Sawtooth Mountains Traverse
Page 2

Day 2
I broke camp and was on the trail by 8:15 am. I had a short trip planned to my next camp then the exploratory scramble to hopefully reach Ten Lakes Basin. First thing was to ascend to Toxaway Divide, also known as Sand Mountain Pass. I hiked down to the middle of Toxaway Lake then began the long gentle switchbacks to the pass. It takes two miles to climb the 900'. That is only an 8.5% grade. It was warming rapidly and already felt hot. On the positive side, after two days climbing above 9350' the elevation was becoming less of a problem.

After many switchbacks the route traverses on narrow blasted tread to the pass. Since it was early, I chose to drop my back and scramble up to the high point on the ridge to the left of the pass. I had done it on my first visit also. To the right of the ridge there was still snow. As I started up I noticed a deer climbing onto the snow. It was the first large animal I had seen on what was my sixth visit to the Sawtooths and White Clouds. The sky was crystal clear and views were outstanding. I could see most of the rest of the day's route from the 9400' summit.

All to soon I headed back to the pass and then down towards Edna Lake. The creek from the pass was flowing higher than I had seen which meant wildflowers. Lots of paintbrush and others plus the first shooting stars I had seen. From the meadows I went back into forest for the rest of the descent to Edna. At the junction above the lake I took the left turn towards Vernon Lake. The two big lakes are only about 1/4 mile apart. There were plenty more wildflowers along the trail here.

From Vernon I just had a mile and 400' to gain to my campsite at Lake 8866 on the ridge crest. It was very warm for the climb and I reached my campsite at 12:30. The highlight of this site is the big granite peninsula that juts far out into the lake. There was a strong wind blowing across the pass and they kept me cool and kept the bugs at bay. I set up camp and hung my food before settling down to enjoy the lake. I was a little nervous about leaving most of my gear in the tarptent with so much wind. I pounded the stakes all the way in and put a big rock inside on the windward side to keep wind from getting under the tent. Returning to find much of my gear had blown off the pass would have been a real problem.

Now it was time for the fun part of the day. Gary and I camped here two years ago. We scrambled up the ridge between Vernon and Ardeth Lakes to find spectacular views. We also found a chain of lakes set in granite and heather meadows. It looked like one might be able to scarmble down from the 9300' ridge to the 8900' lakes. Much of the ridge is cliffy. Last year I dropped down to Ardeth Lake to camp. I then climbed up Glens Peak which is right above that string of lakes in what is called Ten Lakes Basin. I scrambled down off the ridge of Glens Peak and visited about half the lakes. Now I was interested to see if I could avoid the time consuming drop to Ardeth, climb up to the lakes, and return trip. The key would be to find a route from Lake 8866 directly to Ten Lakes Basin.

With my now much lighter pack I started up the ridge. On my previous ridge scramble we scaled the high point and found a possible descent spot farther along the ridge. I wanted to see if an earlier spot might exist. A hundred feet up the big granite slabs of the ridge I looked to the right and found only cliffs. I went left to find easier terrain then worked back to the right at 9100'. Here was a grassy bench with a nearly vertical granite wall above. A big snow patch lingered here. I went to the far right and found... what looked like an animal trail.

The route traversed down at the base of a cliff band. It started out looking pretty good. The hillside was only gently sloped on this ramp before turning back to cliffs below. No doubt why animals used this route. I scrambled over some logs and several talus fields and the route kept going. I left a few cairns to help with the return trip. Soon the ramp dropped more steeply or continued straight ahead. I chose straight. I quickly came to a viewpoint of many of the lakes right below me. Ahead the ridge turned into a 300' sheer cliff  but  below was a grassy rocky slope down to the lakes. Mission accomplished. This unlikely route turns 4+ miles each way of trail and off trail via Ardeth Lake into 6/10th of a mile of scrambling.

It was still only 2:00 pm so I had the whole afternoon to explore. The lakes are fantastic. It is an old glacial moraine below Glens Peak with the lakes set one after another. Granite dominates everywhere. What isn't lake or rock is grass and heather covered meadows. There are some sub alpine trees here too. I visited each of the half dozen lakes plus three or four ponds. I was a little nervous about retracing my steps as there is no easy alternative that does not involve going all the way around Ardeth Lake. I had no trouble finding the route back up onto the ridge.

I knew the mosquitoes were out in force at the lake and the ridge was still windy. I chose to spend an hour on the ridge above Lake 8866. I finally came down for dinner. All in all, the day was a great success. I only hiked about 7 1/2 miles with 2100' of gain but the exploration and afternoon in Ten Lakes Basin was the highlight of the trip.

Morning Light On Lake
Light On Peaks
Climbing Above Toxaway
Indian Paintbrush
Narrow Trail
Dear Above Pass
Above Toxaway Divide
Sand Mountain
Lake Across Divide
More Mountains
Ridge To Sand Mt.
White Mariposa Lily
Shooting Stars
Edna Lake
Lake 8866
Scramble Route
Basin Is Below
Basin & Glens Peak
Scramble Down Route
Ridge Gets Cliffy
First Lake In Basin
Meadow In Basin
Lake & Moraine
Route Climbs Ridge
Big Tree
Another Meadow
Lake & Granite
Cliffy Route
Ardeth Lake
Ridge Above Lake 8866
Great Scrambling
Campsite Is Below
Campsite Peninsula
Underwater Frog
Home For The Night
Vernon Lake
Ten Lakes Basin
Granite Slab Islands
Ten Lakes Panorama
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

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Sawtooth Traverse Report