Wallowas Super Loop: 8/1/19-8/2/19

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Born2BBrad
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Wallowas Super Loop: 8/1/19-8/2/19

Post by Born2BBrad » August 4th, 2019, 5:43 pm

Wallowas Super Loop: 8/1/19-8/2/19

What: Wallowas Super Loop
When: 8/1/19-8/2/19
Who: Just Me (Born2BBrad)

Opening picture, Petes Point from Dollar Lake:
Image

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General Information

Day 1
Route: Wallowa Lake tram (4415’-8150’), Mt. Howard (8255’), East Peak (9380’), Hidden Peak (9460’), Aneroid Mountain (9701’), Dollar Pass (8420’), Jewett Lake (8280’)

Miles: 10.9 (GPS unedited)
EG: 6872’ (GPS unedited)
People encountered on the route: 2 on Mt. Howard
Number of mosquito bites: 0

Day 2
Route: Jewett Lake (8280’), Petes Point (9675’) attempt, Tenderfoot Pass (8550’), Polaris Pass (8900’), Jct w/E. Fk Wallowa Tr (6550’), Ford E. Fk Wallowa (6900’), Glacier Lake (8166’), Glacier Pass (8500’), Moccasin Lake (7475’), Lakes Basin Tr to W. Fk Wallowa double crossing (6030’), W. Fk Wallowa Tr back to TH (4655’)

Miles: 29.4 (GPS unedited)
EG: 4284’ (GPS unedited)
People encountered from Jewett Lake to Glacier Lake: 4
People encountered on Lakes Basin Trail: Lots
Number of mosquito bites: 0 (I was too fast for them)
Number of RetiredJerry sightings: 0

Google Earth overview:
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Topographical overview:
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Elevation profile:
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Google Earth video tour of trip (7:24 minutes):
https://youtu.be/M-UIWXTPgYM

Note: Some pictures used from my 2017 TR.

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Preamble

In 2017 I did a trip to the Wallowas and did not accomplish all points on my itinerary. The time was right for another try.

Similar to the 2017 trip, a route was created utilizing the Wallowa Lake Tram to gain access to a high-elevation ridge. You can’t beat gaining 3700’ of elevation in 15 minutes.

Some interesting facts about the tram pulled from my 2017 TR:
• The tram takes passengers from 4450' in elevation to 8150', a gain of 3700'.
• When constructed in 1970, the tram was the steepest vertical lift in North America.
• The tram ride is fifteen minutes.
• Highest point off ground: 120 feet.
• Lowest point off ground: 3 feet.
• Cable length: 19,300 feet (nearly 4 miles long).
• There are 25 towers total.
• When the tram was built in 1970, the original master plan called for more lifts and a ski area.

As is becoming a habit, I drove to Wallowa Lake the evening before the day of the hike. The reason was twofold. One to maximize daylight hiking. The other to acclimatize at above 4000’ for 12 hours before the tram ride. Gaining too much elevation too quickly has caused problems before.

As was done on many of my trips, I slept in my car at the trailhead parking lot. It was very quiet and peaceful. Much better than the nearby mini-city at Wallowa Lake State Park.

Nothing beats Hotel Subaru:
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The plan was to wake up in time to be at Wallowa Lake Lodge by 7AM for a power breakfast. That would give plenty of time to be ready for the opening 9AM tram ride.

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Trip Narrative and Pictures

After paying $35.00 (a $2 increase), by 9:05AM I was on the tram up to Mt. Howard:
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In case you were curious, the average speed of the tram ride is:
Image

In addition to the Summit Grill, there are almost 2 miles of easy trails on Mt. Howard. The trail I was looking for departs from the main trail near Summit Overlook and heads towards East Peak. Google Earth and trail descriptions led me right to it.

East Peak (second peak from right) from Mt. Howard:
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The trail from Mt. Howard to East Peak is a true trail. No bushwhacking or route finding.

The approach to East Peak:
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There does come a point where the trail splits. Up to the right goes to East Peak. Down to the left skirts below East Peak and goes to Hidden Peak. It could be called East Peak Bypass Trail.

Where the trail splits:
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The final ridge scramble is not too difficult. No climbing or hand holds are necessary.

Almost to the top of East Peak:
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The scramble down the other side is about the same as coming up:
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Cool natural cairn on the saddle between East Peak and Hidden Peak:
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The climb up to Hidden Peak is pretty much the same as East Peak, only easier because there is not as much elevation gain from the saddle. Just stay near the ridgeline and pick your route accordingly.

