Broken Top’s East Cirque Lake 9-13-18

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bobcat
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Broken Top’s East Cirque Lake 9-13-18

Post by bobcat » September 22nd, 2018, 9:19 am

Staying at Sunriver, I did a bunch of day hikes while doing my own version of rehabilitating a twisted left knee. The final excursion, aided by my two trekking poles, was the six-mile round trip from the Broken Top Trailhead to the pass above Broken Top’s east cirque to take in the East Cirque lake as well as a glorious view, despite the somewhat cloudy day, of the Three Sisters and the eastern slopes of the wilderness.

Half the excitement of the outing is the drive in. From Todd Lake, it’s almost five miles up the 370 and then 380 spurs off the Cascade Lakes Highway to the trailhead. I made it quite easily in my Honda CR-V (Yes, clearance and very low gear are necessary, and the track was dusty but dry). The main difficulty driving in was lower down - the sharp contrast between sunlight and shaded patches and slamming into potholes in the deep shade before the eyes adjusted. I went in quite early, and the main problem driving out was meeting cars coming in and scraping by them on the narrow track – this a little more harrowing as you get down lower towards Todd Lake.

The hike itself is an alpine pleasure, perhaps the easiest alpine hike with the biggest bang for the distance – if you can appreciate the road trip in – of any alpine hike in the state. Mountain hemlock woods give way to hemlock/subalpine fir parklands with whitebark pines taking over higher up.

Trailhead sign, Broken Top Trail.jpg
Ball Butte, Broken Top Trail.jpg
Broken Top (south cirque) from the Broken Top Trail.jpg

The established trail to the lake leaves the Broken Top Trail at a signless post and ascends the lake’s outflow creek, passing two small waterfalls. Ball Butte is to your right, and Broken Hand dominates the ridge ahead. All the while, Broken Top’s colorful layered ridges stab into the firmament, and you get glimpses of the Crook Glacier issuing from the expansive south cirque.

Small waterfall and Broken Hand, Bend Glacier Trail.jpg
Looking into Broken Top from the Bend Glacier Trail.jpg
Broken Hand and whitebark parklands, Bend Glacier Trail.jpg
Moraine meadow, Bend Glacier Trail.jpg
Below Broken Hand, Bend Glacier Trail.jpg

I arrived at a debris basin below imposing moraines, and hiked up into a notch to the shore of the East Cirque Lake. The remnants of the eastern portion of the now disjunct Bend Glacier hung above the pure turquoise meltwater lake hemmed in by the steeply sloping moraines. A lone dipper hopped the shoreline, and a pair of hikers with a tripod set up were oohing and aahing at the rugged topography.

Looking to the East Bend Glacier, Bend Glacier Trail.jpg
Route to the pass, East Cirque Lake, Broken Top.jpg
Hikers at East Cirque Lake, Broken Top.jpg
View to the pass, East Cirque Lake, Broken Top.jpg
Shore of East Cirque Lake, Broken Top.jpg

Hiking up to the pass where once the Bend Glacier spilled, I encountered a flock of water pipits and a pair of mountain bluebirds. The view took in two tarns below the larger north portion of the Bend Glacier and across Park and Red Meadows to the Three Sisters. Even though clouds had settled on the summits, I was satisfied – it was a welcome change from the thick fire haze of just a couple days before.

North slopes of Broken Top.jpg
Colored layers, Viewpoint pass, Broken Top.jpg
Bend Glacier tarns, Viewpoint pass, Broken Top.jpg
Dike, banded rock, and South Sister from Viewpoint pass, Broken Top.jpg

I passed numerous single hikers and groups heading back to parking which had filled by a varied array of AWD vehicles with more coming in on the drive down.

Snow patch, Viewpoint pass, Broken Top.jpg
Outlet of East Cirque Lake, Broken Top.jpg
Mt. Bachelor from the Bend Glacier Trail.jpg

Because I’ve read an incredible amount of misinformation about the geology of Broken Top, here are some notes:

* The popular name for the lake, which William L. Sullivan calls ‘Crater Lake,’ seems to be ‘No Name Lake.’ Well, the lake is not in a crater; it’s a cirque lake below the eastern remnant of the Bend Glacier, so maybe East Cirque Lake or Bend Glacier Lake?

* The Bend Glacier has its biggest remnant on the north side of the viewpoint pass above the lake, but USGS topo maps still show it as it was within living memory, wrapped around the entire north and east sides of Broken Top.

* There are no craters on Broken Top. What is often called the crater is actually the south cirque, which houses the Crook Glacier. Broken Top didn’t blow its top, at least in its last iteration as a normal volcano, to create a crater like Crater Lake or Mt. St. Helens. Likewise, there is no lake in the south cirque. There’s a volcanic plug from Broken Top’s core vent near the true summit, somewhat indistinguishable from the surrounding eroded pinnacles. Broken Top is a 300,000 year-old highly eroded stratovolcano, severely modified in its aspect as the glaciers have carved their way back to its core. It is part of a province of some 50 lava-spewing vents in the Three Sisters area.

