Backpack

Tuck and Robin Lake

This weekend was one of the weekends Mel, Tayla and I had booked in together at the start of the year. When coming up with an objective we decided a night in a tent was called for and I suggested Tuck and Robin lake. These lakes have been on my radar for many years but I’ve always been a little turned off because they are extremely popular and can get crazy busy. We decided to take our chances, preparing to camp elsewhere if we needed.

The trailhead is deep in the mountains requiring 12 miles of driving on a pretty bumpy road with a river crossing! It’s the same trailhead that accesses Jade Lake and Dip Top Peak which I did a few years ago. This was the latest in the season I’d been on this road so the river crossing was very manageable, even low clearance cars making it across. We were surprised at how busy the trailhead was, cars were parked about a half-mile down the road from the actual trailhead. My tactic was to drive to the end and turn around so we were facing the right way. We got lucky and someone was leaving just as we arrived! Perfect park!

The trail starts flat for the first few miles, passing Hyas lake. Hyas lake was beautiful and still providing some nice reflections and views up to Cathedral Rock. After Hyas the trail climbs around 600ft up switchbacks to the junction for Tuck and Robin lake. I am sort of surprised there is a signpost on the turnoff because from my understanding the trail up the Tuck and Robin isn’t maintained. The trail to Tuck is steep! it climbs 1000ft in just under a mile. After just coming off the JMT I feel like it was a real shock to my calves to be off of such a well-graded trail.

Tayla and I got a little ahead of Mel on this part so we waited at Tuck lake. Taking the opportunity to eat lunch and filter some water. Tuck is a pretty lake but doesn’t offer that much in the way of camping or views. The hardest navigating of the trip was our next stretch getting around Tuck lake. There are so many social trails on the lakeside that it was hard to know which path to take. These trails tend to be pretty scrambly which I think we originally made the mistake of trying to avoid the scrambly parts but they were in fact the best way to go. The best route sticks close to the shore of Tuck lake. We knew we were on track when we crossed the log jam at the outlet of Tuck lake. From here we found red-tape flagging the way up to robin lake.

From the outlet of Tuck lake, the trail steeply follows the ridge to 5,800ft and traversers climbers left to join a gully for the final push to robin lake. The trail requires several sections where you need to use your hands to pull yourself up over big rock steps. I found this pretty fun and enjoyed the climb. The trail is pretty beaten down so mostly obvious as to which way to go. As we got higher we were rewarded with views of Mt Daniel off to the east. From this perspective of Daniel, you can see many of its summits, and you get a great view of the East summit which I skied with Kat last year. The final section of the climb requires climbing up slabs following cairns. Almost the whole way up from Tuck lake was in the sun and I was definitely feeling it on this part of the climb.

To my relief, we reached the Robin lake basin and set out to find somewhere to camp. We settled on a spot in between the upper and lower of robins lakes. We found a big granite slab above lower robin lake to sit and enjoy the views of the lake with Mt Daniel behind. After we reunited with Mel again, Tayla decided to take a swim. She was braver than me, my best chance would have been when we first arrived, the lakeside breeze had cooled me off too much.

After some camp lazing, Tayla and I set out to climb Granite Mountain leaving around 5:30 pm. We followed the trail which runs between the two Robins Lakes, which climbs steadily and topping out at around 6,800ft. The views from this ridge were fantastic, allowing a birds-eye view of robin lakes and revealing more and more mountain layers as the elevation increased. We got views of Glacier peak off to the North and Tayla and I were both surprised to see how bare its South face is. The heatwave earlier in the summer really did a number on our glaciers. At 6,800ft the route drops to a saddle that leads to the proper summit of Granite. This drop was extremely steep with loose rock making it my least favourite part of the climb. We took it slowly, keeping close as neither of us had helmets on.

From the saddle, it was an easy walk up to the ridge of Granite Mountain. From the summit, we got views to the east of Mt Stuart and some awesome looking tarns in the basin below. The summit itself has some big granite boulders sitting on top of each other. I scrambled to the top to take in the views! We had a breeze on the summit and it was now past 6 pm so we didn’t hang around too long and opted to head back down to camp where dinner (and Mel) were waiting for us! The steep loose section was nowhere near as bad going back up. Plenty of solid rocks for some class 3 scrambling. If I was to do Granite again I’d probably do it from the trail that goes along the east side of Robin Lake. From what we could see it looks like it sticks to meadows and you can avoid the steep/loose bit. I’d also do it in the morning because you’d get way better light on Mt Daniel for photos/views. For us, there was a lot of glare to the west from the setting sun.

I was definitely hangry when we got back to camp but happy to hang out and watch the sunset on our slab overlooking lower Robin Lake. We piled into the tent when it got dark and managed to get an amazing 11hr sleep not stirring until past 8 the next morning!

On our second day, we lazed around camp for the morning. We’d planned to maybe climb Trico, another nearby peak. But when I saw it as we were heading up to Granite the day before I lost interest. The day felt warmer than the previous and after we packed up camp I took a swim! It was freezing and I barely lasted more than a few seconds but the cold water sure felt revitalizing! The hike back out to the car only took us about 3 hrs. We were relieved to make it back to the shade once we descended from Tuck lake. On the whole, the trail was way dustier than I remembered on the way up.

I really enjoyed Robin Lake, and even though there were a lot of people I feel like there was a lot of room for everyone to spread out at the lakes. I wish I hadn’t put it off so long for this reason because it was such a beautiful spot!

