Alpine Lakes Wild-ness: A Vision
Updated: Aug 14, 2019
It all started with an attempt to climb Bears Breast... which was under a permanent rain cloud. And you don't want to be down-climbing 3000ft of slab in the rain. When my friends and I changed our plans to try for Little Summit Chief, the weather followed along and socked that peak in as well. But while scrambling around some sub-peaks in the area, I had a great idea.
The Alpine Lakes Wild-ness High Route
Wow sounds real cool, eh? The Alpine Lakes Wilderness has so much to offer in terms of varied terrain, distinctive peaks, and relative isolation while still being less than a 2 hour drive from Seattle. A lot of the peaks here have relatively few ascents and getting to scramble them all in a big push would be such a treat.
After spending hours in CalTopo and some bivvies next to the Cascade Alpine Guide Vol 1, I had a rough idea of where the route should go. The route follows a logical progression along the crest of the Cascades roughly mimicking the King/Kittitas county divide. The route begins north of Rosyln near Mt Daniel and finishes at Snoqualmie Pass. This direction is preferable to facilitate easy car shuttling.
The route includes over 30 named peaks or sub-peaks and has options for stopping by even more. It follows the PCT section J so there's always an option other than cross-country travel. Much of the route up to Chikamin is above treeline which makes navigation much easier. Resupplies can be stashed at trailheads along the way if needed. Total trip time is estimated at 1-2 weeks as this route has a good deal of technical climbing and cross-country travel at a total distance of over 50 miles.
What's been done before?
Of course part of the attraction to a trip like this is being the "first" people to link these peaks up and undertake a trip of this magnitude. But the Cascades have been climbed for quite a while and surely we can't be the first to think of this route. I did some digging and came up with the following "prior art":
La Bohn traverse (UPWC):  (TR)
The closest to what I'm thinking is the Alpine Lakes Crest Traverse
Below are the peaks and sub-peaks listed in assumed order.
03. Mt Daniel - East Peak 7,899' [Peakbagger]
04. Mt Daniel - Middle Summit 7,959' [Peakbagger]
06. Mt Daniel - West Pyramid 7,880' [Peakbagger]
07. Mt Daniel - Northwest Summit 7,686' [Peakbagger]
08. "Not-Hinman" (Hinman False Summit) 7,487'
9.5. USGS Point 6,844' [Peakbagger]
10. La Bohn Peak 6,585' [Peakbagger]
11. Bears Breast Mtn 7,197' [Peakbagger]
12. Little Big Chief Mountain 7,225' [Peakbagger]
13. Middle Chief Peak 7,120' [Peakbagger]
14. Summit Chief Mountain 7,464' [Peakbagger]
16. Chimney Rock - North Peak 7,634' [Peakbagger]
17. Finger of Fate 7,360' [Peakbagger]
19. Chimney Rock - South Peak 7,440' [Peakbagger]
20. Lemah Five 7,040' [Peakbagger]
21. Lemah Four 7,200' [Peakbagger]
23. Lemah Two 7,280' [Peakbagger]
24. Lemah One 6,960' [Peakbagger]
24.5. Four Brothers 6,485' [Peakbagger]
26. "Not-Chikamin" (Northwest Peak) 6,926' [Peakbagger]
27. Huckleberry Mountain 5,524' [Peakbagger]
28. Alaska Mountain 5,745' [Peakbagger]
29. Mt Thomson 6,554' [Peakbagger]
29.5. Bumblebee Peak 5,928' [Peakbagger]
30. Collar Mountain 5,851' [Peakbagger]
31. Red Mountain 5,890' [Peakbagger]
32. Lundin Peak - East Peak 5,920' [Peakbagger]
33. Lundin Peak 6,057' [Peakbagger]
33.5. USGS Point 6,160' [Peakbagger]
34. Snoqualmie Mountain 6,278' [Peakbagger]
34.3. Cave Ridge 5,270' [Peakbagger]
34.7. Guye Peak 5,168' [Peakbagger]
Excerpts from Cascade Alpine Guide Vol 1.
01. Lynch Peak
From Dip Top Gap, a moderate ridge leans NE to the summit (class 2). Routes from the E and N appear equally moderate.
02. Dip Top Peak
Reach Dip Top Gap from Jade Lake (Marmot Lake Trail) or from Pea Soup Lake. A moderate ridge bears W (easy scrambling), then curves to the firs of the summit horns. Loose but easy rock climbing appears to lead to the lower second horn.
A route from the NE appears equally feasible (unverified): From Jade Lake, ascend rubble and bedrock slopes SW, then bear S below a ridge crest to a snowpatch and tiny saddle between summit horns.
