Adams: Sunrise Camp via Gotchen Glacier, Iceberg Lake

Discussions and Trip Reports for off-trail adventures and rediscovering lost trails
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Chip Down
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Joined: November 8th, 2014, 8:41 pm

Adams: Sunrise Camp via Gotchen Glacier, Iceberg Lake

Post by Chip Down » September 22nd, 2020, 10:39 pm

ROUTE SUMMARY: South Climber's Trail to RTM Trail, right/CCW on RTM trail, to lava flow (highest trail on Adams other than south climb, I think), leave trail and ascend to Gotchen moraine, detour to moraine crest and back down, ascend on a gentle CCW spiral and meet "trail" #20 at the base of the ridge/moraine that leads to Iceberg Lake, then standard route to Sunrise Camp, up to Ridge of Wonders, drop off ridge for a lower return loop, finishing with a tour through the Bird Creek area. Whew.

THE MOST DISCOURAGING PART OF THE DAY: When I reached the crest of the ridge/moraine that leads to Iceberg Lake, I looked across Hellroaring Canyon to Sunrise Camp, and it looked impossible. It wasn't just the distance, or the elevation; it was the jumbled chaotic terrain, the countless routefinding challenges. I might have given up, but I've been to Sunrise on different routes, so I knew it was possible.

WATER THEME: This hike was all about water, in so many ways:
- Gotchen tarn was dry. Hmm.
- Every creek I encountered was silty (glacial) or polluted (Bird Creek and surroundings) except one clean reliable spring early in the day. I didn't know that would be my only good water source, but I loaded up there anyway, fortunately.
- I wasn't expecting Iceberg Lake to be brown. I'd heard it described as clear or blue.
- Suddenly, upon reaching Hellroaring Creek, I was accompanied by snow and a beautiful elaborate braided network of Hellroaring forks almost all the way to Sunrise.
- On my wonderings through Bird Creek and surroundings, water was everywhere. Compare that to just one creek encountered on my parallel higher ascent route. It was the subalpine analogue to the fun Hellroaring forks.

DIFFICULTY: While researching this trip, I noticed many hikers (including some here) reported difficulty finding Iceberg Lake. But it's actually beyond Iceberg Lake where the trail virtually disappears and you have to find your own way. So if you struggle to find Iceberg Lake, I would suggest calling it quits there, since it's only going to get harder. Also, consider that backtracking from Sunset to Iceberg might be unsettling if visibility is poor, so watch the skies and be prepared to retreat.

ROUTE TIP: When you're ascending the ridge just below Iceberg Lake, look across Hellroaring Canyon in the general direction of Sunrise. There's an obvious waterfall. Others are in the distance, but one is relatively close and hard to miss (of course, this might vary depending on snow coverage and melting). I thought my route was going to be higher, so I was surprised when I found myself at the base of the falls. On my return from Sunrise, I followed a Hellroaring fork that I was sure would take me well below the falls, but nope, I ended up there again, due to forks merging above the falls. So, if my experience is typical, you should aim for the falls after leaving Iceberg, and expect that your return from Sunrise will probably tend to naturally gravitate to the top of the falls.

SHORTCUT TO SUNSET CAMP VIA HIGH ROUTE ABOVE GOTCHEN GLACIER AND ICEBERG LAKE? There's been discussion here about accessing Sunset by ascending the south climbers route almost to Crescent Glacier, then veer right to pass above South Butte, continue CCW above Gotchen Glacier, and continue above Iceberg Lake, while staying below Mazama Glacier. As others have reported, it's a bit sketchy in spots, and in my experience it doesn't save much time. I've done it at least twice, and I don't think the reward/risk ratio is favorable. YMMV.

OTHER PARTIES: Didn't see or hear any humans all day. Did see some boot prints along the way. Saw some deer, chipmunks, and goats, lots of goats.

SPEAKING OF GOATS: I was hopping from rock to rock through a rugged stretch near Sunrise, when I saw a goat nestled between rocks at my feet. I was too far into my leap; aborting might have thrown me off balance. So I launched and sailed right over him. My closest encounter with a goat. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, that wasn't on the hike I'm reporting here. That must have been 20+ years ago.

SPEAKING OF THE 1990s: This was my first Adams hike in this millennium. My motivation? It's been largely spared from fire/smoke. Also, the anticipated Tract-D opening got me thinking about Adams again.
Gotchen Glacier moraine.jpg
An unusually crisp moraine.
Gotchen Glacier.jpg
Mountains aren't always pretty.
alpine cow pasture.jpg
Highest parkland on this hike.
upper Hellroaring.jpg
From Iceberg Ridge, Sunrise is that obvious saddle off in the distance. My high point is to the right, the highest point on Ridge Of Wonders.
up and down.jpg
While ascending mostly along or near the creek on the right, I spotted that creek at the left edge of pic, and formulated a scheme to descend that way.
glacier parade.jpg
Iceberg Lake as seen from Ridge Of Wonders
Looking towards Sunrise from the waypoint waterfall.
Same place, looking the other direction. Drab, boring.
Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear William, happy birthday to you.
Last edited by Chip Down on September 22nd, 2020, 11:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Chip Down
Posts: 2606
Joined: November 8th, 2014, 8:41 pm

Re: Adams: Sunrise Camp via Gotchen Glacier, Iceberg Lake

Post by Chip Down » September 22nd, 2020, 10:44 pm

See if you can spot the 4x4 sign post in this pic (sign long gone, post remains).
Strange place for a sign.
wheres waldo.jpg

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