Backpack

Jade Lake and Dip Top Peak

Jade Lake has long been on my list of backpacking destinations. The photos of the lake seem absolutely unreal. It blows my mind that lakes like that exist so close to where I live now. It is understandably a very popular destination and getting a campsite there on a weekend can prove difficult. I was keen to use a good weather window and my free time during the week to get there. I wasn’t able to get anyone to join me for the trip so I decided to head out on my first solo overnight


mileage

~ 25

elevation gain

6,000 ft

location

Alpine Lakes Wilderness

drive time from Seattle

2.5h

useful gear

Camera Battery

permits/passes

NW Forest Pass

I left Seattle early, at 6 am, on Wednesday wanting to get out of the city before the morning traffic started. On the way to the trailhead, I couldn’t shake the feeling of having forgotten something. I thought it was my sleeping pad for a minute so I pulled off the i90 to make sure I had it. When I got to the Tucquala Meadows trailhead I thought it was my hat, but I found that in the top pocket of my pack. I tried to ignore the feeling and started hiking on the trail. In 2 miles of hiking along a flat trail, I arrived at Hyas Lake. I wanted to take a photo from one of the lakeside campsites and discovered that my camera wouldn’t turn on because I left my battery at home. I was pretty unhappy about this knowing that Jade Lake is one of the most photographic destinations in the state and how long it had taken me to get out and do this trip. I even considered turning around and doing the trip another time. I shook off that feeling and decided to keep going. Use my phone for photos and try and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Partly fueled by my anger at myself for leaving my battery at home. I hiked the next 7 miles in about 2.5 hours. It was still overcast so made for excellent hiking weather. The trail wasn’t the boring forest trail I was expecting. After Hyas Lake it starts switchbacking up towards Deception Pass (5 miles of hiking). From Deception Pass, the trail intersects with the PCT and then forks off towards Marmot Lake. The trail passes a few small lakes and meadows before climbing again to reach Marmot Lake. I stopped at Marmot Lake on a log next to the water to have my lunch.

From Marmot Lake, the trail becomes more of a climbers trail and shoots up a talus field at the south end of the lake. Following the cairns, then losing them I followed the talus field to the top to join the bootpath that passed No Name Lake on the way to Jade. Lynch Mountain loomed over the meadows as I passed No Name Lake and I was excited when I started to recognize the peaks from all the photos I’d seen of Jade Lake. I got my first views of the turquoise water around 1:30. There were a few other tents already set up at the lake so I scouted around a little before choosing one near the entrance trail. Once I stopped hiking I was attacked by what felt like a million mosquitos. Before I put the fly of the tent on I sheltered from the hoards and admired the view.

After a snooze in the tent, I decided to filter some water. There were plenty of small streams running into the lake and they all contained several frogs! During my snooze, the clouds that had hidden views for most of the day had finally cleared. To kill time before dinner I explored some of the side trails around camp. I was able to scramble to Jade Lake’s outlet stream in one direction then scout the way south of the lake which led towards Dip Top Gap. Thankfully the mosquitos abated a bit later which allowed me to eat dinner in relative peace. I enjoyed the colours sunset produced on Lynch Peak and Jade Lake before heading for bed.

The night was colder than I was anticipating and I slept a little cold in my summer sleeping bag. I woke at 7 to beautiful blue skies and had breakfast while I was still in my sleeping bag. I packed a day pack, grabbed my trekking poles and headed towards Dip Top Gap. My goal for the morning was to summit Dip Top Peak, an easy scramble up one of the peaks that surround Pea Soup Lake, the lake in the basin above Jade. The route up Dip Top Gap climbs a snowfield to the Saddle above Jade Lake between Lynch and Dip Top Peaks. On the way up I mostly tried to avoid the snow, it was pretty hard after the cool night and hard to get good traction on it. Next time I think traction would help on the snow but I was able to climb the snowfield without too much difficulty. In an hour from camp I made it to the gap.

The views from Dip Top Gap where stunning, Pea Soup Lake sits under Mount Daniel and the Lynch Glacier, the water was a deep blue colour and there was still evidence of winter with ice floating in it. From Dip Top Gap the scramble to Dip Top Peak was pretty straight forward. It climbs some slabs on the south side of the east ridge of the Mountain until the east ridge can be gained. The only real exposure for the climb came just below the summit as the ridge narrows out. I enjoyed the views for the summit and the warm sun. There were great views of Mount Hinman (another one to add to the list) and out to many of the other Snoqualmie region peaks.

I made quick work of the descent, the snow was now in the sun so the snowfield was a little easier to travel on. I glissaded some sections using my trekking poles to control speed and kept to the snow as much as possible because it was much faster than crossing the rock fields. By the time I got back to camp, the day had well and truly warmed up and the mosquitos were back in force. I got bitten several times packing up my camp even through layers of clothing. Before leaving Jade Lake I decided to have a swim. I got down to the lake near my campsite and took a skinny dip. I lasted about 2 seconds in the water because it was absolutely freezing but also wonderfully refreshing.

The hike back down to Marmot took about an hour and was longer than I remember from the day before. I was getting tired of rocky, rooty trails that I was happy to be back at the lake. I had worked up a sweat coming down and stopped for another swim at Marmot Lake. I definitely lasted slightly longer than my swim in Jade Lake but not by much. The hike all the way back to the car was pretty uneventful, I stopped for a quick break at the junction with the PCT. I was tired by the time I got back at 5 as it had been about a 16-mile day. I will definitely have to go back to Jade Lake, with my camera battery but overall I’m really glad I didn’t turn around.