Hidden Peak is not an officially named peak by USGS standards, but that is what is has come to be known. It’s interesting that it is higher than East Peak, yet East Peak is an official USGS name and is listed on government maps.

Summit cairn and register box on Hidden Peak:
Image

The scramble down Hidden Peak to the next saddle is similar to the scramble up. No climbing or hand holds necessary, but there is some loose rock scrambling. There is a discernable trail all the way to the saddle.

The climb up to Aneroid Mt. was the most difficult of all the peaks. It was the steepest, had the loosest footing and was at the highest elevation. It had the least defined trail, often times disappearing or braiding all over the place. Even so, no special skills or equipment is needed.

Aneroid Mt. from Hidden Peak:
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Getting closer to the top:
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Looking back at Hidden Peak (R) and East Peak (L):
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Cairn and register box at the top of Aneroid Mt.:
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Me on Aneroid Mt.:
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The route down from Aneroid Mt. to Dollar Pass is straightforward: straight down the SW ridge. The terrain is steep, on deep, loose scree and dirt. Somewhat going down for the sure-footed, but it would be very difficult going up. Two steps up and one step back.

Looking down to Dollar Pass and Dollar Lake:
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An example of some of the steep, deep, loose scree on the way down:
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After an uneventful descent to Dollar Pass, it was time for my first break of the day at Dollar Lake.

I was happy to see this fire ring I destroyed in 2018 had not been rebuilt:
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However, some dad in 1983 forgot his sunglasses:
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Originally, the plan was to traverse Dollar Ridge, as was done in 2018, but I decided to conserve energy for climbing Petes point the following morning. FYI, the Dollar Ridge traverse is very simple and worth the effort. It gets you to Tenderfoot Pass. Instead, I took a shortcut direct from Dollar Lake to Tenderfoot Pass, then over to Jewett Lake.

Shortcut from Dollar Lake to Tenderfoot Pass:
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Camp was set up on the north side of Jewett Lake. A short walk leads to an overlook of Aneroid Lake and the E. Fk Wallowa valley, as well as several peaks.

View from overlook:
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Jewett Lake the next morning:
Image

The plan was to get up early, as usual, climb Petes point, then take the south ridge directly to Polaris Pass. Research indicated climbing Petes Point requires no special equipment or mountaineering skills. The route from Petes Point (9675’) direct to Polaris Pass (8900’) goes down to a saddle (8920’) and over an unnamed peak (9395’) first.

However, the wind increased as the ridge was gained, and kept increasing the higher I got. It was only going to get windier as elevation was gained. In addition, certain points of the ridge get narrow. After only 250’ of elevation gain, there were gusts strong enough to move me. It was time to give up and try another day. FYI, there is a discernable path. Back down to Tenderfoot Pass I went.

The start of the ridge up to Petes Point:
Image

From Tenderfoot Pass I took the trail over to Polaris Pass. Going up the east side of Polaris Pass is much easier than going up the west side. It’s much shorter and has much less elevation gain.

Hillsides of lupine on the way to Polaris Pass:
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The view from Polaris Pass is phenomenal:
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Once at Polaris Pass, the original plan was to climb up Sentinel Peak (9400’) and back. It’s only 500’ higher than Polaris Pass and very close in distance. However, the wind was still blowing hard enough to make me decide against that plan. Again, a narrow ridgeline and gusty winds are not good combinations.

Sentinel Peak from Polaris Pass:
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Instead, I took the trail down the west side of Polaris Pass. There have been many questions about this trail, especially the top part of the west side. The first mile or so is rocky with some loose scree and rocks. It is a well-defined trail, graded for horses, so it is not steep. As long as a person watches their step, they should have no problem. Hiking poles are very useful and highly recommended. The rest of the way down is on much more solid ground. There are exactly 50 switchbacks going down to the junction with the W. Fk Wallowa Trail. Various sources note the distance from 4 to 5.5 miles. My numbers came in at 4.8 and 5 miles. Split the difference and call in 4.9 miles for this section. It is a 2350’ elevation loss from Polaris Pass (2350’ gain if going up).

Start of going down Polaris Pass:
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Lots of wildflowers lower down the Polaris Pass trail:
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The Polaris Pass trail eventually meets the W. Fk Wallowa Trail. From there I went upriver towards Glacier Lake. After 1.3 miles is a wet crossing of the W. Fk Wallowa River. There is no dry option. No logs, no rock hopping. Off with the boots and on with the Crocs. The actual crossing is not dangerous. Pick a spot that the river is calmer and you can see the bottom. It’s almost refreshing to cool down your feet. Off with the Crocs and back on with the boots.