03-07. Mt Daniel
Southeast Ridge: From the saddle area adjacent to Peggys Pond, climb W up talus and névé, keeping right of a bedrock hump in the basin center. Head upslope over the Hyas Creek Glacier toward the East Peak, or follow the gentle SE ridge to the left of the upper basin (this easy ridge has a small rock outcrop to bypass or cross). Skirt S of the summit of East Peak on loose talus (keep closely under top) to the 7,600ft saddle between it and the Middle Summit. Follow the gentle crest above the Daniel Glacier to the NW, Then either climb the Middle Summit or follow a plateau just to its S to reach the true (Western) summit. Note: The East peak is merely a hike-scramble from the high point on the SE ridge, or from the Middle-East saddle.
SE Ridge via E Side of Daniel Glacier: From Hyas Creek Glacier, turn NW and ascend moderately steep snow to the crest of the major ridge (at about 7,200ft) that extends E from the East Peak. From just below the spire of East Peak, traverse W between crevasses on Daniel Glacier, then ascend SW to reach the Middle-East saddle. Note: distance is minimized by keeping close to East Peak on moderately steep slopes; a gentler route stays N farther.
South Spur: From Venus Lake's W side, ascend the S slope of Daniel; keep right of a ridge with a western face and left of low cliffs above the lake (between 6,000ft and 6,600ft). On the upper half of the spur one may find snow. Follow along the spur to the true summit or via the slight depression to its right. Note: Some parties continue a climb of Hinman from the La Bohn Gap area by traversing about 1mi SE from the Hinman-Daniel saddle; one can then reach the S spur at about 6,500ft above Venus Lake.
Southwest Route: From Shovel Lake, ascend to the basin (est 5,100ft) at the valley head (est 1mi). Climb NE up rocky slopes and gullies; likely some rock scrambling (one could work over to the S spur). The upper SW slope of Daniel is sufficiently steep to require selective climbing, and the rim W of the true summit has steep cliffs.
Lynch Glacier: The entire glacier is low gradient, but crevasses exist at breaks, becoming open in late season. The approach can be made from Marmot Lake and Lynch Draw. Recent recession of the Lunch Glacier has resulted in an enlarged Pea Soup Lake, whose waters now loop back to the cliffs. Unless this situation changes, this is not a practical summer route, especially from an eastern approach.
Daniel Glacier: Take the Deception Pass Trail and Crest Trail to the N side of Daniel Creek (or ascend directly from pass trail). In about 1.5mi reach the upper basin and then ascend SW to the glacier; it reaches to the Middle Summit's E side at its very highest point (slopes are moderate, but some crevasses exist). The Middle Summit is just a short rock hike; or work around the S slopes to the true summit.
Daniel Glacier Variation: On the approach, hike into Lynch Draw. Then ascend the gentle bedrock crest between the Lunch and Daniel glaicers, later bearing up the western edge of the Daniel. This leads to a level area on the crest just E of the Middle Summit.
Daniel Glacier West Pyramid: Can be climbed readily from the upper Lynch Glaicer or the connecting ridge to other summits; but the faces to the NW are challenging. Class 3.
08-09. Mt Hinman
West Route: From La Bohn Gap, ascend talus and slopes (keep left of broad W ridge) 9.5mi E to the ridge that runs NE at 6,600ft. Ascend this easy ridge (it crests along the top of the Hinman Glacier) and then go E to the summit. Note: the approach requires more cross-country work, but the ascent of the Hinman Glacier is straightforward.
East Route: From Lynch Draw, travel westward to cross the lower edge of the Lower Foss Glacier. Then begin a rising traverse above the two tarns, bearing directly for the summit via the Foss Glaicer.
Southeast Route: From Shovel Lake, travel N through forest and later ascend NW up talus and snow slopes. At the top of the slopes, travel westward along the cres, or on its N side above the Foss Glacier, to the E summit. Continue easily to the true summit. Note: one could vary the approach from lakes Rebecca or Rowena, then work E to the gentler S spur; no difficulties on either route.
10. La Bohn Peak
There are several nontechnical summit routes. One can hike and scramble up talus slopes from Williams Lake on the S flank. From La Bohn Gap, one can scramble bedrock (or ascend snow) on the peak's E flank to reach the pointed summit.
11. Bears Breast Mtn
Southwest Face: From Lake Ivanhoe, follow the wooded ridge leading N, to avoid a band of cliff. Work into the shallow draw that heads the stream flowing S, at about 0.25mi E of the lake. Head for the major gully that rises and curves right, to reach the notch (est 7,00ft) just N of the summit tower (some scrambling en route). Note: the key gully begins near the base of the main talus chute leading N below cliffs of the N ridge (green patch and cliffs on its right). Note: one may depart from a gully higher for scree and heather. Then ascend steep rock to a slab in midface, to where it corners a deep chimney, with a grey, smooth wall on the left. Climb to a belay spot right of an overhanging chockstone. A continuing ledge (loose rock) leads across the upper W face to the summit. Class 5.4-5.6.