GPS Track

Backpack

Lakeshore Trail

Last year for my birthday Boyd and I spent a weekend in the small town of Stehekin in the North Cascades. Stehekin sits on the north shore of Lake Chelan, a 50-mile long lake in Central Washington. Unlike the Southern End of the lake, Stehekin is only accessible by boat or seaplane. On that trip, I learned of the Lakeshore trail which hikers are let off the ferry 18 miles before Stehekin and follow a trail along the lakeside to hike their way into the town. As this trail is lower in elevation and on the eastern side of the Cascades it’s a great option for an early season backpacking trip being warmer and snow-free compared to other trails. My friend Katie and I had free time during the week so we decided to tackle the lakeshore trail over 2 days starting on a Thursday.


mileage

18

elevation gain

4,000 ft

location

North Cascades

drive time from Seattle

3h + ferry

useful gear

Poles – ward off snakes!

permits/passes

Ferry Ticket

We had to leave Seattle at what felt like an ungodly hour of 5:30 am to have enough time to drive to Fields Point Landing to get the Lady of the Lake ferry. We stopped for coffee in Cle Elum and had enough time at fields point landing to pay for overnight parking and pick up our tickets. I couldn’t believe it but they make you hold on to a return ticket to get the ferry back, seems like something one could easily lose on a backpacking trip. The ferry ride from fields point landing to Prince Creek Dock (the start of the trail) was a little over an hour.

The ‘Dock’ at Prince Creek isn’t really a dock, they lower a walkway off the front of the ferry and you unload onto the rocky shore of the lake. The ferry then continues North leaving you alone in the wilderness 18 miles from the nearest exit point. We unloaded with a few other groups took a while to organize our things on the shore of the lake and were the last to depart. Starting out on the trail we got great views of the North Cascade Mountains towering 5000ft above the lake. The trail is never really at water level, it traverses just above giving you fantastic views most of the way. The going was hot and we quickly overtook all the other groups for the day.

Being the first on the trail for the day turned out to be a disadvantage. We read the warnings in the guide about rattlesnakes being common in the area and we came across our first one at the aptly named Rattlesnake creek. This was my first ever sighting of a rattlesnake so I thought it was pretty cool to see it. Wow, how my opinion changed! Katie admitted to being pretty scared of snakes so it was left to me to lead us on the trail. On our 11 mile hike to camp we (I) came across 5 rattlesnakes and 2 garter snakes on the trail. It’s safe to say my nerves were pretty shot by the time we got to camp, jumping at the slightest noise, or movement thinking it must be a snake!

On the 11 mile hike into our camp at Moore point, we experienced more views of the lake and mountains, wildflowers and used small streams along the way to cool off in. When we had about 2 miles to go the weather cooled as some storms passed by bringing in some dramatic clouds, a few rumbles and only a tiny amount of rain. By the time we got to camp (at around 5), we were pretty tired and happy to relax by the lake for the night.

Moore Point is accessible by the ferry so there was another group already there who got the ferry in that day to fish. The campground was huge! with multiple pit toilets, a shelter and food storage lockers it felt very luxurious. The weather cooled as we set up camp but wasn’t unpleasant. There were lots of mosquitos around and they were hungry, I managed to get multiple bites on my forehead. Right before we went to bed we watched the sunset over the mountains and the lake admiring all the colours.

The next day we only had 7 miles to walk into Stehekin but we had a deadline to get to the ferry by 2 pm. We decided to aim to arrive in Stehekin before lunch which still gave us plenty of time to have breakfast and pack up camp in the morning. The trail to Stehekin climbs above the lake once again and you get your first views of the head of the lake and the Stehekin Valley. The day was heating up again and we stopped to cool off in streams that the trail passed over. The closer we got to Stehekin the more privately owned lakeshore cabins there were that the trail traversed behind. These properties are vacation homes which are only accessible by boat. We also passed Flick Creek campsite which has a dock that people use for boat camping.

We made a good pace into Stehekin arriving at 12 before the ferry for the day! I only saw 1 garter snake and 2 rattlesnakes on the 7 miles which felt better than the 7 the day before. Seeing as we were early enough we hopped on a shuttle to the famous Stehekin Pastry Company to grab lunch before the ferry. I have heard about their cinnamon rolls and was disappointed to learn on my last visit to Stehekin they weren’t open. I don’t know if it was the hiking but the Cinamon roll definitely lived up to the hype.

Trail Info: WTA
Ferry Info: Lady of the lake
GPX tracks:

Backpack

The Three Capes Track

Three Capes Track is Australia’s newest hut-to-hut backpacking experience. It is a 3 night, 4 day hike which includes a boat ride and 48km of trail. The track starts at Port Arthur in Tasmania’s southeast and finishes at Fortescue Bay. In planning a trip back to Australia I suggested doing this to my family and was joined by Mum, Dad Andrew. We booked our starting date for January 2019 almost 6 months out. They only have space for 48 walkers a day. The big drawcard on the Three Capes Track is the spectacular cliffs of the peninsula which the track hugs for most of the trip. These are the tallest sea cliffs in the southern hemisphere and tower hundreds of meters above the ocean below. Another drawcard for hikers is the amenities available on the track. Each night’s accommodation is a hut where you are given a bed in dorm-style rooms and cooking facilities. This makes it perfect for first-time backpackers and families because you don’t have to carry a tent, cooking equipment, or mattress.

As far as capes go, you really only see two on the track, making for a confusing name. Apparently, when the track was originally planned they were going to include Cape Raoul, which sits on the west side of Port Arthur. They spared no expense on the amenities and trail for the first section of the hike so one can only assume they didn’t have the funds to do the planned extension to the third cape.

