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Here are some pictures of the trip Mike and I made to Mildred Lakes and the summit of Mt. Cruiser the last weekend of October, 2002...   I guess the third time's a charm... The first time we tried we had to pass due to heavy fog, the second time I got to the step at the beginning of the last pitch, but started puking due to dehydration. I belayed Mike up, but decided to stay down due to the ensuing light-headedness. 

This time was totally different - we decided to try the Mildred Lakes approach for a change of scenery (since the Hamma Hamma road has been fixed).  We hiked in on Friday - the trail is up and down with some steep sections, and got to a great camping spot at the big lake around 3:30. We spent the rest of the afternoon doing some bouldering on some of the surrounding rock. There was no wind, and the sky was crystal as we were above the thick marine layer at 3,000 feet.

Saturday, after some trekking around the middle lake, about 10:30, we headed up on a bushwhack (or is that a bushthwack) towards Alpha. Supposedly, there is a trail that leads to the east side of Needle Pass, but we were unable to find it.  So after about 2 hours, we made it above the avalanche alder, to some great outcrops for pictures and views. We traversed to the south beneath Alpha to catch the middle of the Cruiser route 1A.  Mike led the remaining 5.4 pitch of 1A (which has a 5.7 crux by the way), to the step beneath the last pitch.  It was my honor to finish the traditional route. We spent about half an hour on the summit as there was no wind, and the late autumn sun just lit everything up. We didn't see or hear anyone else the whole trip!

Instead of going down the same way we came up, we decided to just head down the drainage at the base of the second repel. There had been no rock activity the whole day - everything was stable.  I headed down first while Mike managed the ropes.  About half way down, I hit a wall that required a repel.  But instead of waiting for Mike to catch up with the ropes, I found a dihedral that had heather growing out most of the way down. So I hopped in and pulled successive monkey moves to hand over hand down the 40 foot cliff! Very fun!  It was a piece of route-finding that even surprised Mike, I think.

Since we were pretty lazy, we decided to camp in Saturday night instead of headlamping out. The trail is tricky with numerous spurs, and the steep sections require attention to detail with overnight packs. So up early the next morning and out by around 7:00, we made it back to the car by 10:00 - and then home for pizza and beer.   

An aside - there were numerous areas where people decided to just crap on the ground and drop their paper - come on people, either pack it out or bury it!!!!


Click here for a map and profile of the hike .  A 3D drawing of the terrain can be viewed here...   Click on the thumbnails to view the pictures full size...
Sawtooths from ridge above Mildred Lakes...
The trail starts at around 1,900 feet, and traverses up and over two ridges before dropping down to the Mildred Lakes system at 3,900 feet.  Some of the pieces of trail are very steep, plus a section of avalanche makes things interesting about a mile into it. This was taken from the last ridge before dropping down to the lakes, and provides your first view of the Sawtooths.



Tom feeding a bird...

Here, we rested on the last ridge before making the drop down to the lakes.  The camp robbers were persistent, so we obliged by providing some personal attention...



Inlet at Mildred Lakes...
Mike took this picture of an inlet as we made our way through the series of lakes towards the upper lake.  Upon reaching the first lake, it took us around over an hour to get to the spot we decided to camp at.  This was mainly due to the entertaining boulder problems we found along the way.
Mike sitting on a rock at the first lake, Cruiser in the background... Mike lays back on a boulder along the trail... Full view of a nice boulder problem next to the upper lake... Tom bouldering on a problem along the upper lake... Mike on a problem next to the upper lake...

Upon reaching the lakes, we found numerous bouldering problems to entertain us while we looked for a good camp site.  These pictures were taken in succession as we made our way towards the upper lake.  The best views of the surrounding ridge systems were from the upper or middle lake.  Sunrise, was really nice from the middle lake...
Sawtooth ridge... Sawtooth Ridge - major peaks identified...

Saturday morning was crisp and clear, providing good early light on the Sawtooths above.  I took this picture as the sunlight made its way down to the upper lake.  The picture on the right is the same, but with the major peaks identified.

Mt. Linclon in the morning light...

Before the morning sun could hit the lake, I snapped this shot of Mt.Lincoln, which is the southern most peak on the ridge.  You can barely make out the Lincoln silhouette - his forehead forms the summit.  This was the view directly out our tent.