Southwest Face Variation: Begin 75ft below and right of the standard route at the summit tower base. Traverse a prominent slab below a horizontal crack to reach a steep gully. Climb this to a broad slowing ledge, then continue vertically up a gully or exposed pitch to its right to easier climbing. Three leads- up to 5.4.
12. Little Big Chief Mtn
Northeast Face: From Dutch Miller Gap, contour 100yds SW and then climb steep heather slopes through short, broken cliffs for 500ft to a basin (usually snow). Ascend the basin to where it broadens out into a large snow cirque below the upper E face. Turn right and traverse to the N Ridge (est 6,500ft). Follow its crest a short distance, cross an exposed rock notch, then traverse left (talus and heather) to the snowfield directly beneath the summit. At its S end, climb a 60-ft pitch, take a short left traverse, then climb 60ft of rock to the summit. Class 3-4.
Center of East Face: Take the polished slabs on the left side of the face to the summit area snowfield; four leads (class 4).
13. Middle Chief Peak
Ascend a 1,500ft talus and snow couloir that rises from the side valley on the NW flank of the Chief group. This leads to the saddle (6,680ft) between Little Big Chief and Middle Chief (there is a tiny lake just E of this saddle). Note: the approach could also be made as for the Southeast Face of Summit Chief. Ascend toward the triangular E face, then angle right to the low point of the NE ridge. It is gentle but slabby and about 30ft wide; follow to the apparent summit (un-stable rock near top; class 3). To reach the S point, two runners and four chocks were used.
14. Summit Chief Mtn
Southeast Face: Leave the Waptus River Trail about 0.3mi S of Lake Ivanhoe, S of where it crosses the creek near 4,500ft. Bear to the SW up an easy spur (some timber) to about the 5,400ft level, then begin a traverse to above the lake on the N fork of Chief Creek; keep crossing W to the next basin (or, make the traverse slightly lower, to reach the 5,160ft lake SE of Middle Chief). Much of this terrain is heather, semibarren, with talus leading to the snowy basin SE of the summit. Summit Chief appears as a three-pronged ridge. Ascend to a point just below and S of the most westerly of these spurs. Climb a snow gully to the base of the summit rocks, then scramble to the ridge on the left. Ascend, then climb into a gully behind the skyline ridge. A scramble leads to the summit (loose rock). Class 2.
Southeast Face Variation: Climb up and right for two leads; here a small chimney (with tree) appears to the NW. Climb it (moderately difficult for 30ft) and then keep high on a leftward traverse (class 3) to the summit.
Southeast Face Variation: Make a rightward traverse up broken rock to the E summit ridge. Traverse the exposed ridge toward the summit; at one place, drop down on the S side 40ft to a small notch. A one-lead level traverse on the N side is followed by a final summit lead. Class 4. A N-side approach to the ridge can be made by ascending a talus and snow couloir route on Summit Chief's NE flank, approaching from the hanging valley and then climbing to the Summit Chief-Middle Chief notch. The final climb takes the E summit ridge (this appears feasible).
15. Overcoat Peak
Northeast Face: Approach via the overcoat cross-country route. From the 6,120ft pass, follow the approach suggestion for 0.5mi to the eastern edge of the Overcoat Glacier at about 6,600ft; most of this route is a rising SW traverse over intermittent snow and gentle rock outcrops with heather-ledge systems. Cross névé about 0.25mi in a W direction to below Overcoat Peak. Just W of the steep portion of the Northeast Face is a prominent, left-angling 40º snow finger; this feature leads to the summit crest just W of the highest point. Various completions can be made via steep rock and broken ledges. One can first make a traverse on the W side, then ascend. An alternative is to drop down the SW face about 100ft, then turn 90º and ascend class 3 slabs to a notch facing Chimney Rock. Take the right-hand of two grassy ledges to the summit.
Northeast Face Variation: By circling the glacier around N, beyond the sharp NW nose, the first slanting rock ramp can be taken up and right. This leads to the upper NW summit ridge or the above alternative.
East Face: Begin from the glacier edge, then ascend leftward on a band of broken rock and heather that bears to just S of the summit. The face is about 500ft high, largely ascended by this band. Class 4.
South Arête: This narrow crest has numerous short steps formed by the rock bedding. Beginning from the snow, the original party ascended two short leads in a chimney to near the top of the first step, then descended onto the W face to a steep slab; a rock pitch and the arête led to the summit. It is possible to vary this route: one can climb ledges just below the arête on its W until a gully bears right onto the crest at the base of the summit block. Class 4.
More thoughts coming soon! Keep up with my CalTopo machinations with the map below or here.