Overview of the walk
Overview of the Walk

Day 1

The starting point for the hike is the Port Arthur Historic Site, which we arrived at early to on our first day. Parking for the 3 capes track was up the hill from the normal day-use area. Instead of walking down the road to the tourist office where we were due to check-in, we managed to take a wrong turn, follow a dirt trail, and get lost. Pretty stupid on our part but we ended up having to look at a map to walk through the historic site and enter the tourist office from the backside. We were pretty early for our check-in time so we had no troubles checking in. We got given our tour booklet which had lots of information on the track ahead. I went and got coffee and breakfast from the cafe and we killed some time by looking around the historic site for about an hour. We elected for the earlier of the two boat rides (11:30am) which would give us plenty of time to start the track and reach the first night’s hut.

We boarded the boat with the other hikers starting at the same time. It seemed to be a collection of families some old, like us, and others with young children. The boat was run by Pennticott Wilderness Journeys which gives you a scenic boat ride out to view the first of the 3 capes, Cape Raoul. We also saw views of the cliffs and out to Tasman Island where we’d be hiking to in the next few days. The seas started to get a little rough as we left the shelter of Port Arthur, I was glad to have put on the dorky wind/rain jacket they supply because the seawater was pretty cold! After about an hour the boat dropped us at Denmans Cove and the start of the track.

We ate our lunch on the beach before starting the 4km walk to the hut for that day. The beach was a beautiful white sandy beach, but the presence of a dead seal made it a little less idyllic and a cool breeze kept us from taking a dip. Along the track, there are all these ‘storyseats’ which are cleverly designed seats that have a theme and story that relate to an entry in the track guidebook. These entries range from the telling of the area’s history to the native flora and fauna. For the first day, the trail stays close to the water passing the cobblestone beach of Surveyors Cove.

The first night was spent at Surveyors Hut which is situated on the headland looking out to sea at Cape Raoul. Each hut has dorm-style rooms of 4 and 8. We were lucky to have a group of 4 so we had a room to ourselves for the whole trip. You get assigned a room number at Surveyors Hut and you keep that room number for the rest of the trip. The amenities at the hut sort of blew us away. They had a bbq outside, gas stoves inside, and plenty of cooking accessories to cook up whatever you want. The huts also have a small library of books about the history, ecology, and biology of the area. We arrived at 2:30 in the afternoon and had plenty of time to enjoy the large deck of Surveyors Hut to read, drink tea and watch for wildlife. The highlight was seeing a large tiger snake right off the deck! Surveyors Hut had a scale to weigh your pack. We took turns to see who was carrying the lightest, Dad had 11.9 kg, Mum 10.0 kg, Andrew 17.8 kg and I had 12.3 kg. Later in the afternoon when all parties had arrived the ranger (and host of the hut) gave us a briefing on It was becoming obvious we’d have a bit more free time on this walk than what we are used too so I was regretting not packing extra tea. Bushfire smoke had swept in during the day so we didn’t get great views of Cape Raoul but the sunset was great and we even saw the supermoon rise.

Day 2

We woke to cloudy/smokey skies so once again didn’t get the view over to Cape Raoul. The walk for day 2 is an 11 km hike to Munro Hut over Arthurs peak (which is more like a hill). Some of the trail gets exposed to the sun and I did get warm on the walk. There were plenty of storyseats to experience on this day which kept us busy along the trail. The one that interested me the most was of the people who pioneered the trail out to Cape Pillar looking for the first ascent. We got to Munro Hut at lunchtime. The hut has a fantastic view out to Cape Huay (our destination for Day 4) from a boardwalk lookout. After eating lunch we decided we didn’t want to sit around for the whole afternoon so we walked out to Cape Pillar for the afternoon (the walk to Cape Pillar is recommended for day 3 of the itinerary).

The track out to Cape Pillar is 14km and had the longest stretch of boardwalk I think I’ve ever seen. One section seems to stretch along for miles! Once the trail follows the cliffs you get amazing views of Tasman Island, the Blade, and other rock formations like Cathedral Rock and Dad’s favorite ‘The Trident’. We saw many people on their 3rd day of the walk going back towards Munro Hut. When we got all the way out to the Blade at 3 pm we got the cliffs all to ourselves! The highlight of Cape Pillar is definitely the walk up the blade, which follows a narrow knife-edge ridge that directly faces Tasman Island. You get a good view of the lighthouse on Tasman Island and can marvel at the block-like columns towering hundreds of meters from the sea. We walked all the way back to Munro’s Hut and felt significantly more tired than the other walkers. My feet were aching from all the walking on boardwalk. There is a shower at Munro Hut but it was broken so we weren’t able to make use of it.

Day 3

Morning view from Munro Hut out to Cape Huay

Andrew is a crazy person so he woke up early to get sunrise in out at Cape Pillar. The rest of us opted for more sleep so left at 9 am and we met him out there at a more respectable time. We had to vacate the dorm rooms for the next guests but we were able to leave our overnight packs in a storage shed. The long walk out to the cape felt more tedious the second time but it was nice seeing the sights we’d seen the previous day in the morning light. It was a cooler windy morning than the previous two days but we were lucky because it kept the smoke/haze away. On the way back we read all the story seats from the trail guidebook.

Once we got back to Munro, we grabbed our gear from storage and headed off the final hut, Retakunna. With the trip out to Cape Pillar, it was a 19km day. Retakunna was in a eucalypts forest where we enjoyed relaxing on the deck in the sunshine for the afternoon.

