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
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
profile of the hike
. A 3D drawing of the terrain can be
Click on the thumbnails to view the pictures full size...
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.
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...
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.
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...
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
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.
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.
While trekking around Saturday morning, we found this serene
pond surrounded by moss, with the mottled reflection of the ridge...
The morning was so still, all of the lakes provided
excellent reflection pictures. On the left, Cruiser and Alpha are
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...
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...
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...
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
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...
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...
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.
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...
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...
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!
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...
Back to Tom in the mountains...