Mid October usually means just about the peak of
larch season. That is the time then the green larch trees east of the Cascade
crest turn a golden color. It also coincides with the first day of the
general deer hunt. Last year I managed two (
) backpacking trips that produced some of the best larch photo opportunities
I have had. This year I did not have a whole weekend free but great weather
meant I had to get out for at least a day hike. Gary was also free this
day and joined me.
We met at the Eastgate Park & Ride at 6:30 and arrived at the
end of the North Fork Teanaway Road at about 8:30. I ran into Geo Tom in
the lot. He had has dog so Ingalls was not a possible destination. He
chose instead to head to Lake Ann. I recommended a trip up Fortune Peak
as well. By 8:45 Gary and I were on our way. Most hunters realize how crowded
this trail is with hikers. None the less, I have seen them here. We chose
to be safe and donned blaze orange hats and vests. While there is no resemblance
to Aykroid and Belushi, I dubbed us "The Blaze Brothers" as we really stood
out among the dull colored hikers.
The lot is one cold place. There was ice on cars left overnight.
We warmed up as we climbed up the trail. I had pea soup fog in North Seattle.
It was then clear to Snoqualmie Pass and foggy again. At the trailhead
there was not a cloud in the sky. The trail is very gently graded as it
gains some 2250' in about 3 miles to Ingalls Pass. We arrived at the trailhead
early enough that there were still 8 to 10 empty parking spaces. We knew
that the crowds were coming. At least were ahead of most of it.
There were a few golden larch just before the pass. The real show
began right at the pass. Golden larch, and snow in Headlight Basin. There
was very little snow before the pass on the south facing slope. Mt. Stuart,
Ingalls, South Ingalls, and Fortune Peak all had a nice coating of fresh
snow. Probably the prettiest view I have ever had from Ingalls Pass. We took
a long break to photograph trees near the pass. We then debated taking the
high or the low trail. We chose high on the way to the lake.
The ground was mostly snow covered but never that deep. I didn't
even put on gaiters until we reached the lake. There was a well packed
down trench to follow. Our progress was very slow. The low sun backlit
the larch trees providing great color. We also took a few jaunts off trail
for views down the valley of Ingalls Creek. The crowds did begin to arrive.
We headed around the end of the basin and around towards the lake.
The intersection with the lower trail is signed. I don't remember seeing
a sign before. A last climb brought us up to the lake. It is snow free
and unfrozen though the shore is mostly under snow. Mt. Stuart had been
in the clear all morning but now a small cloud began to form just below
the summit. It took us less than 1 1/2 hours to reach the pass. It took
another 1 3/4 hours to reach the lake. Our pace was very slow. Way too
much to see.
We had lunch at the lake. Not long after we sat down a big party
of scramblers reached the lake. There were at least 10 in the group. We
were on big slabs above the lake. They proceeded to sit down all around
us. We could not even talk over the din of all those voices. It's a big
lake. It is not necessary to sit down two feet away from others. Oh well....
We cut our lunch short and got going.
Gary had done a loop backpack around Ingalls Peaks a few years ago.
They had reached the north side of Ingalls Lake and tried to get around
it. They hiked along the east side and made it near the west end before
giving up and heading down into the valley a ways and climbing back up to
the trail. He was interested to see if either side went easily. We tried
the west side and while it did look reasonable the snow was slick and snow
covered voids in the rocks. We chose to try the other side.
Heading along the shore I heard my name called and it turned out
to be Trail Junky and his friend. We have conversed via email but had
never met. It was nice to have a chance to talk. Soon we were back on
our way again. The ridge climbs quickly above the lake on the east side.
We chose to head around the right side (farther east) to see if we could
find a route up the ridge.
We headed around until the only easy way up was a ramp cutting back
to our left. That took us up to a level area. Above us were more cliffs.
We went around to the right again and saw a reasonable route heading up
to a notch. Gary went first, dropping a little then climbing higher. At
the notch he told me to come on up. I climbed up and we found ourselves on
top of the ridge. The notch was not at all obvious if coming from the other
direction. Gary wanted to see if this route continued down to the lake
On we went. The terrain is mostly big slabs. Great traction even
on steep sections. We went a little farther then a little farther. Soon
we could see it would go and we dropped on down to the lake shore. This
proved to be a neat scramble route. There was only a few short spots with
exposure and the hand and foot holds were fine even with a little snow.
After a nice break we headed back. The down climbing was not very difficult.
As we reached the bottom of the notch route two other hikers were coming
up. That was unexpected.
Soon we were back on the trail near the lake. We dropped down to
the intersection sign and headed downhill on the lower trail. This was
a good choice. We missed the crowds on the upper trail and were able to
hike through forests of golden larch. We also had sun though parts of
the upper trail were already in the shade. First we dropped 180 feet adding
more elevation gain to our trip. We passed several vacant tent sites and
one very loud site. We could still hear these guys when all the way back
up at the pass. Ingalls is not a place for solitude on most any weekend,
especially at the peak of the larch.
Back at the pass we ran into Trail Junky again. We sat on rocks above
the pass and enjoyed the view. At about 4:00 we headed down.. I thought
we were making good time though half a dozen folks passed us heading down.
We reached the trailhead near 5:15. On the drive out we passed the usual
30 or so cars parked along the road. The road itself has great color. A
few golden larch and many yellow deciduous trees. Once back on pavement Gary
noticed a lot of deer and/or elk off in the fields. Looks like they have
figured out how to outwit the hunters.
This may turn out to be my only larch hike of the year. If so, I
hit the jackpot. The combination of blue sky, white snow, and golden
larch was spectacular. I've been to Ingalls Pass a number of times in
mid October and this was the best trip yet. For the day we hiked 10 miles
with about 3000' gained including several off trail jaunts.
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
Gary Near Start
Mt. Stuart & Larch
Gary On Snow
Ingalls Creek Valley
Blue & Gold
So Much To See
Gold On Black
Gold & Green
Photo Page 2
Trips - 2007