Day 4

Day 4 was set to be another 14km day. The hike out of Retakunna goes over Mt Fortescue which is the highest point of the trail. At only 482m the climb is short and over quickly, they’ve also done a good job of ensuring it’s gradual. The track goes through rainforests to get up and over Mt Fortescue with large tree ferns mixed in with the eucalypts. We powered up the climb and passed many groups who’d left before us. Again we got cliff views and this time we got to see a rock arch formed by a headland eroding from underneath!

At the junction with Cape Huay, we left our big packs and hiked out to the cape with just a daypack. Here we came across more people who were just hiking Cape Huay as a day hike. Cape Huay is like a smaller version of Cape pillar, it has tall sea cliffs and the trail ends at a lookout over the features called the Totem Pole and The Candlestick. These features are popular with climbers but the easiest route on the Totem Pole is a ridiculous 5.12 mixed trad. Disappointed no one was there climbing it but with grades and stiff, I wonder how many climbs it gets a year. The candlestick is easier (5.10) but the rock quality is poor.

We made our way back to our backpacks and hiked what felt like a million stone steps downhill to the white sands of Fortescue Bay where we’d meet the shuttle and end our trip. We had plenty of time to kill as we waited for the shuttle. We took a swim in the bay and had icecreams from the kiosk!

The three capes trek was definitely way bougier than hikes my family is used to but we still enjoyed our time. The huts were really nice quality and were great to not have to carry camping gear. I think this is great for a young family or people going for their first backpacking trip. If I was to make the trip out to Cape Pillar again I’d probably just do it independently and stay at the national park campground near Munro Hut.

Backpack

Mount Anne Circuit

I was pretty excited to get out and do some hiking in Australia for my trip back over in January. The week before the Three Capes Track, Mum and Dad wanted to take a shot at the Mount Anne Circuit in South West National Park in Tasmania. They’d been wanting to do this one for a while but were always waylaid by bad weather (notorious in this part of the world). After it was suggested, as soon as I saw some photos of Mount Anne and read a few trip reports I was in.

Mount Anne is the highest mountain in Tasmania’s South West. At 1425m it doesn’t seem like a very imposing mountain but the view of the range and from the summit is nothing short of spectacular. The circuit which includes a summit of Mount Anne as a side trip is typically done over 4 days and follows the ridge along an ancient glacial cirque that surrounds Judd Lake.

Day 1

As the circuit doesn’t start and end in the same place, they are separated by 9km along the entrance road. We got dropped off at the trailhead at Condominium Creek by Andrew who would be taking the car while we were walking. The swampy trailhead was full of mosquitos so we rushed to get ready and leave the hungry pests behind. Like a lot of trails in Tasmania, it starts with a boot cleaning station to prevent the spread of disease to the native flora and keep out invasive species.

The trail started flat for about 2 minutes before heading straight up the shoulder of Mount Eliza the first peak in the cirque’s ridgeline, at a gradient that wouldn’t give up for most of the day. The weather was beautiful, we couldn’t have asked for better. As we climbed we got amazing views of Lake Pedder and the Western Arthurs. The vegetation was pretty thick made of low-lying shrubs which gave us little protection from the warming sun. On the way up we stopped for a couple of rests, before making it to High Camp. High Camp Cabin is half a kilometer under the summit of Mount Eliza and is a small stone structure built for shelter and has surrounding campsites. We stopped here to fill water from the rain tank, eat lunch, and read through the cabin visitors’ book. Not sure this was the best idea as I started reading about how many people failed to reach the summit of Mount Anne or couldn’t complete the circuit because of the dreaded section know as ‘The Notch’. I started feeling a little anxious about some of the climbing to come.

We set off on the trail and the gradient increased yet again. Now instead of a trail, we were following cairns and pulling ourselves up large boulders. The Mount Anne cirque is geologically unique because it is red dolerite on top of a white quartzite base. These boulders marked the beginning of the quartzite which we would be on for the next few days. As I pulled myself (and my heavy 4-day pack) over the boulders I started to realize how dangerous this trail would be if the weather was bad, it was hard to follow even when we could see.

Finally, we made the summit of Mount Eliza where we took many photos of the beautiful view and had a celebratory fruit tingle before continuing along the ridge towards Mount Anne. Now in the high alpine, we started seeing small tarns, cushion plants and pandanus palms giving the landscape a Jurassic theme. It was 2km from the summit of Mount Eliza to the fork in the trail with the Mount Anne summit trail. From a detour off the path along this ridge, we got our first views of Lake Judd 400m below the dolerite cliffs. As we continued towards the nights camp, we had to skirt Eve Peak which meant more boulder hopping. This was proving to be a pretty exhausting task keeping balance with the heavy packs as you moved from rock to rock. I was tired and happy when we reached the junction of the Mount Anne summit trail. We looked down and saw the camp for the day with one other tent already set up. It took about 15 minutes to walk down to Shelf Camp where we set up our camp for the night.

Shelf Camp was an amazing place to spend a night, we were incredibly lucky with the calm weather because it is high and very exposed the wind can rip right through it. The location provides great views of Mount Anne and Mount Lot. To the north, it seems like an endless drop into the valley below and the cliffs of Eve Peak loom over to the south. The tent sites are rock slabs so you need to set up tents without pegs (there was plenty of small rocks around to help) and there was a very small running stream we used for water. The camp is also surrounded by tarns which we took a dip in to wash off the days’ efforts before dinner. An early night was had by all of us to prepare for an early wake up to attempt the summit of Mount Anne the next day.