* The notch through which the user trail accesses East Cirque Lake was the site of a major breach in October 1966. It is surmised that a calving iceberg from the Bend Glacier (way more substantial then) displaced water in the lake, which breached the moraines here. The accumulating debris poured down the alpine meadows, intersected with the Crater Creek Ditch, and then joined the Soda Creek drainage to bury a section of the Cascade Lakes Highway and fan out as a debris delta on the northern shore of Sparks Lake. Wouldn't have liked to have been hiking up there on that day . . .

* The Crater Creek Ditch is a human-formed anomaly and is the cause of one of those weird wilderness boundary adjustments, where non-wilderness land points like a finger at Broken Top’s south cirque. The ditch channels meltwater from the south cirque and Crook Glacier, naturally destined for Crater Creek, instead to the Middle Fork Tumalo Creek and thus into the City of Bend Watershed.

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justpeachy
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Re: Broken Top’s East Cirque Lake 9-13-18

Post by justpeachy » September 22nd, 2018, 10:05 am

Beautiful! And thanks for the geology notes. Your post reminds me that the window for alpine hikes is quickly closing. Gotta squeeze in a few more in before winter!
I made it quite easily in my Honda CR-V
I have never driven that road but have heard nothing but horrible things about it. I wonder how it compares to another horrible road - Road 4109 to the northern trailhead on Silver Star.
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Don Nelsen
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Re: Broken Top’s East Cirque Lake 9-13-18

Post by Don Nelsen » September 22nd, 2018, 10:29 am

justpeachy wrote:
September 22nd, 2018, 10:05 am
Beautiful! And thanks for the geology notes. Your post reminds me that the window for alpine hikes is quickly closing. Gotta squeeze in a few more in before winter!
I made it quite easily in my Honda CR-V
I have never driven that road but have heard nothing but horrible things about it. I wonder how it compares to another horrible road - Road 4109 to the northern trailhead on Silver Star.

Having driven both 370/380 and 4109 this year I can say, without a doubt, 4109 is the worst by far.
"Everything works in the planning stage".

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Chip Down
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Re: Broken Top’s East Cirque Lake 9-13-18

Post by Chip Down » September 22nd, 2018, 1:11 pm

Oh, I didn't realize the main central "crater" is just a cirque. Damn big one. I could swear I saw a lake in there once, but it's been ages, so not sure. Maybe just a little pool.

That 1966 event would have been something to see! (as long as it wasn't the last thing you saw)

Might sound crazy, but one of the reasons I haven't explored the east side much (beyond Broken Hand and no-name) is because I fear I'd get obsessed. Maybe the best strategy would be to pick a week with good weather and just go exploring in a series of day hikes, with maybe a trip to Bend to clean up and re-supply and eat a real meal.

Good luck with that knee!

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oldandslow
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Re: Broken Top’s East Cirque Lake 9-13-18

Post by oldandslow » September 22nd, 2018, 2:03 pm

Terrific report. My son and I are going to Sunriver next week and had contemplated going to Broken Top. This report should seal the deal.
Crater Creek Ditch does indeed divert water into the City of Bend watershed but after it passes Tumalo Falls an equivalent amount of water is diverted to irrigation canals for agricultural use.
The 1966 event made a mess of Soda Creek in the meadow after it passes under Century Drive. For several years a major rehabilitation project has been going on the restore Soda Creek to its past meandering appearance. There is a plaque in the campground describing the project. The appearance of the creek is much improved.

johnspeth
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Re: Broken Top’s East Cirque Lake 9-13-18

Post by johnspeth » September 22nd, 2018, 2:30 pm

I think that's the lake where an elk herd was caught in an avalanche then exposed a year later. Read about it here: https://www.bendbulletin.com/localstate ... -avalanche.

The Bend Bulletin called the lake No Name. Is East Cirque lake the same lake? Did you happen to see dead elk in the snow across the lake?

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bobcat
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Re: Broken Top’s East Cirque Lake 9-13-18

Post by bobcat » September 22nd, 2018, 3:28 pm

johnspeth wrote:
September 22nd, 2018, 2:30 pm
I think that's the lake where an elk herd was caught in an avalanche then exposed a year later.
That's amazing. I wish I had known so I could have gotten closer. Looking at my photos, the resolution isn't good enough to be certain, but there are a number of elk-sized "boulders" in the circled area (remnant piece of the east section of the Bend Glacier).
Elk at Noname.png
johnspeth wrote:
September 22nd, 2018, 2:30 pm
Is East Cirque lake the same lake?
Yes. Sullivan's "Crater Lake" = my "East Cirque Lake" = Noname Lake = No Name Lake.
oldandslow wrote:
September 22nd, 2018, 2:03 pm
after it passes Tumalo Falls an equivalent amount of water is diverted to irrigation canals for agricultural use.
Thanks for that information. It makes sense. Thanks also for the update on the Soda Creek restoration.
Don Nelsen wrote:
September 22nd, 2018, 10:29 am
Having driven both 370/380 and 4109 this year I can say, without a doubt, 4109 is the worst by far.
I'd agree. The lower section of the 370 has a steeper section of lurching undulations that are filled with bull dust. Once you get past that, the worst is over. This year, they've actually done some patching with aggregate in the upper section on 380.

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BurnsideBob
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Re: Broken Top’s East Cirque Lake 9-13-18

Post by BurnsideBob » September 24th, 2018, 7:18 am

Thank you for a most excellent trip report. Maybe next summer for us!!!!
I keep making protein shakes but they always turn out like margaritas.

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