The crossing spot:
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Upriver from the crossing is a snow bridge that seems to never melt out completely. Too bad the crossing wasn’t there.

Snow bridge:
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The trail continues following the river:
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After passing Frazier Lake and the junction with the trail to Hawkins Pass, the W. Fk Wallowa Trail becomes treeless and passes through granite rock fields. This section is about 1.75 miles long and very hot. No shade at all, and the white granite reflects the sun.

Granite trail section:
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Almost at Glacier Lake:
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At Glacier Lake I took my first extended break of the day. During that break some decisions had to be made. The original plan was to climb Glacier Pass, then go directly to Eagle Cap, bypassing the descent of the north section of Glacier Pass. A route directly up to Eagle Cap had been researched and plotted. Others have done it, so it is possible, with considerable effort. However, by that time the skies were almost completely overcast with dark clouds. I didn’t want to be trying to summit Eagle cap in lightning or rain. The clouds, while not yet raining, dampened my spirits for the rest of my planned trip. A calculation was made that it would be about 16 miles back to Hotel Subaru and hot food. Since most of that would be downhill, 3 MPH could be averaged, with a TH ETA of 8 PM.

Glacier Lake with Glacier Peak behind it:
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Don’t these clouds look threatening to you?:
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On the way up to Glacier Pass I got the picture of the trip:
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Once at Glacier Pass I discovered the beginning of the direct route to Eagle Cap:
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The view down Glacier Pass to Moccasin Lake:
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These people camped near Moccasin Lake obviously don’t practice LNT:
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On the long way back to the TH, it did rain, but not that much. However, once back in Joseph for dinner, there was evidence of recent heavy rain. Thunderstorms can be spotty and unpredictable, and it was not a bad decision to forgo the Eagle Cap direct route.

Obligatory picture of Moccasin Lake (and dark clouds):
Image

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Final Notes

• I have one more chance in late August to scratch some Wallowas goals off my list. Petes Point, Eagle Cap direct and Hurwal Divide. Cross your fingers for good weather.
• There is no water available on the route from Mt. Howard until just below Dollar Pass. Bring plenty of water.

Link to lots more pictures on Google Photos:
Link 1: https://photos.app.goo.gl/vt2Nk3v8crdSAsd4A
Link 2:https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/CpHic ... yA-Q=w2400

Keep on hiking,

Brad
Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.
- Jean Luc Picard

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Bosterson
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Re: Wallowas Super Loop: 8/1/19-8/2/19

Post by Bosterson » August 4th, 2019, 6:42 pm

Cool, Brad. The Wallowas definitely can have some storms, I've been hit by thunderstorms on 3 trips I think. That's a big second day though! I was at Frazier Lake last year and was eyeing Sentinel, but it wasn't part of the plan then. The skies in your first pics look a bit hazy - is there fire smoke out there? I'm planning to head out there in a week, unless I change my mind and go to North Cascades... :D
Will hike off trail for fun.

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texasbb
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Re: Wallowas Super Loop: 8/1/19-8/2/19

Post by texasbb » August 5th, 2019, 5:28 am

That's twice now you've teased me with starting from that tram. I may just have to do it.

proxie
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Re: Wallowas Super Loop: 8/1/19-8/2/19

Post by proxie » August 5th, 2019, 10:30 am

Thanks for this. At the time during my backpack, I couldn't figure out where to turn to get to Jewett Lake from Aneroid Lake, and hopefully can figure it out from your post.

Webfoot
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Re: Wallowas Super Loop: 8/1/19-8/2/19

Post by Webfoot » August 5th, 2019, 2:04 pm

And to think I was satisfied to make it to East Peak. :lol: Thanks for great photos of what lay beyond.

Re: "Hotel Subaru" how tall are you, if you don't mind my asking?

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MariposaMan
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Re: Wallowas Super Loop: 8/1/19-8/2/19

Post by MariposaMan » August 5th, 2019, 11:22 pm

Wonderfully informative report and great photos. I might be over there next week and am thinking about doing for the first time the Mt. Howard/East Peak/Aneroid Mtn. route as you describe (with explorations of Sentinel Peak, Dollar Ridge), and so the details you share are most appreciated. I've made numerous trips to the Wallowas but none have involved taking the tram; starting at elevation is a seductive consideration. You certainly covered a lot of territory in just 2 days.