Day 2

I woke early on day 2 and I was able to watch the sunrise over Mount Lot while packing up camp. The weather was just as stunning as the day before, no wind, blue skies and we could tell early it was going to be warm. We started out backtracking along the trail from the day before, heading for the Mount Anne summit junction. We were all appreciative of being able to carry our day packs and leaving the heavy ones back at Shelf Camp. We followed the trail, getting amazing views towards Lot’s Wife and down the Lake Pedder in the other direction. We boulder hopped following the cairns until we got to the bottom of the summit block. Here was the hardest part of the trail. The route was pretty exposed requiring scrambling up 3m chimneys, traversing to the left, then up a very exposed 3m shelf (thankfully with bomber handholds) followed by a traverse right over some rock slabs which had a little bit of water running over them. The route then goes over boulders along the exposed southeast ridge to lead up to the summit. Overall it was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be after reading people’s description in the logbook the day before and when we reached the summit I was surprised there wasn’t anything worse. Having said that in worse weather conditions it would be much harder and I can see why people would turn away. The views were amazing from the top and we spent some time taking photos and soaking it all in. We took the descent off the summit block carefully and made it down with no issues.

 

Back at shelf camp we picked up our heavy gear and started heading off towards the next bit of anxiety ‘The Notch’. The trail was all steep up and downs, muddy in sections, involved a lot of scrambling and required taking off and lowering packs in certain sections. We were mostly on the north side of the ridge but we did climb to traverse across it on a narrower section to give amazing views down to Jude Lake almost 400m below. Back on the north side of the ridge, the trail leading up to The Notch was easy enough to follow. The Notch itself is a saddle with steep dropoffs to both sides. It is important to climb up above The Notch as you approach it for the safest route. Again when we got there it was not as bad as I was expecting from everything I’d read. Some people choose to use a rope to haul packs but we managed to do it without. First, we descended into The Notch via very steep steps to the bottom where it’s level but with steep drop-offs on either side. Next, we were faced with going up again but this time it was not possible to step up and some climbing moves were required. The first being a chimney you have to stem across to the right side followed by a ledge that’s very exposed with a drop off to either side. There isn’t any great hand holds here so we took off our packs lifting them up first before pushing ourselves up using a move that’s not quite a mantle but one that I like to compare with getting out of a swimming pool.

The anxiety of The Notch and was lifted and we continued on the trail which was headed for the summit of Mount Lot. It wasn’t really much of a trail but it traversed the south-east slopes of the Mountain to start climbing directly up a steep gully. In this section there seemed to be two routes you could take but they both ended up in the same gully. The route we took (which veered to the right and down) had some areas of loose rocks you have to climb up. We definitely had to break on the way up these steep gully as it was pretty exhausting work, luckily the views down to Judd Lake were beautiful giving us something to take our minds off the heat, the climb and the hunger from not having lunch yet. Finally, the climbing was over and we reached the top of the ridge of Mount Lot with a short traverse to the summit. We stopped for lunch here after a measurement of the high points to determine which one was the highest and making sure we stood on the summit (in true peak-bagger fashion). Over lunch, we really soaked in the views of Lot’s wife, Judd Lake, Mount Anne and looking down to our night’s campsite of the Lonely Tarns.

Continuing after lunch the trail starts to head almost directly down the narrow Lightning Ridge. We said goodbye to our views of Mount Anne and steeply descended towards the Lonely Tarns. After a descent of 300m, the trail veers to the east and into the scrub. It now becomes an extremely steep, stuffy hike down through the bush to get to the Lonely Tarns. You had to be really careful using trees to help stop from slipping. Even though the humidity in the trees made it really sweaty going I was happy to be out of the sun for a little while. The trail eventually clears out of the bush, gets muddy and hits a ridge between two of the Lonely Tarns (Lake Picone to the north and Judd’s Charm to the south).

Camp for the night was at the east end of Judd’s Charm. When we got there I was so hot, and my feet extremely sore that I went for a swim immediately while Mum and Dad found a campsite. We had plenty of time to set up camp, get water and have a cup of tea because we started the day so early. As it got later it started becoming obvious that the weather was turning. Storms hadn’t been in the forecast but once we finished dinner it became obvious there was one heading right for us. The Lightning coming out of the storm front as it approached was pretty incredible, I hadn’t seen that many lightning forks from a storm in some time. We got ready for bed and headed into the tents early as soon as the rain started. The rain didn’t last very long at all and we were able to get out of the tents again after about 20 minutes. Once we got out of our tents we smelt smoke and saw a fire had started from a lightning strike far to the east of us. We didn’t really know if we could do anything about this, it did seem really far away but we were concerned that we were probably the only ones that knew about this fire. The sun set and we went to bed. I got up again after it was dark to look out to the fire again and saw the red glow of the flames and I started to worry about it a little. Not really sure what we should do I went to bed.

Day 3

We woke in the morning to extremely smokey skies and the smell of burning. Mum’s hope of a side trip to climb Lot’s Wife was dashed with this as Dad and I both deemed it to not be worth it with the poor visibility (not to mention being pretty tired from the activities from the day before). We did take a small detour to Lake Picone in the morning which was lower in elevation and much marshier than Judd’s Charm. The view here was incredibly smokey and if anything it seemed to be getting worse.

We went back to pick up our bags from last Judd’s Charm and we decided to send a message to Andrew on the inReach to keep us informed about fires in the area. The smokey conditions had us a little concerned, not knowing if there were any closer than the one we saw start the light before. We continued on the trail which climbed past some more tarns and gained elevation once again joining back to the ridge which was an open plateau on the North side of Mount Sarah Jane. The views down to Judd Lake were very hazy due to the smoke and we couldn’t see Mount Anne at all. Here we got some phone reception and we looked for information on the fires. Nothing was really apparent so we continued on our way.

