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Mt Margaret Loop & Snow Report

Posted: June 5th, 2019, 6:46 pm
by Schrauf
I did a Mount Margaret loop yesterday, June 4. Coldwater Lake TR clockwise along the lake to Snow Lake, Whittier Ridge and then back westbound on the Boundary Trail, Coldwater Ridge Trail and finally Hwy 504 for the last mile to complete the loop.

Saw a few elk and a herd of goats from Whittier Ridge, and a bobcat (or baby cougar - it was very light tan?) near Mt Teragram. But not one person until I was walking on Hwy 504.

Patches of snow started a bit before Snow Lake at about 4.6k. Widespread snow as the trail approached the base of Whittier Ridge, and I switched from trekking poles to crampons & ice axe to ascend the short, steep northern end of the ridge. Once on the ridge I hiked the entire stretch with just trekking poles - as expected/hoped the top of the ridge and SW-facing side of the ridge were entirely melted out. No new rock slides or issues on the ridge, just the typical Class 3 sections. This ridge has some exposure and scrambling not everyone enjoys, so research before committing.

Approaching the southern end of the ridge where the trail is more consistently on the NE face, I switched back to crampons and axe for several small sections with snow, and then kept them on for the heavier snow coverage approaching the Boundary Trail and past Mt Teragram and Mt Margaret (most of this wasn't steep but it was easier to just keep the crampons on). The trail went back to mostly dirt from Dome Camp, past St Helens Lake and further west.

Overall about 2 miles in crampons out of 22 miles for the loop, some of that on dirt because it kept switching, and the crampons are not as quick to switch out as microspikes. I would have been comfortable with microspikes rather than crampons except when initially attaining the northern end of Whittier Ridge, mostly because it was still early and frozen solid (and probably the steepest slope all day). But the axe was essential, at least for me. I cut steps several times just to attain the ridge.

Dome Camp is the most melted out other than Ridge Camp, which is of course wide open. Snow Camp is close to being melted and has a flat sandy area near the normal camping pad, but the pad itself still seemed snowy from a distance. Margaret Camp has heavy snow.

For comparison in future years, Swift Creek SNOTEL at 4.4k had 24 inches of snow depth.

Coldwater Lake at 6 AM:
The Dome (left) and Coldwater Peak from the North:
Snow Lake:
North side of Mt Teragram and Mt Margaret:
Snow on the NE-facing side of Whittier Ridge:
Bobcat or baby cougar at Mt Teragram (light object near center - already heavily cropped so blurry):
St Helens Lake:
Mt Rainier:
Mt Adams:

Re: Mt Margaret Snow Report

Posted: June 5th, 2019, 7:36 pm
by Bosterson
Wow, I love that loop (best dayhike within a few hours of Portland in any direction), but I've never seen anyone do it this early in the season. That's a long day even when the trail is dry. Strong work! How were the bugs? (I'm headed that way in a few weeks.)

Re: Mt Margaret Snow Report

Posted: June 6th, 2019, 5:39 am
by Schrauf
I was pretty beat, out there for 12 hours including 90 minutes for stops. It's more the clambering on the ridge and snow travel that made it tough - 12 hours of just moderate hiking wouldn't be too bad. Plus I wasn't resting much until I made it down the west slope of Mt Margaret, once I was certain I could complete the loop and not be stopped by a wall of snow (although once I was off the ridge it seemed like a fairly good chance).

No bugs at all! I've also been there in July and September several times and never had heavy bug pressure, even near the lakes. Not sure why.

Re: Mt Margaret Loop & Snow Report

Posted: June 11th, 2019, 6:56 pm
by keithcomess
I'm interested in updates on this loop, too! Please post your report.

Thanks in advance,

Re: Mt Margaret Loop & Snow Report

Posted: June 11th, 2019, 8:00 pm
by Chip Down
That "snow on the NE-facing side of Whittier Ridge" seems so out of place. I wouldn't be able to resist taking that route instead of bare ground! :D

Re: Mt Margaret Loop & Snow Report

Posted: June 12th, 2019, 10:33 am
by Schrauf
I received this email today because I have a camping permit in the area this fall:

"The Lakes Trail #211 has experienced a landslide event approximately 8 miles east of Coldwater Lake Trailhead near Snow Lake. While Forest Service and Volunteer trail crews are working to clear the area, it will be some time before work is complete. Please use caution if hiking in this area."

It's unlikely a new slide occurred since I was there last week. There were two gullies that were steep and washed out on the climb to Snow Lake, but nothing worse than Whittier Ridge itself. Probably not an issue for most people.

Re: Mt Margaret Loop & Snow Report

Posted: June 14th, 2019, 7:33 am
by keithcomess

Thanks for the perspective on the Forest Service report on the Trail 211 landslides. I received the same mail and posted it on "Trail Rx".


Re: Mt Margaret Loop & Snow Report

Posted: June 15th, 2019, 4:36 pm
by K.Wagner
I was about to ask the same question, since you had said nothing about slides. The 2 slides you went over have been there for at least 5 years, they just seem to get a little worse every year.
For those of you have never had the pleasure of hiking this trail, here is a picture from a couple of years ago.
I rate these 2 crossings as: "not for those with exposure issues"

Re: Mt Margaret Loop & Snow Report

Posted: June 15th, 2019, 5:51 pm
by Schrauf
I don't recall anything so rocky, so maybe some of that has flushed down the hill. They were more just steep gullies that required some large steps up/down. A fear of exposure might create some concerns about these sections, but if one is connecting the loop via Whittier Ridge, it won't be any worse than several other spots on the ridge with steeper exposure. If one is just going in to Snow Lake and back, then the gullies will definitely be the toughest part of the hike. But still not that bad. Disclaimer - I hike a lot of poorly maintained trails and off trail, so my perspective might be skewed.

Re: Mt Margaret Loop & Snow Report

Posted: June 16th, 2019, 6:23 pm
by K.Wagner
Agreed, that if one is already planning on doing the Mt Whittier loop, then this little slide is of minimal concern!

Perhaps just usage has smoothed these slide sections out some. I hope so, we are spending 5 days at Snow Lake, to do local climbing (Minnie Peak and others to the NW), so will be traveling with full packs.