (Trinity) are discussed in "Discovering Washington’s Historic Mines", Oso Publishing, vol. 2 – the one I don’t have yet. Recommended.
Phelps Creek TH back to Little Giant:
A 4-6 mi. road walk, stretch those tired legs, kinda nice with a moon and a dog. One might stash a bike at Phelps Creek TH.
Beats a leash walk around the neighborhood.