The trail continued and got incredibly muddy, passing more lonely tarns on the way around the east face of Mount Sarah Jane. The scrub was thick and spikey and my legs (which were sunburnt) were not loving it. I was very jealous of Mums long gaiters which I’m sure would have been protecting her from the spikes. Just before the turnoff to Mount Sarah Jane summit, there was a boardwalk section which needs to be extended as you had to hop over some huge mud sections to get to it.

When we got to the track junction with the Sarah Jane summit trail we decided to take our lunch to the summit. The trail to the summit was boulder covered and there wasn’t really a clear path, we had to just follow cairns to the top. There wasn’t anything very exposed and the boulders were big enough we didn’t have to be consered about rockfall. We got some views from the summit but they were very obscured by smoke and haze. As we were eating lunch we heard helicopters and finally saw one. It was flying low around the ridge and appeared to be flying above the circuit. We decided it must be looking for bushwalkers like us. It flew around the summit of Mount Anne, circled The Notch then the summit of Mount Lot. It then circled Lot’s Wife, Judd’s Charm and along the east side of Mount Sarah Jane. We thought it would circle the summit of Sarah Jane but it became apparent it wasn’t going to. We had phone reception again and we called the state fire department. They were able to tell us where the fires were. There were several new fires across the state but near us, there was one on Mount Eliza (from day 1) and one near the Anne River (which we were set to cross the next day). They didn’t advise us to change our plan but said not to hesitate to press our SOS button if we got too close. This didn’t fill any of us with confidence but we headed down off the summit hoping the helicopter might do another lap and see us.

When we reached our packs we were still wondering what we should do. We knew the next section of the trail was to descend through a lot of scrub to get down to Judd Lake so we wouldn’t be visible if the helicopter was looking for us. Luckily our answer came quickly, we received a call from Andrew who had been in contact with the Parks Service. He informed us that the Mount Anne Circuit was being evacuated and we needed to contact the parks service to let them know where we were. It really was lucky we had reception and were able to call and give our GPS coordinates. We were on an open plateau so they told us to stay there and put bright things out on the ground so the helicopter could find us. Mum and Dad had some bright orange garbage bags they use to waterproof their pack which we laid out on the ground. Within about 15 minutes the helicopter we saw before was landing in front of us and we were loaded into the back.

We didn’t have a car at the trailhead so we were taken to the Parks Service Headquarters at Mount Field National Park where they were basing the evacuations from. We learned here how widespread the fires were from the storm the night before. It seemed to completely cover the southwest of the state and they were still finding them. Because of this they were closing access and evacuating many trails in the area. After completing some paperwork we were given campsites in the campground to stay for our final night, arranging with Andrew to meet us there the next morning. It was so weird to go from complete wilderness to sitting in an office with a cappuccino in about 20 minutes. We were quite the celebrities in the campground that evening with many people having seen us get out of the helicopter when we arrived.

Overall it is a shame we didn’t get to finish the full circuit, but it also didn’t sound like we missed too much. It was one of the toughest backpacks I’ve ever done and I am very grateful I could join my parents for it.

Backpack

Sunrise and Cooney Lakes

Having been back from our trip to Iceland for two weeks I was itching to get out into the mountains to see the Larches that had started turning. I knew that my opportunities might be my last chance to overnight for the season so was keen to plan something for Saturday and Sunday. First plans included creating a trip with one of my Mountaineers friends to scramble Maude and Seven Fingered Jack. These peaks are in a high larch area so would be an ideal goal this time of the season. Unfortunately, this plan was canceled two days before with recent snowfall on the peaks making a scramble to the summit a bad idea in the freezing temperatures set for the weekend. Focused on my plan to go backpacking but having no one to go with I put a call out on a local women’s outdoor group on Facebook. Through this, I was able to link up with Anuja who invited me to come with her and her boyfriend, Pramod, for the weekend to the Washington Sawtooths.

mileage

19 mi

elevation gain

5,036 ft (Ascent) 1,232 ft (Descent)

location

Methow/Sawtooth

drive time from Seattle

4 hr

useful gear

Warm clothes, it was chilly!

permits/passes

NW Forest Pass

We met in the Preston park and ride at 7 am Saturday and started the long drive out to the East side of the cascades. The drive was pretty scenic, over Blewitt Pass we saw larches turning by the side of the road and laughed at why we were driving so far to walk further to see these trees. We stopped for fuel, coffee, and the biggest cinnamon rolls you’ve ever seen in Pasteros about 30 mins from the trailhead.

We got the last car park in the Foggy Dew Creek trailhead and after the long drive, we were keen to get on to the trail. The foggy dew creek trail is open to horses, trail and mountain bikes making it feel like a bit of a highway. It gradually makes its way up 2500′ and 5 miles to the large junction with the trails to Foggy Dew Ridge, Cooney Lake and Merchants Basin trails. The only thing of note on this pretty boring trail is Foggy Dew Falls which is roughly halfway to the junction.

 

From the junction, it was another mile to Merchant’s basin where we saw our first larches and open meadows. We didn’t spend much time in the basin and chose to head straight up the trail to Sunrise Lake. Most of this trail from the basin was snow covered and filled with larches. The afternoon sun coming through the larches was so pretty and we made it to the lake with only one other group of backpackers there before us. The lake was partially frozen and the surrounding cliffs dusted in snow.

