Adams: Riley Creek to Pinnacle Glacier

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Chip Down
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Adams: Riley Creek to Pinnacle Glacier

Post by Chip Down » October 29th, 2020, 9:03 pm

Riley Creek has a very well-defined source; it doesn't just start as a bunch of dribbles that merge as they flow down the mountain. Follow the creek up, and it ends at a good-sized moraine lake on Pinnacle Glacier. That's right up my alley, so I had to go check it out. There are a few other lakes nestled in the Pinnacle Glacier moraines, and I hoped I would have time/energy to find some.

I hiked up the Riley Camp Trail to PCT, turned south and followed PCT for just a few minutes to Riley Creek, and started up. There wasn't much flow, and at a little waterfall it was completely frozen. It was a mundane boring ascent, but brush was light, and there were no route/terrain challenges. Rather abruptly, I went from sparse subalpine forest to a rubble field. Ugh. I boulder-hopped my way up. It wasn't too bad, just required attention and balance. I followed the creekbed through a low notch in the moraine, and saw nothing but a muddy lakebed. Not an auspicious start to my adventures. But as I walked out onto the lakebed, I saw a pool at the fringe. It was scenic, so Riley Lake somewhat redeemed itself.

It was only 9am, about 1:15 after sunrise. What next? I could make a list of the lakes I wanted to visit, prioritize the list, and see how many I could find. But the route inefficiency would make it unlikely I'd see them all. Or I could put together the most efficient route to see them all, and walk that route until I run out of time, thus possibly not getting to the ones I wanted to see most. Hmm. A dilemma. I went with option two, but decided to watch the time and adjust accordingly if it looked like I wouldn't finish in time.

I pulled it off, made it to all the lakes, and even a bonus dry lakebed that was outside my original scope, because it was affiliated with Adams Glacier and drained into the valley that hosts the Lewis River head.

Ever look at a map, then look at the surrounding terrain, and found it hard to reconcile? I didn't have that problem on this trip. There were so many crisp features that were easy to match up to the map.

The biggest route risk was the loooong moraine crest I followed (see my map below). From the high end of the moraine, the crest rose slightly. From the high point, it looked like it was probably safe to follow the crest all the way down, but there were some hidden segments. I ran the risk of hitting a gendarme boulder, or a knife-edge section. It worked out great though. I was glad I opted to follow the crest, rather than dropping into the parallel valley.

I had set a goal to be at my last lake by 4pm. That was arbitrary, as I didn't really know what the descent to the PCT would be like. I guessed a couple hours. I got to that lake at 3:25, and my reward was that it wasn't entirely swallowed up in the shadow of its moraine. I was pleased to see part of it in direct sun.

The hike down to PCT was pretty uneventful. Rubble, brush, nothing too awful. Arrived at PCT less than a hundred yards from the Riley junction! Took just 70 minutes from the last lake to PCT, so that gave me time to enjoy the scenery on trail, which I had missed out on in the morning. By the time it got dark, I was out of the burn zone and into the deep forest, so I think I saw everything important.
Attachments
0.jpg
The three blue circles are tarns not on map, so I added them.
1a.jpg
Riley Lake, detail.
1b.jpg
Riley Lake from above.
2.jpg
3.jpg
Ample snow, obvious notch where outlet creek flows, but dry.
4.jpg
Not only dry, but ugly too.
5.jpg
6.jpg
7.jpg
The only flowing water I saw in the alpine zone. Nice spot, very scenic.
8.jpg
Walkin' in the snow, smokin' nothing, sippin' on gin and juice, laid back, with my mind on my hiking and my hiking on my mind.

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retired jerry
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Re: Adams: Riley Creek to Pinnacle Glacier

Post by retired jerry » October 30th, 2020, 5:23 am

I camped there a couple years ago, not quite as far up though

There was constant rockfall off Adams Glacier above

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drm
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Re: Adams: Riley Creek to Pinnacle Glacier

Post by drm » October 30th, 2020, 6:04 am

Upper Riley is extremely popular. In mid-summer lots of people go up there at least to the mid 6000s, camp and explore. Waterfalls and easy terrain. Last time I went, I stopped where it got real rock-hoppy.

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Don Nelsen
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Re: Adams: Riley Creek to Pinnacle Glacier

Post by Don Nelsen » October 30th, 2020, 9:04 am

Nice TR! You sure had a day of it. Plugging your track into my map program I get about 16 miles and over 5,100' EG. Wow!