Morning light on the Horn and the Fin...

The Horn and the Fin sit in early morning light, glowing for our enjoyment.  Mike and I climbed the Horn a few years back from the Flapjack Lakes side.  A funny piece of rock, but typical of the Olympics with mostly downward facing slab providing really good feet, but horrible hands, and opportunity for gear.
A mossy pond in between the upper and middle lakes...

While trekking around Saturday morning, we found this serene pond surrounded by moss, with the mottled reflection of the ridge...
Reflection of Cruiser on the middle lake...  

The morning was so still, all of the lakes provided excellent reflection pictures.  On the left, Cruiser and Alpha are reflected.  
Trick shot - full reflection in the middle lake...

Mike took this eerie picture of Cruiser and Alpha totally reflected.  The rock looks suspended in air, the lake bottom barely visible in the reflection of the sky...
Mike hiking in the brush, only waist high... Tom making his way through the brush... Tom on hands and knees.crawling through the brush...

Since we couldn't find the way trail to Needle Pass, we decided to bushwhack a route below Alpha, and then to the base of Cruiser.  The first 800 feet of elevation gain directly above the lake was thick brush and Avalanche Alder.  This made the going pretty slow, taking almost 2 hours to get through.  Some of the stuff was so thick, we had to drop to our hands and knees to get through.  This approach is obviously much easier in the spring, when the slope is covered with snow.  But then, you wouldn't get the chance to experience the colors and smells that we did...
Tom above the brush...

Once above the brush, the going was much easier, and we gained ground pretty quickly.  Here Mike caught me with the upper lake and Mt. Pershing in the background...

Approaching the base of Alpha...

As we made our way beneath Alpha, Mike snapped this picture.  Unfortunately, by this time, the digital camera was giving up the ghost.  These pictures are scans of slides that Mike took with his SLR.
Tom on a rock, below Cruiser...

Our last break before gaining the base of Cruiser, Mike snapped this shot of me on a lookout rock.  The views from here are sweet, as everything from Constance from the north to Washington and Ellinor to the south is visible...
Mike leads route 1A... The view from Ralph's Step on Cruiser...

Once up to the base of Cruiser proper, we start the climb in the middle of route 1A.  Mike leads this pitch, rated at 5.4.  Going sans pack, he makes the belay station, and then hoists our packs up to him.  After that, I followed, cleaning the couple of pieces of gear he decided to set.  The move off the crack to the belay station is tricky, and should be rated more like 5.7.  Once to the belay station, I grabbed a pack, and scrambled to Ralph's Step, the last point before the final pitch.  The picture on the right looks west into the interior of the Olympics...

 
Tom preparing to lead the final pitch...

Above, Mike snaps this shot before I head up to lead the last pitch.  The upper Mildred Lake and Pershing are in the background.  The last pitch requires about 45 meters of rope, rated at 5.0, it has good nubbins for footing and hands.  There are two bolts midway to clip in to - places to set gear are sketchy though.  Below, Mike catches me as I just start to move past the vertical portion of the climb.

Tom on lead on route 1...
Mike coming up to the summit...

Having reached the summit, I clip in to the belay station, and belay Mike up.  The summit has wonderful exposure, and excellent views.  The Needle and Castle Spires are in the far background...  Below, Mike takes a shot of me performing the belay - showing the exposure...

Tom belaying Mike up to the summit of Cruiser...
Mike on the summit of Cruiser...

Mike enjoys his second trip tot he summit of Cruiser, the last time a couple years ago when I had to bail on the last pitch.  He said this time was much more fun...  A very bare Brothers lay in the background, highlighting the dry, warm autumn in the region.  There should be a few feet of snow by now...
Tom on the summit of Cruiser...

Once on the summit, we lounged around for over half an hour.  There was no wind, surprisingly, and no pressure from other rope teams - no one else was there!  Nothing left to do but enjoy the autumn views, and relax!

 
Tom on the repel off Cruiser...

Halfway debating whether we wanted to spend another night at the lake, or headlamp out, we decide to head down early enough to ensure we have light when we get back to camp.  Here, with the lake in my background, I start my repel down.  With the last portion of the decent through the same kind of crap we experienced coming up, we decide to hang for another night...


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