Adams: discovery of an unusual alpine lake

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Chip Down
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Adams: discovery of an unusual alpine lake

Post by Chip Down » October 9th, 2020, 12:37 pm

On my recent ascent to Lava Glacier a couple days ago, I spotted a lake that's story-worthy.

It started with a moraine I walked past that had a huge boulder parked on its high point. In a featureless landscape, it was a good landmark. I didn't really need a reference point for this hike, but it was an attention grabber anyway. Higher, as I looked down and surveyed my ascent route so far, I noticed the reference boulder, and muttered "is that a lake back there"? Binocs confirmed. I planned to visit on my descent, if time allowed. Higher still, I could see the moraine and the lake basin were separated by a chasm, so I wasn't guaranteed success.

Hours later, on my descent, I stood on my reference moraine and groaned when I saw how far I'd have to drop, only to re-ascend back to the lake. But then I thought about the fact that I had to drop anyway, to get back on trail. So maybe it was worth a shot.

Getting to the lake was extremely fast/easy, absolutely worth it. Bonus: it's fed by a mini snowfield that I couldn't see from above. I would guess it completely melts in extremely dry/warm years.

A few things that make this significant:
- At 6800', it's unusually high for a rock-bordered lake. Usually at this elevation you'd expect moraine till around the edges. This is obviously in the zone of recent glaciation, but the basin is protected by sturdy rocks (which are, of course, glacier polished).
- It's nearly the biggest lake I could find on Google Maps at/above this elevation. Exceptions: Glacier Lake (much larger), Gotchen Tarn (which is actually presently a dustbowl), and Iceberg Lake.
- Commanding view of the mountain.
- Clear water, not muddy/silty (incidentally, it just now dawned on me that glacial tarns must have a tendency to be short lived, because they act as sediment dams for glacial silt).

I walked around to the far side and discovered something shocking in the sandy/muddy shore: boot prints! Strange place to visit. There's presently no outlet creek to entice passersby, nor any local features of interest that would lure off-trail hikers. My visit was a fluke, and I came from the other side.

Time to go. I checked my map, and saw that the trail system partly wrapped around me. I could descend in any reasonable direction and hit a trail. I started down the mostly-dry outlet creek to a pretty meadow, where a side spring turned it into a real flowing creek, which I suspect is the creek that passes Foggy Flat before flowing into Muddy Fork far below. As soon as it got a little brushy, I bailed, and explored a series of parallel gullies to the east until I finally found my trail.
Attachments
0.jpg
Reference boulder on right moraine.
1.jpg
This is where I first noticed a lake hiding back there.
2.jpg
Lake as seen from my reference moraine.
3.jpg
Off in the distance, notice the grassy dome visible through the saddle in the moraine. That's where I turned to look back, and spotted the lake.
4.jpg
overhanging edge of snowfield at lake shore. Exploring opportunities for bold cavers.
5.jpg
Was this you?
6.jpg
Outlet creek, moist but not running. Reference boulder indicated.
7.jpg
Where a spring really gets the flow going.
8.jpg
I parked this pic on my phone for my hike, not realizing until I got home that my bonus lake is shown here.
9.jpg
A closer look.

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adamschneider
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Re: Adams: discovery of an unusual alpine lake

Post by adamschneider » October 9th, 2020, 6:02 pm

It's on the USGS topo maps too. Mt. Adams has a lot of unnamed, unheralded stuff.
Adams.jpg

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Chip Down
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Re: Adams: discovery of an unusual alpine lake

Post by Chip Down » October 9th, 2020, 7:10 pm

adamschneider wrote:
October 9th, 2020, 6:02 pm
It's on the USGS topo maps too. Mt. Adams has a lot of unnamed, unheralded stuff.

Adams.jpg
Indeed, as I was surveying the mountain via map to confirm my suspicion that this lake is unusual, I spotted a trio of smaller moraine lakes that warrant exploration. Praying for a clear day before the first big snowstorm of the season.

That's such a huge mountain, one could spend a lifetime exploring every nook and cranny.

bushwhacker
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Re: Adams: discovery of an unusual alpine lake

Post by bushwhacker » October 10th, 2020, 5:49 am

Here's a few more from back in 2013. I was lugging a Nikon D300 with a 18-200mm lens back in those days. Heavy as hell but took great pictures plus you could use a polarizer filter.
DSC_9130.JPG
DSC_9120.JPG
I had the feeling I was being watched the entire time I was there :D .
DSC_9114.JPG

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Chip Down
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Re: Adams: discovery of an unusual alpine lake

Post by Chip Down » October 10th, 2020, 7:19 am

Bushwhacker, what took you there? Word of mouth, spotted from above, saw it on map, just random exploration?

Looks like maybe August? You got to see it a little higher, without the sand/mud shore. Was there an outlet creek?

bushwhacker
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Re: Adams: discovery of an unusual alpine lake

Post by bushwhacker » October 11th, 2020, 6:38 am

Chip Down wrote:
October 10th, 2020, 7:19 am
Bushwhacker, what took you there? Word of mouth, spotted from above, saw it on map, just random exploration?

Looks like maybe August? You got to see it a little higher, without the sand/mud shore. Was there an outlet creek?

Definitely random wandering. I always had old school paper topo maps (this is before GAIA and CALTOPO) and I had to smile with your picture of that reference boulder. I used that rock for the same purpose. I wandered through that area more then once and even have a picture some where standing next to that reference boulder.

I never saw an outlet creek for that lake. I think the slow snow melt equaled the the amount of evaporation and ground seepage due to the sandy nature of the soil there. There is even a beach at that lake.
DSC_9131.JPG
Water reappears further down so that maybe where it goes.
DSC_9140.JPG

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Don Nelsen
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Re: Adams: discovery of an unusual alpine lake

Post by Don Nelsen » October 11th, 2020, 11:07 am

Nice TR. Your recent Mt. Adams wanderings are inspiring me to spend more time up there. Thanks!

dn
"Everything works in the planning stage".

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retired jerry
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Re: Adams: discovery of an unusual alpine lake

Post by retired jerry » October 11th, 2020, 11:39 am

yeah, same here, a whole other mountain not too far away

(though I did do a short trip there to Foggy Flat this summer)

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Chip Down
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Re: Adams: discovery of an unusual alpine lake

Post by Chip Down » October 11th, 2020, 9:29 pm

Ah, so there's probably never/rarely a flowing outlet creek, probably just intermittent trickle down the little creekbed. That's the main thing that would lure visitors to the lake. Thanks for your participation in this topic, Bushwhacker, very fun and informative.
Don Nelsen wrote:
October 11th, 2020, 11:07 am
Nice TR. Your recent Mt. Adams wanderings are inspiring me to spend more time up there. Thanks!

dn
I explored all over Adams in the 20th century, but haven't been back in this millennium, until this year. My return was due to the fires. I started looking at either Rainier or Adams, and Adams won out. I just noticed a little wedge I overlooked, so I'm watching for a break in the weather.

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