Tanqueray with watermelon juice is a nice touch. Good work.

dn
"Everything works in the planning stage".

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Chip Down
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Re: Adams: Riley Creek to Pinnacle Glacier

Post by Chip Down » October 30th, 2020, 11:14 am

retired jerry wrote:
October 30th, 2020, 5:23 am
There was constant rockfall off Adams Glacier above
Yep, it's those goats. ;)
drm wrote:
October 30th, 2020, 6:04 am
Last time I went, I stopped where it got real rock-hoppy.
Yeah, that's the natural place to stop. Going higher really only makes sense if you have a specific plan/goal. That rubble field doesn't entice one to explore randomly.
Don Nelsen wrote:
October 30th, 2020, 9:04 am
Nice TR! You sure had a day of it. Plugging your track into my map program I get about 16 miles and over 5,100' EG. Wow!
Oh, interesting. So let's see, about 1mph I guess. I've never created a GPS track, so I never know my stats. I probably would have guessed about 1mph, but the elevation gain surprises me. I wasn't really thinking about it. It would be interesting to do it again with perfect snow conditions and see how much faster it goes.
And, you know, maybe even sober. :lol:

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Don Nelsen
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Re: Adams: Riley Creek to Pinnacle Glacier

Post by Don Nelsen » November 5th, 2020, 7:47 pm

Chip Down wrote:
October 30th, 2020, 11:14 am
Oh, interesting. So let's see, about 1mph I guess. I've never created a GPS track, so I never know my stats. I probably would have guessed about 1mph, but the elevation gain surprises me. I wasn't really thinking about it. It would be interesting to do it again with perfect snow conditions and see how much faster it goes.
And, you know, maybe even sober. :lol:
It's amazing how much vertical you can grab when wandering around enjoying the scenery. Here's what your map and EG profile looks like with the info you posted added to my track for the Riley trail and the little bit of PCT you hiked. It's conservative, too, because it doesn't show all the zigs and zags one has to do for off-trail hiking.
Image

dn

Here it is at better resolution on my fototime site:
Map of Chip's hike
Last edited by Don Nelsen on November 6th, 2020, 10:01 am, edited 1 time in total.
"Everything works in the planning stage".

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Chip Down
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Re: Adams: Riley Creek to Pinnacle Glacier

Post by Chip Down » November 5th, 2020, 10:09 pm

Every January, somebody starts a topic encouraging us to post our annual hiking stats for the year that just ended. I never have any idea how many miles or EG I accomplished. Don, can you go back and look at all the TR's I posted, and work up the numbers for me?
[No, really, don't; I'm the neurotic/obsessed type, and it would just give me one more thing to fixate on.]

I used to create elevation profiles for various routes on Rainier, to pick the best route from A to B. These days I mostly size up the terrain and trust my gut.

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Don Nelsen
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Re: Adams: Riley Creek to Pinnacle Glacier

Post by Don Nelsen » November 7th, 2020, 2:05 pm

Chip Down wrote:
November 5th, 2020, 10:09 pm
Every January, somebody starts a topic encouraging us to post our annual hiking stats for the year that just ended. I never have any idea how many miles or EG I accomplished. Don, can you go back and look at all the TR's I posted, and work up the numbers for me?
[No, really, don't; I'm the neurotic/obsessed type, and it would just give me one more thing to fixate on.]

I used to create elevation profiles for various routes on Rainier, to pick the best route from A to B. These days I mostly size up the terrain and trust my gut.
If at all, I'd say you (as well as me) are on the very mild side of anything close to obsessive. Believe me, I know some folks who are the poster children for that! I'm not saying it's a bad thing, though, just interesting, and IMO can lead a person to great feats in many endeavors. It can also get one killed, but that's another story.

dn
"Everything works in the planning stage".

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retired jerry
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Re: Adams: Riley Creek to Pinnacle Glacier

Post by retired jerry » November 7th, 2020, 2:17 pm

I put each hike in a spreadsheet. Miles, EG.

I guess I'm obsessive/neurotic :)

These days I only do several day backpack trips so there aren't as many.

When deciding on my next trip, I go back to previous years to see trips I did that particular month

I try not to be a slacker and do much fewer miles and EG than previous years. This year I did more days but fewer miles per day - lazy I guess

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