Wallowas: Ice Lake + The Matterhorn, July 11-13, 2014

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RobinB
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Wallowas: Ice Lake + The Matterhorn, July 11-13, 2014

Post by RobinB » July 17th, 2014, 12:11 am

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Opening picture!

After our trip to the Trinity Alps a few weeks ago, my wife and I have been itching for more alpine granite. I can't explain why exactly, but there's just something incomparably wonderful about the white mountains and blue sky. I've never been to the Sierras, but if they're anything like I've heard, I think I now understand why people love them so much. We'll have to go some time very soon. But in the meantime, this past weekend we headed for a short-ish trip up in the Wallowas: up from Wallowa Lake to Ice Lake on Friday, a dayhike up the Matterhorn on Saturday, and back down to the car on Sunday. What an incredible place! A few days isn't close to enough.

We drove out from Portland Thursday night. I don't think I've done that drive since I was a kid, and it's unexpectedly gorgeous. We passed through the desert wind farms on 84 just as the sun was setting, turning their arms and bodies pink, then slowed to a crawl in the dark through the curves on 82 to Joseph. Surreal to know that we were somewhere beautiful, but not to be able to see it. We could hear the river and see the surrounding hills, but had to guess about the details. After crawling through the small towns and a rodeo with the lights off in Elgin, we camped at the Wallowa Lake Campground. It was big and crowded and loud, tents practically pushed up against each other. We woke up at six the next morning to dogs barking and kids crying, quickly took down camp, and were to the Wallowa Lake Trailhead by 6:30. There were a couple guys there cowboy camped on the grass. I wish we'd have thought of that: even a few feet down from the parking lot, they probably had more solitude than we did.

Anyway, the trail is pretty from the outset. For the first few miles, it follows the West Fork of the Wallow River.

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"There's a bridge where we cross, right?"

Then it splits to the right, crosses the river on a new bridge, then heads up, paralleling Adam Creek toward Ice Lake.

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The bridge. I didn't get a good picture on the way up, so this is from the way down.

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Looking up toward... I'm not really sure what this is looking toward. Cusick Mountain? It's pretty, whatever it is...

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The trail passes through a few wildflowered meadows.

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As usual, I have no idea what this is.

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But I'm pretty sure this is a chipmunk. Edit: golden mantled ground squirrel. Thanks, olderthanIusedtobe!

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The amount of water in Adam Creek is just phenomenal. Notice the top falls.

About halfway up, there's a nice meadow where we had an early lunch, and hung out for a while bracing ourselves for the afternoon heat. I didn't see any obvious campsites, but this would make a great place to sleep if you needed it.

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And it has flowers!

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Not sure, #7568.

The climb from the meadow to Ice Lake is very, almost annoyingly, gentle, but in the afternoon heat I was grateful. A few sweaty, hot looking groups passed us doing what I started thinking of as the "Desert Zombie Dance": arms limp, head down, feet dragging. After way more time than I'd like to admit, we eventually hit the Ice Lake basin. There's really no way pictures can do the place justice.

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First view.

We did the usual fussing around looking for an out of the way campsite, went for a (very) short swim in the (very) cold water, made dinner, and were in bed before the sun set.

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View from the tent.

We woke up early-ish the next morning and took a quick mosey around the lake, which is a lot bigger than you'd think.

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View from the far end.

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These weird plants were growing in the marshy areas. Any idea what they are?

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Heather?

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Meadow on the west side of the lake, just before the trail for the Matterhorn.

Then up to the Matterhorn. The trail is obvious enough at first - it leaves from the NW shore of Ice Lake - but is definitely steep.

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Up.

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And up.

After a while, the Matterhorn comes into view. The climb is completely non-technical, but there were a few spots that would have given pause if we were carrying full packs. Then again, it was really hot, and half a flight of stairs probably would have given pause.

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The Matterhorn's the big granite face in the middle. Edit: it's actually limestone! Thanks, Water!

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Red and white.

As we passed onto the Matterhorn's gorgeous granite, the summit (and some mountain goats!) came into view.

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Having some summit snacks.

We interrupted the poor fellows - a parent and kid - on the summit, and they scampered away, indignantly looking back every once in a while to register their displeasure.

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"We were there first, bub."

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"Some people really have no manors."

After signing the summit register with something shmoopy (it was our one year wedding anniversary), we lolled around a while taking pictures of the cool rock formations and surrounding mountains.

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I know, I know, but mountains are so romantic!

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See what I mean? Way better than a candlelit dinner.