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retired jerry
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Re: Wallowas Super Loop: 8/1/19-8/2/19

Post by retired jerry » August 6th, 2019, 6:11 am

yeah, great report and route, some ideas for the next time I go there, thanks

looks like I should have waited a few weeks, a lot less snow

how's getting to Eagle Cap from Glacier Pass? I've looked down from Eagle Cap and thought it would be possible. Getting off the Eagle Cap ridge seems difficult. Maybe go 1/4 mile southeast from Eagle Cap to that saddle, then go north off the ridge about 1/2 mile, then about 1/2 mile east to Glacier Pass

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Born2BBrad
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Re: Wallowas Super Loop: 8/1/19-8/2/19

Post by Born2BBrad » August 6th, 2019, 7:34 am

Bosterson wrote:
August 4th, 2019, 6:42 pm
That's a big second day though! I was at Frazier Lake last year and was eyeing Sentinel, but it wasn't part of the plan then. The skies in your first pics look a bit hazy - is there fire smoke out there?
Yeah, lots of miles on day 2, mostly downhill though. I can go downhill and level all day. It’s the uphill at higher elevations with a full pack that turn me into a slug.

The hazy skies in some of the pictures is because those ones were reused from my 2017 TR. I was lazy in writing the TR.
texasbb wrote:
August 5th, 2019, 5:28 am
That's twice now you've teased me with starting from that tram. I may just have to do it.
It’s well worth the $35.
proxie wrote:
August 5th, 2019, 10:30 am
Thanks for this. At the time during my backpack, I couldn't figure out where to turn to get to Jewett Lake from Aneroid Lake, and hopefully can figure it out from your post.
Jewett Lake cannot be seen from the trail or Tenderfoot Pass. There is no trail to it either. A map and a GPS are helpful.
Webfoot wrote:
August 5th, 2019, 2:04 pm
And to think I was satisfied to make it to East Peak. :lol: Thanks for great photos of what lay beyond.

Re: "Hotel Subaru" how tall are you, if you don't mind my asking?
East Peak is a worthy destination itself. I’m 5’10”, so laying diagonally works for me.
MariposaMan wrote:
August 5th, 2019, 11:22 pm
Wonderfully informative report and great photos. I might be over there next week and am thinking about doing for the first time the Mt. Howard/East Peak/Aneroid Mtn. route as you describe (with explorations of Sentinel Peak, Dollar Ridge), and so the details you share are most appreciated. I've made numerous trips to the Wallowas but none have involved taking the tram; starting at elevation is a seductive consideration. You certainly covered a lot of territory in just 2 days.
The tram operators should pay ME, rather than the other way around. For better or for worse, I may have increased their business by writing TRs about this route.
retired jerry wrote:
August 6th, 2019, 6:11 am
how's getting to Eagle Cap from Glacier Pass? I've looked down from Eagle Cap and thought it would be possible. Getting off the Eagle Cap ridge seems difficult. Maybe go 1/4 mile southeast from Eagle Cap to that saddle, then go north off the ridge about 1/2 mile, then about 1/2 mile east to Glacier Pass
I did quite a bit of research about that. Your comments are right on the money. However, it may be safer to go up the direct route than down. At Glacier Pass there is a trail headed towards Eagle Cap. I don’t know how long that trail is discernable. You would want to head generally west at first along a ridge to around 9050’, then southish along the base of Eagle Cap. Eventually you would reach a snow field and follow that. Then there are two possible routes to the saddle below Eagle Cap. The first is to take the steep snow field directly up to the saddle. That may be too steep to be safe. If so, continues S-SE to a spur ridge that is snow free this time of year. That would get you to the saddle. From there it is a simple climb to the top. I’d love to hear from people with personal experience.

I would emphasize that only fit, sure-footed and prepared hikers should attempt this. In addition to being all of those, I created a GPX track of that route to follow on my GPS. I was also willing to forgo the attempt when the weather conditions were a concern.
Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.
- Jean Luc Picard

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retired jerry
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Re: Wallowas Super Loop: 8/1/19-8/2/19

Post by retired jerry » August 6th, 2019, 10:24 am

thanks

someday I'm going to do that, yeah, sometimes easier to go up than down

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Re: Wallowas Super Loop: 8/1/19-8/2/19

Post by justpeachy » August 6th, 2019, 11:50 am

Nice! The scenery there is so amazing. Your second day was REALLY long. My dogs would be barking after that mileage.

The worst thunderstorm I've ever experienced while backpacking happened in the Wallowas. Thunder seems a lot louder at night than during the day!

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