Marble Mountains, May 1-4

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cunningkeith
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Joined: June 26th, 2010, 4:28 am
Location: Portland

Marble Mountains, May 1-4

Post by cunningkeith » May 5th, 2016, 9:54 am

Ready to hit some backcountry that is really away from it all? The Marble Mountains fit the bill. I just spent three nights there and didn’t see anybody the entire time (save for a few dayhikers during the first few minutes); the place was empty and wondrous.

I drove to Lovers Camp on the east side of the wilderness just because it was the shortest drive (5:45 from Portland to the trailhead according to google) (my actual drive time was longer with breaks). I traversed most of the wilderness from east to west, starting at Lovers Camp and ending up at Cuddihy Lakes on the west. (15 miles, one-way)

The hike from Lovers Camp up the Canyon Creek Trail was snow-free until about 5,000 feet. By the time that I reached Little Marble Valley, the snow was about four-feet deep. Climbing up to the Marble Rim Trail was the biggest challenge.

Here is a shot at the top of the ridge. It was great to reach a snow-free trail on the south side of the ridge.
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Good view of Marble Mountain
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The rest of the hike heads toward Spirit Lake and then to the Cuddihy Lakes. These trails are mostly south-facing and, therefore, were about 60-70% snow-free.

Looking south
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There were some bear tracks along the way
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And finally a bear (another one of my excellent wildlife shots!).
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I reached Spirit Lake on the first night. Like a lot of the middle section of this hike, Spirit Lake is in a burn area, but not totally burned out. Two campsites were snow-free, which made for a much warmer night than having to camp on the snow.

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Cool marble the next day on the way to Cuddihy Lakes
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Cuddihy Lakes were lovely. I was glad that a few campsites had melted out.

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Leading up to the trip, I had been watching the snowmelt progress and was confident that I would be hitting the Marbles at the very beginning of the snow-free backpacking season. As you can see from the pictures, this was more of a late-season snow-camp than an early season backpack.

The National Snow Analyses 3D Interface is super-cool and provides daily updates on the melt-out for anywhere in the U.S.

http://www.nohrsc.noaa.gov/earth/

Download the snow analysis overlay file and then open it on your computer (must have google earth). What I found, however, was the areas that were “snow-free” according to the analysis were still holding four feet of snow! So much for relying on technology. It made for more of an “adventure” than I had planned, especially since I had only packed my lite hikers for footwear.

For traction I only brought my Yaktrax, which really didn’t seem to help all that much in the slush.
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Anybody have gear suggestions for better traction in the slush? I know it’s best to hike early morning after a freeze, but it didn’t freeze overnight and was mostly in the 60s during the day. This made for tough side-hilling. Other than that, though, this was a great trip to a stunning, out-of-the-way place.

P.S. The ranger at Fort Jones said that most of the cattle permits in the Marbles open for grazing on July 15, so get there before then!

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drm
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Re: Marble Mountains, May 1-4

Post by drm » May 5th, 2016, 9:59 am

Early season trips can be the best, but timing is so critical. I usually do them closer to home since I have a better feel for the timing around here and there are never any crowds near the snow. I expect that the bovine season also is the bug season.

For slush traction, I think snowshoes are really your only option, and that can be nasty if traversing/sidehilling any slopes.

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VanMarmot
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Re: Marble Mountains, May 1-4

Post by VanMarmot » May 5th, 2016, 3:08 pm

Nice TR (and a good snow report). We were wondering if it was time for the Sky Lakes Loop - apparently not quite yet.

We were on this same trail in April 2015 (I thought your #2 photo of Marble Mtn looked familar) except then, thanks to the drought, Marble Mtn looked like this...

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What a difference an El Nino makes! :)

LostTexan
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Re: Marble Mountains, May 1-4

Post by LostTexan » May 6th, 2016, 10:56 am

Thanks so much for the trip report, it was great! I am planning a backpacking trip too and have been monitoring snow level daily just by looking at what Hood River Meadows Resort reports : https://www.skihood.com/the-mountain/conditions
The resort is pretty close to where I am headed and my hoped for camping site is at 5700 elevation. As of today its 5 to 6 ft of snow there! I guess I shall have to wait!
Great bear sighting!
Was your trip everything you dreamed it would be?
I have been looking forward to mine all year.

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cunningkeith
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Location: Portland

Re: Marble Mountains, May 1-4

Post by cunningkeith » May 7th, 2016, 7:18 am

Yes, the trip was really great.

Thanks VanMarmot for the April 2015 photo. It is crazy how much things change, year-to-year. The ranger said that the Marbles were at something like 98% snow water equivalent this year, so I guess the amount of snow I encountered was pretty "normal" for early May.

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