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Part of a larger panorama, which you can get in full resolution here (13384 x 1936)

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Eagle Cap Closeup.

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The view over toward Sacajawea Peak

We could have spent hours up there, but after a while we figured we should probably head back, and reluctantly started down toward the lake.

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Ice Lake and a cool tarn. The tarn's on my topo map, but doesn't seem to have a name (?).

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Deer! (You might have to look for a while.)

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The view from maybe halfway down.

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Saying hello again to our lake.

The snow's melting rapidly, but there was enough that it was sometimes easier to glissade than to walk down the loose scree slopes. It was all very soft, and stopping was as easy as just putting down our feet.

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"Can we go again?"

We got back down to the lake around six, took another quick swim, made dinner, and got to bed early, planning to leave around six Sunday morning to get out before the heat.

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Back toward camp.

Even though we left early, the walk out was hot. More people doing the Desert Zombie. I was going slow, and stopped frequently for "picture breaks."

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A tangled mess of flowers, halfway down to the river.

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These things were everywhere, like giant dandelions.

After a lot of sweating, we made it to the car, and started the long drive back to Portland, and to a proper anniversary celebration.

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Last edited by RobinB on July 17th, 2014, 12:08 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Peder
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Re: Wallowas: Ice Lake + The Matterhorn, July 11-13, 2014

Post by Peder » July 17th, 2014, 1:42 am

Not even a selfie on the 1st wedding anniversary? I assume that you were having too much fun to take the selfie! Your photos are outstanding.
Some people are really fit at eighty; thankfully I still have many years to get into shape…

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Eric Peterson
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Re: Wallowas: Ice Lake + The Matterhorn, July 11-13, 2014

Post by Eric Peterson » July 17th, 2014, 5:27 am

Great shots! What camera are you shooting? :)

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Don Nelsen
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Re: Wallowas: Ice Lake + The Matterhorn, July 11-13, 2014

Post by Don Nelsen » July 17th, 2014, 5:32 am

Excellent photos and TR. I'm a little surprised at how much snow remains but the flow in the falls says it is going away fast.

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kepPNW
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Re: Wallowas: Ice Lake + The Matterhorn, July 11-13, 2014

Post by kepPNW » July 17th, 2014, 5:38 am

Excellent TR with fantastic photos! And what a great place for the celebration! This is a place I must get to. :D
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Born2BBrad
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Re: Wallowas: Ice Lake + The Matterhorn, July 11-13, 2014

Post by Born2BBrad » July 17th, 2014, 6:22 am

Thanks for the informative and timely TR. I’m headed out there today to get into the high country for a few days. Expect a TR early next week.

I was wondering about cowboy camping at the TH. I will probably do that now that now rather than dealing with the masses at the state park.
Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.
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justpeachy
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Re: Wallowas: Ice Lake + The Matterhorn, July 11-13, 2014

Post by justpeachy » July 17th, 2014, 6:59 am

Beautiful pictures and great report! The Eagle Cap Wilderness is one of my favorite places in Oregon. It is just so damn beautiful!

Love the "Desert Zombie" thing. :D

olderthanIusedtobe
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Re: Wallowas: Ice Lake + The Matterhorn, July 11-13, 2014

Post by olderthanIusedtobe » July 17th, 2014, 7:22 am

Great TR. Yeah, if you like clean white granite and blue skies, you would definitely enjoy the Sierras. Hundreds and hundreds of miles of trails thru the stuff. Tons of lakes too. The Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Washington offers a fair bit of that kind of terrain as well.

Your chipmunk is a golden mantled ground squirrel. Similar looking, but the chipmunk's stripe extends all along it's body and across it's eye. The golden mantled's stripe ends at it's shoulder.

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Bosterson
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Re: Wallowas: Ice Lake + The Matterhorn, July 11-13, 2014

Post by Bosterson » July 17th, 2014, 9:14 am

Awesome to see so little snow in that area! Ice Lake is the greatest...

Hopefully you went to Terminal Gravity on the way out for creek feet and beer! :D
Will hike off trail for fun.

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Water
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Re: Wallowas: Ice Lake + The Matterhorn, July 11-13, 2014

Post by Water » July 17th, 2014, 9:17 am

very nice. total classic, favorite of mine. Could go back there many times and explore all around the matterhorn. The time always seems to fly

small clarification: the rock around the ice lake is a granitic rock, but the rock of the matterhorn itself is limestone (a much, much softer rock), which is why it is so easy to break and why there are such neat wind and water sculpted features up there.

thanks for the great pictures--yeah camera/lens?
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