We left our big bags and decided to explore around the lake, chasing the warm sunny spots on the North side of the lake. We set up camp in our campsite among the larches. I studied a map of the area and noticed the Sunrise lake trail continued on over the pass, I decided to try and find this trail and get a view of the lake from the ridge above before dinner. I couldn’t find where the trail left the lake edge but I headed up from the outlet and figured I intersect with it. I did with no trouble and followed the rock cairns up the steep side of the basin. It took me maybe 15 minutes to reach the top and but that time I’d warm right up. The ridge was in the sun and I got a great view west of a see of peaks. The best view was down into the basin of the lake, I could see our campsite and watch the giant sheet of ice drift on the lake slightly. I spent time taking photos and enjoying the warm sunshine. Knowing that I still needed to make dinner back at camp I headed back down about an hour before Sunset.

Once the sunset it got pretty cold and after dinner and hanging our food we were off to bed. I ended up having to heat some water for my Nalgene to keep me warm in my sleeping bag. It was only about 9 pm when I fell asleep being pretty tired from the day’s activity. I didn’t sleep that well because of the cold temperatures but it was restful enough.

We set our alarms just before sunrise and I found it hard to get out of my warm sleeping bag. The goal this morning was to pack up and head back to Merchant basin, leave our packs there and do the short trip to Cooney Lake. Even though Cooney lake was only a 1.5 mile from Merchants Basin it required a 1000′ ascent and 600′ descent.

We made the ridge in pretty good time and as soon as I saw the view into the Cooney Lake basin I felt like the 1000′ climb was totally worth it. The lake was a little bigger than Sunrise but the surrounding basin was bigger and completely full of golden larches! It was a beautiful sight.

 

We made our way down to Cooney lake and took lots of photos among the larches and at the shore of the lake, there was a little snow on the way down that we had to be careful but it was nice to not have our heavy packs for it. The weather was starting to deteriorate at this point and we had a lot of hiking to go for the day so we headed back over the pass and into Merchants Basin.

The hike back to the car and the trailhead went without event, we didn’t stop too much, at the main junction then at Foggy Dew Falls. We were back to the car later than we hoped (around 3pm) with the long drive ahead of us.

Backpack

The Coast Track

This was the first backpacking trip that I wanted to do (ie not dragged on one by my parents). Instead, I dragged them on it! Mum and Dad drove to Sydney to join me on the Coast Track, a 26km walk from Bundeena to Otford. Located in Royal National Park in Sydney’s South. After leaving my car at Otford we took Mum and Dad’s car to Bundeena to start Day 1 which was 18km to North Era Campground.

The weather started a little iffy but we got lucky and had no rain. Along with the weather, the coastline started very dramatically. We were rewarded with beautiful sandstone cliffs straight out of the gate. The first formation being ‘The Balconies’ which were tiered sandstone stepping down to cliffs over the ocean. In a short walk, we got to the Water run, which is where a river cuts into the sandstone headland, creating a small waterfall that cascades into the ocean. One of the highlights of this part of the walk was wedding cake rock (which is now fenced off for its protection), it’s a big ‘slice’ of white sandstone perched on the end of the cliff. Apparently, since we did this walk they’ve assessed the cliffs around the wedding cake and have determined it’s likely to fall into the ocean in the next few years. It was one of the busiest sites when we were there. Several people had just hiked in to see it for the day. They’ve put up a big fence to stop people sitting on it.

We left all the other people a Wedding Cake rock and kept hiking to Marley and little Marley beach. If only the weather was a little nicer these beaches would have been the perfect place for a swim. From Little Marley beach, we did the section of the Coast track I’d previously done as a day hike which followed beautiful sandstones cliffs to Wattamolla Dam and Wattamolla Beach. We stopped for lunch at Wattamolla Dam before continuing our hike South. Wattamolla Beach was a popular spot, it’s a weird feeling to be on an overnight hike and continually passing through day-accessible picnic areas.

Continuing along the coast south we got more views of sandstone cliffs and arrived at what was probably my favourite landmark for the day, Eagle Rock! Eagle Rock is a rock that juts out over the ocean and looks exactly like an eagle’s head, to top it off it’s right next to Curracurrong creek which dramatically ends as a cascading fall into the ocean. We finally got some sunshine to take some great photos! The rest of the day was spent hiking to Garie Beach, which was another day-use area. I was surprised to see many private shacks at Little Garie Beach. This being a national park I didn’t realize people could own property there. Turns out there are several of these private shacks along the coast going south from Garie. There was one final climb from Little Garie beach, to get over the headland and to our campground for the night. The trail was under maintenance and was pretty steep heading down to the North Era Campground. The campground wasn’t very busy, other than us only a few other tents. To stay here you need a permit. There were nice grassy spots to camp for the night and a composting toilet!

On day 2 we were roused from our tents by the sound of a landing helicopter. The park service was dropping supplies and workers to work on the steep trail into North Era. This was the hint we needed to pack up our gear and continue with the rest of the track. The final day was only 8km but involved a climb out of the beach to Otford lookout. Before starting the climb we checked out Figure 8 pools. To get there we had to detour from the track at Burning Palms Beach. This was the start of Figure 8s Insta fame and we ran into a couple doing a photoshoot with the pools. It’s definitely important to visit these at the right tide because they are a rock platform that gets completely covered by big surf at high tides. Back at Burning Palms beach, we took our first swim for the trip making use of the sunny weather. Lucky we cooled off because the rest of the day was climbing away from the ocean through palm forests to Werrong Lookout and on to Otford.